Still thinking about Vietnam and discovering cinnamon trees along the road. The evergreen Saigon Cinnamon tree was lining the two-lane road we traveled to head toward the Ho Chi Minh trail. The forests seemed enchanted when I was made aware that the cinnamon trees were truly the trees where we get high quality cinnamon from. I had to stop and sample first-hand. Indeed the flavor was sharp, spicy and a bit sweet right off the tree. I’d love to build a bonfire with the aroma of this wood!
The label “Saigon Cinnamon” is familiar in our grocery stores of powdered cinnamon bark. The bark is cut off the trees and locals dry it on plastic sheets in front of their homes and businesses to sell. Ironically there are very few Vietnamese recipes that include cinnamon. It is more commonly used as a cure for many ailments including joint pain, gum disease and even used as an insect repellant.
Thankfully cinnamon production is now back in gear after over 20 years of disruption after the war. Some of my favorite ways to include cinnamon is with curry, tea, oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, sweet potatoes and the Vietnamese iconic pho soup. More on the soup in a later post. And yes…chocolate. Check out this recipe for Mayan Brownies. You will not be disappointed.
Recipe for Mayan Brownies
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup sweet ground chocolate (I like Ghirardelli brand)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup (12 ounces) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup (12 ounces) butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup raw or refined sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the flour, ground chocolate, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside. In a double boiler, heat the (bittersweet or semi-sweet) chocolate, butter, and heavy cream over low heat. Stir occasionally until melted, but not boiling. Remove from heat. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer until lemony yellow, about three minutes. Add the vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix well. Now add the melted chocolate into the batter. Mix for 2-3 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Top should be firm and barely brown. A cake tester should be moist yet firm for fudge brownies. Add a teaspoon of ground chili pepper to the mixture before baking for a special spicy kick. Add 1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts if desired.
Sprinkle warm brownies with powdered sugar with a teaspoon of cinnamon added.