Espresso Shortbread Brownies
Before my Dad and his girlfriend Eunice came down for Thanksgiving Dad called and gave me his ‘wish list’ of desserts he would like to try. Most of them had one thing in common — lemons. Lots and lots of lemons.
Being the thoughtful daughter that I am, and also thrilled that Dad wanted to try so many of my desserts, I got very busy baking all of his requests. Each time I went to the grocery store, or sent Shoshana, I would add lemons to the list, since I knew that there were so many desserts that required them.
As I am sure happens in many kitchens across the country, I started baking and cooking and lost track of what desserts had already been made. Meanwhile, I was still putting lemons on the grocery list. By the time Dad and Eunice came down, I had a counter full of lemons without a purpose, because all of the lemon desserts had already been baked.
Post Thanksgiving, I needed a break from anything resembling a pumpkin or cranberry and thought of all those lemons. I came across a recipe that a very talented baker friend of mine had given me about 25 years ago for Lemon Coconut Bars. I thought for sure this would be the perfect way to use the lemons and bake for the blog.
That is, until I tasted the dessert. ‘Yuck’ would not even begin to describe this one. The bottom layer was a shortbread crust, which was actually delicious on its own. Then again, what can possibly be bad about flour, sugar, salt and butter mixed together and baked?
The bars went downhill from there. The coconut layer was more like the filling of a pecan pie without the delicious flavor and the top layer of lemon juice, lemon zest and confectioners sugar made all of us pucker up in a less than flattering way.
So this left me without a recipe to blog about and with a ton of ingredients to dump. Not a great combination. However, since I will always try to find a silver lining, there was one fabulous thing that came out of the horrible lemon coconut bars…my craving for more shortbread crust.
I searched through my Cookies-Brownies file and, sure enough, found a wonderful recipe for Espresso Shortbread Brownies. The espresso shortbread crust is baked first and then topped with a rich chocolate layer that gets baked for an additional 20 minutes.
In addition to the fabulous shortbread crust, I love the fact that the espresso does not overpower the dessert. It complements the chocolate beautifully; kind of like sitting down with a cup of coffee while enjoying a bite of chocolate at the same time.
As is often the case in life and in the kitchen, when presented with lemons, make lemonade. Or, in this case make the really big leap to baking Espresso Shortbread Brownies. I did not solve my lemon surplus dilemma, but I sure had fun trying.
|Espresso Shortbread Brownies
- Espresso Shortbread:
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons espresso powder
- 10 tablespoon (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- Brownie layer:
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 14 tablespoons (1 stick plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- For the espresso shortbread:
- Preheat oven to 350°. Set aside a 9” x 12” baking pan.
- Place flour, sugar, salt and espresso powder into food processor. Pulse on/off until blended. Add butter and process until the consistency of coarse meal.
- Transfer to baking pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Prick with a fork all over the crust. Freeze for 5 minutes.
- Bake on middle rack of a 350° oven for 18-20 minutes. Crust will be lightly browned.
- For the brownie layer:
- While the crust is baking, prepare the brownie layer. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Microwave unsweetened chocolate and butter together in a medium size bowl. Stir until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla.
- Beat eggs and quickly add them to chocolate mixture. Stir the mixture while adding the eggs to prevent the eggs from cooking from the heat of the melted chocolate/butter.
- Pour the chocolate mixture over dry ingredients and mix with a large spoon until smooth.
- Pour brownie layer over the crust once the crust comes out of the oven. Use a small metal spatula to evenly spread the brownie layer over the crust.
- Bake for 20 minutes in 350° oven. The top will start to crack around the edges but will still be soft in the middle.
- Cool completely before cutting into bars.