Filed under: Bars / Brownies & Blondies
April 18, 2020

Shiny Top Brownies

Dense, fudgy brownies that have a secret method to always getting that glossy, shiny brownie top.    How to get

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Dense, fudgy brownies that have a secret method to always getting that glossy, shiny brownie top. 

shiny top brownies

 

How to get the Shiny Top on Brownies

Awhile back I shared a recipe for my thick cocoa brownies. Before I developed the thick cocoa recipe, I thought every brownie recipe I made that didn’t have a shiny top must have been a fail. The cocoa changed my mind, but I have always wanted to know what it was that could get me that trademark delicate top?

So back in summer 2019, I did what my former-policy-analyst-self does best: research. In a response to a comment of one of my favorite brownie recipes by Stella Parks, she says it has to do with the whipping of the sugar and the eggs. Although I love that recipe and it always tastes fantastic, I did not always get a shiny top. I then remembered this recipe by KAF, which I had made a few years prior. They say that the shiny top comes from both cooking the butter and sugar together and adding chocolate chips. But that recipe didn’t guarantee that shiny top either in my experience.

I then saw this post on instagram, Do you see that top? That is THE goal. I made them and here’s what I got:

brownies

 

 

Jessica says she adapted a recipe by Alice Mederich, I think it’s this one, which is the recipe I based my thick cocoa brownies on. But Jessica’s did not look like Alice’s on top and neither did mine…. what was missing? To get to the bottom of this, I made A LOT of brownies.

 

brownies

Shiny Brownie Crust: Guaranteed

All this to tell you, I figured it out. That shiny, delicate and flaky top comes not necessarily from the butter, sugar or eggs – those can create a matte, meringue-like crust on top, but to guarantee the flaky kind that boxed brownies are renowned for, you need tiny bits of chocolate that melt as the batter bakes. Jessica says to add “grated chocolate” and, well if that means grated against a cheese-type grater, then let’s not. Not just because that would take forever but, the mess! If you have never done it before, here is a visual: the teeny tiny bits of chocolate fly EVERYWHERE, completely refusing to stay in the bowl). So instead, I did what Ina does with cheese: I used a food processor. It’ll give you teeny tiny bits of chocolate that distribute throughout the batter and when they melt in the oven, they always, always produce that shiny, flaky top!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thick Cocoa Brownies become Shiny Top 

For this recipe, I adjusted my own thick cocoa brownies by reducing the cocoa a bit and adding chocolate. I reduce the cocoa so the taste won’t be completely overwhelming. The added butter and sugar in the chocolate bars make this a denser brownie overall, a bit more fudgy.

Now here’s the thing, if you ask me which of my recipes I like better – after sooo many batches – I will tell you I can’t choose. I think these are fantastic because of their looks and because they are going to be the ones that catch everyone’s eye. My thick cocoa brownies though? I have a very deep love for them. So my answer is both :-p

 

brownies
on the top: shiny top brownie, bottom: thick cocoa. Not a huge difference in texture

Notes on Shiny Top Brownies 

  • After hearing back from a reader who made the brownies twice (my hero!) we figured out that the type of chocolate you used is important to achieve that shiny top. Avoid baking chocolate and instead use “eating” chocolate. Basically, the chocolate you find in the candy isle and not the baking isle. 
  • Doneness will depend on two main factors: the type of your baking pan and your oven’s tendency to run hot or cold. I rarely recommend using glass or ceramic, for cakes and brownies (and cookies!) and would say use anodized metal (aluminum or steel). Remember a toothpick coming out of a brownie pan should not be clean (if it is, they are over-baked!). The batter should be thick and fudge-like (not runny). 

Shiny Top Brownies

Dense fudgy brownies that are guaranteed to give you that perfect shiny top.
shiny top brownies
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
5 from 11 votes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter chopped into small cubes, 226g
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 400g
  • ¾ cup dutch process cocoa 65g
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • cup all purpose flour 90g
  • 200 g dark chocolate 50-77% cocoa solids broken into large pieces (I use lindt 70%)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 335.
  • Line an 8x8’ square pan with parchment paper.
  • Process the chocolate in a food processor until its partially powdered, partially chopped (this should take less than a minute).
  • Over a double boiler add the butter. Once it has fully melted, add the cocoa and sugar.
  • Stir until combined then cook until the mixture registers 140 F (some of the liquid will begin to separate). This will take less than 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Let it cool until it is just warm to touch.
  • Stir in the salt and vanilla.
  • Add the eggs and beat with a hand mixer until the mixture is smooth and silky.
  • Add the flour and processed chocolate and stir it with a hand-held whisk.
  • Pour into baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
  • Allow to cool completely in the pan and then use the sling to lift it out.
  • Slice into 1 inch squares.

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    I made these twice. First time was a flop (I didn’t see until too late that ceramic isn’t recommended). It was in the oven almost twice the amount of time and still wasn’t finished. I needed to redeem myself. I made them today in a metal pan, and these are the perfect brownies. Shiny top, fudgy, amazing. Glad I tried again. This will go in my go-to recipes box.

