I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth but, for some reason, I ended up with an arsenal of chocolate from the holidays. It’s all been sitting in a bowl in my kitchen, staring at me for weeks. It’s really nice chocolate. But on those nights when I’m curled up in my jammies, on the couch, watching movies, I will always go for homemade popcorn over bon bons. Although one night recently I enjoyed a few bites of the white chocolate with pistachios – because of the pistachios
Come to think of it, I’ve never really had a need for sweets. We never had them in my house growing up. We never had any fun junky stuff, actually. One time, in high school, during a particularly munchy moment (ahem) my friend Paz noticed that my dad’s fridge was made up entirely of condiments (which she promptly expressed to him in a very dire tone). There was not a single thing we could grab and nosh on. I do remember my dad having a bag of salt & vinegar chips once that I promptly consumed in one sitting while watching MTV. And, I might add, that that was the last bag of chips to enter our house on Grove Ave.
To this day, if there is a bag of salty, crunchy things near me, it’s bad news. I have no gauge. Chips, peanuts, popcorn, cheese & crackers, Chex mix, those little goldfish, you name it. They will all be but a distant memory once in my line of vision. So, as you may imagine, not too many bags of chips enter my house these days either.
One thing I do love is a slightly savory dessert. Remember the olive oil cake? I also like surprising and curious ingredients kissing one another – as long as gooey-fruity stuff is not on the billing - but I’m working on that.
Anyway, I knew I was going to make chili today. I wanted a big vat of it to have around the house to make my sphere seem cozy, and to share with any friends that swing by this weekend. I love a chili-ized house: all warm and snuggly and smelling good for days (as the pot never leaves the stove, simmering in it’s spices forever).
So, as I was rummaging through the kitchen trying to find new, fun things to throw in my chili, this wealth of chocolate stared me down. No, it’s not what you think. I did not put chocolate in my chili.
But I did put chilis in my chocolate.
But I did put chilis in my chocolate.
It seemed unlikely at first, but think about it – a little heat in that sweet... Think molé. You’ve likely seen Chocolat - remember how that spicy hot cocoa Juliette Binoche served Judi Dench just perked her right on up?
So I made chocolate brownies with chile de arbol, topped them with walnuts, garnished them with a little chocolate mint, and paired mine with a glass of milk. I’ll tell you what, not only did it clear up my sinuses from this little cold I’ve been fighting off, but it was shockingly delicious! Even my mom, the baker in the family, who is very anti-spicy, happily - and eagerly - scarfed one down.
Chili AND Chocolate Chili Brownies in the same day?! It just shows to go, you never do know… Throw caution to the wind, my friends.
Chocolate & Chile de Arbol Brownies
(adapted from Latina Magazine's Betty Cortina)
Makes 24 brownies
INGREDIENTS3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for the pan
1/4 cup pure chili powder
1 Tablespoon chopped chile de arbol
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan, at room temperature
3 ounces 60% dark chocolate
3 ounces 70% dark chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
3 large eggs, at room temperature
A few sprigs of chocolate mint
DIRECTIONSPosition the rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch baking pan; set it aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, chili powder, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
Place the butter and both kinds of chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. If you don't have a double boiler, place the butter and both kinds of chocolate in a heat-safe bowl that fits snugly over a small pot of simmering water. Stir constantly until half the butter and chocolate is melted. Remove the top of the double boiler or the bowl from the pot; then continue stirring, away from the heat, until the butter and chocolate are completely melted. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Beat the sugar into the melted chocolate mixture with a whisk or with an electric mixer at medium speed; continue beating until smooth and silky, about 5 minutes by hand or 2 minutes with a mixer. Beat in the eggs until well incorporated.
With a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Do not beat. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it gently to the corners. Top with walnuts.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Cut the brownies into 24 pieces while they're still in the pan. Carefully remove them with an offset spatula. Serve immediately, or let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap for storage at room temperature. They will stay fresh for up to 3 days. The brownies can be tightly wrapped in wax paper, sealed in a freezer-safe bag, and frozen for up to 2 months; allow them to thaw at room temperature before serving.
Serve with a chocolate mint leaf and a glass of cold milk!