When I first started freelancing, Will was an infant — one who didn’t cry a lot but who was still vocal. Very vocal. Back then, I freelanced mostly for a local newspaper and my work required me to conduct phone interviews often with Will playing in a baby gym or Exersaucer nearby. Sometimes, I took him with me on assignments too. Fortunately, everyone I dealt with was understanding when our interviews were punctuated by yells of Ah-GOOOOOOOO.
That’s what made working online so alluring. Will could make as much noise as he wanted, and it was fine. I could cook, blog and later even photograph things and noise was a non-issue. And the freedom of it all? It made everything so worth it.
These days, with two kids I’ve learned that noise can get a whole lot bigger than baby coos. Also, I’ve grown accustomed to having the sounds of play around almost constantly … except with school back in, they aren’t so constant anymore. Several afternoons each week, I am all alone at home while both kids are in school. And instead of savoring the silence, it’s deafening. I find myself turning on music or the television for background noise. Go figure.
As much as I appreciate having those hours alone to work, it’s just different — and that can put me a little off-kilter. While I am still adjusting to the new school year, I find that a little comfort food (and of course background noise) helps.
These Rich Chocolate Toffee Brownies, served with a cold glass of milk, are perfect for that. These fall more towards the cake-y end of the spectrum, baking up moist and dense. Bits of toffee dot the batter and bake into it, a secret surprise that sneaks up on you. It’s delightful.
Besides the secret bits of toffee, these have another secret ingredient: Starbucks VIA. I use Decaf Italian Roast in them to really bring out the chocolate flavor. It makes them irresistibly rich (as instant coffee does for any chocolate baked good). Thanks to Starbucks for the VIA to make these, and be sure to scroll all the way down to the end of this post to learn about the giveaway.
Tell me, do you find the adjustment to a silent house hard when kids are in school?
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 4 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate
- 1 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 package Starbucks VIA instant coffee, recommended: Decaf Italian Roast
- 1 cup toffee pieces
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking oil spray. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate together, whisking until combined. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Drizzle in the chocolate, whisking constantly, until fully combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and VIA instant coffee. Add to the chocolate mixture and whisk well until combined. Fold in the toffee pieces.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Tap gently to even out the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Use a toothpick inserted in the center to determine. If it comes out clean, the brownies are done.
- Let cool before cutting.
Disclosure: Starbucks provided me with samples of their Via instant coffee. However, I wasn’t required to write about them, nor did that influence the opinions in this post. All opinions are my own. Also, I was not otherwise compensated for this.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.