By Special Request: Aztec Gold Brownies

Chiles are one of my favorite fruits and flavoring agents in the entire culinary universe.

As far as I am concerned, they are among the most versatile of ingredients, and can allow the cook to play with a range of flavor, color, heat and aroma that very few other ingredients can manage. As a result of this versatility and the playfulness that it evokes in me, I have come up with a few recipes where chiles appear in contexts that one does not usually expect the fire of a pepper to erupt.

One of those contexts is in a dessert.

A decadadent, rich dessert, filled to bursting with chocolate.

Yes, I know. Chiles with chocolate are becoming a bit de rigeur these days, what with the film “Chocolat” and all.

And I have to admit that I was first inspired to make these brownies after I belatedly rented and watched that movie, and was enchanted with the thought of pairing chile pepper with chocolate in a sweet context. (Mole sauces are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but I have to admit to liking my chocolates sweet. But, not too sweet.)

But, these brownies, which I named in honor of another film (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” if you are wondering) are not just about sweet and hot, chocolate and chile. Oh, no. I packed them full of flavors that are associated in one way or another with Mexico: vanilla, cinnamon and coffee, to be precise. And I used high quality chocolate in them, plus added Dutch process cocoa, in order to get a deep, dark chocolatey flavor, color and aroma.

And then, just for kicks, I sprinkled gold leaf on the top of them. You know–to give them that extra bit of flash, and to help them live up to their name. (Allright, I have to ‘fess up here. I did the gold for the blog. And it looks cool, and it is extremely cool to be eating gold. But for the first two years worth of making these lovelies, I have not used the gold. You don’t have to. But, if you want to–follow the instructions on the gold leaf and have fun.)

These brownies are addictive, and have become a favorite dessert around here since I made them up a couple of years ago. I have made them for weddings, for holidays, and just because. This winter, I may try glazing them with dark chocolate ganache and then sprinkling them with gold leaf and see what happens. In the summer, the ganache would just melt into puddles of goo, but in the winter–well, it may just add a little bit moreishness to them.

The flavor is complex. The first flavor to hit is a combination of the good chocolate and the smokiness of the chipotle. Then, the cinnamon kicks in, and then the espresso. Finally, the chipotle chile heat creeps up the back of your throat and warms your mouth. And then you take another bite, and a whisper of vanilla insinuates itself on your tongue, and then dances with the espresso and chocolate, and then the smokiness cuts in and the chile turns it all into big party. And you take another bite, and it all starts over again. They are, in a word, fantastic. These brownies are one of the few of my recipes I -will- brag about, like in public, even though it is not at all in my nature.

They really are that good. They are sexy hot, and I don’t say that about many of my recipes.

But these brownies–they are smokin‘.

So, there we are. My entry for The Spice is Right IV: It’s Too Darned Hot!. A bit close to late, but still within the deadline–and by popular demand. For those who loved my Aphrodite Cookies–I am giving you another recipe of a similar caliber–these brownies will make your reputation. I promise you.

Just tell folks where you found the recipe, okay?

Aztec Gold Brownies


4 ounces (2 squares) semi-sweet (62%) Scharffen Berger chocolate, grated (you can use a higher percentage chocolate–like 70% here, but it will make super-rich brownies. Just so you know.)
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. espresso powder
1 ½ tsp. ground dried chipotle pepper
¾ cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp. Dutch cocoa
3 large eggs
½ tsp. double strength Penzey’s vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. Penzey’s Mexican Vanilla Extract)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 8″ square glass baking pan with foil and spray with Baker’s Joy.

In a glass bowl, melt butter and chocolate in microwave in 10 second increments. If chocolate is well-grated, this should take about 40 seconds-stir after thirty seconds.

Place sugar, cinnamon, espresso powder and chipotle pepper in a mixing bowl and stir well. Put flour and cocoa in another bowl and mix well.

Scrape chocolate into sugar mixture and beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and beat another 20 seconds or so.

Add eggs, beat to incorporate, scraping as needed. Add vanilla, and stir to incorporate.

