IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS: OUTSTANDING ESPRESSO BARS

by Dec 12, 2020

It is a little disconcerting to bring a new recipe to a gathering with good friends and the first bite causes-

COMPLETE SILENCE.

Now, you do have to know your friends well to interpret exactly what the silence means:

  • Wow!
  • Ooh-Yuck!
  • OMG this is so good…

I was lucky to have the first and last responses when I presented Espresso Brownies to friends the very first time.  Of course, to stay humble, I should also tell you that my children’s’ responses were right smack dab in that middle section. I knew they wouldn’t even try Espresso Brownies because they don’t like coffee.  But I also knew my friends would reinforce this particular baking adventure of mine—and they did not disappoint me.

This is a great recipe to make ahead.  It tastes even better and stays moist when it is made a day ahead, and these bars freeze well.  I was always a bit irritated when I found recipes that mentioned freezing baked cookies but didn’t give specific information. These recipe suggestions never addressed the issue of thawing them without getting condensation all over them. So, I updated my research. If you are interested in more information about freezing cookies, click on this link: How to freeze and thaw cookies or dough.

I have tried to make these with less caffeine. I wasn’t able to find decaf instant espresso, so I used decaf instant coffee instead. There really is no comparison; stick with the espresso. You can see the difference in the looks of the two photos above. I used instant coffee in the first, instant espresso in the second.

Espresso bars are easy and quick, just as most bar cookies are.  Cream the butter with both brown and white sugar using a mixer.  Why use both types of sugar? I think it is to get the best of both worlds. Brown sugar contributes to moistness and white sugar provides balance, so the brownies are not too dense.

Add the eggs and combine completely, then add the vanilla and salt.  Sprinkle the flour and baking powder over top, then mix it all thoroughly.  It is best to stir the espresso and chocolate chips in by hand, so you don’t over mix the ingredients. 

I like to line the square baking pan with parchment or foil so I can easily lift the whole baked block out of the pan after cooling.  No matter which I use, I also spray it lightly with cooking oil spray, and dust it with cocoa powder to prevent sticking.  Using cocoa instead of flour ensures a nice finish without clumps of coagulated flour on the bottom.

I usually flip the whole pan over onto a cooling rack if I use foil, and then remove the foil before flipping it back onto a cutting board.  If I lift out the foil and try to cut the bars with the foil attached, I sometimes get little pieces of foil stuck on the bottom of the bars-yuck! When I use parchment paper, I lift it all onto the board and cut the bars directly on the parchment.  

Trim the edges off the brownies if you like neat, clean edges for presentation. I can attest to the fact that the edges are tasty, but presentation is much better with neat edges. You can always eat the trimmings.

These are rich, moist brownies exuding coffee and chocolate flavors, so they should be cut into fairly small pieces. I usually start with 16 squares, then cut each square in half to form rectangles or triangles.  Dust the tops with confectioner’s sugar and serve–with more coffee if you dare.

ESPRESSO BARS

  • Cooking oil spray
  • Unsweetened cocoa for dusting
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 Cup Instant Espresso Powder, or instant coffee
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray bottom of 9-inch square baking pan with cooking oil spray; line pan with parchment paper, waxed paper, or foil. Spray the liner again and sift cocoa powder lightly over the bottom of the pan.

Cream butter and sugars in a mixing bowl.  Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; beat until well combined. 

Stir in flour and baking powder until smooth. By hand, stir in the espresso powder, then mix in the chocolate chips.

Scrape mixture into prepared pan; bake for 30 minutes.  Insert a toothpick in the center to check for doneness; the toothpick should come out clean. 

Cool completely in pan; cut into squares, rectangles or triangles.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar prior to serving. 

Inspired by Recipezaar.com

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2 Comments

  1. ina wesenberg

    I’m going to make these for my Daughter in law for Christmas Oh they look so good
    and I love the directions: easy and complete nice job Anne!

    • akcooker

      Thanks, Ina; I am sure she will love them!