Preheat oven to 350
4 1/4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 3/4 cups sugar (If you like really sweet brownies, use 2 cups sugar. Any more than that and they'll be gaggingly sweet)
2 good shakes of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. brewed coffee OR 2 tsp. of vanilla or coffee
3 large eggs
3-finger pinch of salt
1 cup flour
Heat chocolate and butter on low, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from heat before chocolate is completely melted. Stir until it fully melts. Allow to cool long enough so that the eggs won't scramble when you add them.
Add sugar, mix thoroughly with chocolate-butter mixture. (I add one cup, mix that in, then add the rest)
Mix in cayenne and vanilla/coffee.
Test batter to make sure it's cool enough. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add salt.
Add flour, mix until everything is completely incorporated and lumps disappear.
Pour into greased 9"x12" baking pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until tester comes out almost clean. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour. I usually let them sit for 3 hours. I always leave some batter in the bowl so I can feed my craving and leave the damn brownies alone long enough for them to set up.
I came across the next recipe while looking for info on Scandinavian food. I found it in Mark Bittman's "The Best Recipes in the World". I'm posting the recipe verbatim, although I had to make a couple of adjustments to the cake. I'll explain in footnotes (I aim to be the David Foster Wallace of food bloggers, except for the being dead part). As Bittman says, this is somewhere between bread and cake. If you want it more cake-like, he recommends doubling the sugar in the dough, and adding a couple more tbls. of butter.
I was expecting this be light and dry, like so many pastries I've come across, and am not fond of. (I don't mind the light part, but a really dry pastry does not appeal to me) It's actually a bit dense, and it stays moist for 3-4 days.
Braided Coffee Cake with Cardamom
3 cups flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 1/2 tsp. instant active dry yeast*
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbls. sugar**
1 tsp. ground cardamom***
1 stick butter, plus more as needed
3 egg yolks
1/2 to 1 cup milk, as needed****
1/2 cup walnut, pecans, or almonds*****
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Put flour, yeast, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and cardamom in a food processor. Pulse a few times, just enough to mix. Add egg yolks and 6 tbls. butter. Pulse until all ingredients are combined.
While the food processor runs, slowly add half the milk through feed tube. Process just until a dough ball is formed, adding more milk a few drops at a time, if necessary.
Pour dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth. If the dough gets sticky during kneading, add some flour, a bit at a time,. Shape shape into a ball, and place in a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic and a couple of kitchen towels, and allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
When the dough is ready, cut it into 3 pieces. On a very lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope, just over a foot long. Braid the pieces of dough, then pinch the ends to seal. Put on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and allow to rise for another hour.******
Preheat oven to 375. Chop the nuts and mix with the remaining 2 tbls. butter, and the cinnamon.******* Sprinkle mixture over the dough.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool.
* I never have instant yeast in the house, so I've been doubling the yeast to 1 tbls. I also heat the milk for one minute, at medium heat. Then I cover it and let it sit for 5 minutes. That gives the dough a little bump, although it takes closer to 3 hours to double in size. Just make sure the milk's not too hot. Check the temperature with your kitchen thermometer, if you have one. It's best for the milk to be around 100 degrees. If it's much hotter, the dough will rise too fast, and won't have time to develop flavor or a foundation. Also, if it's over 115 degrees, it will kill the yeast. If you don't have a kitchen thermometer, just stick your finger in the milk. It should be lukewarm, at most.
**Notice he never explains what to do with the 2 tbls. sugar. I suspect it's supposed to be added to the nuts and butter to make the streusel topping. (I did add another tabls. of sugar to the dough.
***That's a lot of ground cardamon, yo. I love me some cardamom, but a tsp. gave it a floral flavor. If I wanted to eat flowers... well, I don't want to eat flowers, so the second time I made this, I cut the cardamom to 1/2 tsp. It's up to you, though.
****I used almost a cup.
*****You can, of course, use a mixture of nuts. I've tried just almonds, and a mix of almonds and walnuts. I prefer the almonds by themselves.
******You're probably going to end up with some extra dough, because this rolls out to about 18". If you have a pan big enough to accommodate an 18" pastry, go ahead and use it all. I cut off the extra dough, cut that in 2 pieces, and rolled them out until them were 1/8" thick. The first time I made this, I filled each piece of dough with the nut/butter mixture, and rolled them into crescents. The second time, I filled one with the nut/butter mixture, and one with semi-sweet chocolate chips. They can be baked along with the coffee cake. Place them seam side down on the cookie sheet, and seal the ends. Be careful with the filling, no matter what you use. I put the filling pretty much straight down the middle, and left a good-sized border on all sides, and both of them broke open while baking. I didn't lose much of anything, but if you're making this for a special occasion, you probably want them to look as pretty as possible. Or not. The taste is what matters, and these are damn fantastic.
*******I added 2 tbls. of brown sugar to the nut/butter mixture. Also, I added a scant tsp. of cinnamon, and it was still a bit strong for me. A little cinnamon goes a long way.