Food

A Great Baking Trick

A Great Baking Trick

The secret to making no-hassle desserts that can feed a crowd is in your cupboard…

Sheet pan cooking has taken the food world by storm for good reason. Dinners are often easier to execute and recipes take less time to bake. So, it’s no wonder Posie Harwood of 600 Acres now uses the approach for her desserts. “Sheet pan baking is ideal for the hesitant or hurried baker because it’s so easy,” she told me. “Dense batters work best — like brownies, pancakes, muffins and pound cakes. You can even make a giant cookie.” The result is a delicious, moist dessert tray with TONS of those crispy edges. Genius, right?

Here’s the recipe for Posie’s favorite sheet pan brownies:

Sheet Pan Brownies
By Posie Harwood of 600 Acres

You’ll need:

6 eggs
2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks)
3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Add the eggs, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder and vanilla to a large bowl or stand mixer. Beat until smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes.

Melt the butter. Add the sugar to the melted butter and heat (if you’re microwaving it, give it about 30 seconds. If using the stovetop, give it about 1 minute). This helps dissolve the sugar which gives the brownies a shinier crust.

Add the butter mixture to your cocoa and egg mixture, and stir until well-combined.

Add the flour and chocolate chips to the batter and stir until smooth. Don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into your prepared sheet pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs.

Cool before slicing.

Thank you so much, Posie!

Thoughts? Any other baking tricks you use?

P.S. More recipes, including a crumble that works for any fruit, and one-ingredient ice cream.

(Recipe and photo by Posie Harwood.)

  1. The nice thing about this sheet pan brownie recipe is that there will be more crust pieces!

  2. Snow says...

    If I wanted to make these on the quarter sheet size baking trays I have (thanks for explaining the size differences) would i just halve this recipe?
    Or could I bake two quarter sheets at the same time one on a rack above the other? (I have a small oven)

  3. Alison says...

    Hi Posie, I just baked these and they smell divine! (They are going to an event so I had to walk away before I was tempted to sneak a taste). Just a note: in the instructions, you don’t mention when to add the salt. I figured it belonged in the first bowl with the eggs, cocoa powder, etc but you might want to specify.

  4. Random question, CoJ: do you guys have favorite blogs among your team members? I find myself borderline obsessed with Cup of Jo, and I’d love to find other blogs similar to yours (but distinct since there’s nobody like y’all) that I can check every day while running my internet errands. ;) You guys are sort of like a good TV show. I can’t find any good ones that compare, so I watch the series over and over again (ahem, Mad Men). Thanks, ladies!

    • I would love to know.too! This is my go.to blog!

  5. Looks delicious. Tray bakes are a very common thing in Europe, particularly in Ireland and England, where I’m from. There is a joke in Ireland that protestants keep their eggs in the fridge and bake tray bakes all the time (as opposed to catholics who don’t). https://how2livewithcancer.blogspot.ie

  6. Gen says...

    I’m confused as to why baking brownies in a sheet pan is a “baking trick”? Isn’t this what you would typically use to bake them?

    • Jennifer says...

      I think most people (at least I’m the US) bake them in a 9×9 square pan or a 13×9. The sheet pan is much larger but not as deep.

  7. Caroline says...

    Love this!
    If you’re planning to melt the butter might as well brown it too, right?
    And maybe sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top before baking?
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Sarah says...

    “With TONS of those crispy edges. Genius, right?”

    Wait, what?! Am I the only one who hates those crispy edges? I always eat the chewy parts and throw the crispy edges away.

    • Ashley F. says...

      Lol me too! I read that line and said uggh!

    • MaryB says...

      If you look at the picture at the top … I’m pretty sure the crispy edges have been cut off! (Also totally not a fan of crispy edges.)

    • Kate says...

      I LOVE crispy edges (but only when the brownies aren’t overcooked)! I think we need people in the world, or at least at any given dinner party, who like the edges and people who like the middles! We complement each other!

    • Nichole says...

      Not a fan of crispy edges, either (cue shot of me eating the middle of the brownie pan with a spoon).

  9. Lula says...

    Someone please correct me if i’m wrong, but is a sheet pan the equivalent of a baking tray (i’m in the UK).

    And if so, what would you guys normally bake brownies in? I’m so intrigued!

    • Jen says...

      I’m English living in the US and I also have no clue what this post means…what else would you ever cook brownies in?! I must be missing something….

    • Kayla says...

