Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies

Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies

Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies

Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies is a recipe that just worked out brilliantly… It’s moments like these when life just feels AWESOME and it’s wonder & beauty just hits you afresh.

So I’m BEYOND excited to share this recipe with you today!

Now you’ve heard it said that “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!But we bakers can go a bit beyond producing a drink, can’t we? 😉

I got a bag of about 50 huge lemons from my friend Lorraine’s farm the other day! They were bright, super juicy, sweet, tart and perfect! After giving lemons away to most of my friends, I was still left with around 35 of them.

Making Lemonade or lemon bars was the obvious choice, but for some reason I just didn’t get excited about either of those ideas.

 

These Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies are fresh, chewy, zesty, zingy, buttery, juicy, hearty and creamy all in one bite – SUPER yum and satisfying! And of course, no fake lemon flavourings in sight.

A flavour combo that came to mind was lemon & poppy seed. Then my mind jumped to these super delicious cupcakes I bake in my home bakery – Poppy Seed & White Chocolate Cupcakes.

I got the recipe for these cupcakes from a friend who has sworn me to secrecy, so I cannot share it with you. BUT the secret ingredient that makes those cupcakes SO GOOD is coconut 😀

Poppy Seed and coconut pairs brilliantly together and if you add something tart on top of that… the YUM factor is just UNREAL…

So my friend, when life hands you lemons, bake Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies!

 

Recipe Introduction

I’ve posted a recipe for Blondies once before on my blog, but those were Salted Caramel Apple Blondies. The apples in the recipe provide enough moisture to keep the blondie’s texture fudgy. Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies are a bit different though.

We don’t really want these guys to be cakey, so adding enough fat and moisture is essential for achieving the ideal blondie texture.

For this reason I add a lot of butter, white chocolate and also cream to the batter 🙂

I was also completely set on NOT USING ANY LEMON ESSENCE/EXTRACT in this recipe, but only FRESH lemons.

Adding fresh lemon juice as is to the batter would result in a very runny batter and I just couldn’t see that scenario playing out well… So I decided to reduce my freshly squeezed lemon juice! The only other thing left to do was to add a small mountain of finely chopped fresh lemon zest.

 

The kick of bright, zingy lemon comes through BEAUTIFULLY in these lemon poppy seed blondies!

With blondies there is always the concern that they will be too sweet. Brownies & blondies are basically cake with DOUBLE the FAT, double the SUGAR and no raising agents.

The bitterness of dark chocolate and cocoa powder masks the amount of sugar used in brownies, so what is there to absorb the sweetness in blondies?

The lemon zest provides some bitterness and the sharpness of the lemon cuts through a lot of the sweetness. BUT my recipe also uses a bit less sugar than blondies usually do. I’ve replaced some of the sugar with white chocolate and cream – which is not exactly second best, right?

As you know I’m all about FLAVOUR & QUALITY – not just a colossal mountain of sugar, because that’s how it’s “usually done”.

Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies: fresh, chewy, zesty, zingy, buttery, juicy, hearty and creamy all in one bite – SUPER yum and satisfying! And of course, no fake lemon flavourings in sight. #blondiesrecipe #lemonpoppy #lemonblondies

 

These Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies are fresh, chewy, zesty, zingy, buttery, juicy, hearty and creamy all in one bite – SUPER yum and satisfying! And of course, no fake lemon flavourings in sight.

Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 100 g Unsalted Butter
  • 100 g Baking Margarine
  • 50 g Cream (about 33% fat)
  • 70 g White Chocolate, super finely chopped
  • 130 g White Sugar
  • 100 g Demerara Sugar/Soft brown sugar
  • 135 g Egg (2 x-large eggs + 1 yolk)
  • ½ Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest, finely chopped and packed tightly into the spoon
  • 60 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 40 g Poppy Seeds
  • 45 g Desiccated Coconut
  • 200 g All Purpose Flour
  • 5 g Salt
Instructions
  1. Reduce the fresh lemon juice by two thirds on a low simmer. You should end up with 20 ml of reduced lemon juice.
  2. Sift flour and salt in a large bowl, set aside.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180°C/356°F.
  4. Melt butter, margarine and cream in a stand mixer mixing bowl in the microwave for 3 mins. It must boil before you continue.
  5. Stir in sugars and 50 g of the white chocolate. Microwave again for 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly and microwave once more for 30 seconds.
  6. Mix on medium speed with paddle attachment for about 30 seconds. The Sugars should stick to the paddle when you lift it up.
  7. Add eggs, lemon zest, reduced lemon juice, poppy seeds, coconut and vanilla. Stir until roughly combined.
  8. Add dry ingredients. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat batter on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  9. Scrape batter into a greased and lined 27 cm x 16 cm (or 8 x 8 inch) pan. Spread mix evenly into all the corners.
  10. Melt the reserved 20 g of finely chopped white chocolate in 30 seconds bursts in the microwave. Pour all over on the surface of the batter. Smear the top of the batter so that the melted chocolate is mixed thoroughly into the top surface of the batter leaving no streaks of chocolate behind – this forms the crust on top.
  11. Bake on top shelf at 180ᵒC for 20 - 25 mins, turning after 13 mins. They are done baking when a toothpick still has a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Do not over-bake these guys!
  12. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and slice as desired.
  13. Enjoy!

