Brownie with crunchy, crinkly top

I've used so many recipes but the elusive crinkly top never appears. I've read you should beat the eggs and sugar with a blender for 5 minutes, that you should just fold beaten eggs in gently. I've tried more egg whites and more egg yolks. I tried 325 for 30 minutes and 400 for 18. The brownies always turn out awesome but no distinct crinkly top layer.

I've tried Claire Saffitz's complicated Forever Brownies and tried all the ideas that Adam Ragusea explores and a bunch of others besides. Some people blog about this tissue-thin layer on top but I'm like "maybe??" when i make it.

Why is this so elusive and non-repeatable and why does everyone say that they have the solution and then do the opposite of what someone else says is the one secret? Is this possible or just a fever dream? And if it is possible at all, is it possible to make it thicker?

If it helps, here's the recipe I've cobbled together but I've done a few variations with type of sugar, order of ingredients, and temps (discussed in the recipe). It's the normal number of ingredients as many common recipes. It has a lot more steps but only because I'm making some steps very explicit.

145 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
250 grams (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar
80 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
1 tsp espresso powder
1/4 (rounded) tsp kosher salt
1 tsp (5 g) vanilla extract
2 large cold eggs + 1 yolk
30 grams (scant 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

1. Chop 150-170 g chopped pieces of chocolate bar, 60 g of it unsweetened. Set aside.
2. Butter an 8x8 metal pan then dust with cocoa powder.
3. Pre-heat oven to 325°. Or 400°. (see instructions)
4. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl add 145 g butter and 250 g sugar. 5. Place in microwave and cook covered for 4 minutes on 3 power. Remove and stir vigorously.
5. Add 2 eggs plus one yolk and beat until well incorporated and you can’t see any egg.
6. Add the cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
7. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
8. Fold in flour, stirring just until no dry flour remains.
9. Pour into prepared pan and use spoon or spatula to spread mixture around if necessary.
10. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes for super gooey brownies with no crunchy corners (my favorite!) or cook at 400° for 18 mins for crunchy sides. Optional: Rotate pan halfway through the cooking.
11. While brownie is baking, prepare larger pan with water and ice. When done, place brownie pan in ice bath to shock it to arrest cooking.
12. When pan is cool (at least 5 minutes) remove and set aside in cool part of the kitchen or in fridge for at least an hour, before cutting.
13. Cut into 25 or 16 pieces. I like smaller pieces if they’re even throughout and larger pieces if the sides and corners are crunchy.

David Dawson


Josh S. February 28, 2024
Incredible post.
carolynquinn November 2, 2023
The goal is to aerate the eggs and sugar so much that they create a foam.
carolynquinn November 2, 2023
The goal is to aerate the eggs and sugar so much that they create a foam.
edmundfetter September 21, 2023
I followed your recipe and made a brownie with crunchy, crinkly top. It is so yummy. I can eat it while playing geometry dash lite. Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe.
HalfPint March 15, 2023
I use this recipe from King Arthur Baking,

In step 3, the recipe developer (PJ Hamel) explains that heating the butter/sugar to 110-120F produces a shiny top crust, which is what I believe you are seeking.
David D. March 15, 2023
Thanks, HalfPint. Love the username.

My recipe does involve heating the sugar and butter together. It's not bubbling or sputtering but it is warm when I'm vigorously mixing them together. What I get is sometimes shiny and maybe (??) has a slight crust. Fortunately, they're always tasty and I have some very great (and grateful) friends and neighbors who will take my experiments off my hands and my waistband is grateful to my community for helping.

My next step is to work down to basics. I've seen some three-ingredient recipes that I'm going to go with. I'm planning to halve the recipes, make smaller, more frequent batches to play around some more.
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