      Hi Lula! Yes, a sheet pan it appears is the same thing as a baking tray. I can’t speak for everyone in the U.S. but I typically bake brownies in a deeper pan or glass dish, so when you cut them they are more like blocks/square cake pieces vs. thin cookie width pieces (which is what you’d get by baking them in a sheet pan since the pan is shallow). I’d be curious as well if anyone bakes them in something different that either of those.

    • Yes usually you’d use a 9″ x 13″ pan (with at least a 2″ high edge!) to bake brownies, but here I use a larger (13″ x 18″) pan with just a small lip, the same pan I use for baking cookies or roasting vegetables!

    • molly says...

      I am from New England and for the most part brownies are made in baking dishes rather than sheet pans….Or maybe just in my family :) See example here: http://bit.ly/2hb027G .

  10. Colleen says...

    I just went to the 600 Acres site and holy cow, those are some amazing looking recipes! I am bookmarking practically everything and I am so happy to have discovered your site. Thanks, Posie and COJ!

    • wow

  11. hilariously i always go on and on about the cookie cakes of my youth (of course bought from the mall ;) as if i couldnt make my own. spoiler alert…cookie cakes are just cookies minus the time consuming portioning out and rolling business. thanks for this recipe!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahaha xoxo

  12. Celeste says...

    Classic Mormon trick, right here. I can’t think of a church event I ever went to as a kid where someone wasted a whole batch of batter on a deep casserole dish. Baking trays were the way to go! (But we, of course, frosted them with mint or chocolate frosting, because if there’s one things Mormons love more than babies, it’s sugar.)

    • Sarah says...

      I didn’t realize this was a Mormon thing, but come to think of it I did see a lot of brownies baked this way, particularly with the marbled mint and chocolate frosting, when I was Mormon as a kid.

    • Carol F. says...

      Ha ha! I was thinking the same thing, Celeste! When I was growing up (I am Mormon as well) we usually baked on a sheet pan. We baked pizza, chicken, cookies, cakes, brownies, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, etc. all on a sheet pan. It took me many, many years to use a 9×13 pan. I couldn’t get used to the thickness of the cake. I have two 9×13 pans and FIVE, yes five, sheet pans (these are called “half sheets” at Costco, I believe, and “jelly roll pans” in cookbooks). Many times my five sheet pans are all dirty at once! I finally bought a dishwasher that fit my sheet pans. Lots of baking over here but nothing overly special. I have ten siblings and we all bake this way.

  13. Stephanie says...

    This isn’t a baking trick in Canada either. We just call them bars or dainties. I definitely like them and make them often, but they are super well known, at least everywhere I have lived – not a trick.

    • Meghan says...

      yeah, I’m in Canada too. I bake and cook with sheet pans all the time..

    • Sarah says...

      Canadian here as well, and I have NEVER baked brownies on a cookie sheet. Always in a 9X13″ pan, but this method seems brilliant, although I am also not a fan of crispy edges :)

  14. Trisha says...

    This may be a dumb question but would the recipe be altered terribly if I used salted sticks of butter instead of unsalted?

    • Michaela says...

      It would probably turn out fine! I would just omit the 1 1/2 tsp salt from the dry ingredients if you did use salted.

  15. Capucine says...

    Does anyone else see all the ‘don’t eat sugar’ articles that make such sound scientifically backed-up sense and then think…’I’m such a good baker! I love baking for people! I’ve perfected so many baking tricks in my life! Do I really just never bake again? Really?’

    It’s like losing a minor career. I can’t wrap my head around it.

    • K.Reid says...

      Totally. What’s a world with out baking!

    • aga says...

      Haha! Yes. I always reduce the amount of sugar, and substitute some with coconut sugar, and/or maple syrup and/or honey, and/or good quality stevia.

    • Laura says...

      Have a look on this: https://www.lalakitchen.com/recetas/#placer-2
      It’s in Spanish but there is nothing Google translation can’t make for you.
      This chef is amazing. I’m sure if you write her she will write you back and help to deal with the no-sugar-still-baking-life.
      Let’s face it, 3 cups of sugar nowadays is an unbearable amount…

      I hope it will help you.
      Xxx

    • Catie says...

      Eh, sure. I think, though, that there are always new waves of very radical (or…perhaps ‘sensational’ and strict are better terms) nutrition advice, and then when those studies get revised the take-away is always: nothing is really killing us in moderation, but the key is MODERATION. The biggest danger with sugar seems to be that it’s sneakily in many processed things, and I think by baking things yourself (from bread to desserts), you can actually eliminate a lot of the sneaky stuff and know exactly what’s in your own foods….

    • Capucine says...

      Like the site in spanish, thank you!

