Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies
There’s brownies and then there’s Alton Brown Brownies. The magical little square of chocolatey goodness dates back to the 1890s and has captured the hearts of dessert lovers ever since. Not only have they become the favorites of culinary sophisticates, with upscale presentations at some of the top restaurants around, but they are a beloved treat to make at home.
The search for the right recipe has gone on for many decades, with mothers handing the family treasure down to daughters and so on, generation to generation. Even if you have an old family formula, you should give Brown’s recipes a try. He actually has two published online – Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies and now his Cocoa Brownies 2.0 – each a slightly different experience.
To try his first version (pictured above), visit the Food Network’s website with the recipe he used in The Art of Darkness II: Cocoa episode on his first cooking show Good Eats:
Step it Up a Notch
Brown’s 2.0 brownie is guaranteed to satisfy those who love that gooey goodness in the middle of their brownies. He shares this one on his own blog.
But here it is, directly from the master:
Cocoa Brownies 2.0
From Alton's Blog
By Mr. Alton Brown. Published on June 23, 2015.
Proof positive that technique is just as important as ingredients. This is version 2.0 — a change up in the baking time creates an ooey-gooey brownie, different than the original recipe.
- 4 large eggs
- 7 ounces granulated sugar
- 6 ounces light brown sugar
- 5 3/4 ounces natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 2 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
・Crank the oven to 300 degrees F.
・Lube an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray. Trim a piece of parchment paper so that it fits just inside the baking dish with overhang on two sides and place it inside the pan.
・Beat the eggs with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow, 2 to 3 minutes.
・In a separate bowl, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Drop the mixer speed to low and slowly introduce the sugar mixture. Follow with the butter and vanilla. Continue mixing until you've got a nice, smooth goo.
・Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
・Bake the brownies for 15 minutes, then remove them from the oven for 15 minutes.
・Put them back in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the brownie, reads 195 degrees F (about 30 minutes).
・Cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then lift the brownie out using the parchment paper as a sling.
・Cut the brownies into 9 pieces using a pizza wheel and move to a rack to cool completely.
Brown’s blog is a constant source of new recipes from the chef and television host’s various shows, including various tips on producing the very best recipes. You can visit it at:
Take it From the Master
Alton Brown is known for his quirky take on food and its preparation, but he is an acknowledged culinary master in his own right with opinions on the tools of the trade, the methods and most importantly, the required attitude. His approach is a recipe in itself – a pinch of seriousness, a cup of humor, a scoop of information and a ton of fun. Now mix that all together and pour it over your favorite food and you have an Alton Brown show. Just carry that outlook over into your own kitchen and you’ll have fun and produce culinary delights on a regular basis.
The Alton Brown brand of cooking is all about fun. If you’re not enjoying cooking it probably means you haven’t been watching enough of Alton Brown. Turn on one of his shows, the Cutthroat Kitchen series currently, or old episodes of Good Eats (the Food Network has 18 videos available on their website). Sit back, learn a few things, but mainly just enjoy the antics, hilarity and overall good fun of this host and his companions.
Brown actually developed Good Eats because he didn’t like the available cooking shows on air at that time. He wanted to bring a new style to the viewing public, which he certainly did. His very successful first attempt lasted 14 years on air, and sprouted many new opportunities for him. You know you’ve made it big in the celebrity world when you’re asked to appear as yourself in an episode of The Simpsons (Season 27 – “Cue Detective”).
After all, Brown has racked up a few awards (the Peabody, a James Beard and Atlanta magazine deemed him “Best Food Guru” in 2005), been a star on the Food Network since 1998 and has been touring the United States with his outrageous live shows since 2014.
You can count on Alton Brown to deliver the goods!
Brown’s Ooey-Gooey Factor
But a good brownie is more than just a square of cake-cookie mixture. It must achieve a certain texture and flavor combination to be deemed “perfect.” Alton Brown, America’s bow-tied Food Network host of Cutthroat Kitchen calls it “ooey-gooey” and his two recipes account for that factor. In fact, his 2.0 version pumps up the gooey!