 

 

I hope you’ll give these Lemon Poppy Seed Blondies a go! I AM IN LOOOOVE with them!! Which is something I don’t say very often.

Chat soon!

Aurelia

Got a question? Something to add? Let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment)

How to Make Beautiful Swirls in Your Brownies

How to Make Beautiful Swirls in Your Brownies

How to Make Beautiful Swirls in Your Brownies

Swirl brownies are so striking and beautiful! Defined, voluptuous swirls take any dessert to the next level.

Problem is, the swirl part can VERY easily become a murky MESS.

I’ve been making Cheesecake Swirl Brownies and Red Velvet Brownies for a few years now. In the process I’ve discovered some wonderful tips and tricks to give you perfect, defined swirls in brownies every time!

Since so many folks have been asking me to share my technique, I’ve also made a little video (below) so that you can see exactly what I do 🙂

 

Essential Basics of Swirl Brownies:

1. Consistency of Cheesecake Batter:

This is the most important point, truly.

The cheesecake batter you make an actual cheesecake with can be quite runny. Cheesecake batter used for swirl brownies is an entirely different batter altogether. Cheesecake batter for swirl brownies HAS to be thicker, but should still drop off a spoon in 2 seconds. If you follow your recipe to the T and it turns out runny, make it thicker.

You can do this in 2 different ways:

a] Make sure your ingredients are ice cold (not room temp) and beat the batter for 30 seconds – 1 minute. This usually works to thicken up the cheesecake batter.

b] Only try this after you’ve applied option 1 above. Beat some cold cream cheese in a separate bowl to remove any lumps (about 30 seconds). Beat the smooth cream cheese into your cheesecake mixture. This will definitely thicken it up.

If your cheesecake batter gets too thick, you can thin it out by stirring in 1 tablespoon of water at a time.

Another important note – always use NON-aerated cream cheese!
I also prefer using only egg white in the batter as it gives you a whiter cheesecake swirl.

 

2. Consistency of Brownie Batter:

What you are aiming for is to get the brownie batter and cheesecake batter more or less at the same consistency. This is absolutely crucial when making swirl brownies.

Brownie batter can often be quite warm and runny. You will need to firm it up a tad before attempting to swirl in the cheesecake mixture.

It’s super easy to do – just pop it in the fridge for 5 minutes. It should still move down slowly if you tilt the brownie tin, but you don’t want it to be completely chilled and stationary either.

If you accidentally chilled the batter too much, pop it in the oven for 1 minute at 350ºF/180ºC. This will soften the brownie batter again.

3. The Swirling:

For practical purposes I’m just typing out everything I mention in the video.

  1. Place blobs of your cheesecake mixture over your brownie batter. Be sure to place blobs in the corners as corners can often look skimpy.
  2. Flatten out each blob with the back of a metal spoon. Spread the cheesecake onto the sides of the tin – super important! During baking the cheesecake naturally moves a bit to the middle of the tin. Spreading the cheesecake onto the sides of the tin anchors your entire pattern.
  3. Use a chopstick – NOT a butter knife – to swirl the mixture.
  4. Drag the chopstick, in SMALL circular movements, through the cheesecake and into the “blank” brownie spaces.
  5. Once a swirl has been made, leave it be. Going over it again will make it cloudy and messy.
  6. Always keep a little bit of cheesecake batter aside to fill in gaps. Swirl these extra dollops again in separated, once off, swirl motions.

