Ahhh, chili and chocolate. A celebrated combination of flavours - one of which I love, the other I don't. It's the chili that has my heart. The chocolate? It can take a hike. But as I've mentioned before, sometimes I get so inspired by an idea that I must bake, even though I have little to no desire to eat anything (a rare occurrence, to be sure - but it does happen. Usually when my jeans feel tight). Given my lack of willpower around desirable and delectable baked goods - the usual suspects being pastries with cream, fruit desserts, meringues, cakes, et cetera - the usual solution is to bake something made of chocolate. I do an objective taste test, and give away the rest. It's a perfect solution (much like the salt-shaker trick. If you've ever eaten out at a restaurant with me, you know what that's all about).
The inspiration for these brownies came from the chili oil I made this weekend, from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty (here's an online version of the recipe at Better Me, Better World). I love the way dried chilis, unlike cayenne powder, have a slow heat that takes a few seconds to hit you. With cayenne, it's an instantaneous fiery blast. Dried chilis seduce you slowly and have a cumulative effect - one that can leave your mouth on fire by the end of a meal. For this reason I love the idea of cutting these brownies really small - an inch by an inch squared, say - and serving them as a novelty food item. That's not to say the depth added by the chili is only good for the fun of it, the chili chocolate combination is celebrated for a reason... because it works.
If using store-bought chili oil, check to make sure there are no additional flavours added and that it is straight chili oil. Ginger or garlic in your brownies won't go down well. I totally recommend making it yourself - it's really easy, and takes about 20 minutes (including the initial cooling time). I also recommend testing your batter after each tablespoon of chili oil. I found the perfect balance with 3 tablespoons, but depending on your tolerance and your oil, you may want to substitute some with butter.
hot chili brownies
Makes 9 big brownies, or 36 bite sized brownies!
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (this was 2 squares of Baker's chocolate)
3 tablespoons chili oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup all purpose flour (I used 1 1/4 cups, but felt they'd be fudgier with just 1)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons milk (if batter is too heavy)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
- Brownies: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line an 8x8 inch pan with foil and grease it.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate together. Add chili oil 1 tablespoon at a time, testing for spiciness (but bearing in mind you will be adding this mixture to flour). Substitute butter if you use less chili oil - you want to have a total of 9 tablespoons of fat in the brownies. Allow to cool for 10 minutes once everything is melted.
- While the chocolate mixture is cooling, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cayenne in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, whisk in the sugar and 2 beaten eggs. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture. Incorporate with a wooden spoon, eliminating flour patches but not over-mixing. Add milk if necessary (I did), though batter will be fairly thick.
- Spread batter evenly in pan, then bake until a cake tester comes out clean - about 20 minutes.
- Frosting: Combine all frosting ingredients and mash together with a fork until well combined. You can frost these brownies when they have cooled a bit, but are still warm. Spread the frosting evenly over the brownies, then smooth them over with a spatula. Cut into 9 squares, then each square into 4 if going the bite-sized route. Eat with a biiig glass of milk.