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Luiveton's avatar

The brownie dilemma.

Asked by Luiveton (4142 points ) November 10th, 2012

I’ve always had a major problem when it comes to baking brownies. They don’t end up being chewy,fudgy, gooey, and all that defines the perfect brownie. In fact, they don’t end up being brownies.

Apart from tasting horribly bad, (Like sweet shit.) the final product has this cake-like texture. And when it’s baking in the oven the center always remains liquid causing the corners to burn when I leave it inside for longer.

Can someone save me from killing myself due to a failure in the art of making brownies??

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25 Answers

jordym84's avatar

Have you been using the same recipe for all your attempts? If so, the issue could be with the recipe itself and the ratios being off.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Your oven temperature is too high if it’s not cooking through like that, and I’m thinking you don’t have enough liquid or fat in the recipe. I’m not a fan of fat, but some is necessary for texture.

marinelife's avatar

Use a mix as a starter and then doctor it up.

bookish1's avatar

This sounds more like a problem than a dilemma.
It also sounds like you need to find a different recipe. There are various kinds of brownies. The ones I ate when I was little were indeed closer to chocolate cake in a pan than the melty chocolate chip studded ones that are popular now.
Baking is a matter of chemistry, and unless you really know what you’re doing I don’t think you should be trying to make up a recipe on the fly. Just go look for one online that promises to make melty brownies like you like.

ucme's avatar

A bidet beats using paper!

Coloma's avatar

Oh my, brownies

I agree with @bookish1 maybe the problem is an internal one, precision is very important in baking.

AmWiser's avatar

If you can’t take a hands on class in baking, then here is a great video on Baking Brownies.

Or maybe buy a step-by-step cookbook.

If that doesn’t help, visit your nearest upscale bakery and buy some delectable brownies.

wundayatta's avatar

More butter. More chocolate. Less flour.

I was so afraid this was going to be about the girl scout type of brownie.

Sunny2's avatar

@wundayatta O dear, what an association. I won’t let my daughter come to your house to sell cookies!

AstroChuck's avatar

What’s sweet shit taste like?

wundayatta's avatar

Oh dear, @Sunny2. What do you think I would do? Make her deep fry the cookies? I’m telling you. It’s my daughter you have to look out for. She’s the one who hordes Thin Mints in her bedroom.

filmfann's avatar

Cook them longer at a lower temperature.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Have you checked your oven temperature? I tested mine with thermocouples and discovered that the temp oscillated quite bit and on average was 25 F lower than the setting. I put some ceramic tiles on the floor below the heating coils. That smoothed out the temp. Then I adjusted the dial setting so it is now perfect.

DancingMind's avatar

Recently someone was telling me about an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. I didn’t see it first hand, so I’m reiterating a reiteration; I may have some things wrong. In it, they decided to conduct a blind-taste-test between homemade and box-mix brownies. Again and again and again, people preferred the box-mix. They preferred the texture—gooey and chewy and fudgy—over the more cake-like consistency of the homemade. There’s a reason behind this, and it has to do with the ingredients… Homemade brownies are traditionally made with butter, and also traditionally do have a more cake-like texture; box-mix, with oils (...actually hydrogentated oils, more commonly, in box-mixes… which now I’m getting confused about; help! seriously, someone help!; oil has a lower melting point than butter, but hydrogenated oils a higher; AMK’s website won’t let me see the video myself without subscribing for a trial.). The point, somehow, was that butter produces a more cake-like texture than oil, which had someothing to do with either the oil having a lower melting point (so stays more liquid, which doesn’t fit with hydrogentated oils…) or the oil making the batter in some way denser/moister when baking… I’m going to have to look this up now, what a mess I’m making of my explanation. I’m sure now that I have some things wrong. Hopefully someone else will clear it up : | The two points that were somehow made: That butter and oil have slightly different baking chemistries, although I’m making myself muddled on exactly what. That brownies traditionally, pre-box-mix, were more cake like in texture; it’s only post-mix that we’ve grown a gooier expectation.

I’ll try to be of some actual help now—
– Substitute oil for the butter (I used olive oil [extra virgin to keep the flavor light] and my family was happy with the texture and flavor.—I like the idea of butter brownies more, so I’m not sure I’ll repeat, although it does force a moister texture.)
– Experiment with the way you incorporate the ingredients. I think you want to beat/mix as minimally as possible at the end; I remember making brownies at a friend’s house when I was younger, and we beat the egg whites into a meringue (and then you fold to incorporate), although I don’t remember what the end result was like; generally—the technique can make a difference, and while I can do various techniques don’t know baking chemistry well enough to know what everything is doing.
– Maybe try a butter-flour proportion somewhere between your brownie recipe and a gooey butter cake recipe?
– If all else fails, just mix in chocolate chips to have bites of melted chocolate. Maybe some walnuts too. If you can get the brownies to bake more evenly, a cakey texture can be just fine, and the chocolate (+ walnuts) can help make it seem more fudgy.

