These care-package brownies, laden with chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, and cocoa powder, are intensely rich and fudgy. They also travel exceptionally well, whether you ship through the post office or simply drop them off on a porch.
By Garrett McCord
These brownies are designed with three things in mind: flavor, longevity, and durability. A borderline obscene amount of chocolate in three forms ensures a rich brownie that doesn’t turn dry even after days, offsetting the lack of butter and making them perfect for sending to your favorite soldier [Editor’s Note: Or college student. Or grandchild. Or dear friend who you want to do something kind for and so you drop these off on the porch. Of course, don’t let these brownies’ profound travel ability preclude you from simply baking a batch for yourself. A Saturday afternoon seems good enough reason to us.]–Garrett McCord
☞ Table of Contents
How to package brownies for
To package the brownies for shipping, wrap each in foil as a barrier against humidity or in plastic wrap to protect them from dry heat. Place them in a resealable plastic bag and place that in a sturdy box cushioned with some sort of packing material, whether crumpled newspaper or magazine pages or even popped popcorn.
Care Package Brownies
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened, Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil plus more for the baking dish
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup cocoa nibs if desired (or substitute chopped chocolate or chips)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking dish with oil. Line the dish with a piece of parchment paper, allowing the overhang to drape over two sides (you can later use these flaps to lift the brownies out of the pan). Lightly oil the parchment as well.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, beat together the vegetable oil, sugar, and vanilla extract until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 20 seconds or so after each addition, scraping the bowl occasionally.
- Still beating, add the flour mixture and beat it in, being sure to pause and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl at least once, until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
- Stir in the chocolate and cocoa nibs, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the edges begin to pull from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. This should take 25 to 30 minutes if using an 8-inch pan, 20 to 25 minutes if using a 9-inch pan. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares and ship or serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Overall, these were everything a brownie should be: cakey, full of chocolate flavor, moist, and a little crunchy. This was an incredibly easy recipe, yielding chocolaty, moist brownies. They were almost too moist on the first day—we managed to keep them for four days, and they continued to get better the longer they sat.
Since these are called “Care Package Brownies” and need to last, the vegetable oil instead of butter makes sense. I had difficulty finding cocoa nibs, but finally found them at Sur la Table for a small fortune. The nibs do add a bit of texture and bitterness that complements sweet chocolate. My testers thought they were small pieces of nuts.
This recipe yielded the perfect crackly outside, and moist, chewy inside that we love from brownies. The chocolate flavor was intense, accented by the addition of the espresso powder. I substituted additional chocolate chips for the cocoa nibs because I couldn’t find them.
I used an 8-by-8-inch pan, and it gave me the size/thickness of brownie that I prefer. This is a great brownie recipe for novices, as it’s easy—there’s no butter to melt and no chocolate to temper.
I’m not a brownie or chocolate person, but for some reason I thought these were the most amazing brownies I’ve ever had. Maybe it was the bittersweet crunch of the cocoa nibs, maybe the subtle espresso taste, or a combination of both. Unlike most brownies I’ve had, I could eat square after square, and it was quite hard to keep some around for the next day. Best of all, after eating them, I didn’t feel like a cement block had solidified in my stomach. This recipe is a winner.
TIP: Bake them in advance, as the cocoa and coffee flavors are most intense the day after baking.
Espresso powder, cocoa nibs—I’m always up for a sourcing challenge. Well, on this one, the recipe won the challenge, as I couldn’t find either ingredient. I ended up using instant coffee powder in lieu of espresso, and I used chocolate rice pearls in lieu of cocoa nibs. With that, I have to say that these brownies were killer. They were tender, intensely chocolaty, with a nice texture and crunch from the rice pearls.
The cook time, however, should have been lengthened, as my brownies were gooey in the center. This is good for me, but not good as a care package brownie. So make sure you bake until your toothpick comes out clean!
While this isn’t the best brownie in the whole world, it does deliver (pun intended) a chocolate punch. I didn’t have any cocoa nibs, nor could I find any. I kept some of the brownies around for a few days to see how they tasted. Admittedly, they were a little dry around the edges, but kept their chocolaty flavor.
These brownies arrived in good condition two days after they were mailed. The tasters liked that they were somewhat flaky in texture, and not too gooey. The espresso flavor was also a hit. The cocoa nibs were not appreciated, though, with most tasters thinking they should be omitted. This would be an improvement from a practical standpoint, since I had to order the nibs online. TIP: Lining the baking dish with parchment paper made removal of the brownies very easy.
I made these brownies with the intent of sending them to a friend who’s had a rough week. Of course, we had to sample them first. It turned out that we liked them so much, there wasn’t enough left to pack up—so I’ll have to make another batch for mailing. These brownies are dense, and I really liked the way the cacao nibs gave them a little crunch and, along with the chocolate chips, heightened the chocolate flavor. They were also very easy to make, and seemed to stand up well to sitting out for a few days, so I’m sure they would be great for mailing.
These brownies were excellent and, as advertised, held up well after several days and several hundred miles of travel. They were so simple to make and resulted in slightly fudgy brownies with a crackly top. I mailed most of the brownies to family, but sampled one (or two) fresh brownies and saved a few to test through the week. The care package recipients and I agreed that the brownies at day five remained excellent. Note: I couldn’t find the cocoa nibs, so I added a few extra chocolate chips instead.
This brownie has a rich, intense chocolate punch that peeks through its gooey texture. I personally liked the crunch from the cocoa nibs, but one of my testers didn’t. These brownies would be delicious with or without the cocoa nib addition. They also didn’t taste like coffee/espresso in the slightest.
Because they’re so rich, I cut them very small, getting 25 brownies out of the 9-by-9-inch pan. They were so easy to make, and were just as good a few days after they were baked (if not better). I wouldn’t change a thing.
One can’t have too many brownie recipes, especially if they’re as quick to make as these. They are somewhere between cakey and fudgey, and work perfectly for brownies sundaes. I substituted chopped, roasted peanuts for the cocoa nibs, and I think any nut will work here. The chocolate chips provide nice bursts of chocolate, so don’t omit them.
The directions are clear and easy to follow, and there are so many ways you can customize this recipe to make it your own. My brownies baked for 30 minutes before a toothpick came out with a few crumbs attached. Underbaking these brownies is preferable to overbaking them, as they can easily dry out. Next time, I’ll increase the salt a little.
The brownies stayed fresh for three days (that was as long as they lasted between my husband and I), and tasted as good on the third day as they did right out of the oven.
Originally published January 11, 2021