Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chocolate, Chilli & Chai Spices; a Brownie Based Dessert

I do a lot of baking, but 'smart' desserts rarely feature in our meals at home, so this last valentine's weekend was an excuse to think about plating a dessert, rather than just having a piece of warm cake and custard and calling it pudding.  I am guessing that if you went out for a meal this valentines weekend you would have expected to see a chocolate dessert on the menu. I am always keen to see what ideas restaurants come up with for the much anticipated 'chocolate to make you swoon' dessert. Unlike most pastry chefs I am no artist so I try to keep my desserts pretty simple and focussed on flavours.
So for my not too rich chocolate dessert I chose to serve warm cubes of  a light chocolate brownie with slices of fresh mango, a chai spiced milk ice-cream, creme fraiche and slivers of candied mild chilli.

The beauty of this combination is that much of the dessert can be prepared well in advance and you can serve as much or as little brownie as each person wants to eat. If your mangoes refuse to ripen you can always serve them lightly pan fried in butter and lime juice.

The Chai Spiced Milk Ice-cream is one I was experimenting with last year and I'm still not sure I have the right balance but the base of the ice-cream came from this recipe link Great British Chefs.  I modified it by steeping a heaped dessert spoon of chai tea in the milk first. I also had some ice-cream stabilier  that I was trying out which was used instead of the gelatine. If you want to use a bought ice-cream I think a caramel flavour would go well.

The Brownie recipe came from food writer David Lebovitz. He has a few brownie recipes on his site but this one called Helene's Brownies caught my eye as it is relatively low in fat and lower in sugar than many traditional brownie recipes. It was fine for the dessert here, served warm, in small cubes, but if you looking for the full on sugar/butter hit then this is not the one for you.

The Candied Chilli was made using chillis from a bottle of 'Pepperdew' chilli pickles. These small round chillies are relatively mild and are preserved in a fairly sweet vinegar. I rinsed off the pickling juice, sliced the chillies into slithers, and then dusted them with fine caster sugar. They were then left to dry out overnight. Blanching a fresh red chilli in water for a few minutes and then simmering in sugar syrup until it is tender should also work, just be sure you know how hot the chilli is first. Again cut into slithers and sprinkle with sugar. You should be able to do this a few days in advance, store in plenty of sugar as you can shake excess off just before using.

The Creme Fraiche was served as is topped with the 'candied' chillies but you could add a little sugar and vanilla if you liked.

The Mango was just served at room temperature and cut into sections. Really ripe mangoes can be hard to cut up neatly as they just get so soft but an under-ripe is really best lightly cooked in a little butter and perhaps some lime juice and sugar to sweeten. Unless you are having to cook the mango, which should be done just before serving, the mango can be sliced up well in advance of serving. If you felt like it you could also make a small amount of mango couli with the trimmings and serve this as well.

To Serve

  • Have the ice-cream in the fridge for about a half hour before serving so it is soft enough to scoop
  • If the mango slices have been in the fridge take them out now to come  up to room temperature.
  • Have the oven on high ~ 200C to reheat the brownie cubes. They should only take 5 minutes to heat through if they are cut into cubes. As soon as they are hot turn the oven off and just leave them in there until ready to plate them.
  • If cooking the mango, pan fry it briefly as above until it is just soft.
  • Start by placing a fan of mango slices onto each plate.
  • Scoop a quennelle of creme fraiche onto each plate and sprinkle with candied chilli pieces.
  • Place the brownie cubes around the plate
  • Place a generous scoop of chai tea milk ice-cream on each plate
  • Add a few more candied chilli slithers onto the ice-cream
  • Serve straight away (with mango couli if you made any)
I am submitting this brownie dessert to The We Should Cocoa February challenge. I have missed putting in entries for the last few challenges but as some of these earlier challenges included ice-cream and chilli I feel I have now almost caught up. This month's challenge is being guest hosted by Katie of  recipe for perfection


  1. A beautiful combination of flavors and colors. I'd order this in a restaurant any time! Thanks for joining #WeShouldCocoa!

  2. Oh very impressive Jill. I'm not sure I'd ever have the patience to do such a beautiful plated dessert, but I'd very much like to eat it. Served with ice-cream and fruit, you don't really need a super rich brownie, so this was a good call. Thanks for joining in with We Should Cocoa.