I call these my brownie top cookies; so if you like that top layer of a brownie that has a bit a of crackly crust with a thin bit of fudginess underneath, this is the dessert for you. Brownies are essentially chocolate cake with a lot less flour - that higher fat ratio is what gives brownies their hallmark fudgy texture.
This recipe uses the same ingredients as pan brownies but I've altered the amounts just a tad to get the right spread and texture. The taste is pure chocolate with a buttery aftertaste and is largely based on the cocoa powder you choose, which we'll cover below.
I came up with these brownie tops accidentally. I was trying to make a thick circular layer out of brownies. They were supposed stack inside my mini cakes as a brownie layer - so pretty thick (I was going for about 3/4" thick) and fudgy.
They ended up baking super thin in the oven. And then I tasted them - and I knew they would be juusssst fine. I figured I'd just keep them as a cookie recipe instead.
There are muffin tops for those that enjoy only the top portion of muffins - so here is the cookie for people who love the crackly top of a brownie.
I made a few modifications with the ingredient amounts to make sure they spread a little less but the final cookie is still pretty thin; they're about the height of a single Oreo cookie layer not including the cream.
The ingredients for my brownie top cookies are what you would normally see in a brownies with a fudgy texture with some slight modifications. These cookies are all in the technique.
Tips for success
Have your trays and scoop ready. I line my trays with parchment paper but silicone mats should work fine too. You'll want to scoop them immediately after that last step of mixing in the flour.
Almost all the powders in this recipe are finely ground, so I highly suggest weighing ingredients. Cocoa powder and confectioner's (powdered) sugar in particular can be difficult to measure by volume. Use the scoop and level method to ensure you don't add too much powder. The cocoa powder, if added in excess, will create a cookie that won't deflate after you take it out of the oven. They will also not deflate if you don't use the right amount of egg yolks, so make sure they are from large eggs.
You can make these brownie cookies using any cocoa powder you prefer. Since this is the only ingredient contributing that chocolate flavor, try to use one that you really like. I purposely do not like using chocolate chips or bars to add chocolate to brownies because all chocolates have different fat and cocoa contents - by using cocoa powder, which is more reliable, I can ensure that you get a super chocolatey brownie top with a crinkly top.
There's no leavening (or rising of the batter) in these brownie tops like we use in cakes, so it doesn't matter which unsweetened cocoa powder you choose in that regard. (That usually matters because cocoa powders have different pH's, which can mess with the rise of cakes.) I'm planning on doing a more comprehensive review on cocoa powders, but here's a quick cheat sheet for you:
NATURAL COCOA: lighter in color and more acidic tasting. Strong and assertive chocolate flavor. Common brands: Hershey's, Ghirardelli
DUTCH-PROCESSED or EUROPEAN COCOA: darker or redder in color, less acidic and more mellow chocolate flavor. Common brands: Hershey's Special Dark, Droste, Ghirardelli Dark
BLACK: looks like charcoal, very alkaline; this is how Oreos get their flavor/color. But don't use all black cocoa in your recipes - it's too strong, so if you want use it, try it with Dutch-processed like I do in my recipe below. Common Brands: Cocoa Trader (This ingredient is hard to find in stores so I buy mine from Amazon, here)
Mix the egg yolks + sugar for the full 5 minutes on high speed. Use the highest speed possible (after the powdered sugar has been mixed in) with the whisk attachment with either a stand or hand mixer.
This is an egg foaming method; this means you're creating air bubbles in the egg yolks and it's being stabilized by the powdered sugar. This is what's causing the puffiness while it bakes and the crackly crust on top of brownies.
Right after you mix the flour in, start scooping! The sooner you get the brownie batter scooped and onto the tray, the smoother that crackly top will bake up in the oven. Sometimes it's not until the cookie cools and deflates that you will see the cracks, so don't worry if you don't see crackling right away.
You will see them get puffy in the oven, then deflate when you take them out to cool. What's happening is that steam is enlarging the air pockets you created in the egg foaming with the egg yolks and sugar. There's not quite enough starch to hold those air pockets in place, so as the steam leaves the cookie, they deflate then they cool. This is normal and is great if you love fudgy brownies. They are condensing into that chocolatey and chewy goodness by doing that.
Alright! Time to get baking, so here's the recipe! Happy baking!
Brownie Tops (Cookies)- Blackout Flavor*
8-10 thin 5" brownie cookies; or 12-14 3" cookies
9 tablespoons (127g) unsalted butter
7 tablespoons (36g) Dutch-process cocoa*
2 tablespoons (11g) black cocoa*
3 large (51g) egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (170g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt (I use Diamond Kosher)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 350°F/177°C
Line two baking trays with parchment paper or silicone. You'll want these to be ready because you'll want to scoop immediately after making the batter.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the unsalted butter. (OK using a double boiler too) Stir in your cocoa powders and set aside.
To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer) add your egg yolks and powdered sugar. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes until very thick and pale yellow in color. (This is an important step for the crackles in the crust - use high power for the full 5 minutes and a stand mixer if you have it.)
Using a spatula, stir in your melted butter/cocoa powder mixture, salt, and vanilla extract. It will be pretty thick. Just keep stirring until and you will see if go from bubbly and questionable looking to thick/smooth/shiny.
Add your all-purpose flour and stir just until combined (again, it will be thick) Scoop out your batter and drop your brownies onto your baking sheets. Allow room for spreading so depending on your scoop size, about 6-9 per tray. Make sure to scoop all of your batter out now because as the sugar dissolves more into the batter, it can give irregular tops on your cookies.
Bake for 10-12 minutes for a 3 tablespoon scoop (9-10 mins for a 1.5 tablespoon scoop). At the very end you will see your brownie cookies start to get really puffy and matte tops. That's an indication that they're about 1-2 minutes from being done.
Pull the pan out and let the cookies sit on sheet for 3-5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. The brownies cookies will slowly deflate and you will see the cracks. They will be quite thin, so be careful when moving them while they're still warm.
💌 Notes from Adriana
* You can use any type of unsweetened cocoa that you prefer - natural, Dutch-process, or the blackout version I have written here. That combination of Dutch-process and black makes them taste like Oreos. Just make sure that the total amount of cocoa powder you choose is 9 tablespoons (47g).
Hi! I'm Adriana.
I built this site for the curious home baker. I'm a huge science + tech nerd; you'll feel right at home if you like exploring and experimenting in the kitchen too.
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