I am freezing! I cannot believe how cold it is all of a sudden, and the weather report says that we will get a small flurry of snow tonight here in New York. I know that a lot of the country has already experienced snow fall in 2012 (Seattle with snow? Crazy!), but Kramer and I have been really hoping that it would continue to be warmer than usual so that we’d miss the snow entirely. Sadly, it looks as if our dreams are going to come crumbling down in a snowy haze. I suppose that’s to be expected, though. At least it doesn’t look like we’ll see the kind of storms that we got in the winter of 2010. I remember living in our old apartment, which was already a 15 minute walk from the subway, but when you added snow up to my knees, it became a 25 minute walk, carefully dodging ice and trudging through the unplowed streets. Thankfully, even if we do see a sudden turn for the worst, our apartment is just steps away from the subway now, so I just have to hope that they don’t get closed down by flooding or blocked tracks. Thanks, global warming!
I have made these brownies a few times before, and it always reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry have to settle for getting a cinnamon babka instead of the chocolate that they had originally wanted. Jerry tries to make Elaine feel better by saying, “Cinnamon. It should be on tables in restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime someone says, ‘Ooh, this is so good – what’s in this?’ the answer invariably comes back, ‘cinnamon.’ Cinnamon. Again and again.” To be honest, any time I bake with cinnamon, that episode comes to mind. I can’t say that I disagree with Jerry – I love cinnamon. I put it in my cappuccinos, on my oatmeal, on toast…anywhere that I feel a savory dish needs a little extra sweetness without actually adding sugar. So, why not add cinnamon to brownies? It seems like a natural combination, doesn’t it? Indeed, when I serve these brownies to my friends, they repeat the same question, “Ooh, this is so good – what’s in this?” and I dutifully answer, “Cinnamon.” They remind me of Mexican hot chocolate, which usually has a bit of cinnamon and cayenne pepper thrown in. You can definitely add a pinch of cayenne pepper to these, too, for a bit of a kick, but I skipped out on that this time because all I wanted was that wonderful cinnamon. Surprise your friends and family with these Mexican brownies and I promise, they will ask you the same question!
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (a little goes a long way – trust me)*
- 11 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon fleur de sel, for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line and/or grease sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon (and cayenne pepper, if you are using it). Set aside.
- Put the chocolate and room temperature butter in a non-stick sauce pot and place over low-heat. Stir often to prevent burning until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. You can also use a double boiler, if you have one, but I am lazy and usually use this method. Make sure your butter is room temperature before you put it in, though, or it and the chocolate will burn! Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugars. Whisk until completely combined. Don’t be afraid if the mixture separates a little bit. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Whisk in your eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. You can transfer everything to your stand mixer for this, if you want, but if you are like me and hate having to wash even one extra dish, a little elbow grease will do the trick, too. Add in the vanilla and whisk until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey, which is the opposite of what we want (fudgy!).
- Add the flour to the chocolate mixture a bit at a time. Using the paddle attachment on your mixer (or by hand, if you’re a champion), beat the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Finish by hand if you need to – do NOT overbeat!
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a greased spatula. Sprinkle some fleur de sel, if you like. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
- Take the brownies out and place on a baking rack while still in the pan (if you don’t have a baking rack, don’t worry about it, I just like to use one so the air circulates under the brownies and they cool faster). Allow the brownies to cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve. These keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days (and, to be honest, I think that they are even better the next day).