Bakers - I need your help!


#1

As many of you undoubtedly know, I’ve been playing with baking Soylent brownies for months now. I’ve made many batches… at least a dozen I’m sure… and every one of them has been quite tasty.

But, tasty alone is not enough for me now that I’m actually looking to deliver brownies to those of you who backed my Soylent Brownie Kickstarter this summer! It’s about more than just tasting good, it’s about texture, consistency, etc.

This is where I’m having trouble, and am appealing to you all for some possible help. My batches have turned out a variety of different ways, from chewy, to cakey, to almost cookie-like. But frankly I have yet to have any of them turn out “perfect” like a traditional commercial brownie would. My guess is that this is due at least in part to the actual ingredients of Soylent (perhaps the lack of gluten?), but that’s just a guess.

So, does anyone here know what particular ingredients might influence specific qualities? I’ve experimented several times with leaving out the baking soda to see how it would influence the result, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference.

I’m also making small batches because I don’t really want to burn through an entire bag of Soylent at a time for a test batch. I’ve got a whole bunch of experiments logged, and have cooked them both with a microwave and traditional oven. Even did a batch in the toaster oven… doesn’t seem to make a huge difference really, though the microwave ones tend to not crack on top like the oven-baked ones sometimes do.

Here is my latest recipe from earlier today. Most of the others are pretty similar, so any pointers anyone can give on what to add or how to change the process (more or less cooking, temperature issues, cooling issues, whatever!) I would sure appreciate your input.

2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 4 tsp canola oil

1 cup Soylent
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbls cocoa powder

Line pan with wax paper
Bake 5 minutes on high (microwave)
Cool on wire rack for 3 hours
cut & serve

Taste is quite good as usual, but texture is definitely a bit dry. They are slightly chewy, but just not what I would really want out of the perfect brownie. They are slightly tough to cut at first, then give way with a crispness, almost like a cookie.


#2

@leecauble1 I recall you had a family member who was a professional baker. Has she perhaps had any tips she’s shared with you about getting a good brownie consistency with Soylent?


#3

Cooling for 3 hours? Are they uncovered while cooling? Probably a good deal of moisture being lost during that time if uncovered.


#4

Yes I left them uncovered, I remembered Lee’s original post mentioning that covering them right away was a bad idea…


#5

I wouldn’t cover them right away , but maybe 15-20 mins cooling max uncovered…All that precious moisture and flavor are just being evap’d out


#6

The “gluten free” nature of Soylent is what makes the batter sooo sticky. You could try adding a small amount of potatoe flour (1/4 cup) to the dry ingredients. This is what is used in gluten free cake and brownie mixes. Add an extra egg white for moisture.


#7

But stickiness isn’t an issue at all. That’s only been a problem when making cookies. For brownies, if anything they’ve come out a bit too dry. I’ve even tried adding extra oil to make up for that but so far it hasn’t done the trick.

I’ll try another batch that I cover after 15-20 minutes, see if that helps. Thanks @Muggle!


#8

No problem! I’d actually use the 15-20 as a starting point and work backwards…Probably capping it at 5mins total cooling before covering


#9

Will do! Another trick I read about is to rapidly cool (i.e. refrigerate) the brownies after cooking, if you want more of a fudge consistency. I tried this yesterday as well and found that the next day (as in this morning), after being stored at room temperature, the brownies are a pretty nice consistency. Still a little dry, but they are chewy and of course quite tasty. I wouldn’t exactly call them fudge though… they’re pretty far from that. But it was an interesting possible addition to the process. They also turned out quite a bit darker than the batch I cooled strictly at room temperature. Same ingredients otherwise, so not sure what’s up with that.


#10

Don’t know if this will help since its about cookies not brownies, but http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/09/04/345530660/the-science-behind-baking-your-ideal-chocolate-chip-cookie?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

EDIT: also I remember hearing that xanthan gum is necessary in gluten free breads, something to do with the way gluten holds things together. I know soylent already has some xanthan gum, perhaps more is required?

