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Brownies with a Hack

I love brownies with crisp edges and gooey centers. I also think that there is enough chocolate in brownies that you do not need to add chocolate chips to the batter. But that does not mean you should not do all you can to enhance the chocolate flavor in this delectable dessert morsel.

For some reason lately, the newsfeed on my phone has been sending me brownie recipes. So I have been craving them. As I mentioned in my last brunch post, brownies were the dessert du jour. They were great the day I made them but lost its goo factor and got a bit dry the next day.

The brunch brownies

No one should have to eat an entire batch of brownies in one day when they are the perfect balance of crisp and gooey. I knew I needed a solution. Or should I say solutions?

Espresso, Melted Butter, Date Paste

So why did I use these three ingredients? Coffee and chocolate are a great combination. Additionally, I have read on several occasions that coffee intensifies the flavor of chocolate. So this seemed like a safe way to boost the chocolate flavor.

One of the recipes that showed up on my newsfeed said to use melted butter instead of flavorless vegetable oils. By doing so, it will add a richness and a creamier texture to the brownie. I do not know, but butter always trumps vegetable oil in my book. Finally, the date paste is added to keep the brownie moist and chewy. I make it. And I have it. So yes, anything to keep the gooey factor alive.

Brownies – The Confession

To be transparent here, I did not make these from scratch. My baking skills are still tenuous at best so hacking a box mix is what seemed like a comfortable option. So follow along for the three hacks plus the added chunky flavor boost and some nuts for an added crunch.


This is the box mix I chose because it is a no-frills, original-style brownie.

Please note that I made a double batch because I like thick brownies and I wanted to share them with friends and family. And to be clear, an 8×8 pan does not make enough to share with Gary, let alone friends and family.

Brownies – The Hacks

In this first hack, you replace the water with espresso. If you do not have an espresso machine, you can substitute the water with strong black coffee. In the second hack, you replace the vegetable oil with melted butter. Both in the same amounts as given on the box.

A double recipe calls for a 1/2 cup. A single recipe calls for 1/4 cup
A double recipe calls for a cup of melted butter. A single recipe calls for 1/2 cup of melted butter.
Allow this espresso/butter mixture to cool to room temperature so that you do not cook the eggs when you add to the mix.


Once you have melted the butter and made the espresso, pour it together and allow it to cool before you mix it into the brownie mix and eggs. If the mixture gets too hot, it can cook the eggs when you are mixing the batter.

When just blended, you will add hack number three, the date paste. This is an added ingredient that is not on the box. But it is a critical ingredient if you want gooey brownies that will remain so until the last lonely brownie sits in the pan.

I keep my date paste in the fridge. So measure out what you need and allow it to also come to room temperature. It will blend with the batter much easier.  This double recipe I used 1/3 cup. If you make a single box, you will need three tablespoons.

A double recipe calls for a 1/3 cup of date paste. A single recipe calls for three tablespoons.

Once you have blended the date paste into the brownie mixture, you can stop there and bake as directed on the back of the box depending on the thickness of your batch. Or you can drop the mic.

Brownies – Drop the Mic

I would have been happy to end the recipe here. The brownies would have been just the way I like them with crispy edges and gooey centers. But I had something more up my sleeve, and I needed to take these brownies to the next level.

For that reason, I decided to add chopped Marcona almonds for crunch and chopped candied oranges to bring the flavor profile to the next level.

Trader Joe’s sells all sorts of dried fruit. It is the only place I have found that sells candied dried orange. (They also have candied lemon) It is a combination of sweet and bitter, and I love eating these as a snack. Also, Gary will soak one in bourbon and then mash it up in his Old Fashion Cocktail.

I used a cup of chopped candied oranges. I could have used more, but that was all I had.

If you have never had a twist of orange peel in a dark roasted cup of coffee, you have not lived. The oils from the peel lift the coffee into a whole new dimension that must be experienced. The same is true of chocolate and orange. Candied Orange peel dipped in dark chocolate is so decadent and delicious. I do not know why we do not make more desserts with these two components.

Marcona almonds are the finest almonds in the world. Ok, that is my opinion, but still! If I never have to eat another California almond again that would be fine by me. Chopped Marconas in my brownies.. yes, please!

Once the date paste is blended into the batter, add in the orange pieces and the almonds. Stir to coat and then put the batter in your pan to bake.

Because I made a double batch which I assumed would also be “thickest,” so I baked it in a 325-degree oven for 50 minutes (or until an inserted knife comes out clean).

Garnished with powdered sugar and Orange zest

I shared these with my older sister, neighbor Natalie and Bryan and Craig.  They all loved them, especially the orange.

Mugs – For Coffee & Tea With a Touch of Humor

Proud to introduce a line of mugs with a touch of humor. On sale directly from this website. Please check out the five designs that I have so far. Large, 15 oz. size with a generous handle. Dishwasher safe.

That is all for now.



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