In fall 2020, RowHouse Restaurant, Topeka, KS, closed after 14 years of operation. Housed in an antique building, downtown, the fine dining restaurant offered frequently changing ‘American fusion’ cuisine, with a big focus on using fresh local ingredients. One of many restaurants that closed during the pandemic, its chef/owner, Greg Fox, now creates food-focused events in the city.
I felt honored to dine at RowHouse a decade ago, while doing research for a regional travel magazine. I also feel honored to own a signed copy of Fox’s first cookbook, FRESH. It features a full-page history of the 1876 rowhouse where the restaurant operated and a group photo of restaurant staff.
A self-professed visual learner and cook, Fox illustrated each recipe with a gorgeous, full-page photo of the completed dish. One of my favorite features in the book was his notations regarding ‘things you will need’ to create a dish, such as ‘2, 9 x 13 pans & whisk,’ when making his mocha chocolate brownies.
These simple but luscious brownies are packed with chocolate and a hint of java. I have provided Fox’s original recipe plus measurements to make a half-recipe, as I did. For serving, I topped my brownies with a small scoop of ice cream, a big drizzle of chocolate balsamic vinegar, and plenty of grated chocolate. Enjoy!
mocha chocolate brownies
Makes 24 brownies
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup)
½ cup boiling water (1/8 cup because my brownies turned out almost like pudding)
2 teaspoons instant coffee (1 more if you want more coffee flavor) (1 teaspoon)
3 sticks salted butter (1 ½ sticks; V.O.E – I used 1 stick salted butter and ½ stick unsalted)
10 ½ ounces of chocolate chips (no more) (5 ¼ ounces)
4 cups sugar (2 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon, may also use fine sea salt)
8 eggs (4 eggs)
2 cups flour (1 cup; as noted elsewhere in the book, Fox uses all-purpose flour)
1 ¾ cups additional chocolate chips, no more (7/8 cup)
Preheat oven to 375 and prepare two 9 x 13 pans. (Elsewhere in FRESH, Fox defines prepared pans as layers of cooking spray, parchment, and more cooking spray, because of how many dishes the restaurant had to wash. V.O.E.- I buttered & floured my pan, instead, using a ‘butter brush’ to spread the flour evenly)
Mix 1 (1/2) cup of the sugar with the instant coffee and boiling hot water and whisk together until coffee granules dissolve. Set aside until later. In a separate bowl mix flour with the additional 1 ¾ cups (7/8 cup) chocolate chips and set aside.
Use a double boiler, or a pan in a water bath (a pan large enough to make all these brownies). I use a chafing dish on the stove, starting with hot water in the base, and always on the lowest flame. Put butter in this pan, then add the chocolate chips.
Before the butter and chocolate get too hot (butter will melt to clear, and chips will start to get soft) remove from heat and stir together until smooth. If the chips don’t melt, put back on the heat for just a bit, just get it off the heat as soon as the butter and chocolate smoothly combine.
Add the coffee and sugar mixture you made earlier. Using a sturdy wire whisk, add the rest of the sugar (3 ½ cups; 1 ¾ cups), vanilla, and salt. Whisk together.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated. Fold the flour and chocolate chip mixture into the batter all at once until just incorporated. Don’t over stir.
Spread evenly into prepared pans and bake for 22 minutes. Don’t overbake (V.O.E.- However, I do think an additional 2-3 minutes would have better solidified the brownies-just watch them carefully). When you jiggle the pan there should be no motion.
Let cool, before cutting except for the corner you need to taste while hot. I suggest eating them plain, but ice cream is a welcome addition.
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I love crafting stories about fantastic food & beverages, must-visit destinations & eco-friendly topics. I wrote a 350+ page book about Kansas. And I've worked with dozens of additional clients - from Fodors.com & AAA magazines to USAToday.com & WanderWithWonder.
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