If your favorite brownies are like-the-boxed mix chewy gluten free brownies with that crackly top, this is your new best recipe.
How do you get that crackly top on brownies?
There’s a fair amount of disagreement on the Internet about how to get the crackly top on brownies. Everyone seems to be certain of their method, and the reasoning behind it.
If you’ve been around this blog and my recipes for a while, you know that I am all about the science of baking. I try to explain why I do just about everything I do in my recipes. I find that it’s the perfect way to show you the proper respect, and to increase the chance that you’ll follow the recipe exactly as written!
I have made this recipe many, many different ways (ask my family—they’ve been all brownie all the time recently), and this recipe, with these ingredients prepared in this way makes for chewy brownies with a crackly top. I’m certain of that. I am not, however, 100% certain of why it works.
I do know that the crackly top looks gorgeous, and is formed when a bit of the egg whites in the recipe separate from the rest of the batter. During baking, they form a very thin meringue. I believe that the meringue is formed in this recipe because it has the right balance of ingredients, but also that they’re prepared in exactly the right way.
You must melt the butter and the sugar at the start of the recipe (and allow it to cool so that mixture doesn’t cook the eggs). You also must beat the heck out of the mixture before the flours are added. Adding additional chocolate chips to the very top of the batter (I just reserve about 1/5 of the chips in the recipe) also seems to help create that meringue.
What makes brownies have that perfect chewy texture?
There are a few elements of this recipe that ensure that proper chewy texture. First, the chocolate in these brownies comes entirely from cocoa powder (other than the chocolate chips, of course). Using chopped, melted chocolate in the batter makes brownies denser and fudgier.
Second, melting the butter with the sugar, and then beating the egg-butter-sugar-cocoa powder mixture senseless helps a ton. I have found that, when I’ve mixed only by hand and not gone the extra mile and used the hand mixer to beat the batter, the brownies aren’t as chewy (and the crackly top was spotty at best).
Adding very little gluten free flour, plus lightening it with some cornstarch, also help to create a lovely chewy texture.
Ingredients and substitutions
This is the sort of recipe that is really not a great candidate for substitutions. Each ingredient was selected specifically to achieve that fudgy-but-chewy texture and the crackly top that we all (do we?) love when we make a boxed mix.
If you can’t have all of the ingredients in the recipe and would really like to try substitutes, I will provide as much information below as I can.
Dairy-free: These days, my favorite way to replace butter in bars and cookies is to substitute half of the weight of butter called for in the recipe with Earth Balance buttery sticks and the remaining half of the weight with Spectrum nonhydrogenated shortening. That tends to provide the best balance of moisture, fat, and flavor.
If you do use Earth Balance buttery sticks, omit the additional salt in the recipe, though. That product is suuuuper salty already. If you’re dairy-free, be sure you’re also using dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Egg-free: There are only 2 eggs in this recipe, so your favorite egg substitute might work—but you won’t get the exact chewy texture and you won’t get the crackly top. My favorite egg substitute (for effectiveness and ease) is a “chia egg,” so maybe try that?
Corn-free: This one is actually quite easy. Just use arrowroot in place of cornstarch. Side note: If you are using Cup4Cup flour blend as your all purpose gluten free flour, just replace the cornstarch with that much more flour, gram for gram.