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~ Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon-Orange Brownies ~

IMG_3692If you love chocolate brownies but have never tasted Mexican chocolate or used pure Mexican vanilla extract, you are in for a treat!  I won't lie to you, when my chocoholic son Jess was growing up, I did more than my part to keep the Duncan Hines company in business.  A couple of boxes of their "chocolate lovers" brownie mix was always in my pantry.  I even mastered the art of doctoring them up so they tasted really made-from-scratch, my favorite trick being to add some ground cinnamon and orange extract to the mix.  So many people (kids and adults) started asking me to make my cinnamon-orange brownies, I just stopped telling everyone the brownies came out of a box and continued to live quietly and happily, for years, perpetrating the sin of omission (which, as long as you don't profit from it, is probably ok).  Then:

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #4 (Ibarra Chocolate)About 12 years ago, while on my weekly visit to my favorite gourmet food shop in downtown State College, The Cheese Shoppe, I was introduced to Ibarra Mexican chocolate.  Bill Clark, the owner of the store, just happened to be stocking a shelf with it as I walked through his door.

I asked Bill what it was.  He explained that it was a grainy, cinnamon-flavored chocolate that was used to make Mexican chocolate (the hot chocolate drink).  He handed me a box and told me to take it home and give it a try.

Try I did.  That was known as the "hot cocoa period" of my life.  I even ordered a molinillo, a special whisk to froth it up!  Then:

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #5 (Mexican Vanilla Extract) About a year after that, my girfriend Kathy married my builder Ken and she brought me a bottle of pure Mexican vanilla extract back from their trip to Mexico.  The bottle in this picture is not the brand she gave to me (that is long gone), but once I started using Mexican vanilla extract, there was no going back.

Pure Mexican vanilla extract is imported from southern Mexico, which is known as the birthplace of vanilla.  The first people to cultivate vanilla were the Totonac people on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, which is present-day Veracruz.  This rich, smooth, highly-flavored extract is known to be the unrivaled KING of vanilla extracts.  Also worthy of note:  because of the extensive labor required to grow vanilla seed pods, vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron.

I'm sure you know by now where this story is headed.  With both of these wonderful products now on my pantry shelf, it was only a matter of time before I was compelled to come up with a very special recipe to showcase them.  "Out with the boxed brownie mix and in with the real thing!"

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #6 (Ingredients)













9 3/4  ounces Ibarra Mexican chocolate, 3 discs, coarsely chopped

2  1-ounce squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

6  ounces unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure Mexican vanilla extract, not imitation

2  teaspoons pure orange extract, not imitation

8  ounces light brown sugar (weighed, not measured)

4 large eggs, at room temperature 

9  ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour  (weighed, not measured)

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4  teaspoon baking powder

3/4  teaspoon salt

12  ounces white chocolate chips (optional)

12 ounces chopped walnuts (optional)

no-stick cooking spray (for preparing baking dish) 

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #8 (Chopped Chocolate in Double Boiler) ~ Step 1.  Place just enough water in the bottom of a double boiler so the water does not touch or make contact with "the bottom of the top" of the boiler when the top is inserted into it.  Over high heat, bring the water to a boil and then adjust (lower) the heat to a steady simmer.  Insert the top of the double boiler. 

Add the butter, then the chopped Mexican and Baker's chocolates. Whisk constantly until melted, smooth and shiny.  This will only take about 1 minute.  Remove from heat, transfer melted chocolate to a large mixing bowl and cool for about 10-12 minutes.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #13 (Whisking in Brown Sugar) ~ Step 2.  Whisk in both extracts and the light brown sugar.  Vigorously whisk this mixture for about 2 minutes then walk away from it for 2 minutes.  This gives the sugar a bit of time to further dissolve.  Briefly whisk again.  

Note:  In a pinch, you can substitute dark brown sugar for light, but its fuller-flavor overpowers the flavors of cinnamon, orange and vanilla.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #14 (Whisking in the Eggs)~ Step 3.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, taking the time to make sure each one is completely incorporated before adding the next.

After you have whisked in the fourth (the last) egg, vigorously continue to whisk the mixture for about 1 minute.  

Mixture will be silky-smooth and shiny.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #15 (Folding in the Flour)~ Step 4.  In a medium mixing bowl, quickly stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Add all of this flour mixture to the chocolate mixture.

Using a large rubber spatula (the whisk will not work well for this) fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture.  Continue folding until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is thick and uniform in color.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #16 (Add the White Chocolate Chips)~ Step 5.  Fold in the optional white chocolate chips and/or walnuts.  You do not have to add these, but I highly recommend that you do!

You can certainly substitute 12-ounces of other ingredients for the white chocolate, like peanut butter chips or even semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I have experimented with these and they are great, but I am here to tell you: white chocolate chips are "the bomb"!

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #17 (Ready for Oven)~ Step 6.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with no-stick spray.  Transfer the brownie batter to the dish.  Using the spatula, spread it evenly toward the edges of the pan.  At this point, while keeping the pan flat atop my work surface, I give the pan a few vigorous back-and-forth shakes to level the batter out.

Mexican Chocolate Brownies #18 (Out of Oven) ~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven about 21-22 minutes.  Brownie will be dry looking on top, puffed through to the center and just starting to pull away from the edges of the pan.  Do not overbake!  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely prior to slicing and serving:



Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon-Orange Brownies:  Recipe yields  approximately 12-24 brownies, depending on what size you choose to cut and to serve.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale; cutting board; chef's knife; double boiler; whisk; large rubber spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  When I make brownies, I like to get creative when it comes time to cut them.  By using cookie cutters you can quickly turn an ordinary presentation into an elegant one! 

6a0120a8551282970b0148c6d0c87b970c-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)


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