Why You Should Bake Small Batch Brownies
In case you missed it, I spent the past two weeks sharing recipes more suitable for our current times like these small batch brownies on my Instagram account. What does that mean, exactly? I focused on sharing recipes that were either:
- Small Batch
Because of recent current events, many folks are working from home, and social events have been temporarily banned. Sharing baked goods is hard when everybody’s either working from home or discouraged from gathering in big groups.
Unfortunately, many baking recipes are written for special occasions like celebrations, birthdays, and more. As a result, the typical cookie or bar recipe makes enough to feed a crowd. I decided to scale down some of the most popular recipes on my blog. I altered the recipes to produce smaller batches of cookies, brownies, and muffins. The serving sizes now make portions more appropriate for families and households between 2 to 4 people. This small batch brownie recipe, for instance, makes either 8 petite brownies or 2 large bakery-style brownies.
- Minimalist Ingredients
In the last few weeks, there have been shortages of pantry staples, especially common baking ingredients like flour and eggs.
Thankfully, smaller batch recipes use less of these ingredients. This small batch brownie recipe uses only 1 egg and ¼ cup ingredients of flour, sugars, and butter.
- Easily Substitutable
For most of the small batch recipes on Instagram, I’ve included substitutions for ingredients to help navigate the current shortages.
Small Batch Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownies
After sharing a recipe for eggless chocolate chip cookies, many folks requested I share a small batch brownie recipe. I decided to adapt my recipe for Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownies to meet everybody’s requests.
This brownie recipe is one of the most popular recipes on my blog and in my cookbook. The recipe makes brownies that are incredibly dense, chocolatey, and FUDGY. Their signature “look” is a shiny sugar top that flakes like paper, as well as a generous sprinkling of chocolate chips.
Unfortunately, both the recipe on the blog and in my cookbook make a total of 20 brownies. This small batch recipe, however, makes a quarter of the original recipe. Depending on the how you slice the brownies (we’ll get to that in a hot second), this recipe makes either 8 petite edge-piece brownies or 2 epic bakery-style brownies.
Small Batch Brownie Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve convinced you to make these small batch brownies, here is the shopping list for this small batch brownie recipe:
Small Batch Brownie Recipe Shopping List
- dark chocolate (between 60% to 70% cacao), preferably from baking bars
- salted OR unsalted butter
- Dutch-processed OR natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- dark OR light brown sugar
- granulated sugar
- large eggs
- pure vanilla extract
- kosher salt
- chocolate chips (optional, for garnish)
- flaky salt (optional, for garnish)
And let’s talk about some of the key ingredients in the recipe:
This small batch brownie recipe uses 2 ounces dark chocolate to make the brownies.
Because this is a fudge brownie recipe, you’ll need to melt some chocolate to give the brownies their flavor, richness, and texture. The recipe works best with chocolate that’s between 60 to 70% cacao. In a pinch, you can use milk chocolate like I did in this milk chocolate brownie recipe. The brownies, however, will come out sweeter and less chocolatey-tasting.
Can I use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate instead of dark chocolate in this recipe?
Whenever I share a recipe that uses dark chocolate, many of you ask if you can use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Many manufacturers make chocolate bars that are specifically for baking; these are often labeled “bittersweet”, “semisweet”, or “unsweetened”. You’ll notice that “bittersweet” and “semisweet” typically don’t include cocoa percentages. That’s because there’s no official benchmark for each designation. Specifically: it’s up to the manufacturers to determine how much cocoa to use, and cacao percentages for each type will vary greatly between brands.
That’s why in my cookbook, I advise folks to ignore these bars and instead stick with the ones that list their cocoa percentages. That’s truly the only way to know what you’re getting! In a pinch, however, you can use either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for these small batch brownies without too much consequence.
Can I melt chocolate chips for this recipe?
Although I always recommend chopping up your favorite high-quality chocolate bar and melting it down, you can also use chocolate chips like I did in my blog post for the original recipe. Just be sure to use high-quality chocolate chips like ones from Valrhona, Guittard, or Nestle Artisan Collection (the latter two are both readily available in most major US supermarkets). Low-quality chocolate chips have stabilizers like paraffin candle wax that help the chocolate keep its shape in the oven and taste funny when melted.
I don’t have chocolate. Can I substitute the chocolate in the recipe with cocoa powder?
Many of you also asked if you could substitute the chocolate in the recipe with cocoa powder. Unfortunately, the answer is no. That would change the recipe completely and it would no longer make fudge brownies. If you only have cocoa powder on hand, I highly suggest checking out the Better-Than-Box-Mix Cocoa Brownie recipe in my cookbook. Although it’s currently not on my blog (though I am planning on sharing a small batch version of it soon), my friend Jeanine recently published the recipe on her site, Love and Lemons.
This small batch brownie recipe uses 4 Tablespoons salted OR unsalted butter to make the brownies.
Most folks think that brownies are defined by chocolate. But butter plays a big part in the way brownies taste, too. For this small batch brownie recipe, you can use either unsalted or salted butter without changing the flavor too much.
