This is it: the first truly alcoholic post on the blog. I know I’ve mentioned my bar work here before, and I even put up a recipe for bourbon-spiked cookies a while back, but so far this blog has stayed mostly teetotaler-friendly. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but infusing spirits requires a similar skill-set to baking, and it’s fun, too. So here’s my first infusion recipe: coffee-infused bourbon. I stumbled upon a recipe back in December, made a few tweaks, let the stuff sit for a couple weeks, and ended up with something delicious. It’s very strong and pleasantly bitter, but with enough vanilla sweetness to soften the blow.
I had grand intentions of using the infusion for espresso Manhattans or Old Fashioneds, but in the end my friends and I drank all of it neat at a party. (Which was also a great use of it, don’t get me wrong.) Luckily, not before I managed to use some in a tray of amazing boozy brownies. Both recipes are below. The coffee bourbon takes a couple of weeks; the brownies take less than an hour.
(Loosely adapted from Boozed + Infused)
1/3 cup coffee beans
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1. Using a mortar and pestle (or in a sturdy bowl using a muddler), gently crush the coffee beans. You don’t need to grind them, just break them up a bit (see below for what mine looked like). Add to a large, clean canning jar.
2. Split the vanilla bean vertically. Add to the jar.
3. Add in the brown sugar and bourbon and stir. Seal and store in a cool, dark place, shaking daily. Let your bourbon infuse for 2-3 weeks, tasting regularly after the first 10 days or so. The longer it sits (and the hotter the climate), the more intense the coffee flavor will become, so it just depends on how pronounced you want that to be.
4. When you have the flavor you want, strain through a cheesecloth. You can also strain it through coffee filters, but I didn’t bother – there will be a tiny bit of sediment if you only use cheesecloth, but to me it wasn’t worth filtering again.
Boozy Mocha Brownies
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground coffee*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coffee bourbon
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
*You can also use instant coffee or espresso powder, which will give you a smoother texture – the coffee grinds give these brownies a bit of graininess that I actually liked, but which might not be for everyone.
1. Put a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 160 Celsius (325 Fahrenheit). Line an 8×8 baking pan with baking parchment or foil, leaving a couple inches overhang on two opposite sides (to make lifting them out of the tray easier).
2. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa, coffee, and salt together in a large heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Double-boil until the butter is fully melted and mixture is still smooth, stirring from time to time. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
3. Mix in the coffee bourbon. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. When the second egg is fully incorporated and the batter looks nice and shiny, add the flour and stir until just combined.
4. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. It will be very thick and a little difficult to work with; just spread it out as evenly as you can. Bake until a toothpick comes out almost clean, about 20-25 minutes.
5. When brownies are completely cool (I refrigerate them for a bit too because I think they’re easier to cut cold), lift them out of the pan using the foil/baking parchment. Cut into desired size and enjoy.