The Secret Ingredient You Should Be Using In Your Brownies

Brownies are not quite a cookie and not really cake, but however you classify them, they're almost always amazing. Not to mention pretty versatile — they're great plain or with nuts, but they also lend themselves to a wide variety of flavorings and mix-ins, including crushed candy canesbroken candy bars, cream cheese, chili powder, and even booze. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try making brownies with cauliflower (yes, really), or if you'd rather play it safe, you can just stick to a boxed mix. Whatever recipe you use, though, there's one secret ingredient that's sure to kick them up a notch — bam! — and make them extra fudgy.  

The secret brownie ingredient revealed, and explained

The secret ingredient may surprise you, since you might be more familiar with it as a topping for your nachos or baked potatoes (or even the base for a creamy stroganoff), but sour cream can also really level up your brownies.

So what, exactly is sour cream, anyway? It's thick, white stuff that comes in little tubs in the dairy section, located somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese. But how, exactly, does cream get sour without spoiling and going all nasty and chunky? Surely this doesn't happen if you just take some regular whipping cream and let it sit until it's way past its "use by" date, does it? If sour cream is going to be stirred into your precious brownie batter, perhaps a little more information is called for.

The Spruce Eats informs us that sour cream is made by introducing a certain type of lactic acid-producing bacteria into dairy cream, which causes the cream to thicken without curdling and gives it that distinctive tang instead of a horrid rotten milk stink. Sour cream has a glamorous French cousin called crème fraîche, which is somewhat higher in fat and able to withstand cooking at higher temperatures than sour cream can, as sour cream tends to separate. Crème fraîche, however, isn't as tart and can sometimes be runny, so it will never take sour cream's place in a classic onion dip — or, for that matter, in your brownie batter, where you want sour cream's consistent consistency.

How to add this secret ingredient to your brownies

According to Reader's Digest, all you need to do to add some sour creamy goodness to your brownie batter is to stir in 1/2 cup of sour cream — this should work with any brownie recipe. Sour cream's consistency will help to prevent your brownie batter from loosening up, and the end result of the binding action is a super-dense, chewy brownie. This one additional ingredient will not affect the cooking time, and should only add a few seconds to your prep time, but Reader's Digest does warn that your sour cream brownies may be so delicious that they'll disappear even more quickly than if you'd made them in the usual way.

Brownies aren't the only dessert made better by this secret ingredient

If you like how your brownies come out after trying the sour cream hack, you might be interested to know that sour cream can improve other desserts, as well. If you stir a few tablespoons of the stuff into the batter the next time you're throwing together a boxed cake mix, this simple trick will make your cake taste just as rich as if you'd taken the time to make it from scratch. Sour cream is a classic coffee cake ingredient, of course, and sour cream mixed with a little sugar can make a sweet, yet tart topping that is just perfect for a pumpkin pie. There's even a slow cooker sour cream cheesecake, or how about a funky disco-era recipe called the Sour Cream Bavarian? It mixes our new favorite ingredient with gelatin and Cool Whip for a taste sensation that's very retro.

Go ahead and give this sour cream brownie hack a try — all you've got to lose is the time it'll take you to dig that sour cream out from your fridge. Of course, you'll need to check it for mold if it's been there awhile. Sour cream is one ingredient you should definitely throw out as soon as you see a speck of mold, as the mold can quickly spread throughout the entire product and ruin it.

Still, even if you end up having to buy a new carton, now that you've discovered how yummy it makes your brownies (and other baked goods), it's a safe bet your newly-purchased sour cream won't be left to languish on a back shelf any longer.