Brownies are one of the most recognizable homemade desserts in Western culinary tradition, and many accomplished home cooks and professional pastry chefs fondly remember baking them as children. Brownies are not foolproof, however. They can become hard during and after baking, especially around the edges. There are several techniques to avoid hardening in your homemade brownies.
Types of Brownies
Brownies are typically categorized according to their texture. Fudge brownies have very little flour and are the most intensely flavored. Cake brownies are lighter and more airy. Chewy brownies have more eggs than either fudge or cake brownies, and usually feature a combination of chocolate types. They are not as dense as fudge brownies but are stiffer than cake brownies.
Blondies have a similar structure to brownies, but are not made with chocolate. Some purists argue that they are not brownies at all, but should be considered butterscotch bar cookies instead.
Cause of Hardening
The most common cause of hardening after baking is overcooking. If your oven is too hot, the edges of the brownie will be done before the center sets. If you leave the brownie in the oven until the center is done, the edges will overcook and dry out. When you take the pan out of the oven and let the brownie cool, the dry edges will harden.
Your choice of pan can also affect how the brownies bake. Glass and dark colored metal pans conduct heat too quickly, and cause the edges of the brownie to burn before the center is fully cooked.
Use an oven thermometer to test the temperature of your oven. If your oven runs hot, adjust the baking temperature by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a light-colored metal pan to avoid burning the edges of the brownies.
Check the brownies for doneness five minutes before the end of the cooking time. Fudge and chewy brownies should pull away from the edge of the pan slightly. The center will seem slightly underdone, but it will finish setting as the brownies cool. Test cake brownies by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pan. If it comes out clean, the brownies are done.
Fixing Hardened Brownies
If you bake a batch of brownies that hardens as it cools, the easiest remedy is to simply cut the hardened edges off before you serve the brownies. Crush the hardened brownie edges into crumbs and store in the freezer. Use them instead of cookie crumbs for pies that require a cookie crumb crust.
If there is too little hardening to cut off, a ganache glaze will add moisture and richness, masking the hardened edges.
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