We may not yet know who our next president will be, but the 2020 election results have made one thing clear: Red state or blue, Americans love weed. Four states—New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona—voted to legalize recreational cannabis this election cycle, bringing the number of states in which it is legal to partake for fun to 15. Why not celebrate this excellent news with a really good pot brownie?
I’d wager a good portion of 14-64 year old humans ask “Is there weed in here?” whenever they are handed a homemade brownie. So ubiquitous are THC-laded chocolatey treats that this buddy comedy fuel is often people’s first foray into edible cannabis. (Likely attributable to chocolate’s powers of covering up nearly any unpleasant taste.) Too-strong brownies sometimes carry the deep bitterness of raw marijuana, but with the right proportions you can make a brownie that’s as delicious as it is dastardly.
Some bakers opt for chocolate ganache while others are in love with the cocoa (powder). Both will give you moist and gooey brownies on their own, but combining the two makes them addictively fudge-y and, pot or not, they stand alone. Brownies bake up like an extra-dense cake, and both the pan and the baking time dictate the degree of fudge you end up with. A big wide pan will give you a thick chewy result, whereas smaller portioned pans will bake up super fast and gain height.
To make Perfect Pot Brownies, we invoke a slightly more luxe version of King Arthur Flour’s recipe. I like this one because it’s well-tested by professional recipe developers, but forgiving if you want to make tweaks—which we are going to recommend in order to max out the fudge factor. Make your cannabis butter in advance and store it in the freezer, thawing before use. (You can make it the day of; just make sure to give yourself three hours of butter prepping time before you intend to start baking.)
Total newbies and novices to cannabis baking can rejoice that in 2020 you don’t have to dig deep in the annals of the internet to find some rando’s horrifying attempt from 1996. “Heritage” recipes lean toward the coma-inducingly strong, which most people truly do not find to be a good time. Between devices like The Magical Butter Machine and Levo you can leave (most) of the guesswork to a device and come out with a consistent product prepared to your exact specifications.
The best method for smaller batches of infusions is a Lifehacker classic: sous vide. Simply seal up one stick of butter with an eighth of mid-to-high grade finely ground and decarboxylated bud, and heat at 170℉ or 160℉ for an hour or two. Shorter cook times give you more of the early cannabinoids like CBD and THC, as well as preserve the terpenes that give each strain its unique smell and taste. Longer cook times provide sleepier butter that has more CBN, known for couch lock, not to be ignored if you suffer from insomnia.
- 1 stick of unsalted butter infused with 3.5 grams of cannabis (see above)
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening
- ¾ cup of cocoa powder
- 1 cup cake flour
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 jumbo eggs
- The guts of one vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 350℉. If you’ve prepped your butter in a sous-vide bag, toss it into a bowl with warm water and let it soften fully before mixing the batter. Baking any brownies, even cannabis brownies, calls for your standard wet bowl, dry bowl batter technique, so start by mixing all of the dry ingredients together. Then, in a second bowl, combine vanilla and eggs.
Melt the chocolate gently with either a double boiler or in a microwave in short bursts. Stir in the shortening into the chocolate until it melts. Stream the chocolate mixture slowly into the eggs and mix with a spatula, then fold in cannabutter. Make sure everything is uniformly mixed without aerating too much.
Fold the wet batter into the combined dry ingredients, and stir this sinfully thick goop again until it’s just mixed. Here’s where my bff OXO bowl scrapers come in handy: they allow you to squeeze out every last drop of the fudge into a waiting greased and parchment lined 9x7 pan. Smooth out the mixture and smack it flat on the counter a few times to make sure there is no air trapped inside.
Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan, then bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. At this point your brownies are warm and edible, but be warned that their structure will come from cooling completely, similar to chocolate chip cookies. If you can’t wait for them to cool completely, at least use a big, sharp knife to cut off a slab so you don’t damage the innards too much. Use the paper to take them out of the pan and cool the rest of the way on a wire rack.
Portion, or don’t, but keep in mind that each 1-inch square will have roughly 29 milligrams of THC, a potent dose, so serve small chunks. You can also swap out half of the butter for the non-psychoactive kind and drop the dosage down to 15 milligrams, which is much more reasonable for people who don’t smoke habitually. Follow the basic edible protocol not laid out by Maureen Dowd and try not to consume more than 5 milligrams at time if you are a new traveler to weedland. Always wait 60 minutes before eating more, because eating too much can leave you impaired for hours at a time.
These devilishly rich bites will be too tasty to resist, so no one will judge you for making them sans herb, but if you want to impress someone or just imbibe the nostalgic way, this is it.
This post was originally published in 2017 and updated on Nov. 4, 2020 to update links and add updated context related to the 2020 election.