Mexican hot chocolate brownies
I have a confession to make: these were last-minute brownies. They were an I-got-home-late-and-need-to-bring-something-to-work-tomorrow recipe. And they use olive oil because I didn’t have any butter and going to the store was clearly too much effort.
But they were amazing.
So good that I made them again three days later. They’re rich and super chocolatey with just a hint of cinnamon and spice and then BAM the cayenne hits you a second later and the whole thing comes together. These brownies are also among the fudgiest I’ve ever eaten, a major plus in my book. Between the two batches of these and the rest of my labor day baking (because what does one do with a day off except spend it in the kitchen?), the brownies from the first batch stuck around for a while. A week, to be precise. So I ate one of those week-old brownies this morning, ahem, as part of a well-balanced breakfast, of course, and it was still just as fudgy as when I made it. I’m telling you, this kind of fudgy doesn’t mess around.
And then I stirred some brownie pieces into cinnamon ice cream and it blew my mind. The end.
Well, not quite the end. There’s the whole matter of science that we have to tackle and then you’re probably waiting for me to give you a recipe or something. So demanding.
Oil versus butter
I know I just told you that I used oil because I was too lazy to go to the store for butter, but it also makes for a great brownie. Turns out it’s all about saturated versus unsaturated fats.
For our purposes, a fat molecule in general is like a train on a roller coaster.
All of the trains have an engine on one end (for the fat this is a carboxylic acid group, but we don’t really care about that) and then a number of individual cars all strung together. Different trains can have different numbers of cars (the length can change), and they can have different numbers of people in each of the cars. Say each car can carry two people maximum. If every car has two riders, the train is full, but sometimes there are empty seats. Whether or not the train is full to its capacity is called the saturation.
Both the length and the saturation also apply to fat molecules. The number of carbon atoms in the chain determines the length, just like the number of individual train cars. The number of hydrogen atoms bonded to each carbon atom determines the saturation–a carbon atom is “full” when it’s bonded to two hydrogens. If all of the carbons are full, we call the fat saturated and it’s pretty much just a straight chain. If any carbons have empty “seats” where they’re missing hydrogen atoms, we call the fat unsaturated and it has a bend in the chain where the hydrogen would have been.
So basically, saturated fats are full roller coaster cars and look like a straight line, while unsaturated fats have empty seats and are bent.
If you think about these different shapes, it helps explain all the hype you hear about saturated and unsaturated fats. Because saturated fats are all straight, they line up nicely and all clump together. This means that they’re generally solid at room temperature (think butter, shortening, and coconut oil), but it also means that they clump together inside your arteries. Bad news. Unsaturated fats, though, are all bendy and don’t mesh together neatly like the saturated fats. They tend to be liquid at room temperature and are much better for you.
So not only does it make luscious, rich, fudgy brownies, olive oil is a good choice for your heart! Which is still probably not enough to elevate these to breakfast food… Whatever.
Mexican hot chocolate brownies
Warning: these brownies are packing some heat! Of course, it all depends on your spice tolerance, but my coworkers were all reaching for their
beers water glasses after a few bites (I used 1/2 t. cayenne). I solved that by softening up some vanilla ice cream, mixing in a bunch of cinnamon, and then adding brownie bites. Amazing. You could also just decrease the amount of cayenne, but I like my solution better.
Other thoughts: the lack of baking powder and baking soda is intentional. I’m going for some seriously dense, rich brownies here, with no air bubbles getting in the way of my chocolate. Also I made this once by hand and once with my mixer, both worked just fine.
Yield: 9-inch square pan, about 20 brownies
1/2 c. olive oil
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. instant coffee
1/2 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1/4-1/2 t. cayenne (see note)
1 c. chocolate chips
Cream together the olive oil and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until just combined.
Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne until a uniform dough forms. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour into a GREASED 9-inch square pan (I’m notoriously bad at remembering to grease brownie pans. Take my word for it, it’s important) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. You’ll notice a color change as it bakes and loses some of the initial moisture, getting lighter from the edges toward the center. When the whole top is the lighter color, it’s done.
If you’re interested in the ice cream, I let a half gallon of vanilla sit on the counter until it was just stirrable (about an hour), then added 2 T. cinnamon. I stirred it in thoroughly and then added some chopped-up brownies. A hour or two later it’s ready to go. For best results, serve with another brownie on the side!