Pantry Cocoa Brownies

updated Jan 21, 2020
Pantry Cocoa Brownies

It straddles the line between chewy and fudgy, bakes up with a perfectly crackly top, and is easy to pull together with a handful of pantry ingredients.

Makes16

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 30 minutes

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Credit: Lauren Volo

This recipe is part of Kitchn 100 — the hundred recipes you need right now. Check out all of the amazing dishes, from Kitchn and beyond, here.

Ah, the call of the brownie hits us all. Sometimes it’s midday, sometimes it’s midnight. Dense and rich, neither cake nor fudge, a chewy brownie satisfies that primal need. But sometimes you just don’t have every ingredient in the house when the need strikes. You’ve got some cocoa powder, flour, and sugar in the pantry, and just a few eggs in the fridge. Enter: these decadent pantry cocoa brownies that are so delicious, you may find yourself making them even when you have a kitchen packed with groceries.

Harnessing the Power of Blooming Cocoa

What makes this brownie work so well is really a technique. To bring out the best in cocoa powder, it often is “bloomed,” which means that the cocoa is added to a warm liquid, stirred well until it is lump-free, and then set aside to sit for a few minutes. It will become fragrant, and the cocoa powder will dissolve and thicken. When added to any mixture, that fragrance stays put even after baking. The liquid used for blooming cocoa is almost always water.

Some baking experts like Alice Medrich and Dorie Greenspan love cocoa powder brownies and mix their cocoa powder with oil. I took their advice, and kicked it up a bit by warming the oil and using it to bloom the cocoa.

Credit: Lauren Volo

A Handheld Mixer Makes It Better, Faster, and Easier

A simple handheld mixer makes this more than quick and easy — it ensures a great brownie. This brownie can be made by hand, but the mixing takes quite a long time in this recipe, far longer than most brownie recipes, so I strongly suggest using a handheld mixer.

The faux chocolate mixture needs to emulsify; once well-mixed, it will bake up as smooth as can be. Thoroughly mixing the eggs and sugar also makes the top crackle and shine. You can also haul out the stand mixer here and use it with the paddle attachment if you wish.

Mix in the Order Listed

Mixing is really the second key element to this recipe; the mixture has to be pretty much finished with all the extra mixing before the flour and baking powder are added. I have built in a safeguard in the directions to ensure your brownies are tender every time.

Pantry Cocoa Brownies

It straddles the line between chewy and fudgy, bakes up with a perfectly crackly top, and is easy to pull together with a handful of pantry ingredients.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 30 minutes

Makes 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 2/3 cup

    neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable

  • 2/3 cup

    natural cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    fine salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1 1/3 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 2/3 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, then coat with cooking spray.

  2. Place 2/3 cup neutral oil into a microwave-safe medium bowl and heat on low power in 4 to 6 (5-second) bursts until warm but not hot. Add 2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder and whisk until completely smooth and combined. Let sit for 4 or 5 minutes so the cocoa can bloom. Meanwhile, prepare the dry and wet ingredients.

  3. Place 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

  4. Place 3 large eggs, 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, and 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar in a large bowl. (Alternatively, place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Using an electric hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed (medium with a stand mixer) until fluffy and lighter in color, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until just combined.

  5. Add 1/2 of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture and beat on medium-high speed (medium with a stand mixer) until shiny and fully combined, about 5 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until fully combined. Add the remaining cocoa mixture and beat on medium-high speed (medium with a stand mixer) until shiny and fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the baking pan and spread into an even layer.

  6. Bake until the center is set, 20 to 30 minutes (if you are using a glass or ceramic pan, it may take longer). The brownies will pull away from the edges of the pan, but a cake tester or knife inserted in the middle may not come out clean. Let cool completely in the pan. Grasping the foil, lift the brownie slab out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Remove the foil and cut the slab into 16 squares.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The brownies can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days.