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If the world is divided between those who love cakey brownies and those who prefer theirs fudgey, there's widespread agreement in both camps that a hint of coffee flavor is the best way to improve upon something that nearly defies improvement. Notice I said hint. Our aim is to add a whisper of coffee flavor, not shout it from on high – these are brownies, after all – and we achieve that end with a subtle one-two coffee punch: a bit of ground coffee, and some coffee liqueur. Warning to those of you, like me, who have a habit of licking utensils and may wonder about this: the coffee flavor is muted in the batter but more prominent in the baked brownies.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, in several pieces
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely ground, almost powder-like coffee (see note below)
2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1. Put the butter in the top of a double boiler and begin to melt it over barely simmering water. As butter starts to melt, add the chocolate, spreading it evenly rather than dumping it in one big pile. Leave the mixture over the heat for about 5 minutes, until melted, then stir to smooth. Transfer the top of the double boiler to a cooling rack and stir in the ground coffee and Kahlua. Cool for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9- by 9-inch cake pan and dust it with flour, knocking out the excess. (Do not use a smaller pan.) Set aside.
3. Combine the sugars in a large mixing bowl. Rub with fingers to break up any lumps. Add the eggs. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds, until well blended. Blend in the vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and blend on medium speed just until evenly mixed.
4. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Stir it into the chocolate mixture, about half at a time, until evenly mixed and no dry streaks remain. Stir in the nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spoon.
5. Bake the brownies on the center oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes. When done, the brownies will have risen somewhat and will have a thin, brittle top crust. A toothpick, inserted at the center, should emerge with a little batter attached. Try not to over bake.
6. Transfer the brownies to a cooling rack and cool thoroughly. To get the cleanest cuts, cover and refrigerate for several hours before slicing. Serve slightly cool or at room temperature.
Makes 16 brownies
Note: Whenever I need to make finely ground coffee for a recipe such as this, I do it in either my blender or – even better – my mini-chopper style coffee grinder. For best results I'll usually mix in a bit of the total amount of sugar with the coffee beans – perhaps 2 to 3 tablespoons.
Find more delicious coffee recipes here in our Coffee Lovers' Recipe Collection