Here is a video I made earlier this week so that you can see the technique for yourself 🙂 A big thanks to my husband for holding the camera!

Have you had any Swirl Brownies Issues? Please comment below because I would love to help!

Chat soon!

Aurelia 🙂

 

Got a question? Something to add? Let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment)

Red Velvet Brownies

Red Velvet Brownies

Red Velvet Brownies (with Cheesecake Swirl)

Red Velvet Brownies are, to me, the BEST and yummiest Red Velvet interpretation. Better than Red Velvet Cake, red velvet pancakes, red velvet cookies or ANY other Red Velvet thing you’ve ever had.

What makes Red Velvet Brownies so brilliant is their chewy, fudgy texture – not to mention the chocolatey, tangy flavour!

Recipe Introduction

As you may know, Red Velvet Cake originated in the South of the USA during the Great Depression. The history is actually quite fascinating! You can read it here.

One of my favourite elements of Red Velvet Cake is the tanginess you get from the buttermilk and vinegar. I just had to retain that element in my Red Velvet Brownie recipe. I have done it by adding white spirit vinegar to the batter. Works like a charm.

 

Another key element is, of course, Cream Cheese Frosting. Now I’m not a huge fan of frosting brownies… It’s overkill in my opinion. Frosting is also incredibly sweet and since brownies already contain a fair bit of sugar, I don’t think it adds to the flavour.

The best option had to be to add the cream cheese (in some form) to the brownie batter before it gets baked.

It was a good move – the result is just incredible! You essentially make a small amount of cheesecake batter and swirl it into the brownies. The cheesecake batter also keeps the Red Velvet Brownies very moist. Total win-win!

Red Velvet Brownies | Red Velvet Brownies from scratch | red velvet cheesecake brownies

 

This tried and tested recipe for Red Velvet Brownies has been one of the biggest successes in my bakery. My clients LOVE them and so do I!

 

Red Velvet Brownies
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
FOR CHEESECAKE SWIRL:
  • 160 g cream cheese (medium fat 25%, non-aerated)
  • 25 g Granulated Sugar
  • 25 g Egg White
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
FOR RED VELVET BROWNIES:
  • 180 g Flour
  • 35 g Cocoa Powder
  • 5 g Salt
  • 210 g Unsalted Butter / Baking Margarine
  • 40 g 70% Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
  • 160 g White Sugar
  • 105 g Demerara Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 140 g Eggs (2 + left over egg from cheesecake mix)
  • 2 tsp Red Food Colouring (liquid)
  • 1 tsp White Spirit Vinegar
Instructions
  1. Spray the inside of a 17 x 27 x 3 cm (7 x 10,5 x 1 inch) brownie tin with non-tick cooking spray. Line the tin with baking parchment so that it goes up the sides and 3 cm over the rim. This makes the brownies easy to pull out once cooked and cooled. If you don’t have this specific size tin, an 8 x 8 inch tin will also work just fine.
  2. Start by making the cheesecake swirl. Place egg white and cream cheese in a small bowl. Beat together with a hand mixer till smooth and thickened – about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and vanilla for 10 seconds.
  3. At this point the sugar won’t dissolve yet, so place the bowl in the fridge for now. We’ll get back to it later.
  4. Next make the Red Velvet Brownies. Sift flour, Cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, set aside.
  5. Melt the margarine/butter in a mixing bowl in the microwave for 2 mins. Swirl so that solid bits get distributed. Microwave for another 30 sec. It must boil before you continue.
  6. Transfer the melted butter to the bowl of your standing mixer (you can also continue by hand if you wish). Mix in the dark chocolate, granulated sugar and demerara sugar on medium speed with paddle attachment for 15 seconds. Leave to stand for 1 minute so that the sugars and chocolate can melt a bit.
  7. While you are waiting, combine the eggs, vanilla, vinegar and food colouring in a separate bowl. Don’t beat the ingredients. Just stir them till they are more or less combined. Set aside.
  8. Return to your stand mixer with the melted butter and sugar. Beat again for 15 seconds. The sugar should stick to the paddle when you lift it up. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture. Beat on lowest speed for 10 seconds.
  9. Add dry ingredients to the bowl in one go. Beat on low speed till roughly combined. Scrape down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Beat on high speed for 30 seconds till the batter comes together and sticks to the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed to medium-low and continue beating for another 2 minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 170ºC/338ºF on the REGULAR BAKE SETTING (not convection/thermofan).
  11. Pour the Red Velvet Brownie Batter into your prepared tin. Place the pan in the fridge for 5 – 10 minutes, till the batter is cool and firms up a bit.
  12. In the meantime beat the cheesecake mix again. The sugar will now dissolve easily. Beat until smooth and moderately thick (about 30 seconds).
  13. Drop dollops of the cream cheese mix into the brownie batter. Swirl with a chopstick - see full post and video on technique! 
  14. Bake at 170ᵒC/338ºF for 33-37 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. You don’t want to over bake these Red Velvet Brownies, so keep a close eye on them. They are done when the cheesecake is set, but not browned. Also, a skewer should test clean, but barely so.
  15. Slice them up into however many squares you wish. Enjoy!
Notes
Store your Red Velvet Brownies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will last for 3 - 5 days.

