Tips for Preparation and Baking
- Use butter, stick margarine (with at least 80% oil) or shortening. Whipped, tub, soft, liquid or reduced-fat products contain air and water and will produce flat, tough bars or brownies.
- Avoid overmixing the batter. If it's handled too much, the gluten in the flour will be developed and the bars or brownies will be tough.
- Use dull aluminum baking pans or glass dishes. Dark-colored pans may cause overbrowning.
- Grease the pan with shortening or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- To easily remove bars and brownies from a pan, line the bottom of the pan with foil, then grease. Add the batter and bake as directed.
- It's important to evenly spread batter in the pan. If one corner is thinner than another, it will bake faster and be overbaked when the rest of the pan is done.
- Center the pan in the middle of the oven.
- Use a kitchen timer. Check bars when the minimum baking time has been reached, baking longer if needed. Follow doneness tests given in individual recipes.
Tips for Cutting Bars and Brownies
- A large pizza cutter will make quick work of cutting a pan of bars. A bench knife can also be used to cut bar cookies. Press the bench knife down into the cookies to cut; don't drag it through. You'll be rewarded with straight, clean edges on your bars.
- For picture-perfect brownies and bars, bake bars in a foil-lined pan and use the foil to lift them out after they're cooled. Trim the edges of the bars or brownies, then cut into bars, squares or diamonds. The scraps can be crumbled and used as a topping for ice cream or pudding.
- An 8-in. square pan will yield 16 (2-in.) squares or 64 (1-in.) squares. A 9-in. square pan will yield 54 (1-1/2-in. x 1-in.) bars or 81 (1-in.) squares. A 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. pan will yield 78 (1-1/2-in. x 1-in.) bars.
- Cover a pan of uncut brownies and bars with foil - or put the pan in a large resealable plastic bag. (If made with perishable ingredients, like cream cheese, they should be covered and refrigerated.) Once the bars are cut, store them in an airtight container.
- Most bars and brownies freeze well for up to 3 months. To freeze a pan of uncut bars, place in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Or wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and stack in an airtight container. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
- Generally, bars and brownies should cool completely on a wire rack before being cut. However, crisp bars should be cut while still slightly warm.
- Cutting granola bars can be a sticky business. To make it easier, spritz the knife with nonstick cooking spray before starting to cut, repeating as needed.
- When making a small batch of chocolate chip cookies, line a 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and then spread the entire batch of dough in the pan. After it's baked and has cooled for 5 minutes, cut the giant cookie into squares with a pizza cutter. This method cuts prep time and cleanup time!
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