All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Texas Brownies -- Legal or Illegal?

Now that I am back from getting my oil changed and a little coffee time at the Viking Café, I think it is time for some baking. Bob has been complaining for the last two days that he has no chocolate in the house, so I’m thinking Texas Brownies with a little coffee. That will definitely quell his craving for chocolate, but as for the coffee, I’m not talking a cup of coffee to go with the brownies. I’m talking coffee in my brownies. 

Did you know that coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate? It does! If you really want to magnify the chocolate flavor in something, there is a simple trick you can use with almost any recipe. The secret ingredient is coffee (or espresso if you have that on hand). A few tablespoons of very dark coffee along with the liquids in your recipe will amplify the chocolate flavor without giving it a coffee taste. If your recipe does not call for coffee, just be sure to subtract the amount of coffee or espresso being used from the overall liquids in the recipe. But if you don't want to mess with proportions in the recipe, you can also dissolve one or two tablespoons of espresso powder into the liquids to get the same effect.  In this case, there is no second guessing on the proportions because it is part of the recipe. 

Now have you ever wondered why you crave coffee in the morning or a chocolate candy bar makes you feel good when your mood is melancholy? A 2010 study from Ohio University enlightens us on why certain foods affect your moods.  Different foods stimulate different regions of the brain, releasing chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that promote well-being. However, the radiance created by chocolate and coffee isn't just caused by caffeine, but also by a rush of dopamine that triggers the brain's pleasure receptors. Chocolate also releases a form of opiate that causes that relaxed feeling, along with a small amount of a substance kindred to marijuana. With all that pleasure jammed into a chocolate bar, it's a miracle the chocolate isn’t regulated by the federal government!

It is reported that the downside of the brain is that it always wants too much of what is bad for the body, like sugar, to articulate with other neurons and is apparently particularly ravenous for it in the morning.

With this recipe, you can help those greedy cravings.

First, let's get out our butter. You can use cold butter, because it has to be melted. While I drop two sticks in a pan, I'm heating up 1 cup of water in the microwave for about 60 seconds. Because of this recipe, I always have instant coffee on hand. Just a small jar to keep on hand will do you, unless, of course, you're an instant coffee drinker, then you should have some on hand. If not, brew some coffee or make these brownies in the morning while you are having your "cup of joe." 

Two teaspoons into the hot water and stir, then dump this into the melting butter and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (I will confess I use a heaping 1/4 cup).

In the meantime, I have placed two cups of flour and two cups of sugar into my mixing bowl. If not sifting my dry ingredients, I always try to aerate them. In this case, I am just taking my whisk beaters and whisking through the flour and sugar to place some air into them. Simple, fast and easy to do. With the butter melted and the rest of the ingredients coming to a boil, I take the pan off the burner and pour it into the flour/sugar mixture. Turning on the beaters, I then add my baking soda and vanilla. 

Next I prepare some buttermilk. I don’t keep buttermilk on hand, but if you do, it is 1/2 cup. For my substitute, I simply pour just shy of a 1/2 cup of milk into a measuring cup and then add about 2 T. of cider vinegar. (When  I was questioned once about whether you should use white vinegar or cider vinegar, my philosophy is if you are baking or cooking I always use cider vinegar. If cleaning, I use white.) Anyway, this creates the same effect as buttermilk. I dump that into the mixing bowl and now my batter has sufficiently cooled so that I can add in the eggs. Remember, never add eggs to a hot mixture or they will turn to scrambled eggs and, sorry, we are not serving them this morning! 

Mix on high speed until combined and then pour it into a greased jelly roll pan (17x11). Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until they test done in the center. I generally set my timer for around 16 minutes to make sure they don’t burn around the edges. 


Now, while the brownies are baking, it's time to prepare the frosting. This will be poured over the brownies as soon as you take them out of the oven so no need to cool the brownies first.

I use the same pot that I used for the first stage of the brownies – no need to dirty another pan if one does not have to. In it goes 1 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of cocoa and 2 (heaping) tablespoons of cocoa. Make sure to stir this often and once this comes to a boil, turn on low. Add in 3-1/2 cups of powdered sugar, whisking it as you go and then 1 tsp. vanilla. The frosting will show small lumps of powdered sugar but that is okay as it adds to the character of this delight. As soon as the brownies are done, immediately pour the hot frosting over the brownies and smooth out. It will set quickly.

There you go, simple, easy, and, once you take a bite or two or three, yes, I’m thinking – possibly illegal.  Hey, what can I say ... the brain wants what the brain wants!



2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Frosting1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 T. dark, unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup milk
3-1/2 cups unsifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

(1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar.
(2) In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, coffee and cocoa. Stir and heat to boiling.
(3) Pour boiling mixture over the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and eggs.
(4) Mix well on high speed.
(5) Pour into a greased 17x11 jelly roll pan.
(6) Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the brownies test done in the center.
(7) While brownies bake, prepare the frosting. In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring.
(8) Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla until the frosting is smooth.
(9) Pour warm frosting over brownies as soon as you take them out of the oven. Cool.


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