Chemistry behind brownies – Science & A recipe

One of my favorite things to bake most definitely are brownies. Reason? They’re super simple to make and just about everybody likes them. Also, it’s nice to vary around with them. What about walnut brownie, almond brownie or raspberry brownie? I’ve made them all, and they all taste good.

When googling brownies I also discovered there’s a lot of posts on the science of brownies, despite the fact that really, most posts don’t even discuss the science. I should admit there that there’s not that much science to discuss when it comes to brownies, but in that case, don’t call the post ‘brownie science’.  So, I’ll give it a try, writing about brownies including both science & a recipe!

Brownie Science

Or, the chemistry behind brownies. Despite saying there’s not a lot of science when it comes to brownies, I probably mean there’s not a lot of very special science when it comes to brownies. Because actually, there’s quite a bit of science, just reckon:

  • Brownies often include baking powder or baking soda. These leavening agents make a brownie lighter and airy. It’s pure chemistry what happens with these leavening agents. In the oven they get converted into carbon dioxide and other components. Chemical reactions for sure.
  • The brownie recipe I use contains eggs. Eggs in brownies are added to add fattyness, but also to set the structure. When the eggs get heated the proteins coagulate, which prevents the brownie fom collapsing when coming out of the oven.
  • Brownie contains chocolate, else it’s no brownie and often butter. In some recipes (including the one below), both have to be melted before they’re added to the brownie batter. This is a great example of fat science. The different fat molecules melt at different temperatures.

Gooey vs Cake Brownie

One of the most common discussions on the world wide web when it comes to brownies for sure is whether a brownie should be gooey or more like a cake.

The main difference between the two is the fat (= butter + chocolate) to flour ratio. More flour compared to fats will give a more cakey brownie. More fat on the other hand will make it more gooey.

Reason is that more fat in the recipe will make the brownie a lot richer and fuller and will give it less chance to incorporate any air (because of those leavening agents).

A video from Martha Stewart zooms in on the differences even more.

Brownie recipe

The recipe I use to make my brownies comes from a cookbook, Kookook, that I don’t use often, but the brownie recipe is one I often add.

Cakey brownies
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 25 brownie pieces
This recipe makes more of a cakey than gooey brownie. If you want more gooey, take out part of the flour, and add more butter & chocolate. See link at bottom.
  • 175g chocolate (I prefer extra dark)
  • 200g butter
  • 250g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 150g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (low wattage, max. 1 minute at a time and stir in between).
  2. Add the butter and melt in the microwave as well.
  3. Mix the sugar, vanilla extract, salt, flour and baking powder.
  4. Add the eggs.
  5. Mix in the molten butter & chocolate. Take care, it shouldn't be hot (>50C) or it will cook the eggs.
  6. Pour into a pan lined with baking paper and bake in the oven at 180C for 35-45 minutes.

Good luck baking!

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