I've been trying to decide for a couple of days now how to tell all of you about some brownies I made.
The problem that's been holding me back is this: these aren't just any ol' brownies. These are intensely rich, fudgy-but-not-gooey, knock-your-socks-off brownies. They have a complexity and a depth of flavor missing from most of their competitors, thanks to a generous amount of espresso and mesquite flour. They can best be described as Special Occasion Brownies. None of this is actually the problem, per se - the issue is that I haven't figured out an appropriately over-the-top story with which to introduce you to them.
But I can't wait any longer, so here we go. Readers, it is my pleasure to present to you the best brownie I've ever known:
Looks like no big deal, right? Isn't that always the way with brownies! It's amusing for me to recognize that sometimes we manage to create truly amazing food in the midst of a truly un-amazing day. And then the day goes on, ordinary as ever, with no noticeable change caused by the aforementioned amazing food, except that we're slightly different, slightly better than before, because we're harboring this special knowledge: scrawled on the back of a scrap of recycled paper (it looks like it used to be some sort of tax form) is the best brownie recipe ever.
That is how it happened here. The brownies were made, in awkward stages to accommodate a restlessly-napping toddler, and against the loud protests of a young boy who really doesn't like the sound of my mixer running interminably. ("I think it's done now!" "But Kalen, it's not at ribbon stage yet!" "It's done, though!") Once baked, sampling a small(ish) sliver from one corner of the pan confirmed that these were, indeed, better than any brownie I'd ever had before. But I didn't tell anyone at the time, because there really wasn't anyone to tell: the two young children at home with me wouldn't fully appreciate the significance of what had just occurred in the kitchen. And honestly, is a brownie, even a truly spectacular one, a legitimate reason to call someone up and interrupt their day? I didn't think so. So it stayed my little secret.
The next day, I brought the brownies to my extended family's 4th of July celebration. But they looked unassuming in their plastic-wrapped baking pan (and I didn't say anything to contradict), so they didn't get touched for a while. And after we'd consumed the requisite copious amounts of traditional cook-out fare (plus, admittedly, the big bags of M&Ms that just happened to be laying around), we were all pretty full, so the brownies stayed on the table, where I'd first set them upon my arrival.
It was not until it was almost time for everyone to clean up and head home that someone was motivated enough to get out a knife and unwrap the pan. Only then was it revealed that these were Serious Brownies. I think there had been an earlier mention of topping them with ice cream, but it never materialized. It didn't matter, though - ice cream simply would have distracted from the experience of fully savoring the brownie in all it's chocolaty-mocha goodness. A chorus of "wows!" and moans of pleasure filled the room, and then the rest of the pan was quickly divided up amongst family members and packed to go.
Needless to say, I wasn't left with much to bring home. Which was fine by me, since cooking as a way of giving pleasure to others is the point of most of my baking exercises, anyway. I've learned that when you create something phenomenal, it doesn't always need to be served in a phenomenal setting, for a phenomenal occasion. Sometimes a brownie does its best work - can make the biggest, most appreciated impact on others - when you simply hand it out to people, in a Ziploc bag and with rough, uneven edges from the plastic knife used to cut it, to be taken home and enjoyed when the time is right. When their own ordinary days need a little jolt of something spectacular. And I am happy to provide.
Espresso Mesquite Brownies
yields one 9x9 pan of brownies
In the interest of full disclosure, I would like to mention that I was sent a complimentary package of mesquite flour by the nice people at Casa de Mesquite (formerly Casa de Fruta). This recipe is one of several that I played with adding mesquite to. It happens to be my favorite, but not, I think, because of the mesquite. Mesquite flour is really quite wonderful, with both a scent and flavor that are warm and chocolaty and spicy, and it complements the chocolate and coffee flavors in the brownies like no other flour could ever hope to. However, this brownie recipe is so insanely rich and has so much goodness going on in it that omitting the mesquite is not going to make it fall flat on its face. So if you've got mesquite flour, or know where to source it? By all means, use it here. But if not, just make Espresso Brownies instead, and sit back and smile, knowing that you're still going to have an amazing brownie experience.
7 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 fluid ounces cooled espresso, or other strong brewed coffee
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Tara's gf pastry flour mix
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp mesquite flour (optional)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9x9 cake pan and line with parchment.
In a double-boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of just-simmering water, melt together both chocolates and the butter, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, espresso, sugar, and vanilla on high speed, until the mixture pales, thickens, and triples in volume. (This will take awhile. Warn any easily annoyed 4-year olds in the house.) When it's ready, the egg mixture will fall in "ribbons" from the whisk when you raise it up.
While you're waiting for the eggs to be done, blend the remaining dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
Once the egg mixture is ready, turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer still on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the batter one quick mix with a spatula to ensure everything is well-blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs on it. Cool completely on a rack. (The brownies should collapse a bit - this is good. It means they aren't over-baked.) Brownies keep, covered and at room temperature, for 3-5 days.