 

If you give this recipe a go, tag me on facebook, twitter or instagram #philosophyofyum because I would LOVE to see!

Chat Soon!

Aurelia 🙂

 

Got a question? Something to add? Let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment)

Gluten Free Brownies

Gluten Free Brownies

Gluten Free Brownies

Gluten Free Brownies were totally not a sales gimmick for me. Many of my clients thought I started baking gluten free brownies because gluten free eating became a trend a few years ago. Actually, that is not the case.

Photos by Alice Swan

See, I married this incredible guy… Adriaan. When we were dating he ate all the wonderful things that any regular student eats. Pasta, pies and McDonalds. Problem is that these nutritious foods were often eaten at 3h00 in the morning.

Adriaan and I both studied architecture and all-nighters were as common as breathing. Obviously you get hungry and McD’s was the only 24 hour food provider.

Adriaan’s mother also has a highly sensitive stomach with a whole list of foods she cannot eat. Whether the poor quality of food, lifestyle or genes were to blame, about 6 months into our marriage we discovered that he is gluten intolerant. Thanks Murphy!

Wife becomes a baker, and 6 months later, husband becomes gluten intolerant.

You need to understand that my husband is my biggest fan. When I realized I want to rather be a baker and not an architect, he was so excited with me.

Even though we had nothing, were getting married, moving to a new city and had no jobs he could see the potential and my heart 🙂

best gluten free brownies | gluten free chocolate brownies | gluten free brownies recipe

One of my favourite ways to express love, gratitude or joy is through cooking and especially through baking. But now my whole baking repertoire was suddenly quite useless in our home. I had to regroup.

Adriaan had to have a baked thingy. It had to be gluten free. And I was going to make it for him.

Dark, fudgy, DELECTABLE Gluten free chocolate brownies! This is truly the ultimate recipe that's made  me over $5000 in sales. They're super easy to make and don't call for any weird ingredients. My secret gluten free chocolate brownie recipe is now yours :D Click through to get it! #glutenfree #glutenfreebaking #glutenfreebrownies #glutenfreerecipes

Gluten Free Baking Begins

Gluten free brownies seemed like a good place to start 🙂 There is a wonderful chocolaterie here in Cape Town called CocoaFair! They are “Africa’s first bean to bar chocolate manufacturer founded on the principles of social entrepreneurship.”

I bought their chocolate once and I’ve never looked back. So yes, great quality chocolate is of the essence here as half the recipe is just melted chocolate!

If you don’t have a local chocolaterie, you could always order goods online. Just be sure to check the ingredients list. Commercial chocolate often contains gluten.

I adapted this recipe for gluten free brownies from a recipe by David Lebovitz. I’ve baked this recipe hundreds of times – editing and fine tuning for 3 years now. This really is my ultimate recipe for gluten free brownies. I hope you enjoy them as much as our family, friends and clients do!

This Gluten Free Brownie Recipe has earned me at least $5000 in brownie sales, so yep, I think it’s SAFE to say that they are amazing 😉

A non gluten free eater ate these brownies and commented: “This is the best brownie in the world… I want to go sit in a corner and cry now.” Lol!

