Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sweet Heat Brownies

There are a lot of brownie recipes out there using spicy ingredients such as chipotle powder or smoked paprika, and this one's no exception to the unusual list. In this recipe, the heat comes from ancho chile pepper. To tone it down a bit, cinnamon is added and orange zest gives this brownie another layer of interesting flavor.
But there are two unusual ingredients in this recipe. One is chopped dates and the other is pumpkin seeds. The story that introduced this recipe never mentioned anything about the secret ingredient of dates, which I thought was a little odd, considering I don't recall ever seeing a brownie recipe using this. The wierd thing about this is that you barely notice dates being in the brownie. They seem to blend into the batter so well that I don't think most tasters would realize what's in it. Adding some chocolate chips to the batter would also help disguise the dates.
These brownies come out very moist, with that unusual complex flavor and the addition of the ancho chile pepper didn't seem overpowering, and I used 3 teaspoons!

So begin by melting the chocolate with the butter and set it aside to cool a bit.
Beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, ancho chili pepper, orange zest and cinnamon.
Roughly chop the dates and set them aside for a minute.

Stir the melted chocolate and butter mixture into the creamed mixture.

Then stir in the flour and salt.

Then the dates.

Add the pecans and pumpkin seeds, reserving a handful to sprinkle on top.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans and pumpkin seeds on top.
Bake til the center is just set, about 25 minutes. Don't overbake or the brownies will lose their chewy texture.
Sweet Heat Brownies ( from "The Spice Kitchen" book by Sara Engram and Katie Luber)

Makes about 24 ( 2 x 2" ) brownies
4 ozs. good quality unsweetened chocolate
8 tbsp. ( 1 stick) butter
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 4 tsp. ground ancho chile pepper ( more if you like it spicier)
1 tsp. dried orange zest ( I used 1 tsp. fresh grated zest)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup dried dates, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup salted, toasted pumpkin seeds ( you could leave these out if you don't care for them)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease ( I lined with foil, then lightly sprayed the foil), an 8" by 12" pan and set aside. ( I don't have this size pan so I used an 8" square pan and put the leftover batter into a muffin pan to make a few smaller brownies.)
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Then set it aside to let it cool.
2. With an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, ancho chile pepper, orange zest and cinnamon.
3. Stir the chocolate/butter mixture into the egg mixture.
4. Stir in the flour, salt and dates.
5. Stir in the pecans and pumpkin seeds, reserving a handful to sprinkle on top before baking.
6. Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and spread evenly.
7. Sprinkle to top with the reserved pecans and seeds and bake for about 25 minutes, checking to be sure the edges are not burning. Don't overbake or the brownies will lose their chewiness.
8. Allow to cool in the pan at least 30 minutes, or longer before cutting. ( Placing in the fridge will also help cool the brownies and make cutting easier.

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