Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fire-Breathing Brownies

It was my last piece, worth more than its weight in gold, for what I paid for it. It hit the floor with the light slap of a domino. I stared at it and recited the five-second rule. Or is it the fifteen-second rule? “Are you mad?” I asked myself. “You can’t eat anything off the floor. You KNOW the rule, however short or long, is a frat-boy crock that can conjoined you to the porcelain fixture in the bathroom for the next two days. Do the Zen thing and let it go.” So I let it go, reluctantly and solemnly lifting the final square of my Vosges Red Fire Chocolate Bar and gave it a good send-off into the abyss of slop, eggshells and peelings down the garbage bin. Then I got good and cranky. There were no sweets in the house but a thrice-bitten Easter bunny has-been and a can of aerosol whipped cream. I felt just as whipped as the contents of that can, so I decided to work my way through the scores of food blogs, eating vicariously through them.

There were cupcakes wearing heavy chapeaux of frosting, ready for Ascot; dainty tarts of fanned fruit fitted into crumbly, crimped crusts; puffed and porous parfaits of meringue wedged with jam…all sublime but all far too complicated and pastel to actually consider with my chocolate crisis at full tilt. Surely there was something to fix for my fix before we retired for the evening, before the brownie faeries were to arrive. I began to chuckle at the old-world tale my mother used to tell me of the little spirits who would come out at night and do your housekeeping for you. If only. Then it struck me, of course: brownies. Baker’s Chocolate exists but for what purpose except to beat up a batch of their One Bowl Brownies? I had boxes and boxes of the little squares standing sentry, waiting to please and serve. In my haste to reach them, I knocked down a bulging bag of assorted dry chili peppers, the epicenter of my hot little culinary world. Ideas were falling in my lap now. This was progress, as long as they weren't falling on the floor. I was going to have that last piece of Red Fire Chocolate after all.

Pine Nuts

Fire-Breathing Brownies - From the Baker's Chocolate One Bowl Brownie Recipe

[This recipe is a dead lift of the Baker’s classic with the addition of some high-flying hot chili powders. Please be cautious if grinding your own peppers. Accidentally breathing in the powder is actually painful; at the very least, expect a sneeze or two. I used 1 tablespoon ground cascabel and ½ tablespoon ground cayenne. Crazy you say? Perhaps, but everyone’s heat sensitivities are different. I seriously think I have dulled down my taste buds with heaping helpings of wats, tagines, salsas and curries in the last decade, so I've had to ramp up. The first time I baked these, with a scant tablespoon of ancho, the heat was almost imperceptible. My husband was grateful. I’ve added pointers to adjust the levels to suit your individual comfort zones. You can use any chili of your choice, but all have different Scoville rankings. Please choose with care.]


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cascabel pepper or other pepper of your choice
½ tablespoon ground cayenne pepper or other pepper of your choice
1 cup nuts (I chose pine nuts to complement the Mexican mood)


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large non-metallic bowl, microwave chocolate and butter for approximately 2 minutes until almost melted. Stir until fully melted, then add sugar. Mixture will be gritty. Add spices ½ teaspoon at a time, stirring well and tasting after each addition. Make sure you wait until the flavors really settle on your tongue before proceeding to the next addition. Also keep in mind that even if the taste registers really hot at this point, you have yet to add the eggs, flour and vanilla which will take the edge off the heat a bit.

Add eggs and vanilla, beating thoroughly until smooth. Beat in ½ the nuts, then the flour, a ½ cup at a time.

Turn out batter into greased 13 inch X 9 inch oven proof pan. Top batter evenly with remaining nuts. Bake 30 minutes on center rack of oven. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Brownies are ready when toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean or with a few sticky crumbs.

Allow to completely cool before cutting.

Serves 8 to 16 depending on courage and tolerance. Tall glasses of ice water or beer highly recommended.

This post is being submitted to Myriam of Once Upon a Tart, hostess of BrownieBabe of the Month, a food blog event, featuring the chewy, gooey wonder bars we all know and love.


  1. I love the combination of chili and chocolate and adding pine nuts to mix just makes this sound unbelievably good!

  2. Susan, I've never knowingly seen a cascabel pepper. In fact, we never seem to get the beautiful array of peppers available in the States, much to my dismay and even then they are rarely sold by variety. Shame really.

    These look great. Have never got around to making anything with chocolate and chilli, though it's a very clever pairing. Might make these tonight, though I'll have to substitute our bog-standard chilli powder!

  3. Freya & Paul,
    The pine nuts are a special touch. I know you posted about them recently. They do seem to be particularly sensitive to rancidity, more so than other nuts. I keep mine in the freezer.

  4. Hi, Lucy -
    I've never actually seen a fresh cascabel myself. My chief source for my dried chili peppers is Penzeys. I know they have a web-site, but am not sure they ship overseas. At very least, their catalogue is fun and informative. Regular chili powder also works with these brownies, but again, prudence is key when messing with heat, especially with sweets. : )

  5. 1/2 tablespoon cayenne? you serious? looks great.

  6. Yes, Bee. Seriously deranged. ;] It's a matter of individual taste. I suggest to those with tender palates not to be so headstrong.

  7. I made a chocolate cake once loaded with chiles and it was lovely, so why not brownies? Sounds divine.

  8. Susan, I Loved this write-up! I have heard about the combination of chillies and chocolate but never tried it. I don't generally have a sweet-tooth but I'd enjoy a piece of your "Fire-breathing-brownie" and as you suggest, a tall glass of water on the side :)

  9. Christine: Thanks for your vote of confidence. Of course, I am too curious about the recipe you used for your cake.

    Cynthia: You are such a sweetie even without a sweet-tooth.

  10. I made them last night, though I didn't use quite as much chilli powder substituting one third of it with a bit of ground cinnamon.

    The pine nuts work wonderfully. My step sons ate voraciously, slurping cold glasses of water as you recommended, and luckily left just enough for us for a few days. Might not last that long though. Delicious! Thanks Susan.

  11. I'm so glad they were a hit, Lucy. I'd had some misgivings about promoting quantities of chili powder, which can be quite incendiary. Yours was a wise approach, and when I next make them, I will follow your lead with the cinnamon as well as the "all-purpose" more commonly available chili mix. My husband thanks you in advance; he likes the subtle approach, too.

  12. So pretty--those pine nuts look like they are perfect. I like to add a bit of cayenne to all kinds of things--it lifts the flavor. And it's guite nice in chocolate.

  13. Thanks, Sher. Cayenne's one of my favorite chili powders. It sure does get a recipe up on its feet.

  14. I love pine - nuts .. there's a special type of tea that we put pine nuts in .. yum !! and yes the brownie looks nice too .. anything with chocolate it nice :)

  15. Thanks, Nabeel. I'd love to know more about the tea.

  16. Thank you for the chewy-brownie tip! I will check out that website. Your brownies look gorgeous. I am very intrigued by the pine nuts!

  17. You're very welcome, Mallow. Thanks for your visit. Hope you enjoy the chocolate site.