DOUBLE EDIT: also about cookies, also very scientific. http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2013/12/the-food-lab-the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies.html?ref=search


#11

@vanclute I just noticed you turn them out onto a cooling rack. The air circulating around all sides may be a factor. Try letting them cool in the pan completely. Just a hunch.


#12

Thanks for the suggestion! Using a rack to cool them is actually a very recent change, prior to these last couple batches I just always let them cool in the pan. I thought maybe that was a part of the problem. Doesn’t seem like it makes any real difference at all.

I’ll look into the xanthan gum @malove2play, maybe I need to make a much thinner batter, but thicken it with the gum. Worth experimenting for sure!


#13

Wow those were really great articles, thanks for sharing! I searched on the seriouseats site for brownies and found this gluten free brownie recipe. I think I’m going to have to play with it, but holy cow the amount of sugar and butter! I’m going to experiment with greatly reducing them and see if I can manage to not lose too much in translation. Interesting also to note that it uses Xanthan gum!

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone!


#14

Looking back at some of my earliest experiments, I think the issue might be that I started omitting the butter. I just made a batch using 1 stick of butter again as I did in one of my first tests. Will know late tonight or tomorrow how much of a difference it has. I suspect it’ll be significant!


#15

You should consider attempting a variety of temperatures and mixing methods. Microwave brownies lose a lot of moisture and are hard to make work because you aren’t forming a solid enough crust by the time it reaches a peak temperature.

If you suspect this is the problem, try beating the eggs more. Beat them enough to make a wiser chef than you cringe, lean over, and say “I think you’re overbeating those eggs, they’re getting kind of thin.”

Because the thinner you beat the eggs, the faster they will dry out when heated, and the sooner you’ll form a crust. The sooner you form a crust, the more moisture that will stay trapped.

You aren’t making an omelette, you’re making a shell. A hard, delicious, chocolate shell.


#16

I just looked back at my original brownie recipe. I had 2/3 cup of water. That used a full bag of Soylent. I see you do not have any water in your mix. You do have considerably more oil. Try reducing the oil to 1/3 cup and adding water 1/4 cup. Also which version are you using.? What size pan? I have some 1.0 and 1.1 on hand. I’m willing to sacrifice for science.


#17

That is part of the problem yes, the brownies aren’t getting that classic brownie crust. But then they really didn’t in the conventional oven either. I may try beating the eggs a lot more though… thanks for the suggestions!

I just tried a batch last night and did 2 eggs + 1/4 cup water + 1 stick butter and no added oil. Initial impression after they cooled was actually that previous attempts were better. I notice that your original recipe used only 1 egg for an entire bag of Soylent… I found more egg to help a lot in terms of making the brownies soft & a little fluffier, but I keep trying to lower the amount of ingredients for both simplicity and nutrition (less sugar & fat, primarily). Here’s the recipe from one of my better earliest microwave batches…

1 stick butter
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 scoops Soylent (~2/3 cup)

Since then I’ve run out of vanilla and found it wasn’t really needed anyway, and I’ve been trying to not need the butter. I’ve also reduced the cocoa powder down to 2 Tbls which still seems to be plenty. Also this batch used white sugar and I’ve been using brown ever since. Maybe that’s got something to do with it too, as I read in one of those “cookie science” articles.

Oh and I’ve been using the remainder of our 1.1 these last batch of experiments as I wanted to use it up and don’t much care to drink it.


#18

So to continue the saga… my batch last night that included butter and quite a bit more cocoa and sugar, isn’t very good. In fact, though it is edible I’d say this is probably the worst batch I’ve made yet. Too bitter at first taste, and too sweet in the aftertaste. Also the consistency is very dense, not terribly brownie-like at all.

I’m starting to think that I need to have a MUCH thinner batter than I would imagine at the start, so that a lot of the water can be cooked away and still end up with a moist end result. I remember one batch that I was sure wasn’t going to work out because it was way too liquid as I poured it into the pan, but it actually turned out quite good. I’m gonna try something in that direction next…


#19

Why don’t you try your usual recipe and just cover them sooner?


#20

Yeah I’ve done that too, one of my earliest batches I covered pretty much right away. Didn’t seem to make any difference.