The Secret Brownie Ingredient Nadiya Hussain Swears By

There are few chocolate desserts as simple, yet as memorable and heartwarming as a good brownie. The crinkly, shiny top. The moist fudgy middle. And if you have a corner piece, there's also the crisp side that gives way to a chewy center. But even if you've got what you might think is the perfect recipe with the perfect technique, Nadiya Hussain, winner of the Great British Baking Show's sixth season suggests there is something you can add to take your brownie recipe from the scrumptious to the sublime. 

On her BBC TV show, Nadiya Bakes, she suggests adding instant coffee to what is already her decadent dessert. "What coffee does is it enhances the flavor of the cocoa. You take your brownie to a whole other place. It's like a cocoa, chocolate-flavoured explosion," she says (via YouTube). The instant coffee powder isn't added as is, however, two teaspoons of hot water are mixed with one tablespoon of instant coffee to make a rich chocolate enhancer.

Coffee is used to enhance the taste of cocoa

Food science supports Hussain's call to use coffee as a chocolate-pick-me-up. The Daily Meal says that both ingredients inhabit the same flavor profile space, so that the addition of coffee actually enhances chocolate's complex taste, plus using just a bit — say up two teaspoons, like Hussain's recipe does — doesn't add a coffee taste to your chocolate pastry. The Kitchn writer Emma Christensen says the idea first popped up in a long-ago episode of Barefoot Contessa, and it's been a go-to ever since. 

Adding the coffee kicker isn't even as complicated as you might think — it just needs a bit of math, so say if your recipe calls for a half cup of milk, you'd add a half cup less of the amount of coffee you might need, which in this case is about two teaspoons. Food52, which also endorses this food hack, suggests making the swap with ingredients like milk, boiling water, or cream.