I just love a good party.
And I have found, over the years, that one of the keys to hosting a good party is to give it a theme.
Establishing a theme for your celebration gives yourself and your party compatriots a common mission — you’re all in it together and you know exactly what you need to do:
No one’s leaving here until we properly celebrate the vernal equinox! Now get out your sundials let’s party!
See what I mean? Everybody’s on board.
Clearly some themes are more obvious than others, but an additional advantage of throwing a theme party is that there is virtually no theme out there that doesn’t have a silly hat and a yummy dessert to go with it.
Take my current theme as an example: it’s Cinco de Mayo week in my house. We will be celebrating over the next six days with sombreros, piÃ±atas and these delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies.
In case you aren’t familiar with Mexican chocolate, it has a much grainier consistency than it’s American counterpart; Mexican chocolate is made from a blend of pure chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, almonds and vanilla.
It’s just delicious.
And the good news is that I found it in the ‘international’ section of a national chain supermarket so you will likely be able to find it in a grocery near you (I do offer a substitution suggestion with the recipe below, though, just in case you can’t find it).
But the grainy consistency of the chocolate is key here — I also included a liberal dose of cacao nibs, just to up both the chocolate and crunch antes. Upon tasting a brownie, my husband described it as ‘a Pecan Sandie meets chocolate fudge’. I like this.
I like this because it’s accurate: these brownies have the dense, moist, chocolate flavor of a brownie and the crumbly, sandy texture of nutty cookie.
And I like it because now I’m imagining Mr. Pecan Sandie meeting Mr. Chocolate Fudge. I really think they’d get along quite well. Like fast friends. Like even occasionally coordinating their outfits to match.
I’m feeling another theme party coming on.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies
- 1 c. white sugar, granulated
- ¾ c. vegetable oil
- ½ c. self-rising flour
- 4 Mexican chocolate wafers (I used Ibarra brand here, which is available in the ‘international’ section of most well-stocked grocery stores, as well as in Hispanic markets. You may substitute 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate + ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon + ½ teaspoon of finely ground almonds for one ounce of Mexican chocolate. Each Ibarra wafer weighs 3.1 ounces. I recommend using ground almonds instead of almond extract because you will want to try to replicate the grainy consistency of Mexican chocolate, and the ground almonds will help with that. Please keep in mind, though, that your finished brownies will be slightly more dense and less sandy if you go with this substitution. Equally delicious, just different.)
- ¾ c. cacao nibs
- 3 egg yolks
- cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 °.
Grease an 8” x 8” baking pan liberally with cooking spray and set aside.
Roughly chop chocolate disks and place chunks into the heatproof bowl of a double boiler to melt over boiling water. The solid chocolate will turn to a paste-like consistency. Once it has melted, set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cream the sugar and oil and add the egg yolks one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in the flour. Once the chocolate has cooled slightly, fold it into the batter. Fold in the cacao nibs.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly into the four corners of the pan.
Bake for 25-27 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Do not over bake.
Remove finished brownies from the oven to cool completely. Because these brownies are so crumbly, I actually chose to chill them for several hours before unmolding, slicing and serving.
YIELD: 9 large brownies