Maybe it’s the shiny, crackled top with crisp, sturdy edges and a fudgy, rich center for you. Or maybe it’s a pillowy-soft bite of cakey goodness. Whatever your preference, baking the perfect brownie isn’t easy.
So we made 14 brownies, starting with Chrissy Teigen’s chocolate brownie recipe, which uses powdered, melted, and chocolate chips to make a perfectly decadent, incredibly chocolaty dessert, to find out how every alt, sub, and, yes, mistake, affect a brownie.
Chrissy’s recipe melts together a cup of butter with melted chocolate. But if you’re looking for a healthy option, switch the butter for applesauce, or take the very opposite route and go with a cup of creamy peanut butter.
In the oven, the applesauce immediately begins to boil, creating a surface laden with tiny bubbles, whereas the peanut butter leaves the top perfectly shiny and crackled, hinting at a perfect interior.
With applesauce, the brownies smelled more sweet than chocolaty, with a texture more like banana bread, plush and firm. Peanut butter resulted in perfectly crisp edges, so the brownies didn’t easily fall apart, and a gooey interior reminiscent of fresh boardwalk fudge.
So creamy and decadent, it was debatably better than the original. Trying to pack in as much chocolate as possible? Go rogue and double it. Not just the melted; we’re talking double powdered cocoa and chips, too.
With the extra density, the brownie did take a bit longer to rise in the oven, but once they get going, they puff up taller than any other brownie we made. With the extra sugar from the chocolate, the edges are much harder than the original, with a dark brown interior that almost makes them look burnt.
But inside the middle piece, the double chocolate makes the brownie obviously more chocolaty, with a creamy, silky, semi-sticky texture that melts in the mouth like cookie dough. Eggs are what make the difference between a fudgy or a cakey brownie.
Chrissy’s recipe calls for four eggs. Add in two more or two less, and you’re looking at drastically different bakes. With less eggs, the batter is thick like sludge, but with more, it’s thin and runny.
After baking, the brownies with less eggs are left with deep crevices, whereas with more, the top is covered with visible air pockets. While less eggs resulted in crunchy edges, more left them soft but dense.
Inside, less eggs gave the brownie less structure, almost falling apart in the hand. But it gifted us the added benefit of the fudgiest brownie of the lot. More eggs stripped away some of the chocolate flavor but left a brownie that was pillowy soft and cakey with a dense bite that’ll stick to your teeth.
Chrissy calls for both melted chocolate and cocoa powder, but don’t have one or the other handy? Use what you got. With only cocoa powder, the top of the brownie is cratered like the moon, whereas just melted chocolate leaves the top so crisp and crackled it begins to flake off.
In contrast to the puffy cakiness of just cocoa powder, melted chocolate left the edges crispy on the outside, whereas inside, cocoa powder left the brownie pillowy soft with a sticky texture, and without the chocolate chips, it was almost flavorless.
With just melted, the chocolate flavor was present, but less so than in Chrissy’s recipe, with a texture bordering on fudgy, but without the added density of the cocoa powder, never really hitting the mark.
With a little bit of molasses and a less sweet punch than granulated, brown sugar seems like an easy swap. When added to the recipe, it leaves the top of the brownies much less shiny than the original but with slightly more cracking.
The edges of the brownie are buttery smooth, and even though the interior looks almost identical to the original, it’s all about texture for this one. With more moisture from the molasses, the brownie is softer, chewier, and has a more complex flavor than the original, making it the perfect brownie for those who like them a bit more dense.
What’s a brownie without that sugar rush? With Chrissy’s recipe calling for a cup and a half of sugar, it could be tempting to throw in half a cup more or less. The extra sugar leaves the top of the brownie looking ideal — shiny, crispy, crackled — whereas less sugar strips the brownie of that coveted shine.
With more sugar, the edges caramelize, creating the most crisp edge of the batch. But inside, the brownie’s tacky and so moist it melts in your hand like an M&M. Without the added sweetness, the brownie with less sugar is more bitter but still edible, with a much cakier texture.
White chocolate more your preference? Swap it out. Since white chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa solids and is mostly cocoa butter, the batter is left thin and runny. In the oven, it puffs up and browns so much you can hardly tell the inside isn’t real cocoa.
But a knife cut through the soft edges reveals a thinner, predictably paler brownie than the original with a super greasy interior thanks to the additional cocoa butter. The brownie’s still fudgy and very sweet but overall isn’t winning a bake-off anytime soon.
There’s only 3/4 cups of flour in Chrissy’s recipe. Adding in a half a cup more or less results in two batters that actually look quite similar, but once out of the oven, the differences are abundant, with more flour leaving the top a light shade of brown with pores of air pockets and less flour leaving a darker, shiny, crinkled crust.
And while they rose to about the same height, less flour resulted in a darker, dense, fudgy brownie that was so sticky, it was like chewing on paste, although it had one of the most chocolaty flavors.
And while more flour did take away some of the chocolate taste, the inside was thick and so cakey it began to fall apart. So, if you’re trying to experiment your way into the ideal brownie, be it the perfectly crisp edge with a gooey, fudgy interior or a plush and cakey bite, there are a lot of ways it can go wrong.
But with some tweaks and experiments, your perfect brownie is within reach.