30 March 2009
Do you know what? Teenagers do not, I repeat, do not, know what is good for them. (I can just see an image of the teenage me pouting and protesting in her dad's old army jacket and rainbow beads in the corner of my brain. Sorry, girl, you just have to deal with it this time.) The last time I made brownies for a bake sale, I made some awesome kick-ass peppermint dark chocolate brownies that no one ate. "We don't like mint!" they declared. "Mint and chocolate is gross!" decried another. No matter, the other teachers and I lapped them up. They were rich with chocolate and butter and mint, and were delicious. Those girls just don't know what they're talking about.
So when it came time for another bake sale, I decided that I was not, under any circumstances, about to waste some high-quality chocolate on them. I determined to buy a box mix. Mom used to make this Ghirardelli box mix with coffee and they were killer. I had something like that in mind when I set out to the store; luckily for my students, I went to Trader Joe's and aquired a box of their truffle brownie mix. I had also just bought a mini-muffin pan, because, really, is there anything cuter than mini-brownies or mini-cupcakes?
No. There is not.
So I swallowed my lofty make-it-from scratch ideals, and you know what? The Trader Joe's Truffle brownies were good. Like, way better than I had expected them to be. Point one, Trader Joe's.
But then, needing to bring something sweet to a party the following night, I decided to make brownies again, though this time they were going towards a more appreciative audience. Now, I know that I keep raving about this cookbook, but seriously, with a little work, the recipes are just about right. The authors have clearly put a lot of effort into making everything just right. I had made their brownies before, but then I saw a spicy version, posted on the Smitten Kitchen, and the nearly perfect brownies became that much better. I love the combination of chiles in chocolate, with the heat and tingle of the chiles ratcheting up the smoothness and depth of the chocolate. Slightly spicy, deep and chocolatey, and pretty darn delicious, I highly recommend them for your next party. I would also recommend using the best chocolate you can find, since there is quite a bit involved, and the flavor really shines through. If you like your brownies in a more traditional style, simply omit the spices.
Spicy Baked Brownies, adapted from Baked: New Frontiers of Baking
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder, or hot smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
11 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13-inch class or light colored metal pan, or put small baking cups into mini-muffin pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder, and spices together.
3. Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes (if you're using a pan), and 25 minutes (if you're using the mini pans), rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares and serve (if using pan).
Makes about 38 mini-cupcake brownies.