The New Bakers Dozen
A problem with brownies

The The Bakers Dozen: A problem with brownies
By ghb on Wednesday, March 07, 2001 - 05:39 pm: Edit

I made some brownies at home today and they came out with a thin, crisp shell on top. The brownie underneath was very fudgy and delicious. I'm guessing that the shell has something to do with the fact that the recipe called for whisking the eggs with the sugar before adding the chocolate/butter and the flour. Can anyone help with the science of this phenomenon? Thanks.

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, March 07, 2001 - 06:56 pm: Edit

I do know what your mentioning, but I can't give you a scientific answer. Might have been over inflated batter or too hot of an oven or a couple other factors. Alot of brownies will form a thin crust on top, but after refidgeration it's not really detectable...not a problem in my mind, frost them and enjoy!

P.S. Brownies for the most part don't require much mixing...just combining. I bet they taste just as good next time if you skip whisking your eggs and just stir.

By black toque on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 04:38 am: Edit

This is a couple of not so right conditions. Your oven temp is too high, you have over mixed the batter, and your flour to sugar ratio is out of whack.

By Yankee on Thursday, March 08, 2001 - 10:56 pm: Edit

I'd be interested to see the recipe and method (including pan size and oven temp). It seems to me that these things are very difficult to analize from the little information that ghb provided us with.

I also have a brownie recipe where you cold whip the eggs and sugar to ribbon before folding in the rest of the ingredients. I get a slight crust on top, but that's fine with me.

I would be more concerned if your brownies were dry and tasteless.

Hmmm, smells like vbean...

By ghb on Friday, March 09, 2001 - 07:28 am: Edit

Sorry for not providing the recipe with my first post. Here it is:
3 Tb brewed espresso
4 oz bittersweet choc.
1 oz unsweetened choc
10 Tb butter
(melt the above and cool)

Whisk until light:
1-1/4 C sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Stir in cooled choc. mixture, then stir in :

1/2 C AP flour
2 Tb cocoa
3/4 tsp cinnamon
nuts and choc. chips

9 x 13 pan, 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes (my oven thermometer said the temp was correct).

As I said, the part underneath was very moist and fudgy, but the crust bothered me because I was making them to give to someone and they didn't look all that pretty once they were cut.

Thanks for any help you can give.

By d. on Friday, March 09, 2001 - 06:35 pm: Edit

I have encountered this before, it's not really a problem except when you frost the brownies with ganache and the crust slips off when you cut them in small pieces(I flip the whole sheet over and then frost). I know it happens to me when I mix the eggs and the sugar for a longer time and then add my chocolate and butter very warm. I really wish I knew the science behind that very thin crust, but all I can figure out is that when the sugar is completely dissolved, it forms that very thin shell.
There is nothing wrong with your recipe.

By Yankee on Friday, March 09, 2001 - 11:36 pm: Edit

I agree. It's not that different from the recipe we use and they turn out fine. Try folding in a little sour cream or creme fraiche at the end. We also add a pinch of salt.

We do cold whip the eggs and sugar, so the sugar is not completely dissolved. I always thought that one one of the keys to moist brownies.

Thanks for taking the time to post your recipe for us.

By Peachcreek on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 02:49 am: Edit

I use a similar recipe and method as you, Yankee. I bake brownies at 325 for 40-45 minutes. I rarely run into the separation problem.

By W.DeBord on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 08:08 am: Edit

Hum, my recipe is a bit different. I don't have it infront of me but I think it goes like this:

1 1/2 c. butter
4 tbsp. h2o
2 c. sugar

Dissolved together in sauce pan.While hot poured into:
16 oz. of semi sweet, to melt

then add:
3 (or 4) eggs
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 (or 1) c. flour
16 more oz. mini choc, chips (which do melt abit)
opt. nuts or flavorings

9 x 13 pan lined with foil. bake 350 probably about 30 min.

This recipe doesn't get a thin crust on top and it's extemely moist and fudgie.

What about soda? All the brownie recipes I've used in the last few years had 1 tsp. soda and it's been that long since I can remember having the top seperate.

By peachcreek on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 02:07 pm: Edit

Heres' my full recipe:
1/2# butter
6 oz Callebaut semi, melt together in double boiler
4 eggs
1 1/4 C white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 C flour
Beat eggs and sugar together for @ 2 min. on medium speed. Add melted cooled choc+ butter, fold into egg mix, add salt and vanilla. Add flour, mix till just incorporated. The usual floured 9x12 pan @ 325 for 40-45 min. This is an old recipe from "Placid Eating" by Clemina Wyckoff. The original recipe called for 1 c. chopped nuts, but I do without(gets around the customers w/nut allergy issues). Top with ganache when cooled. Yields 15 brownies.

By Lana Langevin on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 02:12 pm: Edit

I've tried a multitude of brownie recipes and find that I get this crust when the quantity of eggs and sugar is high and they are whipped. Of course, a high oven temp. will exagerate the crust. Maida Heatter's brownie recipe calls for 5 eggs and 3 3/4 cups of sugar for a 9 x 13 pan!! These brownies were like souffle with a hard crust on top. Nick Malgieri's 'Supernatural Brownies' are wonderful and get a very very thin shiny 'crust' that's wonderful if you're not frosting. If you want to frost add a small amount of sour cream or milk to the batter and you shouldn't get a crust at all (but they won't be as fudgey).

