What’s better than a warm pan of fresh-baked brownies? A warm pan of homemade fresh-baked brownies.
We know the boxed mix. We love the boxed mix. We trust the boxed mix to produce reasonably great brownies every time in less than five steps and with very little measuring or meddling from us. And for a buck or two more, we can even get fancy boxed mix from the gourmet chocolate company with big chunks and swirls and extra gooeyness.
So why go through the extra effort of assembling all those dry ingredients yourself? All of my usual arguments for going homemade apply, but for me, the main draws are twofold. First, you get a crumb and flavor quality that you just cannot achieve with a generic mix, and second, you’re allowed to tweak the individual ingredients to be more vital and healthful, which makes any dessert that much more enjoyable.
Am I scratch-only, anti-boxed brownie fanatic? Barely. I probably make one pan of from-scratch brownies for every four I make from a mix. And truth be told, one my favorite brownies ever is the Little Debbie one with chocolate candies on top. It’s just that you can almost taste the extra love that goes into a pan of your own.
Here’s what you need:
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. You need chocolate. Really, really good chocolate. Cacao level should not be under 60 percent. You can use whole chips or bars and melt them down, use a high-quality cocoa powder, or both. For one 8 by 8 pan, you’ll need about five ounces or a little over ½ cup.
Ah, the core of any baked good. One of my favorite things about making homemade brownies is being able to use non-wheat flours with higher nutrient levels. You can, of course, use all-purpose or whole-wheat flour, but my favorite has come to be a mix of brown rice and almond flours, which have the added bonus of being gluten-free. You’ll need about a cup.
Salt and leavening
The rest of the magical dry ingredient combo: salt (½ teaspoon) and baking soda (¼ teaspoon.) Not much, just enough to keep the science right. We want dense, fudgey brownies.
Cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut palm sugar, date sugar, honey, you get the picture. Each will offer a slightly different flavor. Personally I think brown and date sugars pair best with chocolate. One cup per batch.
Now you’ve accounted for everything that comes in the box. The rest is what you’d be throwing in anyway:
I am sure there’s a way to make brownies without using butter or oil, but I haven’t ventured quite that far out. As long as I’m making brownies, I’m throwing a little good, organic fat in there. You can use unsalted butter, ghee or oil (I recommend coconut or grapeseed.) You’ll need about ½ cup per batch.
Again, it’s possible to do totally vegan brownies, but it’s difficult to find a suitable replacement for the unique emulsifying and binding quality of eggs. Use two jumbos, free-range and organic.
Now, work backward from this list, and throw it all together. Beat the eggs and oil, add the sweet stuff, stir the dry ingredients together, and combine. If you melted your chocolate, stir it in last. Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes and taa-daa!
All in all, it’s really not too much more involved than the box, and the flavor and texture are dripping with richness. Worth the extra effort—maybe not all of the time, but absolutely for the special times.