The first couple of times I tried brownie brittle was actually when I'd made them myself at home from a couple of different recipes I'd found online. I thought they were great. Then I tried the ever popular hot commodity, Sheila G's. Wow. How did she make it all so light and so airy and so crisp? I was on a mission to find out.
The difference between hers and the online copycats I'd tried is that glorious light, airy, and crisp texture. It is a spectacular mixed breed of meringue, cookie, and brownie. The recipes I tried (all using egg whites) had a crispy snap, they were harder and tougher. They were just not the same.
That's when it occurred to me to use meringue powder instead of plain old egg whites. And immediately after that, it occurred to me to check her ingredients list (you'd think I would have done that first!). There on her ingredients list: dry egg whites and cornstarch. Meaning: meringue powder.
Meringue powder is a little baking weapon you can find in your big box crafts store. It is a combination of egg white powder and cornstarch. Like egg whites, it gives baked goods body and stability. Its advantage over egg whites: you don't need to figure out what to do with the yolks, you can keep it in the pantry for years, and you can store your baked goods much longer than if using fresh or carton egg whites (not that these brittles need long-term storing in our household!).
Instead of butter, use margarine and you will see why in the ingredients list.
After several trials and errors, which happily fed friends and neighbors, I am proud to achieve copycat brownie brittles with that heavenly light and crispy crumb, just like Sheila G's. Unlike Sheila G's, I used a rich cocoa to give that deep chocolatey depth. The process is so fast and easy, it might take some resistance to try not to make them so often!
Step 1: Ingredients
I highlighted some atypical ingredients on the package that can be easily replaced by typical ingredients at our local grocery stores:
Highlighted in yellow: Palm Kernel, Palm Oil, Soybean Oil ----> all fats found in margarine (which gives more fluffiness to baked goods than butter)
Highlighted in green: Dry Egg Whites, Cornstarch ----> two main ingredients in meringue powder, as noted in the intro (found at crafts stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn, AC Moore in the US; found at Michaels and Bulk Barn in Canada)
Highlighted in blue: Soy Lecithin, Dry Milk ----> found in milk chocolate
Ingredients you will need:
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup icing/confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (I used natural cocoa by Ghirardelli for a much deeper chocolate flavor than processed cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup margarine
3 tablespoons milk chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli baking chips)
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons caramel baking chips (I found the Ghirardelli caramel chips to be larger than usual, so I piped them on a pan to make smaller chips)
Stand mixer or hand mixer
1 extra large cookie sheet (I used 15"x21") or 2 standard size cookie sheets
Sieve or sifter
Step 2: Meringue
1. In a bowl, combine meringue powder and water and whisk on high speed.
2. Slowly add granulated sugar.
3. Whisk on high speed until firm peaks are formed.
Step 3: Add Dry Ingredients
1. Place a sieve above the bowl of meringue, and combine all purpose flour, icing sugar, cocoa, and baking soda.
2. Stir the dry ingredients as they are sifted through the sieve.
3. Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue until combined.
Step 4: Add Wet Ingredients
1. In separate bowls, melt margarine and MILK chocolate chips.
2. Add melted margarine to batter.
3. Mix until combined.
4. Pour batter on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. If you do not have a large 15"x21" sheet, you will need 2 standard cookie sheets.
5. Using an offset spatula, spread the batter to less than 1/8" thickness. The batter must be very thin as it will rise slightly during baking. (And you want it to rise, thanks to the baking soda -- those air bubbles will make the brittles light and not tough.)
6. Drizzle melted milk chocolate chips on the batter and smear on the surface of the batter.
This addition of milk chocolate to the surface is what brings that crackly texture during baking. I've done several trials without this step and results were always a smooth surface. I had read somewhere that it is the soy lecithin and milk powder combination in the milk chocolate that aids in and guarantees the cracking surface of the brownie. The milk chocolate also adds more chocolate flavor to the product, which is always a good thing!
Step 5: Bake
Preheat oven to 300F
1. Add caramel chips and sea salt to first half of the batter.
2. Add chocolate chips to second half of the batter.
3. Bake for 25 minutes.
4. Quickly remove from oven and immediately cut to smaller pieces using pizza cutter. Just make cut lines and do not separate pieces just yet.
5. Immediately return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and slide parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool for 15 minutes.
7. Crack and get hooked!!