I have been craving anything coffee- or mocha-flavored in the worst way. And I’m one of those people who hates coffee but LOVES things made with coffee, so I’ve been trying to figure out ways to get more coffee in my life… without actually getting more coffee in my life.
Of late, there has been the Banana-Mocha-Hazelnut Smoothie, Cocoa-Espresso Roasted Nuts, this killer red wine-coffee marinated flank steak I totally need to post about one of these days, and many, many attempts at homemade pumpkin spice lattes because the Starbucks version makes me want to gag. My dirty little secret is that I share all of this caffeinated loveliness with my just-turned-two Emma because she seems to dig what I dig. So naturally when I thought about what to make for her birthday, I thought about something mocha.
Then I thought about caffeinating 12 2-year-olds. Then my palms started to sweat. Then I changed gears.
I wanted to go rogue with her birthday treat this year because we outsourced her party and I needed something easy to transport that didn’t require slicing on scene (because slicing cake as your toddler audience watches is made for two kinds of people: God (for patience) and ninjas (for speed)). I’m not a member of the I-love-cupcakes club, so that left one of my absolute most favorites things to make and eat in the whole wide world: BROWNIES.
I’m not going to lie- I make a mean brownie. And I say that not to brag but to assure you that if you make these brownies, you will not be disappointed. A bad brownie is NOT COOL, and unfortunately, it’s also not uncommon. You can rest easy with these- they are crazy amazing (and also embarrassingly easy). I kind of wanted to add
lots of some instant espresso to the batter but logic took over and I remembered my audience. But I can’t forget the adults- surely they would appreciate a little espresso with their brownie? To wash down the Muffuletta? Because even though we’re listening to Elmo’s Greatest Hits doesn’t mean we can eat classy-ass food.
Then I remembered: what’s the one thing that can make brownies (and, dare I say, anything) better? Uhhhh, frosting!!! Boom. My brownies slathered with espresso buttercream- oh sweet heaven, does anything sound better than that?? I briefly thought about doing unfrosted brownies for the kids, but I quickly envisioned a post-apocalyptic scene of children storming the adult dessert table because ‘the frosted brownies are for Mommies and Daddies only’ does not translate well to the under-2 crowd. So I made the kid brownies with chocolate buttercream and they were happy as clams.
Now I am sure of two things: this is my brownie recipe for life, and I’m not sure I can ever consume unfrosted brownies again. The end.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3 oz. (2/3 cup) unbleached AP flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp table salt
- Espresso Buttercream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups powdered sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ teaspoons espresso powder
- Make the brownies: position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch-square metal baking pan with parchment paper- trust me, parchment paper is the only way to go with these brownies. Simply buttering and flouring your pan produces tears of frustration.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the sugar, followed by all four of the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, starting slowly to keep the ingredients from flying out of the pan and stirring more vigorously as you go. Stir until the batter is smooth and uniform, about 1 minute.
- Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing it so it fills the pan evenly. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted ¾ inch into the center of the brownies comes out with just a few moist clumps clinging to it, about 36-40 minutes (mine take 37 minutes every time). Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.
- Make the buttercream: Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.
- Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.
- Remove completely cooled brownies from pan, which will be easy since you used parchment paper. At this point, I use a serrated knife to cut off the tough edges. I put the ends into the freezer to snack on when I want a chocolate fix- true story. Once you have your perfectly trimmed brownies, slather on the espresso buttercream. You will have enough buttercream to frost a single pan of brownies thickly (always pick this!) and two pans of brownies thinly. Cut into 16 squares.