Cinnamon-Chipotle Brownies! With ChocOrange Ganache!

double_layer

We were snowed in recently, so of course it was time to bake. I wanted to do something rad, especially since I had a snow day for work, and a spicy-chocolate confection was exactly what needed to happen. I checked Epicurious for some inspiration, and found a Mexican brownie recipe that would use no more than 2 eggs (since there were only 2 left in the fridge).

I started with these,

20130208_141145

Input.

And some of these (about 1/2 a cup):

Almonds_skillet

Inputs are as follows.
My changes are bolded:

  • about 3-4 oz 65% bitter-sweet Callebaut chocolate (chopped from a block)
  • about 2 oz 99% unsweetened Callebaut chocolate (chopped from a block)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick of butter (I wanted a fudgier consistency, so I used a whole stick)
  • 1 cup sugar (I’m using demerara/raw sugar, not brown)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder    
  • 1/8 tsp freeze-dried instant espresso
  • 1/2 cup whole, raw almonds (I didn’t blanche or peel them, but they still turned out fine)
  • 2 large eggs

Pre-heat: 350 degrees

Prepare: an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish.

Grease it up with butter, and sprinkle some flour over that butter so that it sticks. Give it a shake to knock out any extra flour. This is so that the brownies do not stick to it. Put it where you’ll be able to find it later.

And…..go!

The almonds will take a little time to toast, so I did that first. There are two ways, depending on how fussy you feel like being: put the almonds on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven at like, 400 degrees? Then watch them until they get a little color.  If you insist on photogenic processes like me however, you’ll want the fussy way!

Dump the almonds in a dry cast-iron skillet, turn the heat to medium. Give them a shake every so often to keep them from burning. Eventually they’ll start to crack a little and make sizzle/popping noises. When a good amount have done that, they should be ready: Nuts!Put on a plate, and then somewhere to cool down to room temperature. This might be the freezer, depending on some ratio of time, your planning skills, and patience.

Okay, chocolate time.

Use. Good. Chocolate. Please. This is the heart of the recipe, and it’s so worth it to splurge a little and get the good stuff.

I use blocks of Callebaut, that I chop into flakes with a big knife: mmm...chocolate
I was pretty rough in measuring it out. If you have a kitchen scale, that would be most ideal. I don’t so I judged it by how much the initial block weighed according to the label, and chopped off what looked like the right fraction of a pound for the 3 and 2 ounces. Often times slightly more is simply going to mean more chocolatey, which cannot be a bad thing. But! The unsweetened chocolate is BITTER. This gives the brownies a great chocolatey depth, but don’t mix up the proportion of dark to unsweetened.
Time to melt things!
You can chop your stick of butter (just use a whole stick, really it’s fine) into neat cubes, or you can lazily dump the whole thing into a pan. It’ll melt either way, over low heat.melted_butter
Now dump in that chocolate! Stir until it’s all smooth, shiny and brown.melting_choco&butter
Kill the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Use this time to deal with the almonds and sugar. You’ll need some species of food processor. I’m using an immersion blender’s chopping attachment.blades

It's ok, it's not liquid!

It’s ok, it’s not liquid!

Add electricity!hand_blend
Really grind up those almonds. The finished product should be visibly indistinguishable from the sugar, with no chunks. Think you’ve ground it enough? Do it one more time!
Once you’ve sufficiently disintegrated the almonds, gradually stir the mixture into your velvety chocobutter. Heat is still off! 
almondsugar_into_chocobutter
Once this is nice and combined, it’s time for eggs. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture, but it looks like chocolate with sugar that has been mixed in.
For best consistency, you should add the eggs individually, but also beat them before adding them: 
Eggs_whole_to_beaten

Those small Pyrex bowls are awesome. I love them for preparing ingredients ahead of time.

Time to dump your eggs into the almond-sugar chocobutter: 
add_eggy
Do this again with the other one. Once both are in,
Shiny!
we can add the dry stuff:flour, salt, cinnamon, chipotle pepper, and instant espresso.
You’ll want to combine these into a bowl first, 
dry_unmixed
and then give them a thorough whisking: 

dry_whisked

This will get rid of clumps and keep your ingredients evenly mixed.
Stir it into the pot gradually,  
stirring_in_dry
and only just enough to combine: 
dry_mixed_gooey
If you’re using demerara sugar (like I am) it will probably still be a bit grainy. Don’t worry, it’s cool.
Now gloop that on into the baking dish (which you prepared ahead of time) and into the oven! 
from_pot_to_oven
Set a timer for 25 minutes.
Prepare for frosting.
So at first, I thought it’d be clever if I made some orange-flavored icing for these:
ill_fated_icing
Really, I was eager to make use of some orange-flavored milk that I had made previously. So I squeezed a couple oranges (strained with the top of a cocktail mixer) and mixed it with some confectioner’s sugar, splashed a little milk in there, and had a goopy little mess. It was way too sweet and runny, and for some reason I thought adding (homemade) chocolate syrup would make it better. This produced a brown, runny, saccharine mess that didn’t even taste like orange anymore. So I threw it in the sink.
Having abandoned that idea, 

ill_fated_icing_crossedout

I decided to see what could be done about a ganache. I had no cream, unfortunately, which is what started the whole icing mess in the first place. But I thought about it: “Come on….cream is fat, butter is fat? I swear I’ve used butter in a ganache before….” So I looked it up on Google and was rewarded with a recipe for butter and chocolate ganache: Hurrah! I ignored all proportions in the recipe; I just needed to know that it was possible.
I prepared a double-boiling arrangement:  
water
After boiling the water, I turned it down to a low simmer.

double_boiler

Then I chopped some of the 65% bittersweet chocolate (maybe 2 oz?) and threw it into the bowl with some (about 3 tbsp) of butter: 

ganche_chocandbutter

I was feeling sassy, so I also added a splash of the orange milk and a capful of a “bourbon orange extract” that I had made from a bourbon-infusing adventure. Honestly, I don’t think it did much flavor-wise, but the bit of milk probably helped keep the texture smoother than it would have been.
Keep stirring it with a spatula, until it looks about like this: 

ganache_melted

Hooo man, there it is! Kill the heat.*Beeeeeep*
The brownies have baked! 
baked
Those nostrils are from where I stuck in a knife, making sure it came out clean: 

baked_silly

The brownies didn’t like it, but too bad! Slice that ill-tempered confection up into sixteenths!

Smear each piece with ganache: 
frosted
So basically:  

ganaching

Now, chocolate ganache on a chocolate brownie? YES. But we’ve got still got that little bit of chipotle. This adds a slightly smoky flavor and contributes to the depth of the chocolate, while leaving a little heat in your throat—and that’s amazing. In fact, at this point we’ve got some deep, smoky, rich, heavy flavors. We need some contrast! So let’s zest it up with some…well, orange zest!

zesting_collage

In retrospect, I’d advise to just put that zest in with the ganache and mix it up. Here, what I did was to spread, little bit by little bit, the zest onto the frosted brownies. This worked because the ganache was still warm and pliant. In the picture below, you can see bits of zest in the top two, before  I spread another layer on top to keep the texture smooth: 

final_frosting

That’s it! Cinnamon-Chipotle Brownies with Orange-Zested Chocolate Ganache Frosting!

GO!

EAT!

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