You’ll find the word gooey applied to all kinds of foods online. The thing they have in common is comfort. Comfort foods have long been favorites in our culture and now in our enhanced foodie environment, even more so. There are times when comfort takes away the stress of everyday life, and having a few brownies tucked away could just be that little life-saver you need after a rough day.
There’s no better time to bring a sweet treat that delivers a sense of coziness and well-being than at a family gathering and brownies fit every occasion; holidays, birthdays, picnics, anniversaries. And all seasons; they battle the winter doldrums, lighten up fall festivities, usher in spring and stay edible in the heat of summer. Brownies are comfort food, in all their gooeyness, for every day or that special day.
Cocoa is the Main Ingredient
Although, admittedly, there are light-colored brownie recipes out there that don’t rely on cocoa for their zing (called blondies), cocoa is the basis of the vast majority of brownie ingredient lists, and for good reason.
It comes from the cacao tree and even though it is native to the Americas it hails from exotic locations like Honduras, Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela. Its history is rich in traditions, dating back at least to archaeological finds from 1400 BC and starting off as the base for an alcoholic drink, well before the Spanish arrived. The pulp is still used to make “spirits.”
Although there are three main varieties of cacao - Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario – Forastero makes up 95% of the world production of cocoa. So unless you’ve specifically sought out the Criollo strain, considered a delicacy, you’re probably using Forastero in your hot chocolate, brownies and other chocolate concoctions.
The pulpy seeds of the cacao tree start off purple, and change colors during the fermenting process. Taking cacao from its raw form to the various incarnations it becomes is a long, time-consuming progression. After harvesting, the rinds that surround the beans and are removed and discarded, then the centers are left in heaps to ferment for several days. The pulp ferments and dissolves away, leaving behind the seeds, which are then dried for up to 14 days, before being collected for final processing. From the cacao groves to your plate of brownies take several months.
A Little Brownie History
The chocolate brownie, a flat, baked dessert square, first burst onto the culinary scene at the end of the 19th century in the United States. It became popularized in the States and Canada, through the first decades of the 20th century.
Many legends surround the origins of the brownie, one being that a Chicago socialite, Bertha Palmer, asked her pastry chef to create a cake-like dessert that her guests, attending an exposition, could enjoy from a boxed lunch. This famed version included walnuts and an apricot glaze, and is still served at the Palmer House Hotel, owned by her husband at the time of her request.
Although the first-known use of the word "brownie" in print, was to describe a dessert in Fannie Farmer’s 1896 version of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, it was referring to a molasses cake baked in little molds. It wasn’t until Home Cookery came out in 1904, that our modern style of chocolate brownie appeared.
Today’s brownies can be finger food, as a companion for a glass of milk or hot drink, or served in delicate slices with a gourmet presentation, or even served hot accompanied by ice cream and whipped cream. They are now as much a part of the restaurant scene as any other dessert.
Don’t stop with just these amazing recipes by Alton Brown! They can easily become the main ingredient for many, many other treats.
Consider the picture above, of one type of ice cream sandwich using brownies for the “bread”. There are several other versions, with brownies as the glue. There’s the double-decker, the bite-sized tinys and the ones with the whole concoction cut from a pan with a fancy cookie-cutter.
Then there are the really creative ice cream/brownie creations – brownies crumbled into ice cream then scooped out into beautiful parfait glasses, or the brownies cooked in a muffin tin with the centers formed into a cup to hold a scoop of ice cream. Or the simplest way of all, spread ice cream over a pan of uncut brownies, stick it in the freezer and short time later – voila, you have ice cream brownies ready to divide.
Ice cream isn’t the only element to combine with brownies! Fruit is a very popular new combo, including brownie/fruit kabobs. Try layers of brownie, whipped cream and strawberries, or how about tiny brownies with a raspberry and whipped cream topping them. A thin brownie layer forms a great bottom for a fruit tart, large or small.
Think of these two fabulous recipes as the beginning of a whole new culinary adventure. Thank you. Mr. Brown.
So, whether you snack on them yourself, share them with your family, give them as gifts, or bring them the next time you’re invited to a party – jump in there and try Alton Brown Cocoa Brownies, both versions. You’ll become the favorite aunt, a beloved parent or the frequently requested guest at your friends’ parties. All that could happen without the brownies, but they’ll help – a lot.