Sandra Gutierrez: Chile-Chocolate Brownies

We welcome a guest post from Sandra A. Gutierrez, author of The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. This is one of her most requested recipes. Simply delicious. [This recipe is crossposted at SandrasKitchenStudio.com.]—ellen

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The combination of chile and chocolate is nothing new to Latinos living in Mexico and in Guatemala. Mole (pronounced móh-leh) is a mixture of nuts, seeds, vegetables, aromatics, and spices found in the cuisines of these two Latin American countries. The most famous is the mole poblano of Puebla, Mexico, and it’s the only mole out of the myriad made in the Aztec nation that actually has chocolate added to its formula. I grew up eating a delicious Mayan dessert that consisted of plantains smothered in a sugary chile and chocolate sauce called mole de plátanos that juxtaposed very sweet and spicy flavors.

I must confess that one of the first things I learned to bake as a child was a brownie recipe. I was eight years old, and had traveled to the United States on vacation, as we often did, but this time I sampled a chocolatey, moist, and chewy bar that tasted like nothing I had tasted before. I was hooked! Brownies are the ever-present dessert in children’s parties, school events, and church suppers and I thought to give these popular bars a little twist by adding a subtle hint of chiles.

The result is a sweet bar that captures the essence of chocolate and that at first bite tastes sweet—like any other brownie. It’s not until after you’ve savored it that you start feeling this faint tingle in your mouth. The more bites you take, the spicier the taste, but it doesn’t overpower, it just seduces.

Did you know that the best way to counteract the natural oil in chiles that causes them to burn (called capsaicin) is to eat a dollop of sour cream or to drink milk? The fat in dairy acts as a neutralizer and lends immediate relief to the tongue (why else do you think that so many Mexican dishes are served with crema?). And what goes better with brownies than a glass of cold milk?

Go ahead, make a batch (or two) of these scrumptious brownies and discover a new way to enjoy an old favorite. And while you’re at it, make a chile-free batch for the kids. You won’t want to share yours with anyone!

Chile-Chocolate Brownies, by Sandra A. Gutierrez

Chile-Chocolate Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped and toasted pecans (optional)

For the Glaze:
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Preheat the oven to 350° F. butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Place the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they have melted and are well combined. Lift the bowl carefully from the pan so no water droplets come into contact with the chocolate mixture; let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar; add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; stir in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ancho chile powder, and salt; gradually add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, beating well until fully combined. Add the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is set and the brownies begin to pull back from the sides of the pan. Cool brownies for 1 hour in the pan. To make the glaze, in a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, butter, liqueur, vanilla, and chile powder; blend until smooth. Place the glaze in a pastry bag (or zip-top bag with a snipped corner), and drizzle back and forth over the brownies. Cut them into 20 bars. Makes 20 brownies.

Recipe from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez.

Sandra A. Gutierrez, author of The New Southern-Latino Table, grew up in the United States and Guatemala. She is a journalist, food writer, culinary instructor, and recipe developer. She lives in Cary, N.C., with her husband and their daughters. Visit the author’s website at Sandra’s Kitchen Studio, and follow her on Twitter. Be a fan of the book on Facebook.

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