Cardamom and Pink Pepper Brownies

December 5, 2019 Updated: December 5, 2019

Chocolate is one of my favorite vehicles for spices. Its sweetness and fat hold flavors nicely, especially when baked into brownies rich with butter. The shortcut to success here is melting the butter and chocolate in the microwave. It’s a trick I learned from a pastry chef in France who swore by it because, with the traditional bain-marie method of melting chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, there’s a risk of water splashing into the mix and seizing the chocolate. Besides, brownies don’t require perfectly tempered chocolate to come out delicious, so the microwave works just fine. If you don’t have one, simply place the butter and chocolate together in a heavy saucepan over very low heat and stir just until melted. The rest of the batter is straightforward and foolproof and can turn into mini cakes or even ice cream treats. Just don’t overbake it, and you’ll be guaranteed fudgy brownies.

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan (about 2 dozen)

For the spice blend:

  • 1 teaspoon green cardamom pods 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pink pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Urfa pepper 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese

For the brownies:

  • 1 cup salted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar 

Finely grind the cardamom and pink pepper together and immediately mix with the Urfa and ground cinnamon.

To make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom and all four sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. If the paper won’t stay down, you can wet the pan a little before pressing in the paper.

Combine the butter and chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and stir until smooth. If the chocolate and butter don’t melt completely, microwave for another 15 seconds and stir. Repeat, heating in 15-second intervals, until smooth. Let stand to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk in the spice blend. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until foamy. While whisking the eggs, add the sugar in a steady stream and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add the butter-chocolate mixture and stir rapidly with a silicone spatula until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and fold gently with the spatula until no traces of flour remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spread it in an even layer, and bake until a toothpick inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

To serve, lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into 2-inch squares.

Make Ahead

The brownies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Recipe reprinted from “Mastering Spice,” copyright 2019 by Lior Lev Sercarz. Photographs copyright 2019 by Thomas Schauer. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.