The texture is perfectly balanced between fudgy and chewy…

5.0 from 2 reviews
Gluten Free Brownies
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 120 g butter, unsalted
  • 250 g 65% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1t Salt
  • 180 g sugar
  • 2 ½ eggs, at room temperature
  • 40 g White rice flour
  • 40 g Tapioca Flour
  • 20g milk chocolate, chopped
  • optional: ½ c pecans, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Spray the inside of a 17 x 27 x 3 cm (7 x 10,5 x 1 inch) brownie tin with non-tick cooking spray. Line the tin with baking parchment so that it goes up the sides and 3 cm over the rim. This makes the brownies easy to pull out once cooked and cooled. An 8 x 8 inch tin will also work just fine.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
  3. In a medium size pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. As soon as the butter is melted and begins to simmer, add in the chopped dark chocolate and turn off the heat. Stir around thoroughly every 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted into the butter.
  4. Keep the pot on the stove and stir in the sugar and salt. Leave to sit for 5 minutes and stir very well. Remove the pot from the stove.
  5. Beat in the vanilla and eggs.
  6. Add the white rice flour and tapioca flour to the pot and then stir to combine into the chocolate mixture. Beat the batter on high speed for one minute. You’ll notice that the batter becomes a shade or two lighter in colour.
  7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, making sure to spread out the batter into the corners of the pan. Distribute the nuts evenly over the mixture. Push the nuts down into the mixture with a spatula and then smooth the surface once more.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped milk chocolate over the top of the brownie batter and allow the heat from the mixture to melt the chocolate. If your batter is too cool to melt the chocolate, use a hairdryer to melt it! Useful appliance! Smear the melted milk chocolate into the top layer of the batter, making sure to cover every inch of the surface. This creates the shiny crust on top.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. It is important that a skewer comes out completely clean when testing. Remove the brownies from oven and let them cool completely before removing them from the tin. Place the tin (with brownies) in the fridge for about 5 minutes before slicing – it makes slicing much easier. Enjoy!

Have fun with this recipe! Bask in the chocolate ambiance…

Chat soon!

Aurelia 🙂

Got a question? Something to add? Let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment)

Shiny Brownie Crust – Foolproof and Perfect!

Shiny Brownie Crust – Foolproof and Perfect!

Shiny Brownie Crust – Foolproof and Perfect!

I’ve finally cracked it! Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know to give you a shiny crust (shiny brownie skin/tops)!

I LOVE baking science and LOVE geeking out on it, but if you just want to skip the science-y stuff and jump straight to the step-by-step method, then click this button…

A BROWNIE IS NOT FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT ITS SHINY CRUST.

The texture of the brownie can be perfect, nuts can be waiting for you in every bite and the best quality chocolate can radiate its aroma, but without the thin, crackly, SHINY crust… the experience just isn’t the same 😕

Please note: This is a long post. It has been a VERY complicated and long journey to crack the science behind the Shiny Brownie Crust.

There are a myriad of my Brownie recipes that can get away with not having a crust; like my EPIC Red Velvet Brownies, but for good old classic Chocolate Brownies or The Best Ever Gluten Free Brownies, there is no where to hide!

Shiny brownie crust 1

My relationship with the humble brownie crust has been a love-hate one for sure. My husband and I can recall at least 5 different instances where I’ve shouted “I’ve finally figured out the shiny brownie crust!!”.

And then 10 more where I said very soberly No, this time I’ve REALLY figured it out! I know I’ve said this so many times before, but this time it’s really true.

As you may have guessed I then figured out, again, for the fifteenth time, that I hadn’t REALLY figured it out yet.

I was onto it, but I just didn’t get it yet…

So here is my 3 1/2 year long brownie journey condensed into one blog post. I’ve done this so that you will not suffer the same frustration, but get to experience all of the joy of a perfect shiny brownie crust!

 

How did I crack the Shiny Brownie Crust Phenomenon?

Having supplied coffee shops here in Cape Town for 5 years (Field Office, Salisburys and Eat with Emma) has given me a very generous opportunity to experiment with baking methods.

My goal is always to get each baked thingy as good as it can possibly be.

How many brownies have I baked? This is where Microsoft Excel comes in handy! And the answer is 28748 BROWNIES. Yep. That’s about 5750 brownies per year.

For a solo baker that is quite a lot I suppose. I’m sharing the numbers because I want you to see that it sometimes takes a lot of patience and perseverance to crack a baking secret.

Trial and error, trial and error (repeat).

What is amazing is that quite often you’ll discover other secrets along the way that you didn’t even bother to think about! I’ll be sharing these secret discoveries as well.

 

Which Brownie Recipe Should You Use?

