Cocoa Brownies in No Time-or a Little Time!

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Cocoa BrowniesCocoa Brownies have never been in my wheelhouse and I’m not sure why, although I have a sneaking suspicion I am prejudiced in favor of chocolate. However, while wandering around the internet recently, an article on cocoa brownies caught my eye.

Since 2018 is my year of expanding my thinking and learning more, I thought this was a good time to give them a try. The original recipe comes from Kitchn and they are called Pantry Cocoa Brownies. The sentence about “blooming” the cocoa caught my eye. By combining the cocoa with a warm liquid it is said to make the cocoa more intense. I also liked the use of oil in the recipe as I have found it generally yields a more moist product. You also had to follow the order in which the ingredients were added as well as the mixing times. Well, I couldn’t pass this up.

So having everything in my pantry, I gave it a whirl. Now you have to understand that rarely do I follow every single direction to a tee. The whole point of my blog is to de-mystify baking and pastry. Over the years, as a professional, I have found many other ways of putting recipes together with the same or better results but eliminating some of the steps or changing them around. But follow I did – to a tee! Well, almost, I made one small change to the pan prep.

I mixed as long as the recipe said, I added the ingredients in the order stated and off the cocoa brownies went to the oven.

While I was waiting for them to come out, I wondered what would happen if I just mixed them as usually done for brownies without all the stated times and specified order and bloomed cocoa. This is exactly what gets me into trouble!

You guessed it. I scaled all the ingredients and put them together without blooming the cocoa and in a much faster version of mixing.

What happened surprised me. The original brownies came out about 1/2″ thick with a very shiny paper thin top. The article stressed the shiny top so everything seemed as it should be.

But when my version came out they were 3/4 inches tall and the texture was lighter and less dense. Not by a ton but noticeable.

I noticed no difference in taste whether the cocoa was bloomed or just mixed with the flour and dumped in at the end. So here my version of the Pantry Cocoa Brownies. Please feel free to try theirs also if you so desire.

Oh, the top of mine was not as shiny as the Kitchn version but I have never judged a brownie by what the top looked like.

I have to say, I loved both versions. So much so that I had to take most of them to work and give them away for fear Mike and I would eat both batches.  One last thought, you could add nuts or chocolate chips if you like to enhance them.

I would like to thank Kitchn for their Pantry Cocoa Brownies and helping me expand my thinking about these wonderful cocoa brownies.

I have used exactly the same ingredients but simply put them together differently. In the photo below you can see the height and texture difference. I lightened the photo as much as I dared so you hopefully, can see what I am talking about.Side by side comparison of the Cocoa Brownies

Kitchn’s Pantry Cocoa Brownies (with a few mixing changes)
2/3 cup unsifted natural unsweetened cocoa powder (55 grams or 2 scant ounces)
1/2 cup all purpose flour (70 grams or about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt *
1/4 teaspoon baking powder**
3 eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (130 grams or 4 1/2ounces)
1 1/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar (170 grams or 6 ounces)
2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

*I used fine sea salt but it wasn’t so stated so I am assuming you can use table salt.

** I found this interesting as natural cocoa uses baking soda, not baking powder to leaven the product. See my post Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda for an in depth discussion of the two. But, as I said I followed it to a tee!   Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I substituted baking soda. That’s for another day though.

Preheat the oven to 325°F with the rack in the middle. Line the bottom of a 9″ square pan with parchment. (I did make one small change here by lining the pan. But it ensures the cocoa brownies will come out in one piece.) Spray the parchment and sides of the pan. Set aside.

Measure the cocoa, flour, salt and baking powder and sift them through a strainer. Both the flour and especially the cocoa have a tendency to have lumps. The cocoa lumps don’t want to dissolve in liquid but will when they are sifted.

Beat the eggs and both sugars for about 3 minutes or until fluffy and lighter in color.

Add the oil and vanilla, mixing until completely combined.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low just to combine.

Pour into the pan, level the mixture and bake for 28 to 33 minutes until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Cool, go around the sides with a spatula and turn out onto a board. Cut it into as many pieces as desired, usually 16.  See the shiny top!Cocoa Brownies cut 16 for Cocoa BrowniesThat’s it, Cocoa Brownies in no time!

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Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post.

17 thoughts on “Cocoa Brownies in No Time-or a Little Time!

  1. Jennifer

    I made these brownies last Saturday for a small family gathering. I only had an 8×8 pan so they had to bake longer….I think around 40 minutes. Yummy chocolately deliciousness. Will make these again and again. Thanks Helen!

  2. BrigitteCanada

    Thanks for this recipe, Helen. Feel free to add that dutch process cocoa works fine, because that’s what I inadvertently used! Not as shiny on top, but very light and I daresay almost better the next day.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks Brigitte. Not sure why the dutched cocoa doesn’t shine as much. The only thing I can think of is that something is lost during the dutching process.

