Preparing and Baking Brownies
Preparing the Pan
First, use the pan size specified in the recipe—usually but not always 8 inches square. Baking in a too-large pan will yield thin, dry bars that may taste fine but won’t resemble true brownies. Baking in a too-small pan may result in brownies with undercooked centers.
Be sure to select a light-colored, shiny pan, which will conduct heat evenly. Glass or dark-colored pans can cause the edges to overbake or even burn.
Always grease the pan thoroughly with shortening, softened butter, or cooking spray. (Do this even if the recipe doesn’t specify.) After greasing the pan, many bakers like to line it with pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil that have been cut larger than the size of the pan so that the edges hang over the sides like a sling. Thoroughly grease the lining. After the brownies have baked and cooled, the lining may be lifted out of the pan and inverted on a platter. Gently peel away the foil or paper, then cut the brownies into squares.
Brownies can also be baked very successfully in a well-greased mini-muffin tin, which eliminates the problem of cutting into squares.
Mixing and Baking
Most brownie recipes begin with melting butter and chocolate together. The safest way to do this is in a double boiler or any small pan placed over a pot of gently simmering water. If you're an experienced baker, you can place the butter and chocolate directly in a saucepan over a low flame. Be sure to stir the mixture constantly. Butter and chocolate may also be melted together in a microwave oven on medium power, opening the oven and stirring the mixture every 20 to 30 seconds.
Overmixing the ingredients can cause brownies to turn out tough or for a thin crust to form on top. Mix wet and dry ingredients just long enough to blend them, taking special care not to overbeat after the eggs are added.
To improve the texture of brownies, place the unbaked batter (in the prepared pan) in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight.
How Long to Bake Brownies?
Experience is the best guide, but here are some general rules. For fudge-style brownies, remove the pan when the sides have shrunk slightly away from the edges of the pan. The center will still be slightly gooey, but will firm up during cooling. Cake-style brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center has a few moist crumbs attached to it.
To prevent burning the bottoms of your brownies, place the pan on a preheated cookie sheet or pizza stone.