The beauty of this Shiny Brownie Crust Hack is that it applies to ALL classic brownie recipes (not vegan or sugar free though) – Whether it uses cocoa powder or chocolate or both! Happy days! So, you can really just use your favourite brownie recipe.

This hack unfortunately does not work for Vegan brownies, but here is a vegan brownie recipe that does turn out with a shiny brownie crust.

I personally prefer chocolate only for gluten free brownies, but for normal brownies I love a recipe that uses both cocoa powder and chocolate in the batter itself as I find the chocolate flavour to be more intense and the texture perfectly chewy!

I LOVE CHEWY BROWNIES. I love adding chocolate chunks as well.

There are many blogs on INGREDIENT properties such as different sugars, flours, chocolate etc. This blog will not cover those topics. Click here for a useful guide on ingredient properties.

 

Breakthrough #1: Butter

Let’s pause. It is beautiful.

Moving on…

The main factor here is HEAT.

I’ve done a fair bit of internet research on how to crack the darn brownie crust and here is what some had to say about the butter:

“Melt the butter over simmering water OR in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Do not boil!”

FALSE. You want this mixture to be as warm as possible. You need the heat for a very specific reason which will be explained later. Bring the butter to boiling point in your microwave in a mixing bowl and from here on work as quick as you can.

When the butter it HOT, it dissolves the sugar much faster. And for the shiny brownie crust hack to work, you need your brownie batter to be a bit warm – preferably.

Be sure to have all your dry ingredients already sifted together, chocolate already chopped, room temperature eggs standing by.

Go ahead and melt the butter in the microwave for 3 minutes until it boils. It is not necessary to do it in 30 second bursts.

The heat of the butter made a huge difference, BUT to my frustration this did not work 100% of the time. In winter especially, the shiny brownie crust would take a vacation.

This new discovery was great, but I was still missing something.

 

Breakthrough #2: Ratio of Ingredients

My ratio is:

Butter Sugar Dry ingredients Eggs
400g 600g 400g 4 Jumbo eggs (240g without shell)
1 1.5 1 1

This ratio is more for the purpose of optimal texture AKA fudgy, gooey, chewy perfection! I use a combination of Treacle sugar and white sugar. The treacle sugar adds a lovely earthy note and also chewiness – yum!

 

Breakthrough #3: Whipping/Beating

I found this information from Brownie Chronicles:

“Whether brownies have a crust on top depends on how much you beat the batter after the eggs are added. The more you beat, the more crust you get. If you beat vigorously with a mixer, you can get a dramatic crust. 

Depending on how much you beat, this crust can be barely noticeable or a crisp, shiny crust that is totally puffed, and separated above the cake or brownie. It is also usually lighter in color. The color and shine are especially noticeable on brownies.

“This is a meringue-like crust and is actually caused by a “meringue.”  Your beating of the batter after the eggs are added creates it. This seems not to be widely known even among chocolate experts.

I tried this. It didn’t work. No shiny brownie crust. I was depressed.

Brownie chronicles should have the answer right? I did however find that beating the batter improves the brownie texture massively!

From then on I have always beaten my batter with the paddle attachment on medium – low speed for 3 minutes. You’d think it makes the brownies tough, but it seriously doesn’t! It just adds a glorious chewiness – you’ve got to try it at least once!

shiny brownie crust texture

Beating by hand plays no role. Unless you want impressive guns. Beating the eggs and sugar separately for 3-5 minutes before folding in the remaining ingredients (http://www.handletheheat.com/ultimate-brownie-guide/) creates a “crust”, but it is not always shiny.

Very often it is dull, but just a lighter colour than the rest of the brownie below the surface.

Some recipes with beating the eggs and sugar separately, do deliver a shiny crust, BUT the texture is NOT chewyI want both if that’s possible. Shiny brownie crust AND chewiness.

I do not beat the eggs and sugar separately, but I beat the mixture right at the end when all the ingredients are in the bowl. This does not deliver a shiny crust at all, but I do it because it improves the texture of my brownies.

 

Breakthrough #4: Eggs

The crust is definitely influenced by the amount and type of egg in the recipe.

You can achieve a brownie crust with a normal amount of eggs – you don’t need to add more or less eggs. The amount of eggs I use is mainly for the optimum texture.

Although, I’ve noticed that it helps the crust along if my total egg in the recipe contains more EGG WHITE. 

