Monday, May 16, 2011

Never too Late for Cinco de Mayo

My friends have an annual Cinco de Mayo party, and I have always volunteered to bring a dessert. I try to stay thematic, and previous submissions have been a chocolate-kahlua cake, tres leches cake, and lime cheesecake. This year I reverted to a Margarita Chiffon cake which I've made previously but is well worth repeating, and threw in a small batch of Mexican chocolate brownies too. Although we're already more than a week past the official Cinco celebrations, it's never too late to enjoy a delicious, homemade Mexican food feast with good friends and plenty of cerveza!

Mexican Brownies
Chocolate and cinnamon are a classic Mexican flavor combination, and this recipe seemed like the perfect melding of the two. But they came out of the oven as a complete disappointment. They baked very unevenly (even though I had them in at the same time as my cake which baked perfectly, so I know it wasn't my oven's fault.) After the specified baking time, the center was still completely raw, so I gave them another 5 minutes to set-up, which seemed to work (even though parts around the edges had bubbled and puffed to a much higher height than the center portion). However, after unmolding them when I went to cut them, the entire outer edge of the pan was literally a brick.

I had already decided not to make the icing from the recipe. Since I was taking these to a party, I didn't want anything excessively sticky or runny, and though this brown sugar topping sounded yummy, it seemed like it would be a big mess when mixed with half-drunk guests stumbling around napkinless and plateless. I also try not to take things with nuts to parties where I don't know if some guests might have allergies. However, the was no way these brownies could go to the party undressed. They certainly stiff enough to "stand alone" but I was embarrased to have my name associated with them.

Will tasted a couple bites from the center of the pan, and with chocolate-lover assurances that "the flavor is really good" (the balance of chocolate and cinnamon) he gave me hope to try to somehow salvage the batch. I decided a frosting of some sort was my best bet, and I had a little leftover "Quick Brown Sugar Frosting" from Joy of Cooking in the freezer. I thinned it a bit with some kahlua and then stirred in a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. I spread on a layer and then dusted the tops with freshly grated cinnamon, and these little guys became quite the hit of the party!

I have long been a fan of chiffon cake because it is so moist and light. It works especially well with bright citrus flavors, and this margarita-themed cake is a particular favorite. The glaze makes it especially fun for an adult-only party, and the liquor in the cake keeps it incredibly melt-in-the-mouth and refreshingly moist.

The only changes I make to the recipe are that I don't bother with cake flour; I actually prefer the texture of all-purpose flour, though I do sift it before I measure it. I also don't bother with the strawberry compote; I've never made it, and I'm sure it's delicious and would probably be a good recipe on it's own, but this cake really needs no other adornment - except perhaps a sombrero and an Mexican sunset!

I always love having the opportunity to pull out this fantastic sombrero serving
dish which was made by my grandmother. The top of the hat is intended for
salsa or dip, but is usually too small to hold the amount needed for the capacity
of chips or veggies that can be held in the rim of the plate. So it made a fun
decoaration to fill the center with this decorative candle.

Most people have very specific qualities in mind when they consider a "perfect brownie" - I happen to like mine fudgey and crackly on top. These were dense, and cake-like in a way, but in a dry way that is unpreferable in my opinion. However, adding the frosting made their heavy structure a benefit, because they could then stand-up to a sweet topping. I don't think I'll make these again, because there are so many types of brownies out there to try, I don't want to waste my time with ones that are less than favorites. But I'm proud of how I was able to save these, and received plenty of compliments from the party guests, so if they sound good to you, it might be worth giving them a try. I suggest using a glass pan (I used metal) which might be slightly more insulated and help them bake more evenly. I also would probably have preferred them a little thinner, so recommend using a 9" pan (instead of 8") but then watch the time carefully as they will bake more quickly in a shallower pan.

No comments:

Post a Comment