Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

It's PUMPKIN TIME! Finally! All these fresh vegetables, bountiful crops, and dizzying varieties during the summer--at last, we can settle down on one thing. And eat it all winter long.

Fall has several meanings for me: 1. Pumpkins, 2. Apples, 3. Cranberries, 4. Halloween Candy. And seasons changing and all that other crap too, of course, but mostly I really look forward to the foods that go with autumn. They're crisp and spicy-sweet and warm and mushy. (Think baked apples and soft roasted winter squashes and pie galore.) They also have come to mean infiltrating all otherwise normal dishes somehow with pumpkin. Enter Libby.
I saw her on the shelf and couldn't walk by. Look at that beast! Think of how many Downsliced creations she could make! Cookies, muffins, brownies, pie, pastas, soups, head almost exploded right there on the carpeted floor (not kidding) of my local Foodmaster. 100% Calabaza Pura. I made her mine and took her home.

As usual, I wanted chocolate, but I also wanted pumpkin. Most of the recipes Google gave me had dreadful terms like "healthy" and "low calorie" in the title. Worse, they were actually promoted using phrases like, "Can't even taste the pumpkin!" or "Your kids won't know its there!" What blasphemy is this? A pumpkin brownie with no traceable elements of pumpkininity? What has our world come to?

My pointer finger went spasmodic; I think I actually made it to page three of Google's search results before Food and Wine magazine saved me. A delicious chocolate brownie with an intentionally discernible pumpkin swirl marbled throughout. Phew. The living room ceased to spin around me. I calmly clicked 'Print.' The world was as it should be.

Pumpkin Brownies
adapted from Food & Wine,* serves 4ish; takes about 40 minutes

For the Pumpkin batter
2 tsp butter, room temp
2 Tbsp cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp pumpkin
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1 Tbsp flour

For the Brownie
1 1/2 oz chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1/3 cup flour
(1/4 cup walnuts, optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. Whisk together cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until creamy and uniform. Add sugar and whisk to incorporate. Add yolk, pumpkin, vanilla and spices then whisk again until smooth. Stir in flour. Set aside
  2. Now, melt chocolate and butter together in microwave or gently over the stove. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, beat egg, sugar, vanilla and salt until your arm gives out, or until the egg is frothy and the sugar is almost dissolved, whichever comes first (feel free to use electric beaters for this). Gradually add melted chocolate mixture, whisking all the while so it doesn't cook your eggs. Once chocolate is in, fold in flour and nuts (if using).
  3. Take a well-greased 4-5 inch square pan and pour the brownie batter in. Slop heaping spoonfulls of pumpkin batter all over the top, then swirl with a knife (not too much! you still want separate entities). Bake 20-28 minutes, depending on your gooeyness preference. Tastes really good cold.
*Special note: I actually made two versions of this brownie; the first, I felt, did not have all the pumpkin-packed power I was craving. On the second round I actually doubled the amount of pumpkin swirl it called for and found it perfect.

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