38: Alton Brown’s Plain Ole Brownies

[Read about how this recipe compared to Hershey’s Brownies and Best Cocoa Brownies in my brownie taste test here.]

I hadn’t made a new recipe since Saturday morning. We went out on Saturday evening and had leftovers on Sunday. I was too busy on Monday and Tuesday evenings to eat dinner let alone cook (good because it means I had some extra work, but definitely detrimental to my recipe count).

I definitely needed to make something on Wednesday. I was tired all day, so I decided to bake something after we went to the grocery store. When I’m tired or stressed, I crave comfort food – like brownies.

I decided to try Alton Brown’s Plain Ole Brownies, from his I’m Just Here for More Food book. This recipe is much like the Hershey’s Best Brownies recipe that I consider my standard and to which I compare all other brownie recipes.

4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
1 1/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup flour
½ tsp salt

In fact, the total amount of sugar is the same, and the proportion of cocoa to flour is reversed in my tried-and-true recipe. But, note that Alton’s recipe has no leavening – it gets its fluffiness from beating the eggs. It also has twice as much vanilla. And… all this volume goes into an 8×8 pan, whereas my Hershey’s recipe goes into a 9×13 pan. So Alton’s recipe bakes 55 minutes, and my original bakes exactly 33 in my glass 9×13 pan.

I followed Alton’s instructions pretty much to a T, although there were a few exceptions. I used a glass pan, not metal. I sprayed it with cooking spray with flour, since he says to flour it, but I did not line it with parchment paper to remove the brownies. I even used my stand mixer! I beat the eggs until they were light and frothy, added the vanilla, and sugars, and then alternated the melted margarine and the flour mixture (which I sifted together with the stand mixer before starting the entire enterprise). Then I poured it in the pan and baked exactly 55 minutes, until a toothpick came out clean (which usually signifies over-baked to me – but I like gooey brownies).

Alton Brown's Plain Ole Brownies. I've never had edges curl up like that in this pan before.
Alton Brown’s Plain Ole Brownies. I’ve never had edges curl up like that in this pan before.

I’ve made brownies and butterscotch brownies in this pan before, and I’ve never had the edges curl up like that on me. This worried me. Usually when I make butterscotch brownies in this pan, they’re a little underdone at the minimum (and maybe even at the maximum) time. The toothpick came out clean on these right at the minimum 55 minutes. This worried me too. Before we discovered the Hershey’s brownies, a clean toothpick = dry brownies.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. These were still very moist. I cut into them pretty soon after I took them out of the oven. Alton says to remove them from pan with the parchment, as well as wait until completely cool to cut them. But who doesn’t want to eat warm-out-of-the-oven brownies?! No one in my family, that’s for sure.

Alton Brown's Plain Ole Brownies. They do look delicious, don't they?
Alton Brown’s Plain Ole Brownies. They do look delicious, don’t they?

They were moist and delicious both warm and cool. I had to wait to write about them until I had tried them a second day as well.

The disappointments: I’ve never floured a brownie pan, and never will again. The bottoms of the brownies taste like… flour? Chocolate cake? Not that great. If I wanted cake, I’d have cake. Also, the edges tasted burnt. Obviously, the top part that curled over was a little burnt. Even without that, though, the edges tasted a little burnt, and I’m not sure why that happened. I suppose it could be due to the glass pan, since I know glass cooks differently than metal. Maybe it was the long cooking time in the glass pan that made the edges burnt, whereas the shorter baking time of the butterscotch brownies and the brownies I made from Smitten Kitchen protected the product from that effect… but I’ve never had a problem with coffee cakes either, which definitely bake a long time. Maybe I beat the eggs too much?

Don’t get me wrong. These were moist and delicious in the center, and once you ate away the cakey bottom layer and edges. However, I expect perfection out of the brownies. That’s why this post is so long.

I have to make these again. I have to figure out what went wrong, and figure out how I can make them better.

Will they replace my Hershey’s recipe? At this stage, I doubt it. I don’t think I want to use my stand mixer for brownies, and I don’t want to wait an hour for them to bake when I could have brownies in 30 minutes. But I may eventually fuse the two recipes.

I will have to do a blind taste-test comparison of AB’s brownies, Smitten Kitchen brownies, and Hershey’s brownies. Trust me, I’ll let you know when I do.

One thought on “38: Alton Brown’s Plain Ole Brownies”

  1. I think you should try baking them at a lower temp. (325º +)

    I’d say that your edges curled up because chocolate gets hotter then flour and your cocoa wasn’t properly mixed in so when it heated up it melted and curled over because it didn’t have enough stabilizer from the rest of the mixture. Also shifting isn’t thoroughly mixing its putting them through a sieve.

Leave a Reply