The secret to chewy, fudgy brownies

When I was still working in an office, one of the most common rackets of the secretaries was to sell pastries to the lawyers. This is especially true around Christmas time when everyone is trying to earn extra and it is so hard to say no. One of those secretaries would often sell what she announced as “homebaked brownies.” I don’t know how true that was but, in the spirit of camaraderie, I remember buying an entire box of brownies from her. Once. Only once. Because her “homebaked brownies” tasted like chocolate sheet cake that had been cut into squares.

Obviously, I am not a fan of cake-like brownies (though I am a fan of brownie pops). I don’t see the point in having a brownie if it would taste like cake anyway. I might as well have a slice of real chocolate cake.

I prefer my brownie to be dense and fudgy — the way they’re meant to be. After all, a brownie is not a cake but something between a cookie and a cake. A cookie bar, to be more precise.

I like my brownie to have a dry and flaky top, moist inside and rather chewy.

There are bakers who try to achieve the soft and moist texture by underbaking the brownies by five minutes or so. When chilled afterward, the brownies never turn into something cake-like because the batter was never allowed to reach the fully baked stage. The problem with this technique is that as the brownies reach room temperature, they lose the chewiness and turn soft — press the brownie between you fingers and you have semi-baked batter. I know because it’s a technique that I used to employ. Not anymore.

Over the years, I have come to realize that the fudginess or chewiness is a product of three things, and underbaking is not one of them:

1. The amount of chocolate or sugar, or both, in the batter.

2. The amount of flour in the batter.

3. The proportion between the flour and the chcolate / sugar.

In a nutshell, the more flour you add, the more cake-like the result. Less flour and more chocolate and sugar, or both, and you get a more chewy result. That’s why it is so much easier to bake chewy and moist butterscotch brownies than it is to bake chocolate fudge brownies. The huge amount of brown sugar in butterscotch brownies does the job perfectly.

Meanwhile, with chocolate fudge brownies, it becomes trickier especially if using cocoa powder instead of melted good quality chocolate. And that’s really the thing. A lot of commercial brownies are baked with cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate. It’s really about keeping the cost down. Sellers want their brownies priced low to make it more attractive to buyers and cocoa powder is far less cheaper than good quality dark chocolate.

The thing is, cocoa powder does not have the cocoa butter that chocolate has. Chocolate is made up of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa powder is made from cocoa solids. In order to successfully substitute cocoa powder for chocolate, you need to use more fat which, in baking, usually comes in the form of butter. But commercial bakers know that more butter means jacking up the cost. So, they don’t increase the amount of butter. The result? Brownies with a cake-like texture.

If you’re a homebaker who wants to bake good brownies but you 1) want to keep the cost down by using cocoa powder instead of chocolate, or 2) the process of melting chocolate still intimidates you, there is a proper substitution technique. Here are formulas found on the web:

How to use cocoa as a chocolate substitute
Ingredient substitution
Substituting cocoa powder for unsweetened chocolate
Chocolate Substitution Chart – How To Substitute Chocolate

For the chocolate fudge brownie recipe, click here.

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The Author

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

18 Responses

  1. A says:

    My mother was a professional baker and would make “classic brownies” (cakey, which she says was the brownie of the 70’s and 80’s–I’m too young to know if its true! hahaha) and “fudgy” (which she says started to gain popularity in the mid to late 90’s.)

    She used the same batter but used two different techniques. The classic ones were baked at an even, constant temp resulting in a cakey product.

    For the fudgy ones, she would crank the top burners way up to 450 and bake it for 10-15 minutes, until the top got a crust; she would then bake as normal at 350. The result was a crisp top and a dense center. The science behind this is that the crisp top would form a hard barrier preventing the rest of the batter from rising; as the batter cannot rise, it forms a gluey, fudgy texture instead. What gives them a fudgy texture is the same thing that makes flour a thickening agent… the gluten and sugars in the flour react with the liquid (eggs, milk, butter) and heat to form a thick structure, but the top crust prevents the baking powder/soda from achieving a full leavening effect.

    • Connie says:

      Very interesting. When my electric oven gets fixed, I’ll experiment using your mom’s technique. Really intriguing.

  2. natzsm says:

    BROWNIES and banana cake were the first few goodies I learned to bake in the late 70s early 80s. Back then, it was difficult to get “real chocolate”- it was either too expensive or simply hard to find.