To help with the burning—
– If you’re using a glass brownie pan, try backing off the temperature by 25 degrees (from 350 to 325, say). I’m not sure why glass is different, I just know my mom always says this.
– Wrap tinfoil (shiny side up) around the edge of the pan like you would with a pie crust that’s darkening too quickly; it’ll help slow the bake of the outside, make it more even.
– Or try a different size pan (smaller/larger for thinner/thicker?). The center would bake quicker in a thinner pan, the edges would have longer in a thicker; this may also help alter the texture.

I’m really not as incompetent in a kitchen as I think I’m sounding now. I am perhaps a bit scatter-brained… But I’ve typed all this up already so I’ll post it… hope it helps…

Sunny2's avatar

@wundayatta Well you might pull her into your house and, and, and make her eat all the cookies she was trying to sell you!

Haleth's avatar

Cake-like texture sounds like too many eggs.

It sounds like the temperature is too high somehow if the edges are cooked while the middle is raw. If you’re following the recipe temperature guidelines, you might be putting your brownies too close to the heat source. I have an electric oven where the heat comes from the top, so anything that needs to bake for a while goes on the bottom rack.

Unbroken's avatar

You might also consider your altitude. Though assuming everything else you bake turns out fine then it shouldn’t be a problem. But since no one touched on the topic I thought it would put my two cents in.

Luiveton's avatar

Okay I am about to make a few embarrassing confessions then:
1) I do not use the same recipe every time.
2) I tried using a ready mix.. I still failed. Oh dear.
3) When I say I fail at making brownies, I seriously mean it.
4) PS, I used 2 eggs, no flour, and I used oil not butter…

You can kill me now I don’t deserve to live anymore.

Oh, and, it didn’t taste nice despite the fact that I added Nutella to the batter. That’s saying something. Now do I deserve to die?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Luiveton Don’t sweat it. We all have misses from time to time.

tedibear's avatar

I use this recipe with a couple of changes. I only use 1¾ cups of sugar and I add 1 tablespoon of espresso powder. (The powder is optional – it just makes for a more chocolatey flavor.) Oh, and I don’t add any nuts. Also, butter, butter, butter – not margarine or oil. Butter. As a microwaving hint, I’ve found that if I use frozen butter – cut into 4 or 5 piece – when melting it in the microwave with the chocolate, everything melts at almost the same rate.

Also, start checking them at 25 to 27 minutes. I’ve never gone the full 35 minutes. Remember that there should be fudgy crumbs stuck to your toothpick/skewer/poking thing when you take it out of the center of the brownies.

wundayatta's avatar

@Luiveton Clearly you are an experimentalist. This is a good thing. It means you are learning a lot about the materials you are working with. Fortunately, you are working with cheap materials, so if it doesn’t come out in an edible way, you can toss it (after analysis, of course).

Keep on trying. There is no moral failure here. Unless your hunger for a decent brownie gets so overwhelming you must run out to the best bakery in town to find one. But hell! Even that is ok. It gives you ideas about what you are heading for, and maybe you could pick their brains about a recipe!

Coloma's avatar

Bakeries don’t carry the brownies I like best. lol ;-)

glacial's avatar

I find that much depends on how you mix the ingredients. Usually, you’ve got butter, chocolate (or cocoa), sugar, egg, flour. Maybe vanilla. Do not use a mixer.

Melt the butter first, then add the chocolate, then the sugar all while it’s still warm. In fact, I’ve taken to mixing everything within the pot – you end up with a nice fudgy consistency, especially if you use brown sugar instead of white. Then the egg, then flour. Vanilla whenever.

Pour it into a buttered pan and bake. Make sure your oven temperature is correct, as @LuckyGuy said – sometimes your oven temperature can be far from what the dial is telling you, but usually consistently so. Brownies are almost always 350F until you feel they’re done.

jca's avatar

Whenever I bake brownies I find they get stuck to the pan. The last one or two times I baked them, I had success with putting Pam in the pan and then putting cocoa powder sprinkled all over the Pam, so there was no sticking. Otherwise, for some reason, the brownies would be like cement trying to get them out of the pan.

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