There used to be a category of food called “squares”, which hit its heyday in approximately 1957. My grandmother, like any good 50s mom, had numerous recipes filed under the heading of squares: lemon shortbread squares, peanut butter squares, rocky road squares, yum yum squares (which evidently were made yum yum through the the record-breaking number of sugary snack foods they contained). This recipe, though, was among my favourite of the rotating square repertoire. Although my grandmother always baked them until they reached a fine crumb consistency, my preference is to underbake these just slightly, so that the edges are still cakey but the middles stay squishy and fudgy and just slightly wetter than seems decent.
Gram’s Fudgy Mocha Brownies
Adapted from Bessie Quirk
Makes 1 8x8 pan of brownies (~16 squares)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray, for pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly, divided
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into large cubes and chilled
1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 300-ml cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
4 tbsp coffee-flavoured liqueur (such as Kahlua)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional, but c’mmmmmmon)
200 gr bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use roughly ¾ bag dark chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x8-inch baking tin with nonstick spray and line pan one way with parchment paper (it’s not necessary to do the other side, as long as the bottom of the pan is covered and you have 2 edges to lift from, you’re good). Set aside until ready to use. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and the sugar. Cut the butter in using 2 blunt knifes or a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly and can be pressed together with your fingers. Press the dough into the bottom of the lined baking tin until you have formed an even bottom layer. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, but do not allow it to develop any colour. While the crust bakes, whisk together the cocoa powder, baking powder, condensed milk, eggs, coffee liqueur, vanilla, and remaining ½ cup flour in a large bowl until smooth. Fold in the chopped nuts, if using. Pour the batter over the baked crust and return to the oven. Bake for 35-40ish minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre emerges just barely wet, with a couple moist crumbs clinging (not soaking wet! definitely not bone dry either please!) Let cool completely on a wire rack.
When the squares are cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or by microwaving in a small bowl in 20-second bursts, stirring between increments. When the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, pour over the brownies, using a rubber spatula to spread the chocolate to the edges and evenly coat the top. Let cool completely (this can be expedited in the fridge, but I actually like a bit of softness in the chocolate layer). Run a knife along the non-lined edge and use the parchment paper to pull the brownies from the pan if wanting to serve as a heap of cut squares (note that refrigerated brownies will be harder to pull from the pan!) Eat the whole pan in a pride/shame-inducing amount of time.