The Ultimate Guide to Baking Brownies & Bars

Take a look at our definitive guide to baking better brownies and dessert bars.

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When I was growing up, my mom’s go-to dessert was always brownies—the fudgy kind, like what you’d make with this 5-star fudge brownie recipe. Whether it was for a school function, family party or quick gift to the neighbors, brownies were the answer.

Now, baking up a from-scratch batch of brownies (or lemon bars…or cheesecake bars) is as easy as reaching for the boxed stuff, thanks to Taste of Home’s bounty of recipes, baking techniques, Test Kitchen secrets and more. Keep reading for the insight that will make your next batch of dessert bars the best you’ve ever made.

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Classic Dessert Bar Recipes

If your recipe book is in need of some dependable dessert bar recipes, look no further. Each bite of our most iconic brownies and bars will take you right back to your childhood.

Mastered the basics? Here’s are our picks for what to make next:

Dessert Bar Baking Tips

Get your bar baking technique down to a science with must-have tips from our staffers. You’ll practically be able to make a batch in your sleep!

The Gear You Need to Start Baking Dessert Bars

Still using a pan from the ’90s? Update your baking arsenal with the same tools and supplies that our Test Kitchen reaches for.

Stoneware Baker casserole

8×8 Pans for Smaller Batches

  • Invest in a quality spatula: Slice and serve with our Test Kitchen’s favorite spatula from Fox Run ($8). 
  • Stock up on the essentials: If your baking skills don’t stop at brownies, make sure you check out our Test Kitchen’s recommendations for general baking supplies. These tools will help for cakes, cookies, pies and more.
  • Take a cheat day: If you can’t stay away from store-bought, try the best brownie mix brand that won over our editors in a blind taste test.

Dessert Bar FAQs

There’s so much more to know about this go-to potluck dessert. Check out our answers to some of the most common questions.

Q: Is baking powder necessary for brownies?

A: Nope! Baking powder is a leavening agent. This means that when you add it to your brownie mix, it’ll produce a fluffier, more cake-like texture—kind of like these moist cake brownies. For more fudgy brownies, like these peanut butter marshmallow brownies, the baking powder is omitted to prevent the batter from getting puffed up.

Learn about the difference between baking powder and baking soda (because there is one).

Q: How do you know when a cookie bar is done?

A: Your bars should be set and slightly browned. Insert a toothpick in the center of the bars; if it comes out clean, they’re ready to be removed from the oven.

Q: Why aren’t my brownies cooked?

A: There are a few reasons your brownies might have not baked within the time listed on the recipe. The first could be that your oven isn’t getting up to the temperature you’re setting it to. Luckily, we have a handy guide for recalibrating your oven’s temp (and it’s really easy).

Another reason could be that you’ve used the wrong pan for the recipe. Glass pans take longer to heat up and cool down, so a good amount of heat may not reach the center of your batter, resulting in undercooked brownies. It’s best to use a dull, aluminum baking pan when baking these treats.

Over the years we’ve had many readers ask about the best pan for baking brownies, so we went ahead and developed a line that’ll help your desserts bake to perfection every time. Check out our 5-piece bakeware set.

Q: How many bars does a 13×9 pan hold?

A: About two dozen—but it really depends on how you large or small you cut the dessert. Take a look at our tips for cutting dessert bars like a pro (and know how many you’ll end up with).

Bake These Next

Don’t stop at brownies and bars! Take a look at some of our other party-ready desserts.

Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.