By Chaya Rappoport
(The Nosher via JTA) — I was first introduced to Turkish coffee in Israel. Prepared in the traditional copper cezve, it was served piping hot and in beautiful, delicate cups. I quickly became enamored of its strong flavor and clean, robust taste unmarred by sugar.
In addition to the pure taste of coffee, there was another flavor I couldn’t quite place. When I asked the brewer what it was, he told me it was cardamom. It seemed a strange combination at first, but as I kept drinking I found it was enjoyable — like a stronger, undiluted version of a dirty chai (Indian-spiced tea).
Coffee and cardamom have since become one of my favorite flavor pairings. It’s a pairing that has found its true home in these deep, dark, ridiculously fudgy brownies.
Now I know people have fierce opinions when it comes to brownies; fudgy or cakey? Cocoa or chocolate or both? Chemical leavening or just eggs?
But I am a firm brownie purist: All brownies should be fudgy, with crackly tops, edges for those who like them, made with both cocoa and chocolate. You can leave out the coffee and cardamom for a more classic treat, or embrace the Middle Eastern flavors and embellish these already indulgent brownies with a cinnamon-spiced caramel and flaked salt for an over-the-top, just-what-your-January-needs hit of decadence.
For the brownies:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the caramel:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13 baking pan with parchment paper and grease with a nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a double boiler or a medium heatproof bowl placed over a gently simmering pot of water, melt chocolate, butter, cocoa and sugar together until mostly smooth. Turn off the heat, stir until completely smooth and fully melted.
3. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then vanilla, espresso powder and cardamom and salt.
4. Stir in flour with a spoon and scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until even.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.
6. While the brownies bake, make the caramel: Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a 2-quart pot, stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly.
7. Cook the liquefied sugar to a copper color. Add the butter and stir until the butter melts. Lower the heat and slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, whisking the whole time.
8. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon and salt. Set aside until needed.
9. Cut the brownies into 16 or 32 squares and serve with cinnamon caramel sauce drizzled over the top. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if desired.
(Chaya Rappoport is the blogger, baker and picture taker behind retrolillies.wordpress.com. Currently a pastry sous chef at a Brooklyn bakery, she’s been blogging since 2012 and her work has been featured on The Feed Feed, Delish.com, Food and Wine and Conde Nast Traveler.)