Dense, fudgy brownies that have a secret method to always getting that glossy, shiny brownie top.
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:
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.
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
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
- 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
- ⅔ cup all purpose flour 90g
- 200 g dark chocolate 50-77% cocoa solids broken into large pieces (I use lindt 70%)
- 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.