Brownies. There’s no need for imagery here because we all know the power of a great brownie. I like chewy brownies. Brownies that have the moistness and flavor of a fudgy brownie, but some of the texture and thickness of a cakey brownie. Brownies filled with chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. This brownie recipe may be my new favorite brownie yet. Next time I make them, I’m going to omit the cream cheese addition because they’re so good without it.
Against my better judgment, I went with Betty Crocker’s recommendation for a cream cheese frosting rather than creating a buttercream cream cheese frosting. A decision that my taste buds slightly regret. Although, the end result was still an amazing brownie. The one benefit of this decision is that it allows me to write about the Maillard reaction.
Most people assume that browning in baked products comes from caramelization. This might be true under some condition, However, I would counter that by saying caramelization is an example of pyrolysis. This means that caramelization is caused by heating sugar to excessive heats. In the case of sucrose, this heat is 160C (320F).
Considering that most baked goods do not reach temperatures this high, there must be another mechanism for browning. This is where the Maillard reaction comes in. The Maillard reaction is the reaction of sugar and the amino acids in proteins. The reaction is actually a series of random reactions that continually produce longer and different molecules. This reaction occurs before caramelization and proceeds rapidly between 140 to 165 C( 284-329F). At higher temperatures, caramelization takes over.
The uses of this reaction are many. The browning of meat, toasted bread, and browning of baked goods are all a result of this reaction. In baking the Maillard reaction occurs naturally, but it is also initiated by coating the baked good with an egg wash or butter. This is often seen in biscuit and bread making. In the case of Betty Crocker’s cream cheese frosting. The combination of the egg and cream cheese with the added sugar stimulates this reaction. Thus, the cream cheese and egg mixture that begins as a bright yellow becomes golden colored.
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter+ more for the pan (unless cooking spray is used)
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1/4 cup natural cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
- Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square pan or line it with buttered parchment.
- In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove the pan from the heat; cool slightly.
- Stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, stirring each time until blended.
- Add the flour and cocoa; beat until incorporated and the mixture is smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Do not overmix this recipe or undesired gluten will form.
- Scrape ¾ of the batter into the prepared pan then add cream cheese frosting. Cover cream cheese frosting with remaining batter. Then use a knife to create swirl patterns.
- Bake until the top is uniformly colored with no indentation and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 45 minutes.
Betty Crocker Filling
4 oz cream cheese, softened (from 8 oz package)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- In small bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside.
- Spread 3/4 of brownie batter in pan. Spoon filling by tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter. Spoon remaining brownie batter over filling. Cut through mixture with knife several times for marbled design.