Fudgy and Chewy and Cakey, Oh My!
By Sarah Kauzmann | Posted November 3, 2023
I’ve been working as a pastry chef for the last five years (wow time flies!) and if you ask me what my favorite brownie is, I will still say the Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie boxed mix that my mom made for me growing up. I know, not very pastry-chefy of me.
Sarah Kauzmann's chewy brownies
I think nostalgia is incredibly interesting when it comes to baking and food in general. It can bring up both very specific memories or general feelings of the past. They aren’t always good memories but thankfully for me, most of my food related memories are positive (except that one time my best friend and I dared each other to taste straight vanilla extract and immediately regretted it (we are still best friends and laugh about this today). As for brownies, I have been trying for what feels like decades to make a batch I like better or at least equally to the brownie of my childhood.
There are three main types of brownies: fudgy, chewy, and cakey. Fudgy brownies are soft and gooey and almost fall apart when you’re eating them. They are dense with an intensely chocolatey taste. You can acquire the fudgy texture by using less flour in a recipe, making sure there is plenty of fat (butter and/or chocolate), and even sometimes using less eggs. Additionally, fudgy brownies typically do not have any leavening agent in them. That means no baking soda or baking powder which keeps them dense and gooey instead of rising like a cake.
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Chewy brownies are a nice mix between a truly fudgy brownie and a cakey one. They are a little fluffier and hold their shape, but still have a gooier center and a nice chew to them. Typically, chewy brownies use a bit more flour than fudgy brownies but not as much as their cakey cousins. I typically think of chewy brownies as your everyday crowd pleasers both slightly fudgy and a more structured bite. True cakey brownies should remind you of a rich chocolate cake. They are traditionally made with more flour, have baking soda or powder added to them, and, within the recipe, you’re usually asked to beat the sugar and butter until fluffy to incorporate air into the batter that will result in a lighter, airier texture.
Now, the brownies I remember from growing up were definitely fudgy. They were rich, chocolatey, best eaten straight out of the oven, all warm and gooey. That being said, although I love a fudgy brownie, I wanted to create a good chewy brownie recipe that would hold up better when cut and transported and not fall apart when eating. I tweaked a fudge brownie recipe by adding a bit more flour and cocoa powder, adding some egg yolks for some extra richness, and adding some baking powder. The optional addition of espresso powder gives a real punch up the chocolate flavor. This recipe came out tasting rich and chocolatey but more chewy instead of gooey without being fully cakey. It seems to be a crowd pleaser in my house.
Sarah Kauzmann, MHS ’12, Lehigh Univ. Masters ’17, has been baking since she was old enough to hold a spoon, and is the owner/operator of pipitsbakery.com.