This small batch brownie recipe uses 1 teaspoon Dutch-processed OR natural unsweetened cocoa powder to make the brownies.
Cocoa powder, when used in baking recipes, often comes in two varieties: natural unsweetened, and Dutch-processed.
Natural unsweetened cocoa powder is more typical and is cocoa powder in its purest form. It is slightly reddish brown in color and results in deeply flavored chocolate goods. Because it is slightly acidic, it is often paired with baking soda in baking recipes to help create a chemical reaction that will cause the baked good to rise in the oven.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder is natural unsweetened cocoa powder that’s been treated with alkaline to neutralize its acidity, giving it a darker color and milder flavor. It is the cocoa powder that is used for making midnight-black baked goods like Oreos.
Because this brownie recipe does not contain any leaveners, you can use whichever cocoa powder you prefer without any changes in texture. Just note that using Dutch-processed cocoa powder will result in darker colored brownies.
I don’t have either Dutch-processed or natural unsweetened cocoa powder. What can I substitute it with?
If you have neither types of cocoa powder on hand, no worries! You can still make these small batch brownies. Simply omit the cocoa powder in the recipe and just use the melted chocolate. Doing so, however, will result in brownies that are fudgier and more ganache-like. That’s because the cocoa powder is what gives these brownies a slightly chewy texture.
This small batch brownie recipe uses ¼ cup dark OR light brown sugar to make the brownies.
Most brownie recipes primarily use white sugar in their recipe. However, I like the extra moisture and flavor that brown sugar gives in these brownies. In a pinch, you can use either light or dark brown sugar.
Equipment You Need to Make Small Batch Brownies
To make the small batch brownies, you will need a handful of “specialty” tools:
A 9 x 5-inch or 8 x 4-inch Loaf Pan
The original recipe for Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownies is baked in a traditional 9 x 13-inch pan. This 9 x 13-inch pan is also known as a quarter sheet pan. To quarter the recipe, you’ll need to use a baking pan with that has a surface area a quarter of that size. These specialty pans actually DO exist—they’re known as ⅛ sheet pans, or “eighth sheet pans”. But it’s rare that the average person will have one in their cupboard, so I worked to find another pan.
Luckily, I learned from one of my baker friends, Christina at Dessert For Two, that a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan basically has the same surface area as an eighth sheet pan. This small batch brownie recipe won’t fill up the pan like it would if you were making a loaf cake, but it will make enough batter to completely cover the bottom of a pan. You can also use a smaller 8 x 4-inch loaf pan, too—just know that your brownies will come out slightly thicker. That being said, if you have an eighth sheet pan, use it in this recipe! Because of the pan’s shallow sides, it’s easier to see how the brownies are cooking.
I don’t have either a 9 x 5-inch, an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan, OR an eight sheet pan. What else can I use instead?
Other pans that could potentially work when making small batch brownies include a 6-inch round cake pan, or, as one of my Instagram followers reported back, this 4 x 4-inch cutie of a pan. However, you may need to adjust Bake Time. I also can’t personally vouch for the results as I have only tried the recipe in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
A Double Boiler
To make small batch fudge brownies, you’ll need to melt the chocolate and butter together before using it in the batter. Always melt chocolate in a double boiler. Chocolate is especially sensitive to heat, so melting it directly in a pan will cause it to burn and scorch. A double boiler works by adding an extra layer of protection between what you’re cooking and the heat source.
I don’t have a double boiler. What else can I use instead?
If you don’t have a double boiler, don’t fret! Because here’s a secret—despite being a legitimate cookbook author and professional baking blogger, I have never owned a double boiler. You can make a homemade version instead by setting a heatproof glass bowl over a medium sauce pan filled with 1 to 2 inches of water and cooking everything on medium heat. Just make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl! And if you’re having a hard time visualizing this, I suggest checking out my Instagram Stories where I demo this recipe in a tutorial (complete with videos!).
And finally, some folks prefer to melt chocolate in a microwave. Simply stick both the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and blitz at 20-second intervals. You’ll need to stir it after every 20 seconds to encourage melting and prevent the chocolate from scorching.
How to Make Small Batch Brownies
One of the things I love the most about my Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownie recipe is how QUICK and EASY it is to actually make them. Luckily, the small batch version is, too:
- Prep the chocolate. (Prep Time: <5 minutes)
If you’re using your favorite chocolate bar in this recipe, you’ll need to chop it into smaller 1- to 2-inch pieces to help it melt faster. However, if you’re using chocolate chips (or even feves or baking discs), there’s no need for this step!
- Melt the chocolate, butter, and cocoa powder. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
Melting the chocolate, butter and cocoa powder together is probably the most time consuming part of the recipe. Thankfully, because this recipe is small batch and uses such small quantities of each ingredient, it melts at half the time it usually takes!
- Whisk together the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. (Work Time: 1 minute)
There’s no need to mix for an extended period like you would if making cookies; all you need to do is moisten the ingredients!
