Brownies come in all guises—with nuts, without, butterscotch, swirled with cream cheese, shot through with mint or fruit filling, sprinkled with chips, spiked with espresso or booze, or just plain chocolate in a million variations. But the most important aspect of a brownie, for anyone who loves brownies, is texture. Initially, I thought there were just two camps, cakey versus fudgy, and I was firmly planted in the cakey camp. But after testing, tasting, and canvassing friends and colleagues about what they prize most in a brownie, I began to see that there's a third style to consider: chewy, which is definitely different from its cakey and fudgy siblings.
I'll say right off that I could never claim to write the Bible on brownies—there are so many recipes, and everyone has a favorite. But as I'll show you, there are definitely guidelines to follow so that you can make the style of brownie that suits your taste, whether it's cakey, fudgy, or chewy. I've also thrown in a butterscotch blondie, as well as chocolate brownie cookies, a huge favorite at my bakery, Grace Baking, and the happy result of a measuring mistake.
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A Brownie Recipe for Every Brownie Lover
Similar ingredients, different proportions
Start your brownies with melted chocolate. Whether you melt it with butter or not, use the gentle heat of a double boiler—there's no remedy for scorched chocolate.
All of these brownie recipes have enough chocolate flavor to satisfy a chocolate yearning, and they all have similar ingredients. But because of the varying amounts of chocolate, butter, sugar, and flour, the texture of each brownie is quite different. To keep things simple, I've left nuts out of the three chocolate variations, but feel free to add them, 3/4 cup or so. I especially love chopped toasted walnuts in the cakey version.
A fudgy brownie is dense, with a moist, intensely chocolatey interior. I think of it as somewhere between a rich truffle torte and a piece of fudge. You'll see that I've included both bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate: I love the deep, intense chocolate flavor they pack when used together. I've added an egg yolk to contribute fudgy richness without greasiness. Because the batter is quite dense, I suggest beating it vigorously with a wooden spoon to ensure a smooth, even texture.
A chewy brownie is moist, but not quite as gooey as a fudgy one. The chewiness seems to come from a couple of different factors: more all-purpose flour, whose proteins provide "bite" (I find that cake flour, which is lower in protein, results in a light, crumbly texture that's too delicate for brownies); and whole eggs, whose whites give structure and "set."