What the Fudge?!

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June 6, 2013 by Shweta D'souza

The plain, wonderful chocolate brownie, as we know and love it, probably came from the creativity of Fannie Merritt Farmer when she drastically reduced the flour in one of her chocolate cookie recipes.

History of Brownies

There was a recipe called, “Brownies” in the 1896, Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, but Fannie Merritt Farmer’s recipe contained molasses and nuts–no chocolate. In the 1906 revision of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Fannie Farmer did have a chocolate brownie, which was very close to her 1896 chocolate cookie recipe with a greatly reduced amount of flour.

Maria Willett Howard, who had been trained by Fannie Farmer, added an egg to the Fannie Farmer recipe to create The Lowney Chocolate Company brownies. According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith says that the two-egg Lowney’s Brownies was the recipe most often reprinted in New England community cookbooks before 1912.

The other popular early (by 1912) recipe was the “Bangor Brownies,” with 1/4 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg, 3 squares unsweetened chocolate, 1/2 to 3/4 cup flour, 1 cup nut meats, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Your Perfect Brownie
Some want a cake-like brownie, while others love a fudge-like brownie. Some like a firm brownie; others want a softer brownie. Some like a crust on a brownie, others do not want a crust. Brownies can have a fudgy taste or a plain chocolate taste. Again some like them one way and some the other.

Cake-Like or Fudge-Like

Remember that the brownie was literally created by drastically reducing the amount of flour in a chocolate cookie. So, the ratio of flour to the other ingredients is a big deal with brownies. The difference between fudgy and cakey brownies is the difference in the ratio of fat and chocolate to flour. For fudgy brownies use less flour, for cakey brownies, more flour.

Firm Brownie or Softer Brownie
If a brownie contains chocolate, it will have cocoa butter, which is firm when cold. If the brownie contains cocoa, it will have much less cocoa butter than chocolate and will contain butter as its primary fat. Since firm butter is softer when cool than firm cocoa butter, cocoa brownies will be softer than chocolate brownies. Alice Medrich also points out that cocoa brownies have more granular sugar since they don’t have super finely-ground sugar like the sugar in chocolate. And, she feels this granular sugar gives them a crunchier crust.

Brown Sugar
In addition to different chocolates for different flavors, many years ago Marcel Desaulniers, another chocolate expert, taught me that brown sugar (a touch of molasses) gave chocolate dishes a fudgy taste.

Brownie Techniques

Crust or No Crust
Whether brownies, or even some cakes and pound cakes, have a crust on top depends on how much you beat the batter after the eggs are added. The more you beat, the more crust you get. If you beat vigorously with a mixer, you can get a dramatic crust. Depending on how much you beat, this crust can be barely noticeable or a crisp, shiny crust that is totally puffed, and separated above the cake or brownie. It is also usually lighter in color. The color and shine are especially noticeable on brownies.
This is a meringue-like crust and is actually caused by a “meringue.”  Your beating of the batter after the eggs are added creates it. This seems not to be widely known even among chocolate experts.

Other Techniques   Alice Medrich, our Queen of Chocolate, has explored many techniques in her search for magnificent brownies:

Allowing the Batter to Mellow Before Baking   Alice will sometimes prepare the brownies, place them in the pan, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight or for 2 or 3 days to allow the flavors to meld.

High-Temperature Baking   Most brownies are baked at 163°C to 177°C. Alice wants a crisp outside and gooey inside, so she bakes for about half the normal baking time at a higher temperature 204°C and, then, instantly cools the brownies by placing the brownie pan on ice in a larger pan.

Cutting Brownies

Many brownie experts prefer to wrap complete cooled brownies well and refrigerate or leave at room temperature overnight and, then, place them on a cutting board and cut into individual pieces. Most think that they cut easier this way. Brownies keep best individually wrapped.

Home Baking Recipe


125g Flour (maida)

1/4 tspn baking powder

125g plain chocolate

125g butter

125g brown sugar

2 eggs

75g chopped walnuts


Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of hot water.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the second egg. Beat in the melted chocolate, then fold in the remaining flour and the walnuts.

Place in a greased and lined shallow 20 cm (8 Inch) square tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C for 30 to 35 minutes.

Cut into squares while still warm, then leave to cool in the tin

Makes 16


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