Using what you have on hand.

I have entered the week quite exhausted and out of sorts — the drama of the fire on Saturday didn’t help, then I classically overscheduled myself on Sunday. I had committed to volunteering in the afternoon, which I always enjoy, followed by a Super Bowl party that evening. Somehow I just ran late all day, leaving me distracted and mentally tired, both at those events and in easing back into the work week. The good news is that I perfected a new recipe and have been able to feed my stress with sweet, spicy, chocolatey goodness.

In preparation for Super Bowl festivities, I knew I wanted to take something unique and creative to the party. A few weeks ago, Giada made brownies inspired by Mexican chocolate, which can contain chilies for a spicy hit to follow the sweet. Her version adds quite a bit of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne, which I thought would be a different spin on the dessert and a perfect accompaniment to the game-day spread.

You should understand that I tend to procrastinate about most things in life. Baking is no different. So there I found myself on Saturday, available hours ticking away, totally without motivation to go to the store for a boxed brownie mix. (After 4 p.m. I couldn’t have left if I wanted to.) So, it was time to be creative.

I scoured the Internet for homemade brownie recipes and was delightfully surprised to find I had all the ingredients I needed. I love a pantry success! When you use what you have on hand, make do when you don’t, and the result is still incredible, it’s a job well done. These brownies turned out fudgy and gooey in all the right places, with a thick and creamy ganache frosting. I’m usually not a great fan of cinnamon, but it adds warmth and depth of flavor, and the cayenne leaves a slight note of spice just in the back of your throat. These brownies are decadent and memorable, to be sure. You don’t even need the spice if you don’t like it — they’ll turn out just as ridiculously amazing. But if you are a fan of all things spicy or just want to kick up the usual brownie recipe, definitely try them out.

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Sweet & Spicy Brownies

For the brownies:

1/3 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot, brewed coffee
1/2 stick butter, sliced into pieces
1 (2 oz-ish) milk chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 egg yolks (whites only also works if need be)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

Optional:

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (depending on your spice tolerance)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped chocolate, chocolate chips or nuts

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper, so that it overhangs the dish on two sides. This is so you can easily lift the block of brownies out of the pan later. Grease the unlined sides of the pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a small bowl, add the butter and chopped chocolate bar. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until both are melted.

In a large bowl, combine the cocoa powder, cinnamon and cayenne (if using). Whisk in the coffee, vegetable oil and butter and chocolate mixture. Add the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla and stir until well incorporated. Add the sugar, flour and salt and stir together just until combined. Add more chopped chocolate or nuts, if desired.

Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted around the edge comes out clean. (I like the leave the center a little underdone and gooey.) Let the brownies cool in the pan for at least an hour. You can then remove them by lifting on the parchment paper to better frost and cut them.

For the frosting:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter, sliced into chunks and softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Fill a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water, and find a glass or metal bowl that will sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water. Heat the water until simmering, over medium heat or so and put the bowl over it. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and heat it, stirring, until it’s warm. Add the chocolate and continuously and carefully stir until the chocolate melts and is fully mixed with the cream. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, let it cool about 5 minutes, and then put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. (The longer you chill it, the more dense the frosting will be.) When fully chilled, remove the bowl from the refrigerator, add the butter and cocoa and mix with a hand mixer until well incorporated. From there you can whip the frosting on a higher speed to the consistency you like.

Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies, sprinkle with cinnamon if desired, then put them back in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes to an hour before slicing and serving. Enjoy ravenously.

Adapted from Spicy Cinnamon-Chocolate Brownies and Chewy Brownies.

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