Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dark Chocolate Spiced Brownies

I’m not really that huge on brownies but ever since I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I had been itching to try it. The problem: it took me over a year to get my hands on some chipotle chili powder. Every time I thought to look for it at the store, the store would be out, or I would think to look at stores that don’t carry it to begin with – I’m looking at you, my beloved Trader Joe’s.

These brownies, for the uninitiated (or if you couldn’t gather from the foregoing paragraph), get an extra kick from the inclusion of chipotle chili powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. I really like chili and dark chocolate together, so I thought this might be the brownie for me: the one that would convert me to brownie love, the one that would send me into exclamatory raptures, the one that would make me abandon my favored drop cookies and embrace brownie baking forevermore.

I know that I like this sort of off-kilter recipe, but I can see that it would be an acquired taste. Instead of baking up enough to feed an army of physicists, as I often do, I decided to prepare a small, 2-person-household-sized batch for just my husband and me. This necessitated substantial futzing with the Smitten Kitchen recipe, which is designed for a 9x13” baking pan. I think my adaptations were by and large successful and will detail them only insofar as pertains to the spices.

Let’s talk about the spices. I had thought of omitting the cardamom altogether, as I find it to have a dominating profile. But then I thought … 1/8 of a teaspoon … how strong can it be?

I should have listened to that inner voice of caution. Cardamom cannot help but assert itself. Even the tiny amount I included suffices to dampen the other spices’ flavors. The chili powder and cinnamon cavil and quail in face of cardamom’s pungency. The other spices are noticeable, but only if you squint and concentrate. I was hoping for more chili kick, less cardamom heaviness.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Next time I make these, I’m going to omit the cardamom and use more chipotle chili powder. Husband, however, thinks these brownies are perfect just the way they are. If you enjoy cardamom more than me, feel free to replicate this recipe ingredient for ingredient, spice for spice.

I’ve expressed my preference for dark chocolate before. My other futzes with the recipe were to make them slightly more chocolaty, if such a thing is possible. These are very rich, very dark chocolate brownies. For me, that’s almost their saving grace.

One could omit the spices altogether and have a fine and tasty brownie with a dense, moist texture. Except that to me, plain brownies are a little dull. But it’s a free world, so happy baking regardless!

Dark Chocolate Spiced Brownies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped in small pieces (at least 60% cocoa content – I used 72% from Trader Joes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon whiskey (optional, but I think this deepened the flavors)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (more if you like cinnamon – probably up to half a teaspoon would be okay)
¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (I will use more next time – probably up to double this amount would work for me)
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional, as discussed)
1 teaspoon coffee granules
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I used the Hershey’s dark cocoa powder, as it was the only one at the grocery store)
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. In a large heatproof bowl, melt butter and chocolate together – either put the bowl atop a simmering pan of water on the stove and stir until melted, or microwave butter and chocolate together in 15 second intervals until melted. I’m lazy and usually opt for the microwave route.

Add vanilla, whiskey, sugar and brown sugar, coffee granules, and spices. Add eggs and stir thoroughly.

In a small bowl, sift or whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir just until blended.

Bake in a foil-lined and greased 8x8” pan for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out non-gooey (but will still get coated with moist crumbs). Makes 9 good-sized or 16 smallish squares.

Printable recipe here.


  1. I love cardamom but agree it is really one of those "me me me" spices.
    The chipotle is a brilliant idea with chocolate... that divine smoke and heat... great recipe... and I have soooo much chocolate left from my
    experiments...brownies would be perfect!

  2. It would probably be great with hot chocolate, too ... but probably not so great as ambergris. We did manage to polish off the whole pan between the two of us. :)

  3. I've had spicy chocolate bars before and loved them. I bet these are fabulous!

  4. Thanks! We did enjoy them. :)

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  6. I made these, Becky, and they are great... I should have been brave and put more cardamom in them... just because I love cardamom... but they are great and uber chocolate and not too sweet.