Lindsey Johnson’s Coffee-Break Brownies

There’s nothing better than a little sweet treat to perk you up midday. This is that sort of recipe, with just the right amount of sweetness and caffeine. It’s from the pages of the new cookbook Wild Sugar (Gibbs Smith 2024) by Lindsey Johnson, along with Chase Reynolds Ewald, a collection of 50-plus recipes developed with the rustic mountain west in mind.

Makes 18 brownies


Brownie Layer

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground espresso powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Layer

  • 8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Espresso Glaze

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground espresso powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt


Make the Brownie Layer

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on each side. This allows you to get the bars out easily for cutting.
  1. To make the brownie layer, in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water over medium-low heat, warm the butter and chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the espresso powder. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Add the sugar to the butter mix, whisking until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, whisking until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, add the cocoa, salt, and flour and mix until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  1. The batter will be thick. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes. Begin testing with a toothpick at 25 minutes. If you see a couple of moist crumbs on the toothpick, the brownies are perfect. Allow the brownies to cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for at least 1 hour, or until they’re no longer warm to the touch.

Make the Cream Cheese Layer

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste and cinnamon. Mix for 1 minute until well combined. With a rubber spatula, spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled brownies in an even layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make the Espresso Glaze

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water combine the chopped chocolate, butter, cream, espresso powder, and salt. Over medium-low heat, stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and cool until it is room temperature but still pourable, about 15 minutes. Pour the glaze over the brownies. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until the glaze has set. Serve chilled or at room temperature. These brownies will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe excerpt from Wild Sugar: Seasonal Sweet Treats Inspired by the Mountain West by Lindsey Johnson and Chase Reynolds Ewald. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith Books.


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