- Mix in the melted chocolate, then the flour. (Work Time: 3 minutes)
You’ll need to add the melted chocolate to the sugar mixture a little bit at a time. Don’t add it too quickly and all at once! You might accidentally scramble the egg that way. Slow and steady does the trick. It also helps to constantly whisk the egg mixture as you add the chocolate. You can see a video demo of how I did this on my Instagram Story tutorial for this recipe.
Once the chocolate mixture is added, you’ll need to mix in the flour. Similar to whisking the sugars and egg together, don’t overmix! Just mix until the dry ingredients have disappeared into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the pan and garnish with chocolate chips. (Work Time: 2 minutes)
Pour the batter into your prepped loaf pan and use a rubber spatula to scrape every last bit of it in. Use the spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Now, garnish with chocolate chips—you can use as little or as much as you want here!
Small Batch Brownie Recipe Troubleshooting
FAQ: Small Batch Brownie Recipe Results
Why don’t my brownies have the shiny paper crinkle sugar top?
It’s likely that you either a) used too much flour, b) used too little sugar, or c) baked the brownies for too long. It’s easy to use too much flour when using volume measures. A lot of people don’t have the right technique when using measuring cups. Don’t use the measuring cup to scoop the flour in the bag and pack it down into the cup. Instead, set the measuring cup on the counter and then spoon the dry ingredients into it. Once it’s formed a small mound, don’t pack it down. Use a butter knife or bench scraper to level it off.
While this technique works best for ingredients like flour, you’ll need to do the exact opposite for measuring brown sugar. Spoon the brown sugar into the measuring cup. Once it’s formed a small mound, pack it down, then add more brown sugar until it is level with the top of the measuring cup.
Finally, if you used the techniques above OR used weight measures (which I always recommend, since you won’t need to fuss with the techniques I just outlined) and are STILL experiencing issues, it’s likely that the brownies were overbaked. Check out the baker’s notes below on how to test brownies for doneness.
Best Small Batch Brownie Recipe Tips
Best Baking Tip
- It’s better to pull the brownies out of the oven early than leave them in too long—if you over bake the brownies, they’ll be tough. They might appear underbaked, but I promise that when they’ve cooled, they will be perfect.
Best Serving Tip
- I mentioned throughout the post that this small batch brownie recipe makes 8 petite brownies, or 2 large bakery-style brownies. To make 8 petite brownies, unmold the brownies from the pan and slice them lengthwise. Hold the two long slices together, and slice them into quarters crosswise. This will create 8 petite brownie squares. For 2 large bakery-style brownies, simply slice the unmolded brownie block into two halves crosswise.
Video Tutorial for Small Batch Brownies Recipe
Use the video player below to watch my Instagram Story tutorial on how to make this small batch brownies recipe! The arrows to the left and right of the frame allow you to skip through the different recipe steps. You can also hit the “pause” or “enlarge” buttons on the upper right hand side of the frame to pause or enlarge the frames accordingly.
Alternatively, head to my Instagram profile to watch these Stories on mobile! The circles underneath my bio indicate saved Instagram Story highlights depicting various recipes. Clicking on one of the circles will play the videos you see above. You may need to scroll right to find this small batch brownie recipe.
More Brownie Recipes
- For the full sized batch recipe… Better-Than-Supernatural Fudge Brownies
- For an all cocoa powder brownie recipe… Best Homemade Brownies on Love and Lemons
- For you caramel lovers… Dulce De Leche Brownies
- For you fruit lovers… Blueberry Brownies
- For you tahini lovers… Tahini and Halva Floss Brownies
More Small Batch Recipes
Small Batch Brownies Recipe
For the Small Batch Brownies
- 2 ounces (or 57 grams) dark chocolate (between 60% to 70% cacao), from whole feves/baking discs, chocolate chips, or a bar chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces
- 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted OR salted butter
- 1 teaspoon Dutch-processed OR natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup tightly packed (1.85 ounces or 52 grams) light OR dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup (1.75 ounces or 50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (1.15 ounces or 33 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- chocolate chips
- flaky salt
For the Small Batch Brownies
- Prep your oven and pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the pan's two long sides. Spray the parchment, too.
- Make the brownies. Place the chocolate, butter, and cocoa powder in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan filled with a few inches of simmering water (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Cook over medium heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir the mixture and scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the chocolate and butter have melted and combined, about 5 minutes. Set the double boiler or bowl on a wire rack and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly while you prep the other ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars, egg, and vanilla. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture while whisking. Continue whisking while smooth, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the batter all at once and use a rubber spatula to mix until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Sprinkle the batter with chocolate chips.
- Bake the brownies. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
- Serve and store. Run a butter knife or offset spatula along the edges of the pan and use the overhanging parchment as handles to lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Follow the instructions in the baker's notes to slice into 8 petite brownie squares, or 2 large bakery-style brownies. Garnish with flaky salt and serve. The brownies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.
This post was last updated on 9/4/2020.
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NO TIME TO BAKE?!
Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.