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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! Spicy Skull Brownies

I was charged with bringing a pan cookie to a Halloween party.  To make this pan of brownies more festive, I came up with this idea to create a skull face on the pan.  I made a template from an on-line image, pinned it to the brownies with toothpicks, then carefully applied a thin layer of royal icing to fill it in.  When I realized I had a "hatchet" that would add to the image, the blood naturally followed (... so to speak.)

Here's what I used (for the brownies):

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
9 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1-inch pieces
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 3-quart square baking dish or a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, chile pepper, cinnamon, salt, and ginger; set aside. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler or a large heat-proof bowl. Set over a pan of barely simmering water (the bottom of the pan should not touch the water). Heat and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Remove from heat, keeping pan or bowl over water. Add both sugars; whisk until completely combined. Remove from water. Mixture should be at room temperature. Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Do not overbeat the batter or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold until there is just a trace amount of flour mixture visible. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish or pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool completely on a wire rack. (If desired, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper.)

Hmmm... as I re-read this recipe now, I thought I had increased the quantity of ancho chili because it seemed too low.  Now I'm wondering if I was looking at the 1/2 teaspoon at the end of the recipe.  I'm sure I would have thought 4 teaspoons was plenty!  If I bumped it up to 1 teaspoon, then no wonder it wasn't noticeable.  Perhaps it was the ginger I increased.  Well, this is what happens when you wait two months before writing up the blog post.

Conclusion:  I wasn't very pleased with these.  They had the somewhat chalky dryness that I think comes from too much chocolate, and weren't fudgy at all.  (I suppose I might have overbaked them, though I checked them early.)  And even with increasing the spices, the spices still weren't especially noticeable. 

Recipe:  Sweet & Spicy Brownie Bites via Better Homes and Gardens, February 2015

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