High Country Baking: Mocha brownies
Make in a 9x9 inch shiny metal baking pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 1/4 cups superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 1/4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon espresso, optional
Scant 1 teaspoon canola oil
PG-13 — that’s how this bar cookie should be labeled. It’s a favorite among those with more sophisticated palates. Chocolate, deep and rich, marries with the earthy bitterness of espresso to create a wonderful mocha taste while nuggets of pecans and more dark chocolate add complexity to the soft, almost gooey texture. It’s a barely-sweet and impressively good brownie.
The coffee flavor increases after about 24 hours so make these a day ahead or, if you want a pronounced coffee flavor and are serving them immediately after baking, add a little more espresso powder.
Never heard of pecan pieces? They’re commercially packaged chopped pecans; often they’ve been toasted as well as chopped. They’re available at many grocery stores and are a wonderful time-saver for busy bakers. If you can’t find them, roast pecans, spread out on a baking sheet, in a 300 degree oven until they’re hot and aromatic (about 5 to 10 minutes), cool them completely and give them a medium-coarse chop.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches past two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the brownie slab. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and all of the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.
Make the brownie:
2. Chop the unsweetened chocolate into quarter-inch pieces or smaller, cut the butter into eight pieces, and place them, with the espresso powder in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at a medium-low temperature until the butter has melted and only a few lumps of chocolate remain — this can also be done on the stovetop in a large saucepan. Remove from the microwave or burner and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny and the espresso is completely dissolved. If the mixture is hot, let it cool slightly. Stir in the sugar until blended.
3. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, until fully blended, and add the vanilla with the last one. Gently stir in the flour and salt, and finally, gently fold in the chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and the nuts. Don’t overmix the dough. Scrape it into the prepared pan, leveling the top. Bake until the top is set and shiny but soft when lightly pressed and a tester comes out with some moist crumbs — about 25 minutes. Don’t overbake or you’ll lose the wonderful soft texture. Remove to a rack. If the edges are higher than the middle, gently press them down with the back of a spoon while the slab of brownies is still warm and pliable. Cool completely in the pan.
Make the glaze:
4. In a microwave-safe measuring cup or small bowl, microwave the chopped chocolate at a low-medium setting (four out of 10) until only small lumps are visible. Remove from the heat, add the espresso (if using) and oil and stir to blend thoroughly. If necessary, let cool until the glaze thickens slightly, then drizzle it decoratively over the cooled slab of brownies. Let the glaze set, then use the foil handles to remove the brownie slab from the pan and cut it into squares. Store the brownies, covered airtight, in the refrigerator for five days or freeze for a month. If freezing, leave the brownie slab whole and cut it after defrosting. Serve the brownies at room temperature.
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks “Baking Above It All” and “Cookies in the Clouds,” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.