Cocoa Powder Brownies

brownie batter

I could have iced a cake with this stuff...

...that I made yesterday.  I was working along on the computer, and a Voice (it could have been mine) spake unto me, saying, "Go ye therefore into the kitchen, the heart of the home, and makest thou brownies for to Devour."  And, when a voice speaks up in King James Speak, one can but obey.

I wanted Immediate Brownies.  Not wait-forever brownies.  But I also wanted real brownies.  Boxes are for shoes, not for brownies.  Or cakes.  Or cookie mix.  Shudder.  At any rate, I knew I didn't have enough unsweetened chocolate to make my Favorite Ever Brownie Recipe (thank you, kind folks at Cook's Illustrated).  As an aside, I always go to the Toastpoint blog to get this brownie recipe.  After all, her post does come up first on Google when I search "Cook's Illustrated Brownies" because-I-just-can't-be-bothered-to-write-it-down.  I just looked to see what she has done recently, and the last thing posted is from September 28, 2009.  Oh, Toastpoint lady, where did you go?

Anyway, back to the brownies.  Being unsweetened-chocolate-less, I opted for cocoa powder brownies.  Oh, and here comes another aside.  Look out!  Too late:  for those of you who might wonder, "Hey, Jen, how come you don't just use some semisweet chocolate or even chocolate chips and then just cut back on the sugar?"  I say unto you, "The more sugar-per-ounce that is in your chocolate, the less chocolate there is."  And this leads to boring brownies.

For those of you who scratch your head and say, "Come again?" think of it this way.  Each ounce is made up of a certain proportion of ingredients.  The more of one ingredient you squeeze into each ounce, the less of another.  In this instance, sugar squeezes out chocolate liquor.  And that's not good for anyone.  In order to make your semi-sweet-chocolate brownies be as chocolaty as the unsweetened-chocolate brownies, you'd have to either a)use more semisweet and reduce the other sugar by x (wherein x is Completely Unknown), or just add in x amount of cocoa powder (wherein x is also Completely Unknown).  Unless you do math.  Ew.

Rather than do Math and Leave out Sugar and such, I decided to take the path of least resistance and go with cocoa powder brownies.  And for these, I turned to my dear-but-as-yet-unmet friend Alton Brown.  You can find his original recipe here, but I tweaked and messed with it to make them How I Wanted.  I mean, what's the point in being able to make your own brownies if you can't make them Exactly the Way you want?

First of all, I wanted to use Dutch processed cocoa.  Why?  Because I didn't want to have to deal with balancing the pH by using baking soda.  I also wanted these guys to be rich, moist and Almost Black.  And you can't get that using regular cocoa powder.  Acidic batters, which is what you end up with when using regular cocoa powder, set up more firmly.  And that would have given me Cakey Brownies.  If I wanted that, I'd have just made Cake.  Plus, regular cocoa powder tends to be a bit reddish in color, and I wanted Deep, Dark Brownies.  Not Burnt Sienna Brownies (apologies to Crayola).

So, that's why I went with Dutch Processed Cocoa.  I also wanted a burnt sugar Edge to the brownies.  Not edge as in Edge Pieces, but edge as in bite or flavor--just a little hint.  Plus, I wanted to deepen the chocolate flavor by using coffee in a supporting role.  Like Barbara Hershey in Beaches--the coffee was the wind beneath the cocoa's wings.

Now that you know All That, here's the formula.

I Wants Them Like I Wants Them Burnt Beaches Cocoa Powder Brownies

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar (about 13 ounces), Devoid of Lumps
  • 2 TBSP molasses
  • scant 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (if you use regular table salt, cut back to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch processed cocoa powder (I forgot to weigh this), sifted
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons good vanilla
  • 2 ounces cake flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 300F.  Thoroughly spray an 8" or 9" square pan with pan spray.  Cut a square of parchment to fit in the bottom of the pan, and then spray again.  I used 2 6" pans, and it worked out just fine.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the four eggs and espresso powder together until very light and fluffy and at the Ribbon Stage.  I did this on medium-high speed for about 6 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the 2 sticks of butter and whisk together with the cocoa powder and vanilla.

Once the egg and espresso mixture is Perfect, whisk in the brown sugar and molasses.  Turn the speed down to do this, and then crank her back up for a couple of minutes.  Scrape the bowl well.

With the mixer on low-ish speed, pour in the cocoa/butter/vanilla mixture.  Crank her up again for another minute or so, scraping the bowl a couple of times along the way.

Thoroughly fold in the sifted cake flour.

Scrape/pour (scrour?) the batter into prepared pans.  Smooth the tops and bake on the center rack until set and beautiful, about 45 minutes-an hour.  Slow and steady wins this race, so don't Go and crank up the heat.

Let cool on a rack for a few minutes, then turn out and flip right-side-up to finish cooling.  Cut them small, so you can eat about 20 at a time.  Nobody wants just one brownie...

Cocoa powder brownies

At the restaurant, the highest praise possible for any food item was that it was "R___ F___ G___." These were that, although I won't spell it out, because it is Family Hour.

These were Amazing.  Completely dark, completely moist, completely chocolate-y, bitter edge of burnt sugar.  My Idea of Brownie Perfection. Enjoy!

Oh, don't forget about the Hot and Cold Challenge. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.


  1. says

    I will have to try these after I log in my 50K words on my novel. No chocolate por moi until I FINISH the job. *sigh* Perhaps I can make a batch of these as my reward for completing my writing commitment.

    • says

      Oh, Groovy! Best of luck with NaNoWriMo!! A couple of friends (and their kids) participated last year. 2011 is my year; I can feel it! The brownies will be there for you when you’re finished with the novel!

  2. beginner101 says

    I made the Alton Brownie recipe.  They were really fudgy and moist.  I dusted them with powdered sugar.  They were too densely chocolate for my kids.  What effect do your substitutions have?  The all brown sugar plus molasses, and cake flour instead of all purpose flour?

    • says

       I have to tell you that, since I don’t have kids, I make things that appeal, generally speaking, to adult palates. The dense-chocolatiness of the AB Brownies is what I like, and I played that up with my substitutions.  The molasses/brown sugar deepen the flavor and heighten the chew while the espresso powder underscores the chocolate flavor and, along w/the hit of molasses, adds just a hit of bitterness. Definitely not kid brownies. But great for adults–so make some and then don’t share them! 😉


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