Our Baking Cover Girl: ChefJune's Magic Espresso Brownies

July 21, 2015

We're sharing a recipe from our upcoming book on baking and the story behind how this cover girl-worthy recipe came to be.

ChefJune has been a member of our community for the very start (her first recipe is from six years ago!), and she is the mastermind behind many of our site's beloved recipes: Her Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce, Crab Beignets, and OMG! Coconut Pound Cake are all OMG good.

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But there was one recipe—a frosted brownie—that she posted back in 2011 that deserved a little (or rather, a lot) of attention—so it graces the cover of our forthcoming book, Food52 Baking. While you won't be able to look beyond its cover till September (well, we'll probably be sharing more—we're just too excited!), you can preorder the book in The Shop now. 

Don't be fooled, though: This brownie isn't just a pretty startlet; it tastes great and has a great story to boot. Here, ChefJune tells us how she landed on her Magic Espresso Brownies:

Brownies have always been a favorite food group in my family. They were among the first things I remember baking—plain chocolate brownies were my dad’s favorite! When I had a catering company, brownies in all flavors were an obvious inclusion on my dessert list. The base recipe is one a fellow teacher shared with me a long time ago. All my adaptations start with her recipe, including the one in Baking, Espresso Magic Brownies, which I thought up for a friend’s fundraiser. 

I prepared several serving plates of the brownies so everyone could reach them, and the first two plates we put out were swooped down upon like hawks after chickens. The plates emptied completely and quickly! Someone suggested maybe they had magical properties—hence the name of the brownies.

As you can see, these brownies are frosted. The recipe for the chocolate, Cognac, and espresso frosting is from my godmother, Annie Joe Dawson, who was also famous for her brownies and always frosted them with this really rich frosting.

Although I’m no longer catering and making brownies for clients, I still get lots of requests for brownies from my friends. I'll keep you posted on what brownie I dream up next.

Magic Espresso Brownies by ChefJune

Makes 24 large brownies or 36 smaller brownies

For the brownies:

3 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 cups toasted nuts, such as a mixture of pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts, chopped
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:

1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup Cognac
1/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by James Ransom

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Rebekah J. January 24, 2016
While these are absolutely delicious, I'd have a hard time calling these brownies. It's more akin to texas sheet cake minus the marshmallows then brownies. Very dense, spongey texture for the cake. However, the flavors are amazing, and the cognac in the frosting is divine!
Kristina M. September 4, 2015
I just made these last night and was underwhelmed. I had hoped the coffee flavor would be subtler but alas, it was too strong for my liking (I do enjoy a strong espresso...I guess just not in my brownies!). Also the brownies were not particularly fudgy or moist, despite the use of 4 eggs! ( I halved the recipe and baked in a 9x9). I called it a chocolate coffee cake and brought it into work. My colleagues enjoyed them probably because they did not know they were brownies and also because their hopes weren't as high as mine for something that graced the cover of a cook book! I did sprinkle the brownies with some sea salt which I found really enhanced the chocolate flavor. Will not be making these again unfortunately :(
The P. July 25, 2015
Mmmmmmm.....cognac. Recipe saved!
G T. July 25, 2015
Can't wait to try! Would appreciate having the weights of the dark brown and superfine sugar.
Jean D. July 24, 2015
Well, for heaven's sake! Congratulations Chef June - never have made one of your recipes that has not been outstanding!!
Nancy July 22, 2015
Congratulations Chef June! ...such a good story, including the photo print from James Ransom and food52. The recipe sounds wonderful - lots of good things, layerings of flavor (repetition of chocolate and espresso). Have you ever tried seasoning other than vanilla? If yes, results?
ChefJune July 21, 2015
Eric: l would still go with 8 eggs. Brownies are very flexible.
Thanks all of you for your congratulations! It's so much fun to be the "cover girl." And thanks to James Ransom, for his gorgeous photo of my brownies -- and to the Food52 team for sending me a print ready for framing. :D
Eric July 21, 2015
If using large eggs, what would be the conversion?
drbabs July 21, 2015
Chef june, you are my hero! I'm so happy for you that your brownies are on the cover. I can't wait to see that book!
AntoniaJames July 21, 2015
Whoa, yes! How did I miss a dessert recipe with Cognac on the ingredient list - and in the frosting, no less? What a wonderful back-story, too. I am so pleased, ChefJune, that these beauties will be gracing the cover of our Baking cookbook. ;o)