I’ve been on the hunt for a perfect brownie for awhile now.
Black Cocoa Brownies were the last ones I was experimenting with when we all cried, “uncle!” and stopped the brownie madness. The brownie madness was a period of brownie testing I went through, searching for the secret to the perfect cakey, chewy, fudgy texture.
This all happened well before the blog, otherwise I would have documented the whole process for you.
I used to always make brownies from a box and quite frankly, I still keep a box in the pantry for those times when I just want to mix something up quickly. But, I prefer baking from scratch, choosing my own ingredients and having the flexibility to change a recipe to suit my tastes on a given day.
So, my goal was to find or create the recipe for the most amazing scratch brownie. Turns out, it’s not the easiest thing to achieve.
First, I tried lots of different types of brownie recipes to decide if one kind or another would get me closest to brownie nirvana. I tried brownies made with just cocoa, just melted chocolate or a mixture of both.
I tried them with butter, with oil, more eggs, less eggs, extra yolks, bread flour and all purpose flour. Of course, chocolate is one of the most important ingredients and good chocolate matters in a good brownie.
I tried different chocolates melted into the batters and different cocoas. Each batch had a number and we rated them on flavor, texture and appearance.
I began to fill my freezer with the different batches so we could test one brownie against another because it was becoming difficult to remember all the nuances of each brownie.
Yes. Brownie madness indeed. At some point, we had just had enough brownies. It’s possible, you know, that no matter how much you love brownies, you can have too much of a good thing.
Even though our taste tests were bite sized, we had had enough and the fun was waning. So, with a freezer full of carefully numbered batches of brownies, I put the search on hold. Here’s some of what I learned:
- While brownies are pretty simple to make, the science behind what makes brownies one thing or another is quite a bit more complex than the average person might think.
- Trying to make brownies more of one thing inevitably begins to undo another, e.g., cakey and chewy are a tough match.
- There are a lot of good brownie recipes out there, and some not so great. We had both.
- Brownies always taste better the next day.
- Recipes that say they achieve the perfect chewy, cakey, fudgy texture don’t really achieve it, at least not the ones I tried.
- The exact same recipe made with different qualities of cocoa yield very different tasting brownies.
- I love black cocoa.
- Photographing black brownies with too much light reduces their “blackness” and I wasn’t able to completely correct that in editing without losing clarity. So these look like dark chocolate brownies, but in real life, they’re blacker and more like the color of an oreo cookie. Ditto on the spoonful of cocoa.
I’ll save all of the other more specific insights for the post where I actually nail my elusive brownie recipe. But let’s get back to the cocoa and this recipe. Even though I haven’t settled on the final brownie recipe, I did find one that I fell in LOVE with.
This black cocoa brownie is to die for. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I have at least 5 kinds of cocoa in my pantry at any time. It’s because of this brownie odyssey that I have so many. Black cocoa is a dutch process cocoa that has a rich deep, dark flavor.
I love the color that it imparts, but I adore the flavor you get with this cocoa. Normally you use black cocoa in combination with a regular dutch cocoa powder and since I have black cocoa and a hundred others in my pantry, I do that often.
For this recipe, however, I used King Arthur Flour’s Double Dutch Dark Cocoa that’s already got the black cocoa mixed in at a perfect proportion. If you’re a baking geek and want to know more about different kinds of cocoa, click this link. (I don’t currently have any affiliation with these brands, but I am a huge fan of these products.)
This was my favorite flavor brownie of all the ones that I tried. It was definitely the one that beckoned me for seconds more so than any other.
It’s deep chocolate flavor is rich and dark without any hint of bitterness. Why didn’t my search end with this brownie? It’s got a lovely cakey, yet slightly fudgy texture.
They’re so so good….but I would like them to be chewier. And that’s what I’ll be working on when I drop back into brownie madness again. Until then, this is my current favorite, and I say that confidently, after much testing.
Oh, the other thing I learned? I don’t think there’s going to be just one ultimate brownie. (I know, shocking, right?) I think there’s room for more. But I wouldn’t bother sharing this one with you, unless it was one of the best.
Stay tuned. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of brownie love to go around :)
Black Cocoa Brownies
- 2/3 cup Double Dutch Dark Cocoa
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup bread flour I use King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour or all purpose
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or spray a 9" or 8" square baking pan. I like to line the pan with foil and then spray, so that I can completely lift the brownies out for cutting.
Whisk cocoa, sugars, salt, flour, baking powder, espresso powder and chips in a large bowl.
Add the eggs, oil, water and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes for the 9" pan and about 45 minutes for the 8" pan. Allow to cool for one hour before cutting.
* Brownies keep for at least three days in an airtight container at room temperature. They always taste the best on the second day. They also freeze well.
*Adding the chips with the dry ingredients helps keep the chips from sinking to the bottom. I was in cookie mode when I made these and added the chips at the end. You'll see in the pics that my chips sank. (They were still amazing, but next time I need to remember to do that step.)
*You can substitute your favorite unsweetened cocoa in this recipe, but this particular cocoa is what makes this brownie my favorite. Expect that other cocoas will alter the taste. It will still be good, but it will be different.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
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