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The Spice Kitchen
by Katie Luber & Sara Engram
Chocolate is one of our favorite backdrops for spices, and this chile-cinnamon brownie shows why. At a promotion for tsp spices, the store's bakers prepared a couple of trays of these brownies. Now the "tsp spices Sweet Heat Brownie" is a regular item there.
You should give some thought to how much chile pepper you want in the brownie. We have made this recipe with as many as 6 teaspoons of chile, but that provides quite a kick. For most people, 4 teaspoons will provide a distinct but not overpowering tingle. If you're not sure what your heat tolerance is for chile peppers, you may want to start with 3 teaspoons. The orange zest and dates add a mellow richness, tying all the flavors together.
Makes about 24 (2 by 2-inch) brownies
• 4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
• 3 large eggs
• 1½ cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 to 4 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper (more, if you like it spicier)
• 1 teaspoon dried orange zest
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup dried dates, roughly chopped
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 1/4 cup salted, toasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 by 12-inch baking pan and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Let it cool a bit.
Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, ancho chile, orange zest, and cinnamon. Stir the chocolate-butter mixture into the egg mixture, then stir in the flour, salt, and dates. Reserve a handful of pecans and pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top before baking, then stir in the rest of the pecans and pumpkin seeds.
Spoon the mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until the center is just set, about 25 minutes, checking to be sure the edges are not burning. Do not over-bake, or the brownies will lose their chewy texture.
Let cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
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