  2. Was thinking of swirling some hazelnut praline paste into the top (because these aren’t decadent enough already :-D) would you recommend reducing the amount of chocolate or just adding the paste on the top with the recipe as is?

  3. 5 stars
    These were amazing – brownies are my all time favorite dessert so I don’t say that lightly!! Will definitely make these every time I want brownies. I made them for a crowd and got rave reviews!!

    • I have yet to try the recipe(these look fabulous !), but I had a question about the grated chocolate being the one to give the shiny top. Do you mean that the crisp top doesn’t come from the sugar mixture, but the chocolate or is it that the flaxy and shiny comes from the chocolate, but the crisp part of it comes from the sugar? Or is it the fact that beating the mixture well allows it to dissolve better, thus that trademark top, and that has nothing to do with the chocolate as such?

  4. 5 stars
    I followed the recipe exactly (except I don’t have a metal bowl to make a double boiler so I microwaved in short bursts until I hit 140) and they came out perfect. Beyond perfect, oh my GOD these are dangerously good. I can’t go back to the box now!!

  5. 5 stars
    I LIVE for this brownie recipe!!! Early in quarantine I made the incredible, original thick cocoa brownie recipe– but added thinly chopped chocolate due to my assumption that chopped chocolate makes everything better. Sam messaged me on Instagram saying that she’d been developing this recipe and was using the same technique for that shiny top! These brownies always come out stunning and perfectly satisfying– I love the deep cocoa flavour and the balance of sweetness and salt. I don’t think I’ll ever need another recipe in my life, honestly!

  6. 5 stars
    Ohhhh my goodness!!! These are delicious!! Loved every bit. I followed Sam’s directions step by step and even got the shiny top!! Thanks Sam these were amazing.

  7. Heya!! I tried the the thick cocoa brownies…but didn’t bake .. maybe I was trying my own eggless version… substituted with flax eggs..but didn’t bake… wonder what went wrong…

  8. 5 stars
    I can’t believe I FINALLY found a brownie recipe that i can confidently say is the only one I’ll ever need!!! I have searched and tested and compromised over and over but you have done it! Fudgy/chewy, deeply chocolatey, not too sweet, perfect from edge to center, AND with the elusive shiny papery crust! You are my baking hero. I will use a 9-inch pan next time, though — these really are THICK!

    • 5 stars
      I’ve always sworn up and down that while most things are better homemade, there are just a few that you can’t beat the box mix. Funfetti cake is one. Brownies are another. But Sam’s recipe completely blows this theory out of the water. These are perfect and fudgy with a rich intense chocolatey flavor that you absolutely can’t get from a box. Will I still reach for a box mix when I need something quick? Sure. But this is a must save, keep forever recipe that is worth the extra effort and is perfect for both the every day and special occasion.

      Full disclosure- I made the thick cocoa brownies before this (which were also v good) but I personally think the shiny top can’t be beat!

  9. 5 stars
    Oooooooo God. I’ve been trying so many brownies recipes but none had ever come close to my liking. Enter this recipe, and BAM! Absolutely wonderful, and it immediately became my go to recipe. I’ve been baking them for friends as well and everyone is raving about it! Thank you, Sam!!

  10. 5 stars
    OH MY [insert deity/deities of choice]. This is an AMAZING brownie recipe. I only had 71 grams of dark chocolate on hand and it still turned out great, I can’t wait to make again with the correct amount. My husband is a disabled vet and so sometimes I used medicated butter to bake and this is the ONLY recipe I have found that works with it as a substitute. I have made it with regular and medicated and both batches were heaven. My new go to! Thank you so so much!

  11. 5 stars
    THANK YOU!! I tried so many brownie recipes trying to get this result and you NAILED it. I chopped the chocolate very fine and it worked perfectly.

  12. Followed the recipe but they took much longer than 40 mins to cook. I did a tooth pick test after 40 mins and the inside was still quite runny, I could very easily swirl the tooth pick about whilst it was inside, whereas the outer perimeter was getting overcooked and developing a hard crust.

    • Sorry to hear you had trouble Sach! Depending on or how hot/cold your oven runs, or what type of pan you used (always a culprit) it could take longer to cook or conduct the heat less evenly. In this case I also wonder if it was closer to the top of the oven, rather than in the center. I tend to slightly underbake my brownies because I like a gooey fudgy center (it sets once it cools). Hope they were at least tasty!

  13. If I want to make this dairy-free, can I substitute the butter with coconut oil or regular oil, if the coconut oil has too much of a coconut flavor? Wondering if this would affect the final baked product.

    • Definitely not a regular oil – consider at room temperature the difference between a liquid oil and a solid butter. I’m less worried about the coconut oil, but I would try it on like 1/4 of the recipe in case it didn’t work out (I kind of think it will still be too soft). Use refined coconut oil though – that won’t have the coconut taste.