There are two things that happen during the fall that truly let me know that the season has changed. Because I live in Northern California , the weather can often stay quite pleasant all the way through November (just like it did this year), so I look to non-weather related events to clue me in to the arrival of fall.
The first true indicator of fall to me, are seeing tomato trucks. When tomato season hits, I see dozens of trucks a day hauling their produce off to feed the world. Bouncing down the highways, they drop members of their precious cargo on the side of the road, adding a splash of vibrant color to the landscape. This sight always reminds me of the first time I saw them, when I was moving into the dorms my freshman year of college.
The second sight that screams fall to me are pumpkins. I love baking with pumpkin, the end result is always so rich and moist. And these brownies are no exception.
The chocolate and the pumpkin pair up wonderfully, in these sweet fall treats.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar (the original recipe calls for the larger amount; I think it could be dialed down a bit)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Cut a length of parchment that will cover the bottom and two sides (makes it much easier to remove), and line the pan with it. Butter the lining as well. (Just like Deb from Smitten Kitchen, I used an 8-inch square, because it was what I had. It works, too, but the brownies are crazy thick and take much longer to bake, just to give you a heads-up.)
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
4. Pour half of batter (about two cups) into a separate bowl and stir chocolate mixture into it. If you find that it is a little thick (as mine was) add a little more batter (a few tablespoons or so) until it is more pourable. This is important because mine was quite thick, and the pumpkin half was quite thin, so I had trouble swirling the two together.
5. In other bowl, stir in the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.
6. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Be sure to get your knife all the way to the bottom of the pan–I didn’t, and ended up with a chocolate base, not that it is such a bad thing. Sprinkle with nuts, if using.
7. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.
(source Smitten Kitchen)