Let’s say my recipe uses 130 g of egg; then I’ll use about 100 g of whole egg and top up the remaining 30 g with egg white. Not beaten or anything, just plain egg white out of the shell.

Too much egg will result in a very spongy brownie. Too little and the brownie is too dense and solid. 

Another myth is that you have to add them in one by one. Not necessary. I add them all in one go and mix on low speed for 10 seconds until they are roughly incorporated.

Want to get that thin, super shiny crust on top of your brownies? Great news is, you don't need to drop your favourite brownie recipe in search of a shiny-top brownie recipe! You can use this simple baking tip to get a shiny crust on ANY brownie recipe that contains dairy and sugar! Click through to get the step by step method for baking brownies with a shiny crust on top... #baking #bakingtips #brownies #homebaking #bakingtipsandtricks

 

Breakthrough #5: Sugar

Here’s where things get interesting.

According to Hackaday’s shiny brownies post, the shiny crust is determined by how well you dissolve the sugar in your brownies AND how much sugar you use.

This is definitely true.

But the problem comes in if you DON’T want a brownie that’s SUPER sweet. Personally it’s a bit disappointing to me that I HAVE to use loads of sugar to get a shiny brownie crust.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sugar is wonderful. But I want the overall flavour of my brownies to be CHOCOLATY, not overwhelming sweetness.

So, with my method you get to create a shiny brownie crust without compromising the flavour of your brownies.

Of course, in ALL baking it’s good to dissolve your sugar – although it doesn’t need to be dissolved completely with my method.

Just dunk all your sugar into your melted butter in one go. Then mix on low speed for about 1 minute – the sugar should be sticky and glue-y when you lift up the paddle.

But if your recipe specifies to beat the eggs and sugar together for 5 minutes, then please do that.

 

Breakthrough #6: Chocolate vs. Cocoa Powder

When I first started making brownies as a side-hustle in university, I used a recipe with mounds of chocolate.

Problem is that I had a horrible oven (university dorm kitchens!), an even worse stove and no understanding of chocolate seizing.

They were still amazing though! I sold them during my years as architecture student to raise money for the university’s charity program – Jool/Rag. This recipe used the eggs & sugar whipping technique. A shiny brownie crust did appear from time to time.

I thought it might be worth a go to try a recipe that uses cocoa powder. I took the first one I found in a magazine which happened to be a yummy one! I decided to make it my new “go to” recipe as the chewiness of the brownies was just amazing!

I’ve modified the recipe drastically over the years. One addition to the recipe was Milk Chocolate chunks and hazelnuts. I loved the idea of chocolate chunks (dark and milk separately) and hazelnuts that provide flavour as well as more exciting textures!

What puzzled me was that sometimes there was this ridiculously awesome shiny brownie crust on top and other times not even a trace of it! I did not understand. I made an effort to mix it EXACTLY the same way as I did before, but different results came forth with very inconsistent frequency.

I also did not believe that it could be Chocolate that makes the big difference because my gluten free brownies have ONLY DARK CHOCOLATE and also didn’t develop a shiny brownie crust.

 

Breakthrough #7: MILK Chocolate

So it happened one fine day in the second month of 2015 that someone ordered brownies without any nuts due to an allergy.

This meant my dear hazelnut milk chocolate had to be left out this time and so did other chocolate because most of them are “manufactured in a factory that uses nuts”.

Now up until this point I had believed that the whipping caused the shiny brownie crust (even though the success rate was 70/30, which was the most consistent theory I had found anyway).

Even Kitchen Conundrums said this too and I really have a high regard for everything they say! Their lemon meringue video is amazing!!

I did everything the way I always do it… Melt the butter to boiling point in the microwave. Quickly add the white sugar and treacle sugar. Mix in the eggs all at once. Add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed till incorporated. Scrape down the sides. Beat on medium speed for exactly 3.5 minutes. Bake at 180°C for exactly 37 minutes, turning after 15. And then…

NO crust.

This time, however, my inward fit of frustration only lasted 10 seconds as I had realized what has been happening all along…

The reason why it often worked when the butter was boiling hot, was because there was heat. The fully mixed batter had enough heat to melt something that is sensitive to temperature…

The reason why it often worked to let the moody brownies rest before baking, was because there was more time available for something specific to happen.

