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Around this time of year, I take myself on a tropical vacation—in my mind. Thoughts of sandy beaches, sunshine, green plants and warm waves briefly push aside the frigid air and blinding snow. This winter an exotic vacation will remain a fantasy, but if I close my eyes and take a bite of these rich and nicely flavored chili-spiced brownies, I almost feel like I am on my dream vacation. And even when I finally open my eyes to the reality of bare branches and icy sidewalks, the warmth stays with me. Winter in Wisconsin is long; I'd better bake another batch.
RECIPE: Chili-spiced brownies
5 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped 10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 table spoons) butter 2 tbsp ground guajillo chili pepper 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp kosher salt 3/4 cup corn syrup 1 1/2 cups sugar 3 eggs, beaten 1 cup flour 3/4 tsp baking powder
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan over low heat (or in a bowl over a pot of boiling water), melt the chocolate and butter with the chile, cinnamon, salt and corn syrup, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
Line a 9" x 9" metal baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Use enough to create a lip over the sides of the pan. If using foil, lightly grease with butter or cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine the melted chocolate mixture with the sugar. When combined and cooled slightly, add the beaten eggs. Mix till smooth, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Transfer to the baking pan. Bake until the brownies feel firm and a paring knife poked into the center comes out clean (you still want a few crumbs to stick), about 30 minutes.
Holding the parchment or foil lip, remove the brownies from the pan and cool completely. Slice and serve.
Otehlia Cassidy is a Madison writer and cook with a passion for local foods and culinary adventures. Read her blog, , and find more recipes .
Photo by Martha Busse