Thursday, October 11, 2012
Ruminations on Marx Foods Puya Peppers and Vanilla Beans
Spicy Brownies with Crème Anglaise
by Mary Makowski
If life were perfect, flavor would be photogenic. Let me say, this brownie is not like the others. It is the champagne of brownies, the star of the parade, the brightest bulb in the box, a brown square of the highest order. Spicy, salty and moist, when paired with the cool vanilla bean crème anglaise, it is Fred to Ginger, Romeo to Juliet, Tracy to Hepburn. I don’t think I overstate that. Make these.
For the Spicy Brownies:
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
4 squares unsweetened baker’s chocolate (or 4 ounces total, Ghirardelli makes a 4 ounce bar)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt (I used Maldon Salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Two large Dried Puya Chilies from Marx Foods (about 1-1/2 teaspoons, ground)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Slice the dried peppers down the middle and discard the seeds and stems. Tear the peppers into pieces and grind to the finest possible powder in whatever device you have. I used a mini-grinder by Cuisinart, but a coffee grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle would work as well.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (if using a microwave, zap 30 seconds at a time and stir very well to avoid burning; I melted them completely in 70 seconds).
Add the sugar and eggs to the melted butter and chocolate in a mixing bowl and beat well. Add the flour, salt and baking powder. Beat. Add the vanilla. Beat. Stir in the puya powder. Pour into a 13 X 9 X 2 inch pan and bake for 27 minutes. 27 minutes is the time written on this old family recipe and 27 minutes is what works. Just go with it.
For the Crème Anglaise:
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March 2005
2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
1 vanilla bean (I used a Tahitian Vanilla Bean from Marx Foods)
½ cup sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Set a medium sized bowl in a shallow pan of cold water. You are now ready to cook. This is fast. Don’t look away.
Slice the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the black gold (seeds) with the tip of your knife.
In a large sauce pan, combine the half-and-half and vanilla bean seeds and toss in the vanilla bean. Heat over medium-low heat just until small bubbles appear around the rim, about 5 minutes.
In another medium bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks just until combined. Whisk in half of the hot half-and-half in a thin stream. Watch your temper now. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately pour the sauce into the bowl resting in the cold water bath to stop the cooking. Make sure you get all those great seeds in there, but discard the bean.