Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vianne Rochon Maya Brownies

"Why can't you wear black shoes like the other mothers?"
One of my favorite movies is Chocolat with Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Leslie Caron, Judi Dench, Carrie-Anne Moss and, of course, Johnny Depp. Vianne and her daughter Anouk stir up trouble when they move into a religiously rigid French town and open a chocolaterie in the middle of Lent--right across from the church. What ensues is a tug-of-war between the town's dour sense of morality and decency and the freedom and pleasure represented by Vianne's "dangerous" chocolates.

The story is based on Joanne Harris' novel of the same name, and, for once, I prefer the movie. Harris' novel starts with the same sparkling, intriguing characters and setting but takes a dark and cynical turn that bursts the bubble halfway through. In contrast to the book, the movie's Vianne is one of my favorite cinematic characters, and I find the themes of faith, love, friendship and joie de vivre deeply satisfying. The story is perhaps a bit sweet but finds redemption in the stellar cast, transportive soundtrack (a mix of gypsy jazz, a la Django Reinhardt, and Latin, pan flute instrumentals), and sets that drip with nostalgic post WWII images of France.

I know, traditionally we fast things like chocolate during Lent and then celebrate by breaking fast at Easter. But watching Chocolat again today inspired me to celebrate Lent and the sacrifice Christ made once for all a little early with these Vianne Rochon Maya Brownies. They're rich and chocolaty with a crisp top and dense, moist crumb. As Vianne adds Maya-style spices to her chocolate in the movie, I added cayenne pepper and cinnamon for heat and spice and coffee for depth. Enjoy every morsel.

Vianne Rochon Maya Brownies
Recipe modified from

 5 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
(I used half of an 11 oz bag of Ghirardelli's bittersweet, 60% cocoa chips)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 Tb cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tb instant coffee powder
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Using a double boiler, or a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate chips and pats of butter. Stir constantly. When you see just a few chunks of chocolate and butter remaining, remove from heat and continue stirring until smooth.
  2. Add the cocoa powder through the coffee powder. Taste to see if you want to add any more heat, spice or depth. 
  3. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Let cool slightly.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
  5. Stir in the flour and salt.
  6. Pour batter into a buttered 9" pan.
  7. Bake 350', 30 mins.


  1. Looks yummy! Sam just got excited about having a recipe for homemade brownie mix :)

  2. I loved the movie Chocolat, although watching it gave me a serious chocolate craving. Your brownies sound exactly like something Vianne would have made and I like the spicy kick. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog and I'd like to invite you to stop by and link your brownies up.

  3. Chocolat is one of my favorite movies too! :) It really inspires me and picks me up. Awesome post!


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