Jon’s Secrets for Great Brownies

Dang, I haven’t posted anything for awhile.  I’m working on an article about valuing relief pitchers for fantasy baseball.  I’m still working through a couple of things and with a busy November-December just haven’t gotten it wrapped up yet.  We are having a carry-in meal at my workplace which resulted in a lightbulb idea to share my secrets for making great brownies.  Seriously, even if you don’t cook, follow the instructions on the box of brownie mix and use my secrets and you are going to have awesome brownies.

I almost titled this “Brownies for Dummies” but there are no dummies who read this.  Regardless, I have decided to offer up my secret for making great brownies.  My secret is chocolate chips.  Chocolate chips and baking time.  My two secrets are chocolate chips and baking time.  And greasing the pan.  My three secrets!  Are greasing the pan, chocolate chips and baking time, and a plastic knife.  My four….  Amongst my secrets are greasing the pan, chocolate chips, baking time and a plastic knife.

0.      The basics

Okay, the following assumes a larger brownie mix (20 oz., give or take) in a 13” x 9” pan.  Do not spend a lot for some fancy-schmancy brownie mix.  Just get a box of ordinary brownie mix.  Even a generic one.  Aldi’s is fine.  I usually bake brownies in a glass pan because often I am taking them somewhere and the glass pan looks much nicer and has a snap-on lid.  I have read that an uncoated metal pan (not dark-coated) is best for brownies, that brownies baked in a glass pan will have chewier edges and a fudgier center.  I haven’t done a comparison, just passing on what I’ve read.  Be sure to pre-heat the oven.  Turn on the oven first; preparing the mix will take about the same amount of time as it takes the oven to reach 350°.

1.       Grease the side of the pan

When one bakes something the instructions are very clear on whether to grease the pan or to use an ungreased pan or sheet.  When making brownies the instructions always say to grease only the bottom of the pan.  You grease the bottom because you don’t want the baked brownies to stick to the bottom.  The reason for the bottom only is that when baking a cake the grease may inhibit the cake from rising evenly, the batter can’t “climb” the sides of the pan.  Balderdash, I say.  (Words like poppycock, baloney or claptrap just don’t seem right when talking about brownies….)  “Imagine trying to climb a greased pole,” they say.  To which I reply, “Imagine trying to climb a half-inch of a greased pole.”  Honestly, brownies don’t rise much.  And who likes to scrub dried-up brownie residue off a pan?  So, also grease about an inch up the side of the pan.  Just make sure when you spread the batter in the pan that you spread it evenly, including into the corners.  You’ll be glad afterwards that you didn’t have to free the brownies from the sides and that there’s very little to clean off the pan when dishes need to be washed.  And that very little of your awesome brownies was wasted.

2.      Add chocolate chips

Secret number two:  After you’ve blended the mix and other ingredients, add in almost a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Just pour a bunch into a one-cup measuring cup, about three-fourths to nearly full.  Dump them into the mix and stir it just a bit so they’re covered and dispersed throughout the batter.

3.      Baking time

Great brownies are neither under- nor over-baked.  If you want fudge-like brownies make fudge.  If you want cake-like brownies make a cake.  Brownies should fall in-between.  All ovens are indeed different.  So you may need to bake several batches of brownies to fine-tune the baking time to get brownies like you like ‘em.  But there’s nothing wrong with that.  🙂  Here’s my secret:  The brownie mix box will give you a baking-time range, something like 24-26 or 23-25 or 25-28 minutes.  Whatever range it gives you, I bake the brownies for five minutes less than the upper time.  Yes, this will be less than the lower time.  But this is one of the secrets to making awesome brownies.  I am a brownie master.  Do not question me.

4.      A plastic knife

After the brownies have baked and thoroughly cooled, cut them with a plastic knife.  Plastic.  A metal knife will usually tear them.  You should be able to cut them easily with a plastic knife, either by drawing it through or using a bit of a back-and-forth motion.  If the knife is catching a bit you can slightly moisten it.  I like to drag the knife around the outside first (in case you missed a spot or foolishly chose to ignore secret #1).  When I make the cuts at the outside edges of the pan I like to bring the knife toward the outside (rather than from the outside inward) so that the knife doesn’t scrunch the brownies back into the pan.

Okay, I’ve shared my secrets.  Now go ye forth and make brownies.  For yourself, for family, for work.  No one will complain!  And tell them you found the secrets to great, awesome brownies at situational-lefty.com.

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