      I have some genetic wrinkle that means my blood sugar is just really volatile. Not diabetes, not a tumor…just, different. I prided myself on my skill with healthy baked goods, but no flours or sweeteners at all is the end of a road. Letting go of making muffins with my children in a quiet sunlit morning is a loss. It was infrequent, they were healthy by any measure…except by my own body’s standards. I’m so grateful I finally understand my mysterious ‘lemon’ body, but! I can’t imagine never baking again. Yet.

    • Anon says...

      YES!

    • Em says...

      Yes. Yes. Yes, capucine. I totally hear you. Taking it in moderation is better but still not good and replacing with maple syrup or honey or agave nectar is still just sugar. It has the same harmful effects on the body. I’m not strong enough to give up sugar but you know what they say- it’s ten times more addictive than cocaine. I feel like the moral of life is just to pick your poison. How do you wanna go? Haha.

  16. Corinne says...

    What’s the best sheet pan to use? Any particular brands better than others? Thanks!

    • katie says...

      I registered for Nordic Ware commercial sheet pans WITH LIDS and probably my most-used item. Can stack in fridge, transport treats to work…etc.

    • sheila says...

      I second the NordicWare! I think I saw them on Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s “supply list” and ordered a few from Amazon for pretty cheap. Tip: make sure to price single vs 2 pack. Oftentimes, for some odd reason, the 2 pack is more expensive than buy two single sheets…

  17. Peony says...

    A half-sheet pan is 18″ x 13″. 9″x13″ is a quarter sheet pan. So, which one is the recipe for?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Oops, thanks for catching, it’s a half-sheet pan! Thanks, Peony!

      Stella

  18. Tina, nyc. says...

    Stella and Posie, brilliant post but please share how do you get the perfect clean cuts?

    Presentation is so important and mine tend to just look like a ratty mess.

    For that reason, I make “mini brownie cups” using mini muffin liners but this seems far easier, if I knew how to cut the tray up.

    • Kaitlin says...

      Do you have a metal pastry scraper/cutter? They’re not terrible expensive and do very clean cuts. Another trick I find very helpful is to cut in halves. So, I’ll go down the middle, then down the middle of each half and repeat several times until I have the rows/columns that I want. It’s a good way to ensure an even cut.

    • My mom’s trick is to use a plastic knife to make the brownie cuts – for some reason the plastic slices cleaner (especially in warm just-out-of-the-oven brownies when I can’t resist!).

    • J says...

      Chill the brownies before cutting. It makes for a clean, perfect line.

    • Brynn says...

      As Jennifer already suggested, the trick is to use a plastic knife to cut brownies. I don’t know why, but it totally works!

    • Anon says...

      I have seen a friend do clean cuts using a clean thread ..and i think unwaxed, unflavored dental floss works in a pinch too!

    • Also, let’s remember that this was a photo shoot: They probably had at least a couple of trays of brownies and spent a /very long time/ measuring and cutting precisely and then possibly removing crumbs so that it looks effortless at the end, but really it was pretty labor-intensive. That’s not to discount their final product, only to say that food-styling is its own special beast! The whole point is to make it look real, but also better-than-real. :) /LH

    • Tina, nyc. says...

      Thank you for all the great advice on cleaning cutting brownie trays! I will be trying this out for sure.

  19. Vicki says...

    If you’re really short on time, or intimidated by baking from scratch, you can also bake a boxed cake mix in a half-sheet pan — it juuust fits, and it bakes in under 20 minutes! If you make two and layer them (I like to use pastry pride for that extra special “this-is-so-delicious-and-convenient-but-I’m-not-sure-it’s-actually-food” effect) you have a costco-sized sheet cake! Ta-da!

  20. Joanna says...

    Any chance I can omit the chocolate chips?

    • You can, but know that the resulting brownies won’t be as fudgy and also the chips are actually what gives the tops of the brownies that crackly sheen. I’d recommend finding a basic cocoa powder brownie recipe (Smitten Kitchen has a nice simple one-bowl one) and then doubling it to fit the sheet pan. Good luck!

    • Cait says...

      Actually it’s the sugar/butter combination that creates the crinkly top :)

  21. Isabel says...

    Love the recipe, but I am confused as to the relative importance of the recipient in which the brownie is cooked? Isn’t a sheet pan a wider version of a rectangular or square pyrex or aluminum pan? I always bake brownies like this. I think I am totally missing something!

    • Christina Van Heer says...

      I often feel like the word “genius” is used a little too often on this blog, “hair genius”, “food genius”, “make up genius” just so you can write a blog post without actually saying “hey here are some things that people might do, which are by no means genius, but are pretty sweet and you might learn something new”.

