Brownies are many people’s go-to dessert when they need to make something for a bake sale, potluck, or other large gatherings. They’re also a great pick-me-up for a solo indulgence.
The reason brownies are so popular is that they are easy to make compared to many other desserts, even if someone chooses to make them from scratch, as opposed to making them from a box. Their fudgy, chocolate taste is widely beloved and brings back nostalgic memories for many people.
However, just because brownies are easy to make does not mean that nothing bad can happen during the process. There are many ways that brownies can turn out poorly, from overbaking to poorly mixed batter.
One of the most common brownie-baking errors is a cracked top. While small cracks are common for all brownie batches, large cracks can cause the whole tray to collapse and lose its texture. Here are a few reasons why your brownies might be cracking and how to prevent it from happening.
Basic Brownie Technique
Compared to layer cakes and complex pastry, brownies are a relatively simple dessert to make. There are many recipes online, both for traditional brownies and brownies with funky flavor combinations such as this one.
Most brownies are made with a base mixture of cocoa, butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. First, the butter and sugar are beaten together.
Then, the other ingredients are gently folded in. Finally, the brownies are baked at a medium temperature for a little longer than half an hour.
Brownies do not require kneading or even more than one bowl, making them easier to make than most desserts. However, it is still possible to make mistakes during the process and get cracks on the tops of the brownies.
Brownie Cracks—Good or Bad?
For such a simple dessert, brownies can be polarizing. People often argue over the best way to make their brownies—some prefer fudgy as opposed to cakey ones, others argue over crispy edge pieces as opposed to gooey middles.
Some people think that brownies are ruined when the top cracks because that breaks up the soft, fudgy texture. Instead of a uniform softness, the brownies now have an additional crunch at the top.
Other people prefer brownies with a cracked top because it adds a little texture and pizzazz to your traditional brownies. There are even recipes out there to help develop a hint of a flaky top.
Most brownies will have a crack or two on their top because that is a normal part of baking, no matter how hard you try to prevent them from developing. On the other hand, even people who like a crusty brownie will admit that too many cracks cause the brownie to collapse in the middle.
How Cracks Form in Brownies
A few cracks are a normal part of the baking process as brownie batter dries out and turns into baked brownies. However, too many cracks are a sign that something went wrong either during the mixing or the baking process.
A crackly top is nothing more than an inconvenience that might break up the textural consistency of a brownie. However, when too many cracks form, that causes the brownie batter to collapse and upsets the dessert’s structural integrity.
If your brownie dough keeps cracking or even collapsing, below are a few reasons why.
Overbeating the Mixture
One of the most common culprits behind cracked tops on brownies is an over-beaten mixture. This usually happens at the stage where the eggs are combined with sugar and butter.
Beating a mixture not only combines the ingredients but also adds air to the batter. This is desirable when you are making something such as meringues or cake batter, but not what you want when you are making brownies.
When the batter is put into the oven, air bubbles expand with the heat. Once they come out of the oven, those air bubbles collapse after they are shocked by cold air and cause cracks.
The more air bubbles you have in your batter, the more cracks will form when those air bubbles collapse. Your goal when making brownies is to prevent air bubbles from forming.
When brownies bake, their liquid batter dries out and becomes solid. As this process happens, it is normal for a few cracks to form on the surface.
However, when they are left in the oven for too long, more cracks start to form, but cracks will be the least of your problems.
When brownies overbake, they also lose their soft, rich texture. They become dry and even crumbly.
Most recipes tell you to take brownies out of the oven after you notice a few cracks. Following this rule of thumb will help you prevent your brownies from drying out and cracking that way.
Preventing Cracks in Your Brownies
If you are diligent about not overbaking your brownies, then chances are that the reason they are cracking is that you are accidentally overmixing the batter. It’s fine to mix as much as you want when you are only creaming together sugar and butter, but once you add eggs, that is when air bubbles are likely to form.
If you are worried about combining the eggs, one way to stop yourself from overmixing is to beat the eggs together in a separate bowl. You may have to do a few more dishes, but this way you will break the yolks without overmixing the batter.
Once all of your ingredients are in the same bowl, you should only mix until they are combined, and you can no longer see dry patches of flour.
Achieving Smooth Brownies, Every Time
Brownies are such a simple dessert, so any mistake, including a small crack, is immediately visible. Some people like a crackly top for their brownies, others prefer a smooth brownie experience.
If you want to avoid flakiness in your brownies, mix your batter as little as possible and be careful not to overbake them. Then the texture will turn out perfectly!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.