Add ½ of flour mixture, and stir on low speed until mostly mixed in. Scrape bowl and add rest of flour, mixing until incorporated. Scrape bowl. Beat on medium high speed for about 45 seconds, or until mixture lightens visibly. This is to incorporate air, which is the only leavening in the batter.

Scrape into prepared pan and bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool in pan for fifteen minutes. Lift out foil and lay on a wire rack and allow to cool -completely- before cutting. Otherwise, they will fall apart. They are very fudgy in the middle, with a bit of a crispish crust on top. If you cut too soon, they will be gooey in the middle and crackle way too much on the top and then fall apart.

They will still taste good, but they won’t look very good when you go to serve them, and they -will- be hard to eat.


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  1. I know what I’m going to be making for next Friday…..

    We’ve made your Mongolian Beef over cucumbers twice. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Didn’t use beef tenderloin either time but oh well. Used Thai chilis instead of jalapenos (the cook thinks that jalapenos are nasty things with no flavour so refuses to use them, especially when he’s got Thai or habaneros around.) You got the texture of the cucumbers just right.

    Comment by Cymru Llewes — July 15, 2006 #

  2. Hail and welcome, Cymru–about the jalapenos–I prefer Thai chilies, too. But, jalapenos are not all craptastic and flavorless. Just the Texas A&M variety that was bred to be that way.

    The ones that I used in that dish were grown here in Athens, by a farmer who hates the Texas A&M variety as much as I do, and who grew traditional ones that really do have considerable heat.

    Jalapenos just aren’t what they used to be….

    I am glad you love that recipe, though, I cannot take real credit for doing anything other than cooking it from taste memory from the recipe of my beloved chef Huy.

    The cuke texture–all, that is the best, isn’t it? 😉

    As for the brownies–with my compliments–let me know how they turn out!

    Comment by Barbara — July 16, 2006 #

  3. Barbara, what a wonderful recipe! I will make a lot of them, enjoy them and I will tell everyone where I found the recipe! I’m not so sure that I will let them eat anything though…

    Comment by ilva — July 16, 2006 #

  4. I’ll be making these, no question about it. I make your Aphrodite Cakes all the time (and yes, I always tell people where I found the recipe!).

    Comment by Danielle — July 16, 2006 #

  5. I live in NYC and chile/chocolate is all the rage. My favorite, oddly enough is “aztec chocolate cake” at Bouchon bakery, it’s truly delicious. I would suggest ordering some of Jaques Torres “wicked” hot chocoloate online…’s the best hot chocolate you have ever had.

    Comment by Cat — July 16, 2006 #

  6. The gold leaf looks oh so very pretty for the camara. And The recipe looks fantastic. I LOVE fudgy brownies when I am in a chocolate mood (which is about once a monty). I have been wondering what to do with some Aztec cocoa mix that I acquired which has cinnamon chocoalte, chiles and a few other interesting things. I think when I next get the craving I am going to try these.

    Comment by Kitarra — July 16, 2006 #

  7. Thank you all–this is one of my favorite recipes–this one, the Frostflower cookies and the Aphrodite Cakes are among my favorite sweets. I just love making little sweets with unexpected flavors in them!

    Comment by Barbara — July 17, 2006 #

  8. Would this be as good without the espresso powder? I don’t normally drink coffee, so I can’t see buying espresso powder for this one recipe… even though it does sound AMAZING!

    Comment by Aimee — July 18, 2006 #

  9. I made these for a party today, and everyone loved them. Only change – I couldn’t find any espresso powder, even at the local Italian market, so I used the coffee paste they gave me instead.

    Comment by Danielle — July 30, 2006 #

  10. I am sure it worked fine.

    Glad everyone loved them–it makes me happy to hear about my recipes going out into the world and making folks happy.

    Comment by Barbara — August 1, 2006 #

  11. Aimee–I don’t know–I only use the espresso powder I have for this one recipe. And when I say espresso powder–it is instant espresso, not ground up espresso beans. It dissolves easily in water, or in the case of these brownies, in melted butter, and really permeates the brownies with its flavor.

