Sure I love the classics. I gather a lot of people must like the classics too — that is why they become… well… “the classics”, right? Films, books, plays….recipes. Each have their own set of examples referred to as classics.
Each year during the Academy Awards run up I rent a classic film or three and appreciate them anew. This afternoon’s object of my renewed awe was the great American film: Citizen Kane. I must have seen it at least a dozen times and yet with each viewing I find new ways to appreciate it. Simply put, Welles’ film has stood the test of time proving itself an enduring example of dramatic American film storytelling — a classic. And its one that I think does not need tinkering with…maybe.
By every definition of the word the American brownie is also considered a classic. Who doesn’t love The Brownie? Would you even want to know such a person? A properly executed brownie (and by this I mean the kind that doesn’t have frosting) sets the standard by which all other deserts and sweets are measured. Its simple and harmonious mix of cocoa and chocolate, butter, sweet, chewy goodness and convenience (what else would you take on a picnic?) sets a standard for excellence. When eating one its hard to imagine that any new treat or brownie variant will come along and dethrone this classic.
Should we even be allowed to tinker with classics? Perhaps. But not always. Just depends. In 2008 they remade the classic film (based on a classic play) The Women with an updated script and cast . I remember thinking “why did they do that?” I don’t think anyone ever found out the reason and perhaps more than a few members of the talent involved ended up regretting it. (I mean you Meg Ryan and Annette Bening!)
One of my favorite movies of all time, “ Dangerous Liaisons ” (also based on a classic play) was remade with a supposedly teenaged cast set in modern day Manhattan. (OK, so maybe Dangerous Liaisons is not yet considered a classic but it will be one day. I’m certain of it. And yes, I think this even knowing that Keanu Reeves was in it. )
Do you think they would ever update Citizen Kane with say an all-Latino cast? If they did they should hope it turns out as good as this Latin-themed brownie update. This Salted Mayan Cocoa Brownie doesn’t even try to take the place of the classic on which it is based but it was still quite good and worth the effort. Like Cruel Intentions it might become your sometimes guilty pleasure even though it can’t ever really satisfy you the way Dangerous Liaisons does.
You will always go back to the classics even though the detours make life fun.
This version is dubbed “Mayan” because I purchased something called “Mayan Cocoa” at Savory and Spice and wanted to figure out some way to use it. This version is also dubbed “salted” because I forgot to add the salt to the batter and had to think quickly. Salting the top of the brownies actually ended up working quite well here given the toasted almonds. Many of my “lunch room victims” actually commented on how great the salt was so I pretended I had intended it all along. The Mayan Cocoa itself is a blend of Dutch cocoa, chili peppers, cinnamon and vanilla powder and it makes for a very exciting South-of-the-Border brownie experience when its not being used for the spicy Mexican hot cocoa drink it was intended for. I put a sign out next to them so that my victims would not freak out when the spicy hot flavor kicked in after the initial dark chocolate rush faded.
If you don’t want to order it online or your market doesn’t carry Ibarra like mine does you can make your own mixture quite easily:
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
Salted Mayan Almond Brownies
(adapted from Alice Medrich and Bon Appetit 2/2011 )
This is what you will need:
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter)
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural process)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Mayan c0c0a. (Mine came from Savory Spice but many supermarkets now carry Ibarra Mexican cocoa these days. )
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sel de fluer
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
This is how you make it:
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
- Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and Mayan chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.
- Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.
- Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it will smooth out once the eggs and flour are added.
- Stir in the vanilla and with a wooden spoon.
- Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
- When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
- Stir in the almonds.
- Spread evenly in the lined pan, distribute salt over the top and then sprinkle leftover almonds.
- Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter.
- Start checking at 25 minutes.
- Let cool completely on a rack.
- Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.
- Cut into 16 or 25 squares