Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s Crispy-Gooey Brownie Pudding Is for Brownie-Lovers Who Want It All

updated Oct 13, 2022
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Credit: Patty Catalano

For years, Ina Garten has promised that if you take her lead and use quality ingredients, you, too, can cook like a pro. She’s given me confidence that even the simplest, most classic recipes can be big wins, which is why I love so many of the dishes from her 2008 cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. The recipes range from homemade chicken stock to the perfect pot roast, but the one that really caught my eye is simply titled Brownie Pudding.

As it turns out, this beginner-level dessert has become one of Ina’s most popular recipes of all time — it has over 300 reviews and a perfect 5-star rating on Food Network’s website. Would this be the ultimate dessert to satisfy the chocolate-lover in me, and finally provide an elegant alternative to boxed brownies? I tried it to find out.

How to Make Ina’s Brownie Pudding

Begin by beating 4 extra-large eggs with granulated sugar in an electric stand mixer until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and aerated. This process takes 5 to 10 minutes and is essential for the texture and lift of the final dessert, so follow her lead and use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment rather than a handheld whisk. While you wait, sift “good” cocoa powder and all-purpose flour together to aerate and remove any lumps, then scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean. Add the vanilla bean seeds, sifted dry ingredients, and a splash of framboise liqueur, if using, to the egg mixture. (I substituted cassis liqueur, as the raspberry spirit was not in stock at my local liquor store). Next, slowly pour in melted and cooled unsalted butter and mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter into a buttered 2-quart oval baking dish then place in a larger baking pan, such as a 9×13-inch pan or roasting pan. Carefully pour enough very hot tap water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the oval baking dish. Bake in a 325°F oven for one hour — no more, no less. A cake tester will come out “three-quarters clean” with an under-baked center.

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Brownie Pudding

From the second I saw this recipe, I was sure I’d fall as hard for it as her internet fans have. The simple chocolate dessert leans on a limited list of high-quality ingredients, and the gentle heat of the water bath combined with the extended whipping of eggs and sugar creates an appealing multi-layer dessert with minimal effort.

The top layer is crispy-chewy, reminding me of packaged brownie brittle or the edge bits of a traditional brownie. The layer just below has the chewy texture of a fudge brownie, and the bottom is a thick pudding-like sauce. But while I loved the simple procedure and short ingredient list, this dessert was tooth-achingly sweet. As written, it’s too sweet for my taste, but the texture really won me over. I feel confident that a sprinkle of salt for balance and a scoop of cool and creamy vanilla ice cream would make all of the difference in the world.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Brownie Pudding, a Few Tips

  1. Use good-quality, unsweetened cocoa powder. With so few ingredients, the quality of each one plays a prominent role in this dessert. Spring for higher-quality cocoa powder to give the brownie pudding an intensely chocolatey flavor (I used Ghirardelli).
  2. Add salt. I’m a big believer that salt is essential to every recipe, and adding just 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt here would help balance out the sweetness. Sift the salt together with the cocoa powder to evenly disperse it.
  3. Substitute the vanilla bean, if you like. Vanilla beans are expensive, and I usually reserve them for dishes where the seeds truly stand out — vanilla ice cream, homemade jams, or simple syrups. The intensity of the cocoa covers the delicate flavor of the vanilla beans here, so feel free to substitute with 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
  4. Spring for fruity liqueur. Framboise liqueur is a raspberry liqueur that brings out the fruity flavors in the cocoa powder. Adding framboise (or cassis, as I did) gives the brownie pudding a special and sophisticated flavor.
  5. Don’t forget the ice cream. The brownie pudding is intensely sweet and chocolatey, and it needs a cool, creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream for balance.

Have you tried Ina’s brownie pudding? Tell us what you thought in the comments!