with a flash and bang, summer is gone. it wasn’t even a gradual transition, no gentle fade-out-of-summer-fade-into-fall. no. mother nature is unmerciful sometimes and i swear, once it struck midnight on september 1st, 2016, there was a distinct chill in the air again. a sharpness that only comes in autumn. clouded skies. early sunsets. emails in our inboxes about PSLs. (shut up starbucks im not ready yet).
i’ve mentioned it before, but i like to find meaning in everything. be it a chance event, interaction(s) with someone, a scene you see as you’re driving, a photo you’ve taken. making the insignificant significant. yes it can be dangerous, but it’s human nature. sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes it’s just for fun, and sometimes you’re just bored and it’s an exercise for the mind.
in this case… these brownies have a few meanings.
- one.) they capture the essence of summer. smores is a quintessential campfire treat, and the cayenne pepper is the fire that forever burns.
- two.) it represents the complexity of life and the “there’s more than meets the eye” situations… brownies are so, so indulgent, but if you look closely, there are chia seeds. the metaphorical good in every situation. it just depends on your perspective.
- three.) i’ve always been intrigued by Mexican mole sauce and the pairing between chocolate and chili (and cinnamon!) and wanted to work it into my baking.
- four.) maybe i just really wanted to make people eat something disgusting but make them think i intended it to taste good.
kidding about the last one. you guys know my sense of humour.
or am i.
i saw this post on ladyandpups where she puts grated white cheddar on top of a sponge cake, and while i’m all for crazy combinations (peanut butter & fried egg sandwich with a dash of soy sauce is srsly AMAZING) sometimes i wonder if sometimes chefs randomly pairs two different ingredients, perhaps with a random generator, then proceeds to hipsterfy it through a myriad of different techniques, obscure sourcing of ingredients, abstract plating, coming up with a meaning behind it… and then SERVES IT TO US and we patrons are like YES MHM AHH THIS TASTES VERY GOOD HOW INNOVATIVE FIVE STARS FOR YOU.
soooo, the response to these brownies were priceless. i got such a kick out of it (har, har). it ranged from “delightfully spicy” to “it adds something special” to “my stomach is still burning” to “why couldn’t you just make normal smores brownies”.
so yes i agree, it was just a tad on the spicier side. using spices in baking can be tricky, they can easily overwhelm all the other flavours. it should be well balanced, well rounded, complex, nothing jutting out.
adding onto that, most recipes online for smores brownies have an inordinate amount of marshmallows on top of a brownie layer, and while that makes for very impressive photos and i’m sure it tastes great…. wouldn’t it also be very sweet? and too too rich?
if there’s such a thing, that is.
i can only critique so much, as i am still a person who made smores brownies.
in this case i tried to make it a bit on the tamer side, dotting the top with halved marshmallows, broken graham crackers, and dark chocolate. flaked salt is key, because then you have almost all your tastes– sweet, bitter, spicy, salty. i’m not sure sour would be a welcome player in this case, although raspberries would be very pretty on top.
the actual brownie itself… was pretty darn good. thank you to cooks illustrated once again for being so reliable. the center pieces were definitively fudgey, while the edges were chewy. so you have the BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. so can recipes stahp arguing over how to make cakey brownies vs chewy brownies vs fudgey brownies because it’s possible to have the whole spectrum in one pan! call it magic… call it true.
i’m just about done rambling but can i just say that the photo above is one of my favourites on this blog. it’s so geometric and MOUNTAINY.
i shied away from baking brownies partly because i thought they’d be hard to photograph. i mean. they’re just brown squares. lol. i even went on instagram to look at how others have styled it, and it’s mostly just stacking it on top of each other or cutting it into squares and laying it all out. yenno. what you’d expect.
so i’m going to peace out now… hope everyone has had a restful enough summer and a lovely labor day!
Unapologically Spicy Smores Brownies
- 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (I had used 2 tsp and that was “too much”… ahem)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp boiling water (for accurate measurement, boil water first, then measure)
- 2 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- graham crackers
- marshmallows, halved horizontally
- chia seeds
- flaked maldon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Make a parchment paper sling by lining 2 long sheets of parchment paper perpendicular to each other on the baking pan, so there’s extra paper hanging over the edges of the pan. Makes for a super easy removal from the pan, and a quick clean up!
- Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, cayenne and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Carefully measure out your boiling water and add to the bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine well.
- Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until it’s melted.
- Whisk in oil and melted butter. Mixture will look curdled at this point because it’s water and oil right now, duh. Do not fret, my friend.
- Add eggs, egg yolks (your emulsifier!) and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Exhale because your mixture is no longer curdled.
- Whisk in sugar until fully dissolved/incorporated.
- Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl, then mix into batter with rubber spatula. I actually used a whisk. Whatever works for you.
- Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan. Be sure to instastory this moment because flowing brownie batter is a beautiful thing and should be witnessed by everyone.
- Spread batter into corners of the pan and smooth out the surface. Top the surface with broken-up graham crackers, marshmallow halves, chia seeds and dark chocolate chunks.
- Bake until toothpick inserted into the centre of the pan comes out with a few moist crumbs attached– 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. It depends on the oven of course, but for me 30 minutes was perfect.
- Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Sprinkle on the maldon sea salt. This is very important.
- Cut brownies however big you want, and proceed to stuff your face.
- Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Best enjoyed with a cold glass of milk. Enjoy!