Ya’ll.

It’s here.

Today begins the biggest giveaway in Plan to Eat’s history with a $200 prize package. We’re so glad you’re here. You’ll find a lot in this post to make you glad that you’re here, too. An inspiring book review, spices from a fabulous local small-business, and an indulgent brownie recipe—it’s all here. Plus a chance to win it all.

You’re going to skip anything else I write here to get to the good stuff. Heck, you might just skip all the way to the bottom and start baking a batch of caramel brownies. But if you do that you will miss a few gems, so let’s get started.

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The Book

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I get so many book recommendations from my time in the car listening to the radio. Recently I heard an interview with Samantha Seneviratne discussing her new book The New Sugar and Spice. She said something about her jaw aching when she walked by the cinnamon rolls at the airport. Really, the cinnamon has long since been overcome by the sugar. And yet, as bakers, dessert is our love language. And what is dessert without some sugar?

“Too much sugar is causing not only a health crisis but also a deliciousness crisis. Our desserts have become boring, uninspired sugar-bombs, sweetness drowning out everything else that’s good.”

Based on the premise that if you just add some spice, you can use a little less sugar, Samantha’s book is a revelation to bakers looking to reduce the sugar content but not the love.

Samantha achieves a perfect balance, using “just enough sugar necessary for the best possible experience.” In some recipes (like Blueberry Custard Tarts and Date Nut Cookie Pies) that means very little sugar. In other recipes (like the indulgent Salt and Pepper Caramel Brownies here) it means more, but still–easily–half of the sugar called for in other recipes.

brownies

Samantha has an honest, masterful hand with spices. Sri Lanka and its vast natural stores of historically coveted spices plays a large role in Samantha’s family. Her family’s oral history (she provides insightful anecdotes throughout the book) is interwoven with the smells of vanilla, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Samantha brings her family history to her baking, and the bold flavors of eastern cultures shine in her recipes.

Making spice an equal partner with sugar doesn’t mean taking out all of the sugar. Samantha shows that if you push the spice envelope just a bit, then you don’t need to rely on sugar for flavor, resulting in more complex flavors and “more exciting coffee breaks”.

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The Spices

We at Plan to Eat wanted to provide you not only with an inspiring book of recipes, but also with all of the spices you need to make them. And we conveniently knew just the place to go.

The Old Town Spice Shop in Fort Collins, CO is the place to go for the very freshest flavors. The Godbey family grinds many of the spices themselves, ensuring the very best flavor and ultimate freshness.

Do you doubt the difference between a bland, grocery-store-bought bottle of vanilla extract and the cold-processed Madagascar Vanilla Extract sold at the Old Town Spice Shop? Or between the dusty bottle of ground allspice already on your shelf, and the fresh allspice berries from the spice shop? We’re here to convince you otherwise.

With help from the Old Town Spice Shop, we assembled a complete collection of spices and seasonings that you can use to bake anything and everything from The New Sugar and Spice. They’ve got the cayenne for your Chile-Chocolate Truffles, the cardamom for your Cardamom Cream-Filled Sugar Doughnuts, and the anise seed for your Pear Tarte Tatin with Anise Seed Caramel. And they’re giving it to you!

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The Tools

We don’t like it when we’re given things that make us go out and buy more equipment in order to enjoy the gift. We assumed that you didn’t like that either.

So with the freshest spices in the world, we’re also giving you a rasp (to grind your nutmeg), a ceramic spice grinder (because, according to Sean at the Old Town Spice Shop, the metal ones rust), and a mortar and pestle (just in case you prefer traditional materials).

The Swag

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But wait! There’s more!

All of these swoon-worthy items will arrive at your doorstep packaged in one of our brand-spankin’ new Plan to Eat canvas shopping bags. We evaluated dozens of tote bags before finding just the right one. Not too deep, not too shallow, not too large, not too small…. It’s just the right size for a gallon of milk and some fresh produce.

And to top it all off, we’re including a one year Plan to Eat subscription! You can use this to start a new account, extend your current subscription, or give it to a friend. 

The Great Autumn Spice Giveaway

This entire $200 prize package will go to one winner. Here’s how to enter:

 
Recipe reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Salt and Pepper Caramel Brownies

They say that freshly ground black pepper wakes up the salivary glands and enhances our ability to taste food. Who wouldn’t want to taste their brownies more completely? Black pepper also adds an unexpected smoky, floral note to the classic treat, making them complex and irresistible. The bittersweet, salty caramel is indulgent but heavenly. Whole batches of these have been known to disappear in our house in less than forty-eight hours.

Source: The New Sugar & Spice, page 35

Serves: 16

Ingredients

  • Brownies
  • 12 Cup Unsalted Butter Melted and slightly cooled
  • 34 Cup All-purpose flour
  • 34 Cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 12 Teaspoon Black Pepper freshly ground
  • 12 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Cup Dark brown sugar Packed
  • 2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract Pure
  • 12 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 Eggs Large
  • Caramel
  • 2 Tablespoon Water
  • 23 Cup Sugar Granulated
  • 13 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract Pure
  • 1 Teaspoon Fleur de sel For sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter an 8″ square baking pan and line it with parchment, leaving a 2″ overhang on two sides. Butter the parchment.
  2. To prepare the brownies, whisk together the flour, cocoa, pepper and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Add the melted butter to the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture. (You could throw in some chocolate chips at this point, but that might just be gilding the lily.)
  3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until just set, 24 to 26 minutes. As soon as a toothpick inserted 2 inches from the center pulls out very moist crumbs, not runny batter, pull the brownies out of the oven. Set on a rack to cool.
  4. To prepare the caramel, add the water to a medium saucepan. Add granulated sugar to the center saucepan, making sure the sugar is evenly moistened. Cook over medium heat, without stirring (although you can gently swirl the pan, if necessary), until the caramel is medium amber in color, 5 to 6 minutes.
  5. Slowly add the cream, whisking constantly; be very careful, since it will bubble up and spatter. Add the butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the caramel is smooth and slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes more. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour the caramel over the brownies and spread evenly.
  6. Cool in the pan, on a rack, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and refrigerate until the caramel is set, about 1 hour.
  7. To serve, cut around the edge of the brownies to loosen them from the pan, then use the parchment to lift the brownies out of the pan and onto the cutting board. Use a long sharp knife to cut the brownies into squares. (Little pieces go a long way!)
  8. Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.