    I am not sure how they would taste without it. The bitterness of the espresso is a very strong part of the flavor.

    Here is a link to order it online:

    Comment by Barbara — August 2, 2006 #

  12. […] Barbara says that she doesn’t bake much, but when she posts desserts, they are always amazing. She recently posted a recipe for Aztec Gold Brownies that turned out just to be just scrumptious when I made them, sweet and dense and smoky and hot. I still make her delicately delicious Aphrodite Cakes all the time, and they are always universally praised. […]

    Pingback by Habeas Brulee » Blog Archive » Roundup of Food Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed #4 — August 5, 2006 #

  13. Hi, Barbara! I’ve been lurking on the food_porn community at LJ and came across your brownie recipe (amongst many others) there. I just wanted to leave a note saying that I tried it yesterday, and it was great! I had a minor emergency, I didn’t have chili powder and so I used finely ground white pepper instead (the chinese kind that my mom keeps stocked in her cupboard) and I missed cocoa as well, so I used powder packets of hot cocoa. Vaguely sacriligious, but necessity is the mother of invention. It turned out lovely, though- i still got the little bloom of heat at the end, which was wonderful.

    But I do have a question- I let the people in my bible study group eat some, and it seems as though their comments were mixed. Apparently not everybody likes heat in their brownies. Did you experience that too? I love it, but I wouldn’t rule it an absolute crowd favorite for this reason.

    Thanks for posting your recipes! I really do enjoy reading your blog.

    Comment by Deborah — August 10, 2006 #

  14. Some people are not as adventurous with spicy flavors as others. So far, I have not had anyone dislike the brownies, although I had one person who really cannot much eat spicy food say she liked them, but she could only eat a few bites of one.

    I will also readily admit that the people I hang out with tend to be folks who love spicy food–so that may be the difference between your experience and mine.

    I do have a cookie recipe that uses black epper in it that is good too–I call them Frostflowers. I think you would probably like them as well.

    You can find them here:

    Comment by Barbara — August 11, 2006 #

  15. Barbara, your food blog is one of my favorites. I just tried these tonight and they really were “sexy hot!” Thank you!

    Comment by Joette — September 18, 2006 #

  16. I made these last night for a party and they were a huge hit. You got full credit. These are really fantastic.

    Comment by Rathead — February 18, 2007 #

  17. […] Spending a great part of the last year with gold miners, our conversations would often veer into the realm of what we’re planning to do “when things go bad.” Miners were invariably stashing gold. Because gold, after all, while on a practical level quite useless, is an international currency and has for centuries been understood by various civilizations to possess some sort of mystical powers. Of course, will international currencies still be useful post-guitarmadeddon? I don’t know, and I didn’t ask. But certainly, there are more than a few ways to prepare for whatever hardships may or may not come, and a little gold on hand could be helpful for bartering with someone who’s traversing the harsh post-apocalyptic landscape, looking to trade, say, his bowie knife for a new filling. […]

    Pingback by The end is so nye | (mostly) blue skies above us — July 23, 2007 #

  18. hhahahaa love the word ‘craptastic’! and i must admit that the brownies sound amazing! yum! will try them when we come back from holiday!

    Comment by Maninas — July 27, 2007 #

  19. These look yummy! However I have to admit that it hurt my Mexican heart to see the centuries old combination of chiles and chocolate referred to as having been found due to a contemporary movie!

    Comment by Marie — March 2, 2008 #

  20. I’m going to have to try these! I really want to brew some actual espresso for them though, rather than buy the powder… that would add a tiny bit of water, though, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Did you ever try it?

    Comment by alangenh — February 9, 2010 #

  21. […] night I baked up a batch of these goodies, after helping myself to the recipe at Tigers and Strawberries.  (A good name, that.  The cook over there is a culinary metaphysical poet; she takes humble […]

    Pingback by Hello World! (Aka, Aztec Brownies!) | Academic Bride — December 9, 2010 #

  22. Yum, these brownies look amazing! 🙂

    Comment by sara — February 14, 2011 #

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