These ridiculously fudgy BETTER THAN BOXED BROWNIES are made with cacao powder and loaded with chocolate chunks. And bonus: these brownies will leave your family thinking you are the best baker in the world, promise.
Better than boxed brownies
My chocolate obsession runs deep. And I can’t really tell you why… I’ve just loved it forever! Probably not a unique problem, I’m guessing. Some of my favorite ways to sneak in that extra bit of chocolate are:
- Adding a few tablespoons to banana smoothies (oooh, throw in a handful of frozen strawberries, too!)
- Creamy chocolate hazelnut spread on fresh sourdough toast
- S’mores cooked over a camp fire
- OBVIOUSLY grandma’s Texas Sheet Cake, church potluck style
- Or just by the handful… yeah, I said it.
But, without a doubt, my favorite way to get my fix is in a chew, fudgy brownie. It’s more of an in-your-face-indulgence, and in my opinion, WAY better. It’s soft, pillowy, moist, and interestingly enough, you just need seven common pantry staples to make this delicious recipe. Plus, I get to make it with the highest quality ingredients and skip all of the preservatives that keep those popular mixes shelf stable for, well, years.
How to make brownies
One of my favorite things about this brownie recipe is how incredibly easy it is. The batter comes together in under ten minutes. Pop it in the oven, and forty five minutes later you’ll be eating an impossibly fudgy, decadent, cacao brownie that you’d never know wasn’t a gourmet boxed mix.
What ingredients make the best brownies?
It all starts with high quality, fresh ingredients. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Good food isn’t cheap and cheap food isn’t good. Splurge for quality eggs, butter, cacao, brown sugar and vanilla.
- CACAO: if you have been reading this while thinking that I keep misspelling the word ‘cocoa,’ I want to introduce you to Cocoa’s fancy sister, Cacao. While cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted, what we commonly know as cocoa has been highly processed. Cacao has a more diverse flavor profile and is packed full of healthy antioxidants! No cacao, no problem. These sisters can be substituted interchangeably.
- EGGS: A few years ago, my eyes would have rolled into the back of my head if someone told me that eggs from a farm are FAR superior to the clean and perfect specimens from the store. Listen, I didn’t want it to be true, either, but it’s just a fact. The yolks are a deep gold color due to the nutrients the free-range hens eat as they graze around the pasture. The whites are less watery and can be whisked into mile-high meringues. Take my word for it, find yo’self some local eggs if you want to have top-notch baked goods.
- SUGAR: Have you noticed that organic sugar isn’t a dazzling white color? Traditional refined sugar is made from raw sugar cane that has been stripped of it’s nutrients through a process which removes it’s natural molasses. This refining process strips the sugarcane of all of the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and health benefits. Organic sugar does not undergo this process, and is full of minerals, enzymes, vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients. I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS HEALTHY! Just be aware that choosing organic sugar will prevent the refining elements from “leaching” minerals from your teeth, bones and tissues. While we indulge, we might as well soak up an extra bit of nature’s goodness.
- FLOUR: I don’t want to go there, but let’s just rip the bandaid off. Much like refined sugar, I avoid using traditional bleached wheat flours at all costs. Wheat has been demonized during the past decade, but not all of the bad press is fair. Heirloom varieties of non-GMO wheat flour contains fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. All good things! GMO wheat does not have these beneficial constituents, as they have been stripped from the wheat during a refining and bleaching process and then petroleum-based substitutes have been added back in. Additionally, the pesticides and herbicides that are used to treat the growing plant will remain in the flour and then find our way into our bodies. We are made up of billions of bacteria and microbes which can then be weakened or killed by the residues. Gluten intolerance, anyone? Stick with non-GMO organic wheat flours. I know, unpopular opinion. Take it or leave it.
Let’s to mix it up with these brownie-licious variations!
Okay, okay. Brownies rich and chewy and delicious. But what if we add a little somethin’ somethin’ to kick them up a notch? Twist my arm, I’m all in!
My top picks for add-ins
- sprinkle them with love… and by love, I mean powdered sugar!
- Pretzels or chocolate covered pretzels can be poked into the brownies as they are pulled from the oven.
- Chocolate chips or cacao chunks add even more depth of flavor and will satisfy even the most chocolate addicted taste tester!
- Any candy bar can be chopped and added to the dough. Just stir it in with the flour and remember not to over mix!
A quick baking tip
I baked this brownie in a 9X9 ceramic baker, which is the perfect size for a sixteen servings of brownies that are just the right height. I have also used an 8X8 square pan, and it basically comes down to personal preference. Just remember to adjust the baking time and choose how tall or dense you want the brownies to be. When I line my pan with parchment paper cut to size, my brownies come out cleanly every time! Given how often I bake, this is a huge win!
Alright, friends! Cannot wait to hear what you think of these BETTER THAN BOXED BROWNIES!
Better Than Boxed Brownies
- Mixing bowl
- Parchment paper
- 9X9 baking dish
- 1 ¼ C Butter
- 2 ½ C Brown Sugar
- 1 ½ C Cacao powder Or substitute cocoa powder
- ¾ C Unbleached flour
- 4 Eggs Room temperature
- 2 Tsp. Madagascar Vanilla
- ¾ Tsp. Himalayan Salt or sea salt
- ½ C Chocolate cacao chunks Or chocolate chips
- Place the butter in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Melt the butter for thirty seconds. Add the brown sugar, whisk to combine, and microwave an additional thirty seconds. Repeat the whisking and microwaving three more times until the mixture has been heated for two minutes. This gives the brownies the texture and flavor of caramel.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Whisking allows air bubbles to form which creates a fluffier brownie.
- Fold in the cocoa, flour, salt, vanilla, and chocolate pieces. Over mixing will pop the air bubbles and make the brownies flat, so gently incorporate the dry ingredients.
- Line a 9X9 baking dish with parchment paper that has been cut to size. Pour the batter into the dish and bake at 350° for forty minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I bake on the convection setting which creates a hot airflow. Mine are done in forty minutes, but you might need to go longer!