  3. Rockyroad

    Hi Helen,
    Somehow, some way this ended up in my spam! Horrors! Missing one of your posts! Awful. Good thing I was cleaning up my mail.

    Today we are going to a friends house and I always bring something chocolate since they are addicts.
    I will give it a try. It looks great. Easy to make and on the pocketbook.

    Over the years I have made many types of brownies as you can guess. The recipes with a few different kinds of chocolate and lots of butter are very good but quite pricey to make so this one really interested me. When I make those everyone asks for the recipe but when I have passed it on, they take one look and ask me how much $$ does it cost to make. Of course it makes a half sheet pans worth but they don’t look at it like that.

    As always,
    Thanks.
    Have a happy healthy new year!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi M.J. I took a lot of these to work as Mike and I don’t need eat 2 pans worth -not even one pan’s worth. They loved them. I agree about the cost of brownies – most of mine use chocolate and tons of butter but as you said they make a 1/2 sheet pan. If they cut the recipe in half they can use a 9×13″ pan or a quarter sheet. Will have less but cost less also. I have cut most of mine down for the blog.

  4. Lynette Pruett

    Helen, I can’t wait to try this recipe, and it will probably be tomorrow! If I like it as much as I do the King Arthur Flour Tasting is Believing Whole Grain Brownies recipe, I’m going to be ruined, at least as far as my waistline is concerned! The problem is that I almost always have all of these ingredients in my pantry, like you, and I’m afraid that my chocoholic tendencies may find it all too easy to whip up a batch at the drop of a hat!
    I will try using white whole wheat flour, since the KAF recipe using whole wheat flour is really the same as some of theirs calling for all-purpose flour. Other than that change, plus adding bittersweet chocolate chips to the batter, I will try my best to follow the recipe to a tee!
    I can taste the chocolate now!

    1. Lynette Pruett

      Just a quick follow up…these are delicious! Mine also came out with the shiny crust, and perfect texture. In fact, I’m finding it hard to believe that they are made with cocoa. I’ve found my new go-to brownie recipe for the future. Thanks, Helen!

      1. hfletcher Post author

        Hi Lynette – I loved your first comment and am so happy you let me know they came out for you also. Add-ins can definitely be used – I just want a plain brownie for the test.

  5. Thelma Kessel

    Do you know what makes the shiny top? My cocoa brownies have dutch process cocoa and butter. They are intensely dense and rich but do not have the shiny top.Is it the oil? The percentage of eggs?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Thelma – Interesting that you mentioned the dutched process cocoa and butter. What I didn’t mention was that I also made a different brownie with dutched chocolate and butter. There was no shiny top and they were not as good, in my opinion, as the cocoa version I published. I have no idea what makes the shiny top. I’m not as concerned with that as the taste but it does look good even though some of it usually flakes off as you can see in the photo.

  6. Karen Bissinger

    How did you like the oil in this recipe? Do you think butter would have given richer tasting brownies or do you recommend using the oil?

    I always follow your recommendations!! You are spot on and every recipe of yours I make, always comes out great!!!

    FYI: I FINALLY was able to buy a copy of your Pastry Cookbook; it must have taken me over a year to find one “reasonably” priced ($40). GREAT BOOK!!! I’m so glad I bought it!!!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Karen – I loved the oil instead of butter. I like it in cakes also. Butter is wonderful but it makes for a heavier finished product and stales a lot quicker than something made with oil. Love that you got the book. The information remains current even after all these years.

  7. Linda Inness

    I love cocoa brownies – better than chocolate brownies. I have been using the Cocoa Brownie recipe from online ‘Joy of Baking’ for years. It differs from yours in that the cocoa is hydrated in melted butter along with the the other wet ingredients before the dry are added. It uses baking powder, also sour cream and chocolate chips/chunks. My husband and son are addicted to those brownies. I will have to try yours – I love baked goods with brown sugar! I have made many of your recipes to rave reviews. Thanks so much for sharing your talent and recipes with us. May you have continued success and happiness in the new year.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks Linda a for your kind words. I remember well having the boys home. Lordy if I made a change to a recipe they loved I heard about it forever. Hope they enjoy this one.

  8. sallybr

    great post! I thought that maybe you would make a second batch the following week, but no.. you jumped RIGHT into action!

    I swear, I wish we had a few graduate students with your enthusiasm in the lab… ;-)

    are you sure you don’t need a part time job working on iron transport by bacteria?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Sally – I don’t know if I shared that my father was a pharmacist and my mother a talented baker. I got the best of both of their genes. I wish I had more time (not to mention money) to spend my time tracking down every test I could think of – and I can think of a lot. Your testing doesn’t seem as exciting to me. Sorry about that. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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