I could go into a long and detailed explanation about how I was inspired to experiment with some different spices after buying a small tub of pink peppercorns...but let's be real, I just wanted an excuse to bake brownies. Perfectly fudgy chocolate brownies with that wonderful crackly layer on top. At the moment my baking schedule is completely determined by whatever naughty sweet treat I've been fantasising about while eating my tuna salad lunches. I needed the brownies.
But I really was eager to try out the pink peppercorns with a dessert of some sort. I already love using black pepper in desserts, and yes I know that pink peppercorns are not technically peppercorns but they have that great peppery flavour and a vibrant pink colour, which I think looks fantastic sprinkled on top of the dark chocolate brownies.
This recipe is essentially a twist on the spiced blondies I made a few months ago (one of my favourite recent creations). I used the pink peppercorns, with a bit of real vanilla bean, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. It's fun to try out if you want something different to the regular brownie, and the colour of the pink peppercorns on top make it pretty enough for some Valentine's Day baking.
Recently I've struggled with over-baked, cakey, dry brownies that are missing the ideal crackly top and chewy edges. This time I decided to base this recipe on David Lebovitz's recipe from his book Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes, available online at Babble. Dear David, you are so awesome. Never change. I will definitely be using this recipe again, it made the prettiest, fudgiest, chewy brownies ever. Oh, and if the idea of using pink peppercorns freaks you out too much just replace it with freeze-dried raspberries or something.
Pink Peppercorn Brownies
(adapted from David Lebovitz's Absolute Best Brownie recipe, makes 16 brownies)
85g (3oz / 6 tbsp) butter, cut into pieces (I used salted, add a pinch of salt if using unsalted)
225g (8oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cardamom (adjust to taste, 1/4 tsp is quite strong)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract, or scraped seeds from one vanilla bean pod
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (35 g) all-purpose flour
About 2 tsp freshly ground pink peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), I'd recommend lowering it to 170°C if using fan-forced. Grease well and line the bottom and two long sides of a 20x30cm slice/brownie tin (can be substituted with a 20cm/23cm square cake tin). Let the baking paper hang over the long edges, it will make it easier to lift brownie out later. Grease the paper lightly as well.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and vanilla bean until combined. Stir in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the flour and stir energetically for just a minute, until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pink peppercorns evenly over the top of the mixture and then bake until the center feels almost set, about 27-30 minutes. Don’t overbake. Let cool completely in the pan before lifting out the brownies using the baking paper overhang. Slice into 16 equal pieces. Store in in airtight container (I kept mine in the fridge to keep it from going soggy), can be stored for 4 days or frozen for up to a month.