Rana Abla, founder, owner and inventor of DFW Metroplex favorite Miss Naughty Brownie, knows more than a thing or two about baked goodies of every kind. But her claim to fame is her range of sinfully decadent Naughty Brownies. She wouldn't give us her top-secret recipes, but she was willing to divulge the deets you need to make your own chocolaty treats.
It's key to decide what type of brownies you want before you start cooking and to choose your recipe accordingly.
Fudgy brownies have a limited amount of flour — about 1/2 cup — and no leavening ingredients like baking powder. They'll usually call for you to melt the butter rather than cream it with the sugar, which will yield a denser, fudgier confection. You'll be using unsweetened chocolate as a general rule, so also expect to use a ton of sugar, a full cup or so.
Cakelike brownies contain more flour and a leavener to make them softer and lighter. They'll use less butter and require you to cream it with the sugar.
Or maybe you like your brownies chewy. These will have an extra egg, a combination of chocolates and even a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to round out the flavor and texture for a satisfyingly chewy result.
There are also blondies if you prefer, which will mirror the cakelike brownies sans the chocolate.
Abla recommends studying your recipe carefully before beginning to cook to make sure you understand every step and have all the ingredients.
Using premium ingredients is really important if you want premium results. "Believe me, it does make a huge difference in taste," Abla says. And when you're measuring, measure carefully and accurately.
When you're baking brownies, it's really important your eggs be room temperature. The whites and yolks of eggs combine more easily during whisking when they're room temperature, meaning they'll disperse more evenly into the batter. Since the eggs trap air, this means your brownies will have a lighter texture and cook more evenly.
But who can ever remember to take the eggs out an hour before? If that happens, just let them sit in a bowl of warm water for 10 or 15 minutes.
When mixing the flour mixture, sprinkle it over the chocolate mixture, and fold it using a spatula (not a whisk) until just a little of the flour is still visible. This will prevent overmixing and you from ending up with cakey brownies.
Always choose a light-colored, shiny pan, which will conduct heat more evenly. Glass or dark-colored pans can cause the edges to overbake or burn.
But a shiny pan is only the start. Her pro tips are to make sure it's lined with greased baking parchment or aluminum foil and to leave an overhang on the sides to create handles. When your brownies have cooled, use the handles to lift out the uncut brownies, place a cutting board gently on top to flip it onto, and peel off the parchment. Then carefully invert it again so the shiny side is up before cutting for professional-looking results.
Bake your brownies in the center of the oven, and don't put them in until it's preheated. As for how long to cook it, it depends on what type you're cooking, but remember they'll keep cooking a little as they sit on the counter to cool, so pull it early if you're not sure.
Fudgy brownies are ready when the sides have shrunk slightly away from the edges of the pan and the center is slightly gooey (it will firm up while cooling). Cakelike brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center has only a few moist crumbs attached to it.
Abla recommends investing $3 in an oven thermometer. Most ovens are actually off in terms of temperature, and even if it's only by as much as 25 degrees, it makes a huge difference when you're baking.
As hard as it may be, resist the urge to cut the brownies immediately. Put them in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, and the result will be nice, tidy, professional-looking squares. Since they don't gunk up the knife, they won't shed as many crumbs and are less likely to fall apart.
If you've only got time for the boxed stuff, buy your favorite brand, and go for it. You can even mimic Abla's Naughty Brownies by tossing in some chunks of your favorite chocolate candy bar when you mix. Abla likes bits of peanut butter cups or chocolate-covered toffee.
Until you've nailed your perfect brownie, skip that prepackaged stuff at the grocery store, and opt for something you find at a local premium bakery. If you live in DFW (as I'm lucky enough to), you've got to try Abla's Very Naughty Brownies — they have freaking cookie dough in them, people! Cookie dough!
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