If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me post pictures and videos of my brownie bake-off last month. The experiment came from a desire to find the perfect ‘healthy-ish’ brownie recipe, and as someone who loves food science and experimentation, I figured the only rational way to do this was via blind taste test.
I enlisted the help of my husband and in-laws, and they all came over hungry and ready to give their honest feedback. My husband said this was ‘not weird at all’ – but then again, when your 6-month pregnant wife tells you she wants to bake six batches of brownies for fun, you probably do whatever she says and don’t argue with her. Whatever…
I did a lot of recipe research, tweaking, and playing around with ingredients and ratios. I started with six recipes I really liked, but only ended up making the four I felt would be the best. I needed all the brownies to be gluten-free and dairy-free (due to my food allergies) – but I also wanted them to be made of more wholesome ingredients, like unrefined sugars and oils, and darker (70%+) chocolates. What I didn’t want was anything truly weird or out there. No ‘faux’ brownies made from entirely raw ingredients, or made from beans. Just a healthier version of the original, and still made with the basics of flour, butter or oil, sugar, and chocolate.
I also wanted a brownie that was super fudgy, chewy, and dense – not cakey. (This was important.)
I didn’t disclose any of the ingredients to my taste testers – nor did I give them any hints about which recipe was which. Instead, I placed each of the four batches on a plate, and I labeled each of the plates “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”. I gave myself, my husband, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law a ballot, and asked them to judge each batch on the following categories:
- Crinkly top
- Fudgy middle
- Crispy edges
- Overall taste
Some notes on making really good brownies:
- Unlike with other baked goods, you don’t want a toothpick inserted into the center of your brownies to come out clean. If it does, you’ve over-baked the brownie! Instead, you want lots of moist crumbs attached for a nice, fudgy brownie.
- When making fudgy brownies, it’s normal for the center of your brownies to sink a little while cooling. Don’t stress if this happens!
- However, to prevent excess sinking, you’ll want to be very careful not to beat too much air into the batter. Whether whisking by hand or using an electric mixer, be sure to beat your oil and sugar until just coated and combined – do not go crazy here!
- For maximum fudginess, you want to prevent your brownies from cooking any further once they’re out of the oven. I recommend letting them cool for five minutes at room temperature, and then placing on a hot pad in your fridge for up to 40 minutes. Afterwards, you can slice into pieces and serve (and return to room temp).
- And lastly – my secret ingredient: espresso powder. Don’t worry if you don’t like coffee. You won’t taste it, but it will help the depth and richness of the chocolate really ‘pop’.
These are the winners of my Great Brownie Bake-Off. They’re everything you want in a truly indulgent, enjoyable brownie: crinkly, shiny top, fudgy center, chewy edges, and a great overall taste.
- 1 1/2 cups superfine blanched almond flour
- 1/4 cup high-quality cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350º F. Grease an 8 x 8″ baking pan, or line with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder.
- In a separate medium bowl, beat together your eggs and sugar, just until all the sugar is coated and moistened. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and again – beat until just combined. See tip above: For perfect fudgy brownies, you don’t want to beat too much air into your batter.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, and combine until no flour pockets remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Pour batter into your baking pan, and place in the oven for 26-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs. See tips above for how I recommend cooling and storing these.
Keywords: Brownies, healthy brownies, perfect brownies, gluten-free brownies, dairy-free brownies