I’m an unabashed fan of all things chocolate and when the weather cools down I love to sip a rich, creamy and spicy mug of Mexican hot chocolate. The warm chocolate is spiked with spicy cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper for a kick that takes the drink far beyond your hot chocolate mix you drank as a kid. So with this cool weather I’ve been baking a lot and on a recent afternoon as I was sipping the afore mentioned hot cocoa I began to wonder how I could take the drink I love and turn it into a baked good. The answer….my friends…..are these sweet and spicy brownies.
The recipe is an adaptation of my favorite amaretto brownie recipe. These brownies have the same rich and fudgy texture as their almond infused counterparts. This version, however, is kicked up a notch with the inclusion of cinnamon, cayenne pepper and, for good measure, espresso powder. Adjust the amount of cinnamon and cayenne pepper to please your own taste buds; just be sure to mix the spices when adding them to the flour otherwise you may encounter a rather spicy surprise. Espresso powder is readily available in the coffee section of most grocery stores. If you don’t have any you can substitute instant coffee instead. Simply give it a whirl in a spice grinder first to ensure that it is super fine.
These brownies are best served warm and for an extra special treat, top them with a scoop of ice cream. Yum!
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
- Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly.
- Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
- Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
- In a small bowl, combine flour with the espresso powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper.
- Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until no streaks remain.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.
YIELD: 36 small brownies
I found this recipe in the food section of the Washington Post and was immediately intrigued. As a fan of blue cheese, and gorgonzola in particular, I was sure that I would love these crispy little crackers. And as an added bonus, the recipe seemed so simple. I tested the recipe for a party and found myself enjoying them so much that I needed to make a second batch to actually feed our guests. Yes, they are that good. Think of them as a Cheez-it for adults. Yum!
4 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the butter, salt, gorgonzola cheese, cayenne pepper, and flour in a food processor and pulse until a ball of dough forms.
- Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour.
- Divide the dough in half. Working with one portion at a time, roll out a rectangle to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Re-dust the rolling pin and work surface as needed. Fold and roll as many times as needed to form a tidy 6 by 9 inch rectangle.
- Using a long sharp knife, slice the rectangle of dough to create 18 pieces that are 1/2 inch wide and 6 inches long.
- Use a thin spatula to transfer them to a heavy baking sheet, arranging them close together but not touching. Repeat with the remaining dough on another sheet.
- Sprinkle generously with salt.
- Bake one sheet at a time for 20 to 25 minute or until the straws just begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Yields: 36 straws
I love nuts. From almonds to pistachios, hazelnuts to walnuts and everything in between they are one of my favorite go to snacks. And because they are filled with protein, in small quantities they are healthy. However, sometimes ordinary nuts won’t do. When that is the case, all it takes is a few spices and the nuts of your choice and you have a party worthy munchie in no time.
This recipe comes from the always reliable Washington Post food section. You can use any nut of your choice, either alone or in a combination. I had a generous stash of whole almonds and walnuts in the pantry so I used those. Of course you can always omit the bacon but really…..why would you want to do that?
MAPLE-BACON SPICED NUTS
2 cups raw mixed nuts of your choice
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 slices uncooked bacon
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a wire rack over a swath of paper towels.
- Combine the nuts and egg white in a mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly.
- Stir together the brown sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and ginger in a small bowl.
- Add the spice mixture to the nuts and toss again to coat evenly.
- Scrape the nuts onto the baking sheet, spreading them into a single layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to break up any clumps, until the nuts are lightly toasted.
- Use a spatula to transfer the nuts to a plate and allow to cool.
- Brush the bacon slices on both sides with the maple syrup and arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 minutes, turning them over once until crisp on both sides.
- Transfer the bacon to the wire rack to drain and cool then break the strips into small pieces.
- Place the cooled nuts in a serving dish then add the bacon and toss to incorporate just before serving.