Current mood: chocolate.
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There are few desserts more enticing than a warm batch of fresh-baked brownies. Next to Tiger King and tequila, chewy, chocolate-filled fudgy brownies topped with vanilla ice cream are one of my favorite forms of quarantine kryptonite. And while we abide by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, testing out these easy brownie upgrades will give you the perfect excuse to bake at least two extra batches this week.

First step to making the best brownies ever = resist the urge to use boxed brownie mix. We guarantee it’s well worth the extra effort  (though if you’re short on from-scratch ingredients and do go the boxed route, we’ve rounded up our favorites for you). Then apply these simple steps to your best homemade brownie recipe.

Brown your butter.

This is a super simple step that’ll layer in loads of extra rich-and-toasty flavor to your finished product. Start by gently melting your butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Once it’s fully melted, increase the heat to medium and stir your bubbly butter constantly with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape up any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the butter looks well-browned and the loud hissing goes quiet. Remove from the heat and stir in your chocolate.

Whip the eggs super well.

After combining the eggs with sugar, beat them into oblivion (no, seriously). You should whip your eggs until they form a frothy, thick pale foam. If you stop beating sooner, you run the risk of baking a batch of gooey chocolate cake, not brownies.

Blend in some coffee.

As you whip your eggs, mix in a tablespoon of strong brewed coffee or espresso into the foam. It’ll enhance the deep, rich chocolate notes and give your brownies a more balanced, less saccharine-sweet flavor.

Sift your flour.

This will give your brownies a fluffier, softer, and more even texture. If you’re using Dutch cocoa powder, sift them together. And if you want to go above and beyond, weigh your ingredients (especially your flour) before you add them to your batter.

Add a splash of bourbon.

Why not?

Fold in the dry ingredients gently.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in your flour mixture, making sure not to overmix the batter. If a few small lumps are left in the batter, don’t worry—rigorous mixing can make your finished brownies tough and flat.

Cook in an aluminum pan.

Or any lightweight, reflective metal. Aluminum is stellar at heating evenly, so it’ll help your entire batch bake into a consistent doneness. Dark metal cooks significantly faster, which leaves you at risk of burning your brownies. Glass, on the other hand, can take significantly longer to bake.

Toothpick test them. Early.

Rather than abiding by the bake time suggested in your recipe, poke a toothpick into the brownies as soon as (or even before) you think they’re finished cooking. Keep in mind that brownies continue to cook after taking them out of the oven.

Make clean cuts.

Allow your brownies to cool for at least 15 minutes—ideally 30, this is HARD—before you try to cut into them. Then use a sharp chef’s knife and wipe it clean between slices for the cleanest cuts.