Ellen Clifford
March 28, 2014 8:00 am

It ain’t just caffeine that’ll keep you up past your bedtime. A tasty mystery does it, too. As does sugar. Whodunnit? Was it the cake-y powdered sugar darling? The mocha-frosted vixen? Or was it that crusty brownie corner, which leaves behind a literal crumb trail? These are the sweet things that keep me up at night. These treats partner well with the sinfully sweet and slightly trashy (in the best way) mystery novels my aunt gave me. What can I say? It cannot be all dense tomes and deep thoughts on less-deep ones. Sometimes you need to consume a bit of fluff. Consider this book a palette cleanser.

My aunt gave me Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle along with a couple of Coyle’s other “Coffeehouse Mysteries”, because I am obsessed with coffee.The fact that the lead character and I both named our cats Java possibly had something to do with the gifting, too. My Java got his name because he is black, which is how I drink my coffee, just so ya know. The Coffeehouse Mysteries center around Clare Cosi, owner of Java and a coffee cafe called Village Blend. They also contain a few coffee recipes at the end. Just like you sometimes need a good sugar-y dessert, sometimes you just need a good frothy read. Something with a good head on it’s shoulders. Yes, reading this novel has caused my writing to devolve into cappuccino puns.

Almost all the food mentioned in Through the Grinder involves coffee flavors, from coffee-marinated steak to the chocolate pudding Clare makes. I thought about making chocolate pudding but I’ve made that here before. I changed course and started thinking I should make a baked treat like you would find in a a coffee house. Furthermore, that treat should have a mocha flair to it – it’s all about the flair, guys.

I had a recipe for Cappucino Fudge Brownies I had been wanting to make, so that was my starting point. However, I’ve noticed that characters rarely get to do a lot of eating in these books because sexy time always starts up (it’s deliciously trashy in places). So I decided to make the brownies the tiniest bit healthier by using applesauce for some of the fat, cutting down the sugar and using dark chocolate because, you know, antioxidants! I also invented an alternate topping to the frosting, should you wish to forgo a bit of butter. I would rarely forgo butter, but maybe you would. You can even frost half and use the powdered sugar/cinnamon topping on the other half, if you’d like options. But don’t let contemplating which type to consume keep you up late. The coffee will take care of that.

Caffeinated Crack  aka Mocha Brownies adapted from a lot of different brownie recipes, originally inspired by Poppin’ Fresh Homemade Cookies by the Pillsbury Company

For Brownies:

  • 1 oz. dark bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 5 Tbsp. cocoa powder

For Frosting (optional):

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. coffee
  • chocolate chips
  • cinnamon

If you don’t frost:

  • powdered sugar
  • cinnamon

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 by 8 inch pan. Melt the chocolate and butter then stir in the espresso powder. Then stir in the applesauce and vanilla. Beat the sugar, eggs and cinnamon until the sugar dissolves. This will take several minutes so have patience. Fold in the chocolate mixture, flour and cocoa powder. Pour into your pan. Bake about twenty minutes. Watch this carefully, as every oven is different. You do not want to over bake these!

Once the brownies are cooled, beat the butter for the frosting, powdered sugar, vanilla and coffee. Beat it good. Spread on brownies. Garnish with chocolate chips and cinnamon.

If you don’t frost them, just sift on the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Delightful. Swoon. Sexy time?