Recipe Review

Here’s What Makes Pioneer Woman’s Dark Chocolate Brownies So Fudgy

published Aug 6, 2019
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Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

In the world of online recipes, The Pioneer Woman reigns supreme. Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has created an online empire known for simple yet reliable recipes that appeal to the masses. Ask just about any avid home cook if they’ve ever made one of her recipes, and chances are they’ll say yes. So when searching for the ultimate brownie recipe, I knew I needed to test hers out.

Overall Ree’s brownie recipe seemed fairly simple, straightforward, and not too complicated — a classic Pioneer Woman formula for success. It’s made entirely in one pot and can be whipped up within a matter of minutes. But there’s one thing about Ree’s recipe that stood out as surprising: It uses no leavening agent. No baking powder, no baking soda, and no cream of tartar! This made me think that these brownies were going to be super dense and fudgy, and I was curious to see if they would actually be too dense.

So is ditching the baking powder and soda the key to making delicious brownies? And will it make them perfectly rich and fudgy, or way too dense to actually enjoy? I made a batch to test it out.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

How to Make The Pioneer Woman’s Dark Chocolate Brownies

Unlike most brownie recipes that start by gently melting butter and chocolate together in a double boiler, Ree melts them both directly in a pot over low heat, forgoing the double boiler method altogether. Although easier, this method can be a bit risky, so make sure to stir it constantly to prevent burning. To that, you’ll add cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Set aside and let cool.

Once cooled, you’ll add three eggs into the chocolate mixture along with flour, and stir it until just incorporated. (Note that there is no salt or leavening agent added to the mix.) Fold in the chocolate chips, making sure not to overmix the batter.

You’ll then pour the batter into a greased 8×8-inch or 9×13-inch baking pan and smooth it into an even layer. Transfer to a preheated oven and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, cut into squares, and dust the top with powdered sugar.

Before I even tasted them, I could tell they would be a mess to eat and that my black shirt was going to be covered in powdered sugar.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

My Honest Review of The Pioneer Woman’s Dark Chocolate Brownies

I hate to say it, but these brownies were remarkably underwhelming. If someone told me that they were homemade, I don’t think I would believe them. They tasted like brownies made from a cheap mix made with minimum effort. The chocolate flavor was mild and muted, and the sweetness level was too high for me — the dusting of powdered sugar on top only added to the sweetness overload and made them a mess to eat. To make matters worse, this recipe doesn’t call for any salt, making them taste flat and unbalanced. They weren’t offensive or unappetizing at all — just nothing special. It’s a homemade brownie recipe that tastes like boxed mix.

The two positive things these brownies have going for them is that they are easy to make, and they have a wonderful fudgy texture. The recipe is made entirely in one pot, so cleanup is a breeze. The chocolate is actually melted directly in the pot, which is convenient but also slightly risky. (Chocolate can burn very easily when melted directly on the stove. So just go slow and keep an eye on it.) The texture of the brownies was dense and fudgy — a modest upgrade from a boxed mix brownie. These brownies were absolutely fine, and that’s the issue.

Credit: Charli Nowak

If You’re Making The Pioneer Woman’s Brownies, a Few Tips

When you’re ready to bake Ree’s brownies, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Be careful not to burn the chocolate: This recipe melts the chocolate directly in a pot on the cooktop, so make sure to stir it often and keep the heat on low. If you leave it unattended for too long, the chocolate may burn and give the brownies an unpleasant flavor.

2. Don’t skimp on the vanilla extract: A tablespoon may seem excessive, but the chocolate balances out the flavor and it isn’t overpowering at all.

3. Add some kosher salt to the batter: As little as 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt added to the batter will take these brownies to a whole new level.

4. For thicker brownies use an 8×8-inch pan: And for thinner brownies, use a 9×13-inch baking pan. (Just make sure to keep an eye on the baking time, as the brownies will bake quicker in a 9×13-inch pan.)

5. Skip the powdered sugar to reduce the sweetness: Sure, it looks nice, but it’s not necessary.

  • Difficulty to Make: 4/10
  • Taste/Texture: 4/10
  • Appearance: 5/10
  • Overall Rating: 4.5/10

Have you ever made The Pioneer Woman’s dark chocolate brownies? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

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