By Yankee on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 11:10 pm: Edit

I can't remember where this recipe came from, but I've had it for many years and modified it along the way. This recipe fits a 12 x 18 pan. Sorry, but I didn't have time to convert it back into english measurements.

Oven: 325 convection, 350 passive

350 gr. Valhrona 100% Cocoa Pate (Unsweetend)
240 gr. Valhrona 66% Pur Caribe
240 gr. Butter, Plugra
2 t. Vanilla

12 ea. Whole Eggs
1,000 gr. Sugar

140 gr. AP Flour
120 gr. Cocoa
1 T Baking Powder
2 t. Salt

230 gr. Creme Fraiche

By Yankee on Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 11:12 pm: Edit


Butter, line and flour pan.

Set out the creme fraiche so it reaches room temp.

Combine chocolates and melt over a waterbath, add butter and melt slowly. Add vanilla and remove from heat.

While chocolate is melting. Whip eggs and sugar until thick and pale. (Do not heat.)

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.

Using a large whisk, slowly fold together melted chocolate mixture and whipped eggs. Fold in dry ingredients using the whisk as you would a spatula. Fold in creme fraiche.

Bake approx. 40 - 50 minutes depending upon oven type. Cool to room temp and cut. (Don't let them cool completely in the pan.)

These brownies have a slight crust, but there is no need to frost them. Serve warm or at room temp.


By W.DeBord on Monday, March 12, 2001 - 08:23 am: Edit

Lana if you like trying different chefs recipes try Mrs. Fields brownies. Believe it or not she has some of the best!!!!! I accidentally added twice the amount of chocolate in her mississippi mud bars one day and now everyone at the club dies over these bars. Her blonde brownies have a crunchy toffee topping and are also terrific!

P.S. I have Nick Malgieri's chocolate cookbook. I had made his cocolate cake with the raspberry bavarain filling before and knew that was good. But since I've owned this book I haven't found anything worth repeating. I read a review and followed their advise, but still haven't found any hits. Can you make any recommendations?????????

By Lana Langevin on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 12:04 am: Edit

Thanks for the Mrs. Fields brownie tip W. DeBord. What cookbook are they from? I looked through a few but didn't see those recipes...
Unfortunately I can't help you with hits from the Nick Malgieri chocolate cookbook. I just bought my copy. The brownie recipe was so good I thought it would be a good resource. Sorry to hear that it's not.
I just made a pan of your brownies Peachcreek. You gave me some good advice last month about making CHEWY brownies so I baked with glee... Guess what? They weren't chewy!! So I continue to bang my head against the wall as chewy brownies elude me.

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, March 14, 2001 - 07:21 am: Edit

I have all of her books, I can't remember the exact's published in hardcover. It has to be called something simple like "Desserts", it's not a thin single topic book it's maybe 200 pages. I've made at least 15 or 16 different items and only one item I labeled "good" all the others were "Excellent".

Well, I'm not totally sure about Malgieri's book. I haven't tried enough recipes... but after a couple of misses I set it aside. Was Malgieri's brownie chewy? P.S. I missed the call on Julia Child's baking booking totally (I tried the only two recipes that stunk), sooooo.

Have you tried any older recipes from Bakers, Hersheys, Pilsbury or Betty Crocker? All the "newer" cookbooks seem to be aiming for the richest, fudgelike bownies. I think you need to go back in time to find chewy.

I have many old cookbooks (and new), if you want to get detailed into who's you've tried and who's you haven't I'd be happy to help, if you share your taste test results!

By Lana Langevin on Friday, March 23, 2001 - 02:35 pm: Edit

W. DeBord,

Are you there?! I just got myself a copy of Debbie Field's "Great American Desserts" It has a recipe for Blondies with a crunchy topping AND it has the recipe for Mississippi Mud Bars except this version includes peanut butter - is this the recipe that you accidently added twice the amount of chocolate to? I can't wait to try these out. Thanks again for the tip.

By W.DeBord on Saturday, March 24, 2001 - 07:29 am: Edit

Yes....and their GREAT!!!!!!!!! You'll love this book. She's not some air head who lucked into a fortune....she's a damn good baker! Her book is one of only a hand full of books, where you can bet money on the results (going up against professional baking books too).

She's my little secret, but there's several recipes in there that are truely outstanding! You'll have to explore...I'm not giving away all my results!

The mississippi mud bars...if you quickly read the recipe your supposed to save 1/2 of each choc. for the topping...I put all of it in the baked bars.

P.S. I multiply her recipes to fit my pans....I don't bake that small.

By vbean on Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 07:54 am: Edit

Bake the brownies with steam (a pan on the bottom of the oven is fine).
Congratulate yourself, most people are looking for what you produced!

By W.DeBord on Monday, April 16, 2001 - 08:40 am: Edit

Lana, have you baked them yet? Not bad, huh?

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