Monday, July 13, 2015

Mexican Brownies

There is nothing more tantalizing than the rich aroma of chocolate brownies baking away in the kitchen... except brownies secretly spiked with cinnamon and a pinch of Mexican chile.

Cinnamon and chili work magic when fused with chocolate, period. I first experienced the mouthwatering chocolate-cinnamon duo taking my first sips of Mexican hot chocolate in charming Oaxaca. It was love at first taste. Then, some years ago I timidly reached for my first scoop of Chili Chocolate at my favorite local artisan gelateria. The unprecedented pairing of bittersweet and heat gave a not-so-subtle kick. I was hooked.

Both cinnamon and cayenne (or chile pequin) add warm spiciness that intensifies and complements the rich flavor of chocolate. For years I longed to recreate this sensational experience in the ordinary brownie, but shame on me - I procrastinated. Finally, I ran out of excuses when I was invited to a weekend rooftop housewarming fiesta at my Mexican ex-pat friend Miguel's cozy new pad in the Midlevels. Highly portable, a breeze to make, and just a tad twisted - spiked brownies are perfect for any sorts of gathering especially when you are tight on time. And, they go fast.

Add a touch of spice and heat to these fudgy chocolate brownies for a surprising twist!

Before the squeamish ones turn away - "Mexican brownies" ain't tongue-burning hot; rather, the spices deliver a gentle, delayed kick that leaves folks wondering and pondering, while lip-smacking, just when, and how, they got this elusive kick... and they will never get their heads around it. Try it and you will know what I mean.

Add chocolate chips for extra fudgy chocolate goodness or chopped nuts for texture and an extra layer of flavor. I added a handful of chopped Almond Roca. Finally, finish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and one last pinch of cayenne to really set these brownies apart.

 To prepare...
Brownies just got sexier.
112g (4 oz, approx. 3/4 cup) baking chocolate, any combination of semi-sweet, unsweetened, dark, and milk chocolates
170g (3/4 cup) butter
1 1/4 cup sugar, or more as desired
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground chile pequin (or replace with cayenne)
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (I used chopped Almond Roca)

For the sprinkle...
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Pinch of cocoa powder
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cayenne

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 9x12" pan with parchment paper so that it overhangs on the sides. Set aside.

2. Place baking chocolate and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30-40 seconds, until chocolate is smooth. Stir in sugar. Once mixture slight cools, stir in vanilla extract, eggs, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne, chile pequin, and salt. Mix in flour and stir until combined.

3. Pour the batter in prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs stuck on it. For even cutting, allow brownies to cool completely before slicing into squares.

4. Mix powdered sugar and a pinch each of cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne and sprinkle over sliced brownie. Serve as is or à la mode!

A fun-filled night surrounded by skyscrapers and new and old faces; (far right) Mexican Brownies all packed and ready to go!

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