One Size Fits All Dessert

Jonathan Chodosh

This one is going to be short and (bitter)sweet, just like making these chocolatey recipes should be. Dessert is a course that can either take no time to make (especially if you buy ready-to-eat) or a long time (when you sit decorating your little cartoon character birthday party cookies.) Here is a one size fits all chocolatey cake/brownie/cookie recipe.  One dry mix fits the bill for all three. Change the ‘wet’ part to make them what they need to be.

Let’s explore a bit of what makes these deserts different, in addition to the different flavors contributed from the subtly changing ingredients. Two major differences contributed by altering the ‘wet’ portion of the ingredients is the level of gluten development, and flour hydration. The wet portion contains primarily fat (oil, chocolate), and water (eggs, water, liquid). The other ingredients are for flavor or emulsion. We will explore how these factors affect the one size fits all recipes.

In this cake, the gluten (protein in wheat) is near fully developed but weakened by cocoa powder. Gluten traps the lift given off by the baking soda/powder. A fully developed gluten network gives us a light and airy cake. Weakening it gives us a smaller crumb and bubble (in the cake) size. Fully hydrated flour will make the texture moist, almost wet. It will bake to be a texture like bread or cake.

Cookies are as far from the cake as possible. The only water present in the recipe is contributed by the eggs. Gluten is only developed in gluten producing grains in the presence of water. Oil, despite being a liquid is completely dry and void of any water. This near dry recipe will make the least amount of gluten. The cookies will spread when baked and have a slight well from the little gluten made. For cakey cookies look for recipes that contain more water. Want a chewier cookie? Try replacing your all purpose flour with bread flour.

Brownies are an anomaly. Really they shouldn’t be good, but they are heavenly. Whether you like cakey or fudgey, a good brownie is somewhere between a cake and a chocolate custard. They are super forgiving because it is a dough that you can't overwork. The added melted chocolate makes the difference between an under leavened cake and this brownie.

Many desserts require a dry bowl and a wet bowl. Here is a set of three recipes I have come up with that leverage a single dry mix for three separate creations.

Dry mix (per batch)

1 ⅔ Cup Flour

1 ½ Cup Sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

1.5 tsp Baking powder

.25 tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp salt

Mix 2 cups dry mix with the following wet ingredients to get your one size fits all cakes, cookies and brownies. Tip put the wet phase on the dry mix to help prevent a face full of dust.

Brownie Cookie Cake
Choc.chip/chunk 1, Melted 2 - Cups
Neutral oil of choice 3/4 1C, 2 TBS 2/3 Cups
Eggs (large) 2 2 2 Cups
Liquid(water/almond milk) - - 0.75 Cups
Boiling water, (add last) 1/4 - 1 Cups
Vanilla extract 2 2 2 Tsp
Baking Soda - - 1 Tsp
Bake Time 25 12 35+ @ 350 F

Brownie directions: Mix all the ‘wet’ ingredients for the brownies so the chocolate is fully incorporated. Incorporate all the dry ingredients. Bake in your prepared brownie pan.

Cookie directions: In a mixer or immersion blender put the eggs and vanilla. With it on slowly add the oil. It will come together quickly. Add to the dry mix and toss in the chocolate chips. Dish out the cookies and bake.

Cake directions: Mix together the dry and wet ingredients except for the boiling water and baking soda. Mix for 2 minutes in a stand mixer or 4 minutes by hand. Add the boiling water with the baking soda dissolved in it. Mix completely. The batter will seem thin. Move cake to a prepared cake pan and bake. Toothpick test will come out clean. 

It isn’t the fanciest dessert but they are always crowd pleasers. Once committed to memory throw it together in a flash or make the dry mix in bulk for an activity with your kids on those rainy Sundays.