A hundred calling objects
Many things are calling for my attention. There are bumblebees buzzing beyond the window, robins hunting for a meal along the spring grass. I make warm macaroni into cool macaroni salad with an unhealthy heaping of mayonnaise, paprika, garlic salt and powder and onion powder. A few cans of tuna slip inside, while a crunch of onion never makes it. The aluminum bowl atop a saucepan of water at a rolling boil—a makeshift double-boiler of sorts—starts to make a few uncomfortable sounds and that pulls me away from the dining table. The dining table is covered in a light dusting of flour and salt, heavy ceramic mixing bowls, glass jars and assorted baking paraphernalia. There is no obvious order to the arrangement, more or less a game of “Is this bowl too large to fit there?” and that makes it all the more fun.
I do not bake in sterility. To be transparent on the subject would be to disclose I often dust our antique dining table with flour even if the recipe calls for no flour. Baking is a lush task: Metal whisk screeching on ceramic bowl, wet egg falling from humid shell, sweet chocolate from wax paper. There is a sensuality in crafting something so organic, and I regularly lust for the days in my maturity where I tend to the garden, paint a deck and make lunch for a few.
Today though, the moments went fast. The morning I spent cleaning the house, the afternoon I remember in flashes. Mum left for the day, leaving me to finish the macaroni salad for dinner. A recipe had caught my eye in Kinfolk, chocolate-covered espresso bean brownies, and so that was on the agenda as well. After a shower, both tasks were seemingly completed in tandem. When one needed my attention, the other waited patiently for my return. Multitasking is a rouse; never can we devote our attention to more than one task, and even then our minds are never fully in-the-moment.
Brownies. Now to be honest, any dessert mentioned with a full-stop following will always connote a deep-down desire within me. Rich and flakey, occasionally heavy, brownies are like a compact cake. Never a fan of brownies from a box or the store, brownies to me have to be made in a home oven from simple ingredients otherwise the texture is too cake-y. ‘Simple ingredients’ like flour and sugar, baking powder and eggs are fine and well, but this recipe proposes a welcome addition: Coffee. In my books that means these brownies are perfectly acceptable to be consumed at any point in the day, and my family and I can testify to the validity in that statement. Chocolate-covered espresso bean brownies are a good idea.
This recipe comes from Kinfolk’s tenth issue, and in the support of independent magazines I would very much recommend a copy makes its way to your reading list. Despite my recommendation, if one were to follow the recipe verbatim one would have great difficulty. I reached the stage where the batter goes into the pan without having put the warm chocolate and butter mixture in with the rest of the ingredients. I must have read the recipe a dozen times before accepting the fact the author left out what to do with it! Even worse was the baking times, which I had to nearly double to get my brownies to a cooked state. Now every oven is different, so I still recommend starting with their time of 25 minutes but be prepared to go upwards of 40 minutes.
In response to these discoveries I have altered the recipe in parts, mainly to clarify what to do with the warm chocolate and butter mixture. Once I find a recipe book (because yes I am still looking) I will record the below and likely make them monthly, because yes they are a wonderful treat.
Chocolate-Covered Espresso Bean Brownies
Adapted from Kinfolk.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted or salted butter*, sliced or cubed
- 8 ounces chocolate*, coarsely chopped, baker’s chocolate is fine
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted to ensure consistency
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar, sifted
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons ground coffee or instant espresso
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate-covered* espresso beans, coarsely crushed
Notes: The original recipe calls for unsalted butter, but either should be fine. As for the chocolate, the original recipe calls for 6 ounces of bittersweet and 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. I only had sweetened baker’s chocolate and that worked out just fine. Chocolate-covered espresso beans are an odd ingredient, but interestingly we had a package in the pantry from a trip to Piccard’s Peanuts. If you do not have access to chocolate-covered espresso beans I would suggest using the same amount of crushed whole-bean coffee beans, which would give a similar crunch.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment or grease the pan, whichever you prefer.
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a larger bowl, whisk together the sifted sugar and ground coffee first, then add the eggs and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- Add the flour mixture and crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans. Whisk.
- Add the butter and chocolate mixture. Whisk well.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading it in an even layer.
- Bake until the sides begin to pull away slightly and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached. The recipe says 25 to 30 minutes, but mine took 40. If a toothpick comes out wet put the brownies back into the oven in 5-minute intervals.
- Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan placed on a wire rack, then cut into squares.