    I always used the basic substitute of 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (ricoa most of the time or if someone came in from the States, we were lucky to have Hershey’s) plus 1 tablespoon fat and followed a recipe from either Betty Crocker or Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook (my bible when I a kid).

    They were so fudgy, moist and rich in the middle yet crumbly and cookie like outside. (the perfect brownie according to my Home Economics teacher)

    Nowadays, “baking chocolate” in all variants is readily available and at very reasonable prices. There is no need to even go to a specialty bakery supplies shop because even the groceries carry an ample selection.

    Ms. Connie, your post most especially the pictures brought back many happy memories and now the urge to bake a childhood favorite. It has been quite sometime since I last baked “cookies” but this time, I will graduate from the use of cocoa powder and use the best chocolate I could find (and afford) and make myself a dream brownie.

    (Back then and even up to today, cream cheese frosting remain to be my favorite so that would still be what I would be putting! )

  3. rachel says:

    And what if we want chewy fudgy bat not so sugary or even without sugar and flour brownie ? What sould be the amount of dry and moist ingredients?

  4. Nina says:

    I like fudgy brownies, too. I was searching foryour recipe of fudgy brownies and found that it called for undercooking. Will you be updating your fudgy brownie recipe soon?

  5. Jheng says:

    Hi Ms. Connie!
    I’ve been trying very hard to make the right fudge brownies for my kiddos. Last night, I baked a small batch, trying the recipe my friend told me.My daughter liked the taste, she had 4 squares this morning, but for me, di pa rin ako satisfied, hehehe. It’s my third time pala baking brownies. I’ve tried the two brownie recipes you posted here.
    On the first one that required pancake syrup, I don’t have pancake syrup the time I made it, I tweaked the recipe, combine brown sugar with white (a classmate of mine from cooking school told me that the result from mixing brown + white sugar in making brownies is better). They liked the taste, and it was gone in an instant.Then, I tried also to make the second using semi-sweet chocolate I bought from chocolate lovers. I followed the recipe exactly except for the pecans since I don’t have it. The result is fudgy than the first recipe. but it’s too sweet, as in sobra. although naubos pa rin naman.
    Now reading this post, make me want to go home early and try experimenting more to achieve the right fudge brownies for me of course with your tips.
    Thanks po talaga for sharing! God bless!

  6. Joy says:

    The brownies look great.

  7. sally says:

    thank you !!!
    does veggie oil/canola oil or butter make them more fudgy?

  8. Frissia says:

    Hi Maam,
    I am in the hunt for cocoa powder. What brand can you suggest that is cheaper yet of better quality? Which store sells it? I would like to using it for chocolate cakes. Thank you very much!

  9. Alma Cerezo says:

    Hi, Ms Connie,
    What could be the reason po why my brownies always end up hard and dry (overcooked) on the sides pero yung gitna di pa luto? When i wait to let the center bake some more, the sides almost sunog na :( Could it be because I use a gas range oven and not the convection type? I tried your choc fudge and butterscotch brownies, choc chip cookie dough brownies and choc fudge brownies…. laging ganon :( Help!

    • Whether it’s gas or electric doesn’t matter. It’s the temp and pan size. Ovens need calibration from time to time. Or use a stand alone oven thermometer.

  10. Beth Loggins says:

    Chewiness can be achieved with the use of glucose or corn syrup. They help to prevent recrystallization of the sugar in the batter. Some oil would also help the brownie stay moist since it tends to stay liquid at colder temps. Lessening leaveners like baking powder or soda will also help to make the brownie relatively dense. Keeping the mixing of the batter to a minimum will prevent the gluten network from developing too much structure. Lastly, letting the batter rest will develop flavor, further relax the gluten, and allow the flour to properly hydrate. All these combined, plus your tips on temp and ratios will likely result in OMG-holy-awesome-fudginess. :D

  11. Beth Loggins says:

    In addition, as Miss Connie mentioned in a past post, if your pan is dark, it will be hotter than a glass or shiny pan. So lower the heat and/or wrap the sides with aluminum foil (shiny side out).. Same thing if the sides of your pan are very thin. You may also want to place your pan in a waterbath (ie. pan in a bigger pan filled with water). This will help too keep the sides of your baking pan from becoming too hot. You may also want to rotate your pan halfway through the cooking.