Why You Should Make Homemade BrowniesFor an embarrassingly long time, I was a firm believer that making brownies from scratch was a waste of time. I mean, why bother when the boxed mix stuff was so fast, reliable, and good (I'm looking at you, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)? But a few years ago, when researching recipes for my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I did a taste test of boxed mix brownies versus some of the internet's most beloved recipes (my friend Erika did something similar and wrote all about it). That was when I became convinced otherwise—as good as the boxed mix stuff was on its own, it just couldn't hold a candle to homemade brownies. I now noticed a weird artificial flavor and cakey texture that I hadn't ever noticed before. It turns out that homemade brownies, even the inferior recipes that I tested, were just infinitely more chocolatey and fudgy than the boxed mix stuff.
Fudge Brownies Versus Cocoa BrowniesA caveat: not all homemade brownie recipes are the same. In fact, there are so many variations that I get stressed out just thinking about them. You can make brownies with oil instead of butter, different types of sugar, and chocolate. To me, chocolate is the biggest determinant of what kind of brownie you'll have. In general, brownie recipes that use solid chocolate that you chop up into smaller pieces and melt are fudge brownies; these are super dense, thick, and almost ganache-like in flavor and texture. Brownie recipes that use cocoa powder are no less chocolatey, but are chewier and lighter in flavor and texture. I'm personally partial to fudge brownies, but honestly, really good recipes (like my Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownie Recipe, cough cough) will use a mixture of both chopped chocolate and cocoa powder to get the best of both worlds.
Milk Chocolate BrowniesDuring all my research, I noticed that most fudge brownie recipes usually called for dark chocolate (or bittersweet and semisweet varieties). To rewind: milk chocolate and dark chocolate are often sold with a percentage on the package, which indicates how much of the bar, by weight, is made from cacao beans and cocoa butter. The higher the percentage, the darker and more bitter the chocolate will be. When baking, dark chocolates with higher cacao percentages translates to stronger and more intensely chocolate-flavored baked goods.
And while that science makes sense to me, the thing is, between you and me, I much prefer snacking on milk chocolate—something about its creamy, milky sweetness really makes my heart swoon (I mean, in case you couldn't tell from my blog, I legit have the biggest sweet tooth in the world). It got me thinking—what would my fudge brownie recipe taste like if I substituted out the dark chocolate for milk chocolate???
The answer: really freaking good.
While the milk chocolate brownies weren't as intensely rich and chocolatey as the original recipe, they were still utterly tasty and flavorful. But less like ganache, and more like a super-chocolatey blondie than a brownie. Also, you know how the best brownie recipes have a really shiny, paper-thin crackly top? That comes from the amount of sugar in the recipe. And because milk chocolate tends to have more sugar than dark chocolate, these milk chocolate brownies have an extra flaky and shiny sugar top. SO GOOD.
Ingredients to Make Milk Chocolate Brownies From ScratchOkay, hopefully all of the above has convinced you to make these milk chocolate brownies, lol. Let's talk about some of the key ingredients you'll need for this recipe:
Milk Chocolate (obviously)When baking a recipe that instructs you to melt chocolate, I always advise folks to opt for chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips have weird additives like paraffin wax (yes, the same stuff candles are made out of!) and other stabilizers to help them keep their shape in the oven. Look for a good quality chocolate bar that you'd want to eat as a snack, with a cacao percentage between 30 to 40%. I used Tony Chocolonely's Milk Chocolate Bar, which has 32% cacao.
Cocoa PowderIn the baking aisle of the grocery store, you'll find three types of cocoa powder: natural unsweetened, Dutch-processed (also known as Dutched or alkalized cocoa powder), and sweetened. Avoid the sweetened stuff and stick with either natural unsweetened or Dutch-processed cocoa powder for baking. In this recipe, you can use one or the other interchangeably. Natural unsweetened will give you more reddish, and just ever-so-slightly more bitter brownies, whereas Dutch-processed cocoa powder (which is what I used) will give you darker-colored and milder-flavored brownies. I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder, which I love and always have on hand.
Brown SugarI love the extra something-something brown sugar gives brownies; I feel like it keeps them moister and fresher for longer (since brown sugar has molasses, which helps add moisture and flavor). When baked in the oven, the brown sugar almost caramelizes and gives the brownies really subtle toffee notes. Seriously—substitute half the white sugar in your favorite brownie recipe (any one that's not mine, because most of my brownie recipes contain brown sugar hahaha) with brown sugar. Your baking game will be changed.
Chocolate ChipsBecause I am a chocolate fiend, I always sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips over the batter to give it texture and yes, to make it look "kewt". For this recipe, I found that mini chocolate chips didn't sink as much as regular-sized chocolate chips (Here's some fun food science: the chips don't sink in my original recipe that uses dark chocolate. Why? The extra cacao in the dark chocolate helps keep them afloat!). I also experimented with using milk chocolate chips versus dark chocolate (er, semisweet and bittersweet) chocolate chips and found I liked the contrasting flavors of the latter better. But you do you. I used Ghirrardelli's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Baking Chips.
How to Make Milk Chocolate Brownies From ScratchOnce you've gathered your ingredients, it's time to make the brownies! While this recipe is not quite as easy as pulling out a box mix and adding in oil and sugar, it's still pretty easy breezy. Here are the steps to making brownies from scratch:
- Preheat your oven and prep your pan—don't miss my baker's notes on how to do this, because these brownies can be finicky and have a tendency to stick!
- Prepare the chocolate by chopping it into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces. I am lazy and usually just use a food processor for this task.
- Melt the chocolate, butter, and cocoa powder in a double boiler (in a pinch, set a heatproof bowl over a sauce pan with a few inches of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water!).
- Whisk together the sugars, egg, and vanilla, before slowly adding the melted chocolate and finally mixing in the dry ingredients.
- Pour into the pan, scatter with chocolate chips, and BAKE!
Best Milk Chocolate Brownie Recipe Tips
- Because of the sugars and the milk chocolate in the recipe, these brownies have a tendency to stick to the pan, especially when they've cooled to room temperature. Don't skip the step of lining the pan with parchment paper, and be sure to use lots of cooking spray too. As an extra precaution, I actually like to use a fine mesh sieve to sprinkle a fine layer of cocoa powder over the cooking spray (similar to how some bakers sprinkle flour in elaborate cake pans to help prevent the cake from sticking). Finally, follow the instructions for unmolding the brownies while they're still warm, about 20 to 30 minutes after you've pulled them out the oven. You don't want to do it too soon—doing so might cause the block to crumble apart since the brownies need some time to set.
- In this recipe, you'll first melt the milk chocolate with some butter and cocoa powder, before adding it to a mixture of sugar and eggs. If you add the chocolate while it's still too warm, it might accidentally scramble the eggs! There are some things you can do to prevent this—after melting the chocolate, immediately transfer it to a liquid measuring cup or a pitcher to help it lose heat quickly (you can see that I did this in my Instagram Story series about this recipe). When adding it to the sugar and eggs, make sure to do it VERY slowly, whisking continuously and quickly while you do so—in fact, I like to use a stand mixer to do the work for me since it gets tiring fast). And finally, use eggs that are straight from the fridge and straight from the fridge to help keep things from overheating.
- It is better to pull the brownies out of the oven early than leave them in too long—if you overbake the brownies, they'll be tough! They might appear underbaked, but I promise that when they've cooled, they'll be perfect.
More Brownie Recipes
- Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownies
- Blueberry Brownies
- Brownie Cookies
- Dulce de Leche Brownies
- Tahini and Halva Floss Brownies