The reason why the crust took a vacation in winter, was not because it fancied the Bahamas. The drastic drop in temperature hindered a scientific reaction.

Milk chocolate. MELTED milk chocolate. In the nut free version, there was no milk chocolate present. The heat of the batter couldn’t melt it no matter how long it stood “resting” because well, it wasn’t there. I had left out the Hazelnut Milk Chocolate due to allergies.

I had another experiment.

This time I chopped as little as 20g of milk chocolate. I sprinkled it on top of the batter, left it for a minute and spread the slightly melted chocolate into the top layer of brownie batter…

shiny brownie crust method

Eureka. HELLO SHINY BROWNIE CRUST!!

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Now there happens to be a lovely trick you can apply during winter months… the hairdryer! Tada! Sprinkle finely chopped milk chocolate over the surface, apply heat until chocolate is melted, spread into the top of the batter.

PERFECT SHINY BROWNIE CRUST. EVERY. TIME.

Shiny Brownie Crust! An incredible baking hack! Best part - this baking tip gives you a shiny crust on ANY brownie recipe! Click through to learn how to create a shiny, paper thin crust on your brownies. #homebaking #bakingtips #baking #brownies #chocolatebrownies

 

Try it out and let me know if you are pleased with the results!

I’ve tried this with my gluten free brownies as well which don’t contain any cocoa powder. I’ve had the same successful shiny brownie crust for 6 glorious months now on ANY brownie recipe!

WE’VE FOUND NEMO!!

I’ve been tempted to stop here, but the journey is not yet fully complete. Continue to read if you are a scientist like me! I still wanted to understand and know what specific ingredient name I had to frame in my home!

WHAT ingredient is it that causes the shiny brownie crust for Pete’s sake?!

So my experiment took me a little further. I approached my favourite chocolaterie, CocoaFair (Cape Town, South Africa) and asked for their expertise on Milk Chocolate.

There are 2 ingredients that feature in Milk Chocolate, but not in Dark Chocolate.

Milk powder (Milk solids) and Soy Lecithin. I obtained some Soy Lecithin and Milk Powder from my dear chocolate friends at CocoaFair!

This week I made 3 last batches to settle the argument of the shiny brownie crust once and for all.

  1. Normal brownie batter + milk powder.
  2. Normal brownie batter + soy lecithin.
  3. Normal brownie batter + milk powder + soy lecithin.

milk & soy test

Thus, it is the COMBINATION OF SOY LECITHIN AND MILK SOLIDS that creates the shiny brownie crust. Wow! I dissolved the soy lecithin granules and milk powder in water (left it standing for one hour).

shiny brownie crust smear

I thought it might be a good idea to smear at least part of the surface with a spatula so that the structure of the top layer had been realigned – another one of my theories. It turned out to be another key to a shiny brownie crust!

To Clarify The Shiny Brownie Crust Method:

  1. Make your favourite brownie recipe as usual, but make sure the melted butter is boiling hot. Add the sugar and mix it for at least 1 minute so it dissolves a bit . It should be sticky, glue-y and cling to your spoon or paddle beater.
  2. Mix in the eggs and dry ingredients. Move quickly so your batter stays WARM. If your batter gets cold, your crust will be compromised. Pour the batter into the tin and level it out with a spatula.
  3. Chop about 20 g of MILK chocolate finely (don’t use anything higher than 38% Milk Chocolate. Dark chocolate doesn’t work! You need the dairy & sugar in the milk chocolate. If you’re making blondies, use white chocolate). Sprinkle on the surface of your brownie batter in the tin.
  4. Apply heat to the top to melt the milk chocolate. In summertime you can leave it in the sun for 40 seconds – 1 minute. In winter, use a hairdryer to melt the finely chopped chocolate on the surface.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, smear the melted milk chocolate into the top of the brownie batter in even, long strokes. Be sure to smear all of it in and not leave any chocolate streaks!
  6. Bake in the top third of your oven for the time your recipe states. (Don’t add anything else to the oven while the brownies are baking. Moisture in the oven will stop the shiny crust from forming.)
  7. Voila! Perfect Shiny Brownie Crust! Enjoy!

Well, it’s been frustrating, enlightening, educational and (mostly) fun! SO grateful that I can sleep at night now – at last!!

Chat soon!

Aurelia 🙂

Got a question? Something to add? Let’s chat in the comments section down below! (I respond to every single comment)