How to cook: Brownies

15 January 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

I knew I had reached culinary gold when I tip toed into the kitchen late last night and indulged once again with the brownies I so carefully cooked.

The only problem was it took me another hour to fall asleep.

Baking is a lot like making coffee. Measured ingredients, extensive taste testing and the anticipation of the end result you hope will satisfy time well spent.

I used coffee in the ganache that topped my brownies for the first time and they were nothing short of magic.

Coffee is the forgotten spice that adds so much to a meal. There are over 900 different flavour compounds in coffee, wine has a measly 150 and is more accepted in the kitchen. Yet coffee can provide the same full bodied element to more than just baked dishes.

The richness of coffee compliments dark meats such as game, beef, pork, bacon and ham. Using it in marinades will add extra oomph to an afternoon bbq as, like a spice, it brings out the best in tomato sauce, chilli and soy.

Robert Del Grande the owner and chef of Café Annie in Houston, Texas did just this to cement his signature dish.

“When you cook it on a roast or filet of beef, it gets very dark…You get tremendous richness on the outside, and it doesn’t come across as coffee.”

He also suggests sprinkling grounds on French fries, I’m not so sure but I’ll give it a go one day.

Famed chef Emeril Lagasse has been caffeinating his dishes for some time. Apart from the obvious tiramisu, he glazes duck and baby back ribs with coffee creating marinades that allow the palate to grab every part of his complex sauce.

The flavours of coffee can be described as buttery, acidic, fruity, nutty, smokey and sweet. Its diversity seems endless and capable of turning a standard topping into a gourmet masterpiece.

I’m still enjoying the punch that coffee has added to my brownies. Since coffee is roasted it truly knows how to flatter other toasted ingredients like caramel, nuts and chocolate.

Next time you make a batch of brownies, cupcakes, or muffins, add a little coffee, or put some in the frosting. It’s a different sort of start to the day.

For the brownies (thanks to


6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup (130g) sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup (70g) flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (80g) chocolate chips


1. Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the 2/3 cup (130g) sugar, then the eggs.

4. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

5. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set.

6. Let cool, then lift out the foil and peel it away. Cut the brownies into squares.

For the ganache:


½ cup of dark chocolate

½ cup of milk chocolate

½ cup of thickened cream

1 teaspoon of instant coffee


Use a double broiler and mix with a whisk until smooth and shiny. Then spread evenly over brownies, or dunk the top of delicious cup cakes.

If you don’t want to bother with the ganache, just put 2 tablespoons of instant coffee when you’re mixing the butter and chocolate on the stove.


Meghan Lodwick is studying a Graduate Diploma of Journalism at La Trobe University. When not playing MasterChef she regularly writes for her blog: For the Love of Beans!