We’ve done some magic baking math so you don’t have to.
Credit: Getty / VeranikaSmirnaya

I always need just a little sweet something after dinner, or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Cookies and brownies are ideal for these little nibbles, but with only two of us at home, baking big (or even normal-sized) batches is not always what I want to do. But homemade is always more delicious, so I needed to figure out how to create just enough brownies or cookies to satisfy a smaller craving.

Baking is chemistry, so you can't just divide larger recipes and count on them to work. Instead, I tried to figure out how to make recipes that work on their own. After some trial and error, I've come up with a base for brownies and cookies that is just enough for two and perfectly balanced! (Because the ratios are fine tuned for small batches, I don't recommend doubling these recipes. If you want more than just the small batches, you'll do better to use a standard brownie or cookie recipe.)

Brownie and cookie bases to serve just two! 

Note that these recipes are each based on using one egg, since trying to divide an egg is a giant pain. They create what I think of as bases, which then you can customize with any mix-ins or topping you like! 

Brownie Base for Two

I either bake this in large nonstick muffin tins to make 4 round brownies (plenty of crispy edges), or in a nonstick loaf pan to make a sliceable rectangle with gooier center pieces. In both cases, be sure to also use a nonstick spray or butter the tins well to ensure release.

3 tablespoons each:

Melted butter (cooled)

Granulated sugar

All-purpose flour

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon honey (can use cane syrup, maple syrup, or light corn syrup as substitutes)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup mix-ins (optional)

1. Heat your oven to 325°.

2. Mix the melted butter with the sugar and honey, then stir in the egg and vanilla.

3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to the wet ingredients, mixing well to combine. Add your mix-ins if using: chocolate chips, nuts, small candies, whatever you have lying around and love in your brownies.

4. Transfer to your prepared baking vessel and bake for 10-20 minutes (less time for muffin tins, longer for a loaf pan). The brownies should look matte on top and may have started to pull away from the sides a bit. Let cool on a rack for at least 10-15 minutes before turning out. 

Cookie Base for Two 

This makes 4 to 6 large cookies, to serve two people generously, or one for a couple of days. You'll need your butter soft, so be sure to take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to bake.

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon table salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mix-ins (optional)

1. Heat your oven to 350° and line a sheet pan with parchment.

2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Using a hand mixer or your stand mixer cream the butter with both sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat until you have a smooth batter. Stir in any mix-ins, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, small candies, etc.

3. Divide into 4 for really large cookies, or 6 for regular sized cookies, roll into balls in your hands, and place on your baking sheet 2 inches apart, then flatten gently with your palm. 

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes (they will spread) until golden brown on the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit on a rack for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing from the pan to finish cooling on the rack.

Try these fun variations: To make a chocolate base cookie, add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. To make a peanut butter base cookie, replace half of the butter with creamy peanut butter.