Chewy (at last) Brownies from Cook’s Illustrated

by Katya Simkhovich

Could these be the ones?  Could these be the chewy, dense, fudgy, moist bliss I have been searching for?  They outshone the whole wheat King Arthur Brownies amd every other brownie recipe I have tried.  These were everything they promised to be an more.  They were chewy!  Oh so deliciously chewy!  Delightfully chewy in the crust and just chewy enough even in the middle!  It turns out using all granulated sugar, not brown sugar as King Arthur claimed, will get you that crispy, chewy top.  This is what cooks illustrated says:

“Why does granulated sugar work best? It’s all due to what might be deemed “special effects.” Whether on its own or in combination with corn syrup, brown sugar forms crystals on the surface of the cooling brownie. Crystals reflect light in a diffuse way, creating a matte effect. The pure sucrose in granulated sugar, on the other hand, forms a smooth glasslike surface as it cools that reflects light in a focused way, for a shiny effect. As for the crackly crust, its formation depends on sugar molecules rising to the surface of the batter and drying out during baking. Since both brown sugar and corn contain more moisture than granulated sugar, the surface of brownies made with either of these sweeteners never dries out enough for a crisp crust to form.”

Way to scientific for me, but the point is still the same: granulated sugar is best if you want that crackly, crispy top.  And here’s some more science from cook’s illustrated on the chewiness of brownies:

“The secret to a box-mix brownie’s chewy texture boils down to one thing: fat—specifically the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat. By using both butter (a predominantly saturated fat) and unsaturated vegetable oil, we were able to approximate the same 1:3 ratio found in commercially engineered specimens to mimic their satisfying chew.”

So there you have it.  Using all granulated sugar and a mixture of vegetable oil and butter will give you moist, chewy, fudgy, dense, delicious brownies.  Is my quest over?  Yes and no.  These were a tad too sweet for me but other than that every flavor, texture, and chocolate chip was my favorite of all the recipes I have tried.  I’m sure if I reduced the sugar by a bit these would be perfect.  And yet I have a few more recipes that are begging for me to bake.  And thus, my quest continues.  Maybe not for the same purposes (finding the perfect brownie) but instead comparing my perfect brownie to others.  Maybe by some miracle I will find a recipe I like even more.

Chewy Brownies from Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso (optional) – I used it.
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar – I would definitely cut down.  I think 2 cups would be sufficient.
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1.2 inch pieces (or just use chocolate chips or chunks)

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Make a sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
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