By Kristin Carden; Coffee and Woodsmoke
This recipe is dedicated to all the wonderful fathers and father figures out there,
for their gentle guidance and nurturing and love.
Happiest Father’s Day wishes to you!
Spring in the Northern Rockies arrives in a hurry. In the span of a week, half a foot of snow melts and the landscape turns green. Bright, neon green that leaves you blinking and trying to absorb the enormity of life springing up all around you. Spring also doesn’t last long. Give it another week, and temperatures climb and hover near 90 degrees.
A land of extremes.
This spring, people tentatively emerge into the green haze. Vaccinated neighbors, chatting again, muse about the state of the world—and the daily moose and bear sightings. Trail use ticks up. Our little local trail wends its way alongside a creek lined with towering cottonwoods. Two juvenile eagles soar in circles overhead; tree swallows dart about and shelter in a string of nest boxes erected along a fence line.
Along this trail there is a fork, and if you choose one arm, you will plunge down into a little wooded vale. This vale is like no other I’ve seen in Montana; rather, it reminds me of the Midwestern woods in which I grew up playing. It’s small trees and large fallen logs; sunlight dappled ground cover and a smattering of the world’s tallest dandelions.
It was in those Midwestern woods, growing up, that I developed my connection with nature. And it was my father who introduced me to those woods and helped cultivate my love for them. Identifying trees and birds, exploring our little creek and its resident water striders, listening to the winter winds howl between the trees. Gentle guidance that paved the path I’ve walked in life.
I wish I could make a batch of these skillet brownies for my father this year, but we’ll put the recipe on the list for the next time we get together.
How to make
Espresso Skillet Brownies with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream &
Salted Bourbon Caramel
Serving: 8 | Prep Time: 25 min | Cook Time: 25 min | Total Time: 1 hour
- 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2/3 cup (113 g) high quality, bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup (50 g) raw cacao powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (70 g) teff flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum**
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a well-seasoned 10” round cast iron skillet with softened butter. For extra insurance against sticking, you can line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper (placed on top of the butter).
- Melt the 8 tablespoons (113 g) butter in a saucepan over very low heat.
- When the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until they are melted.
- Whisk the cacao powder, salt, coffee/espresso granules, and vanilla extract into the butter-chocolate mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture falls in ribbons from the whisk when lifted (3-5 minutes).
- Reduce speed to low and add the melted chocolate mixture. Mix until well combined.
- Remove the bowl and stir in the teff flour, baking soda, and xanthan gum until everything is mixed well.
- Pour brownie batter into the greased skillet.
- Bake for approximately 25 minutes. For moist, fudgy brownies, do not over-bake! If you check with a toothpick, you should get some sticky crumbles on it. If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature should be 195 degrees.
- Cool the brownies completely in the pan. If you desire clean cuts, refrigerate them before slicing and serving.
- Leftovers keep, covered, in the refrigerator for several days, and in the freezer for several months.
* The coffee/espresso granules are optional, but highly recommended! They really bring out the flavor of the chocolate without imparting a coffee flavor.
** Xanthan gum is optional, but will give the brownies more structure, making them more fudgy and less fragile.
***Use your favorite store-bought vanilla bean ice cream to top these brownies, or churn some up using your ice cream maker & favorite recipe. For gluten-free baking, I highly recommend measuring ingredients by weight rather than volume. Different brands can measure out quite differently in a cup, but using weights will ensure more consistent results.
How to make
Salted Bourbon Caramel
Serving: 8 | Prep Time: 5 min | Cook Time: 15 min | Total Time: 20 min
First things first (especially if this is your first time making caramel): be prepared to hunker down over your saucepan for about 15 minutes to get the recipe right. Caramel is finicky—it goes from underdone to burnt in a matter of seconds (I’ve erred on both sides, making a pale caramel and the equivalent of Werther’s candy), so timing is key!
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature or slightly warmed
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt (be sure to use fine-grained, as flaky sea salt will not “melt” properly and incorporate into the caramel; the result will be big chunks of salt throughout)
- 1 tablespoon whiskey or bourbon
- In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar and the water.
- Place the pan over medium-high heat, step back, and watch it boil.
DO NOT STIR!
- The color of the sugar-water solution will begin to deepen, ever-darker shades of golden. When it is a copper color (usually ~10 minutes, but definitely go by color rather than timing here), remove it from the heat.
- Slowly whisk in the cream. Be careful, it will splatter. Put the pan back on the heat and whisk for about a minute until the cream is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. You may want to use a potholder for this whisking exercise, as the rising steam is hot.
- Remove the pan from the heat again.
- Stir in the butter, followed by the salt, then the whiskey.
- Let cool slightly before using.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Gently reheat the portion you’d like to use before serving.
How to make
Serving: 4, 5 ounce servings | Prep Time: 15 min | Total Time: 15 min
While we’re on the subject of whiskey, there’s no better side for espresso brownies than an Irish coffee. This classic recipe never gets old, and tastes even better out of an enamel cup.
- Enamelware cups
- Stand mixer, hand mixer, or whisk
- 2 cups (16 ounces) coffee, freshly brewed
- 4 ounces Irish whiskey
- 8 teaspoons brown sugar or maple syrup, divided
- 4 ounces heavy cream, lightly whipped
- To whip the cream, place it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, you can use a hand mixer or even whisk by hand if you’re willing to give it some muscle!) Whip until very soft peaks form; you don’t need or want it very stiff.
- Divide the coffee equally between four mugs (4 ounces per mug).
- Stir 2 teaspoons of brown sugar or maple syrup into each coffee cup (you can add more or less sugar/syrup to taste).
- Stir 1 ounce whiskey into each coffee cup.
- Top each cup with an equal amount of whipped cream.
- Sip and enjoy!
Kristin Carden currently resides in the indescribably beautiful Big Sky state of Montana. Her blog, coffeeandwoodsmoke, is her creative outlet. It is her inspiration, and allows her to share the things she loves—food, gardening, photography, art, music, yoga, meditation, nature, wildlife, wildflowers (and, of course, coffee and woodsmoke)—with others. Find more of her recipes here.