    • Em says...

      @ Cristina van heer I feel the same way. It feels like a cheap trick, which is not genius journalism or genius blogging

  22. Tiffany says...

    They’re popular in Scotland as well! Maybe it’s more common north of England?

  23. Any recommendations for a great sheet pan? I have one that I like, but it’s pretty beat up.

    • I’ve always found the sheet pans and half sheets from the restaurant supply to be my favorite and affordable!

    • Linda says...

      I fully agree with Danielle. The industrial sheet pans are the best, and last such a long time.

  24. Do you spray the pan before you pour in the mix?

    • You can, but if you’re lining it with parchment paper you don’t need to. I usually spray my parchment lightly just to be on the safe side!

  25. Cynthia says...

    I’ve made brownies and other similar bar cookies in a 9×13 pan for years, as they are quick and easy. How many you get depends on how small you cut them. I’ve never made traditional cookies. Too much work.

  26. Janey says...

    Literally just sat down to read this after making Rocky Road traybake for 35 kids in my son’s basketball team as its his birthday today! So easy, melted chocolate, butter, golden syrup into which crushed up rich tea biscuits and marshmallows. (I’m in uk so not sure this makes sense in U.S.!) They’re my kids all time favourite :-)

    • Lindsay E says...

      In the US, my mom makes something similar called “Hello Dolly Bars.” It was the thing we always left out for Santa on Christmas Eve! With crumbled graham crackers, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, coconut (optional) and marshmallows (optional). Thanks for reminding me of a sweet memory and a childhood favorite treat!

    • Janey says...

      Hello Dolly bars! I love that, think I will rename them!

  27. Elizabeth says...

    This looks delicious (and me being 15 minutes away from lunch doesn’t help, hah)!

    One quick thing to point out – the half-sheet link goes to a quarter sheet on Amazon, and I think it should be a quarter sheet size throughout. (I have half-sheets and they are huge!)

    • Katie says...

      It looks like the recipe is actually for a half sheet pan (yes, big!). This would be perfect for when you’re bringing a bunch of brownies somewhere and you need more than what fits in a 9×13 pan. I think its size and the shallower pan (and therefore thinner brownies) is what makes this recipe unique, not just that it is baked in a tray/pan (as all brownies I know of are).

  28. Karen says...

    This is a common bake here in Norway. We call it “langpannekake”. :-) I would never have thought that this is seen as a trick or a novelty in other countries, here it’s just what everyones does. It’s perfect for any occasion when you have to feed a lot of people.

    • Eva says...

      Same in Germany! Many cakes here are traditionally baked on a sheet pan, but I guess baking brownies on a sheet pan is a new development…

  29. Anon says...

    I just did a little dance at my desk finding that *for once* I have all these ingredients in my pantry !!

    I have been crushed so many times in past just cause i loved the recipe but didn’t have some random ingredient like Muscovado(?) sugar or fancy baking chocolate bar of certain %

    Thank you for this :)

  30. molly says...

    I make similar ones from Ina Garten – so good.

  31. Absolutely, a sheet pan is great when you have a crowd, especially if the crowd is kids. They just want a quick bite before running off to play, so the smaller the better.

  32. Ellie says...

    I like the muffin sheet pan idea, but how is this recipe any different from baking brownies in a foil pan…?

    • They’ll be thinner with more edges since the surface area is larger!

    • Caroline says...

      That was my question too. The recipe looks great, but isn’t a 9X13 a just a standard brownie pan?

  33. jeannie says...

    i am going to make this now!

  34. Becky says...

    This is the most common type of dessert in Northern Ireland – we call them ‘traybakes’. I found it odd when I moved to England and they had never heard of them – although they seem to be gaining popularity here now too :)

    • Tray bakes!!!!! Just like Great British Baking Show!!!!!

  35. Kari says...

    looks amazing! i’m allergic to even the tiniest amount of caffeine; can you omit the espresso powder?

    • Yes! Definitely. It just amplifies the chocolate flavor but totally optional.

    • Cait says...

      Kari,

      Yes – espresso powder in chocolate cakes and brownies is just to create a bit of depth of flavor, but it won’t affect the recipe if you leave it out!

    • Lauren says...

      Chocolate contains caffeine. I’m not attempting to sound rude, I’m just curious based on your comment, are you able to eat brownies?

    • Andrea says...

      I thought the world was sad enough and then I read this sentence: “I’m allergic to even the tiniest amount of caffeine.”

    • Twyla says...

      Vanilla or cinnamon would make a nice substitution for espresso powder!