Cakey or fudgy? Firm or gooey? Nuts or no nuts?
Just like the perfect shade of tea, everyone's got their own opinion when it comes to the ultimate brownie.
That's why we've come up with our comprehensive brownie recipe guide with the help of our in-house baking expert, Vanessa, so that you can get the perfect batch of brownies every time. You're so, so welcome.
KNOW YOUR GOALS
Before you even start baking, figure out what your dream brownie looks like. Is it fudgy and dense? Is it cakey but rich? Is it chewy with a crusty top? This determines the recipe that you use.
"Baking measurements are paramount when baking brownies (flour, chocolate, butter and eggs can all affect the batter drastically), so read a few recipes until you come across one that seems to have the right ratios for your tastes," says Vanessa.
FOR A CAKEY BROWNIE…
Butter is the difference between a light or dense brownie, depending on whether it's melted or beaten into the mixture while still solid.
"Melting the butter and mixing in the sugar this way stops air bubbles forming, resulting in a dense brownie," explains Vanessa. "If you want a lighter, airier brownie, beat together your butter and sugar before adding the eggs and whisking on high. Once you add the chocolate and flour, the bubbles will immediately start to collapse, so you want to get as much air in there as you can."
FOR A FUDGY BROWNIE…
For a fudgy brownie, you want a high ratio of butter (melted), good quality dark chocolate (also melted), and eggs.
"The eggs will give the brownie its structure, while the high fat content will give it its gooey, velvety texture," says Vanessa. "In terms of flour, look for a recipe with very little (less than 100g for one tray of brownies). Too much gluten will bind the batter and make it more cake-like."
FOR A CHEWY BROWNIE…
If you want a chewy brownie, omit the chocolate altogether. It might sound ridiculous, but chocolate has a high fat content which creates a shorter, crumblier final bake (just take a look at shortbread). Replace the chocolate with more cocoa for a gorgeously chewy, just-as-rich final brownie.
"Don't skimp on flour either - that glutenous support will transform your brownie from fudgy to chewy in an instant," adds Vanessa.
If you're adding nuts to your batter, toast them in the oven beforehand. This will help them retain their crisp texture, as well as giving them a better, "nuttier" flavour. Although they'll get baked again whilst in the brownies, the liquid brownie batter surrounding them will stop the nuts from toasting properly, so you're best off making sure they're good and toasted beforehand.
STICK YOUR OAR IN
Vanessa says, "If you've got a high ratio of chocolate and only a small amount of flour in your batter, don't be afraid of overmixing - it's nigh-on impossible!
"The high ratio of cocoa butter will take extra long to fully emulsify into the rest of the batter."
Beat the mixture for a good 2-3 minutes to make sure the cocoa butter won't separate during cooking. Not only will it result in a rich and velvety brownie, but this added mixing will also give you a gorgeous, glossy, crisp top too.
EVERY PAN HAS A SILVER LINING
Regardless of whether your brownie pan says it's non-stick or not, always line your pan with non-stick baking paper or aluminium foil (dull side against the food, shiny side against the tin) with a slight overhang that sticks out of the tin.
"Brownies are famously dense and sticky, making the process of getting them out of the pan infamously tricky. By lining the pan, you can lift the whole tray of brownies from their tin once they're cool, making the slicing process infinitely easier."
THE WAITING GAME
If you plan ahead (and your self-control can handle it…) try making your brownies a few days ahead of time and keeping the batter (in its lined pan) in the fridge for up to three days before baking.
"This chilling process will not only help all of the flavours blend (the fats will adhere to the cocoa powder, helping it release the true extent of its rich, deep flavour) but it will also give your finished brownies a gorgeously shiny, crispy crust," explains Vanessa.
DON'T OVERDO IT
Whatever you do, don't overbake. When you pull the brownies from the oven, they will still look underdone and a skewer inserted into the tray should definitely come out a bit mucky. Have no fear, though, when the brownies are left to rest and cool, they'll firm up and change in consistency completely. The fudgier you want your brownies, the muckier they'll seem when they come out of the oven.
Chill your brownies before trying to slice them up. When they're still hot from the oven, the cocoa butter from the chocolate is still completely liquid, so trying to cut them and serve them is going to result in an utterly gooey mess - especially if you're attempting to cut them into bite-sized morsels...
Vanessa says, "To avoid this messy conundrum, give your brownies a couple of hours in the fridge or freezer to cool down and firm up before slicing; this will also help to stop them overcooking if you're after a fudgy or chewy brownie."
Has all this talk of brownies got you craving a tray of chocolatey, gooey goodness? Find everything you need to whip up your own perfect batch - be it cakey, fudgy or chewy - online or pop into your local store.