Recipe Review

If You Love Boxed Brownies, This Chewy Brownie Recipe Will Blow You Away

published Nov 4, 2022
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Overhead photo of a brownie made with Cook's Illustrated's recipe.
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne
Cook's Illustrated

Cook’s Illustrated’s website is jam-packed with helpful content for home cooks, from equipment reviews to family dinner solutions. But it’s their baking recipes that I turn to the most. Knowing they’ve tested every possible technique and ingredient gives me confidence that my dessert will turn out impeccably. 

For this reason, I couldn’t wait to try their chewy brownie recipe. To come up with their perfect chewy brownie formula, Cook’s Illustrated began by studying the amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats in boxed brownie mixes. From there, they determined that a 1:3 ratio of butter to vegetable oil is the best way to mimic a boxed brownie’s chew. (As a big fan of Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, I was excited by this approach.)

Their recipe also replaces some of the oil with egg yolks to minimize greasiness, calls on unsweetened chocolate for the strongest chocolate flavor, and includes bittersweet chunks to add gooey pockets of chocolate in every bite. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this scientifically-backed recipe. Here’s what happened when I gave it a go. 

Get the recipe: Chewy Brownies

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne
Cook's Illustrated Chewy Brownies

How to Make Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies

You’ll begin by adjusting the oven rack to the lowest position (something I’ve never done before to bake brownies) and heat the oven to 350°F. You’ll then make a foil sling using their very detailed instructions. Coat with nonstick cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Divine), 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional but recommended), and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water. Add 2 ounces finely chopped unsweetened chocolate (Cook’s Illustrated recommends Scharffen Berger; I used Ghirardelli) and whisk until melted.

Whisk in 4 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, followed by 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Add 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, then use a rubber spatula to fold in 1 3/4 cups flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Finally, fold in 1/2-inch pieces of bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s Illustrated recommends Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar; I used the latter).

Pour the batter into the pan (it’s pretty loose, so there’s no need to smooth the top), and bake until a toothpick “inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.” Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 1 1/2 hours, then lift the brownies from the pan and let cool for another hour. (According to the recipe, letting the brownies cool completely maximizes their chewiness, so don’t rush this step). Cut into 2-inch squares.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

My Honest Review of Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies

I won’t lie: I didn’t have the best first impression of these brownies. Although crackly in the center, the perimeter of my brownies was more dull than shiny — and when I attempted to lift them from the foil, they were stuck. 

But once I was able to slice into them — and more importantly, bite into them — I forgot all about their slightly concerning appearance. Each square was the perfect size and thickness, and I loved the chocolate chunks. Rather than melting into gooey pockets as described, the chunks had a snappy texture that provided a welcome contrast to the decadent brownie. 

The chocolate flavor was present but not overpowering, and the sweetness was spot-on. The best part, of course, is that they were undeniably chewy. Rich, yes, but gooey, no — which meant I could eat the whole thing without feeling sick. If anything, they leaned more chewy-cakey than chewy-fudgy, but not in a bad way — I promise! 

Although this isn’t a five-minute, one-bowl recipe, it’s also far from complicated. (Honestly, the hardest part was making the foil sling!). I appreciated the level of detail included, especially the point about where to insert the toothpick when checking for doneness. I’ve always found it nearly impossible to determine when brownies are done cooking, and this tip helped significantly. 

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

3 Tips for Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies

  1. Use nonstick foil (or try greased parchment). Despite the fact that I greased my foil with nonstick cooking spray, my brownies still stuck. After reading through the comments, it seems I’m not alone. To ensure you don’t have the same issue, I’d use nonstick foil — or try greased parchment paper instead. 
  2. For sweeter brownies, try milk chocolate chunks. Most people will find these brownies plenty sweet, but if you’re a sucker for milk chocolate, I think it would be right at home here. Simply swap in chopped milk chocolate for the bittersweet. 
  3. Make a brownie sundae. The lofty, chewy nature of these brownies makes them the perfect base for an ice cream sundae. Trust me — you’ll thank me later! 

Overall rating: 10/10