These brownies were not so much of a challenge to make, but there are a few somewhat messy steps to get the batter in the pan and ready to bake. Starting out with a single base, made from flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking powder, the fairly fat-less batter is divided between two bowls to get gussied up. Oh, there was one more ingredient, but I'll wait (unless you cheat and jump to the recipe!) to divulge what that was... sneaky, I know! But you'll like it!
Into one of the bowls, we gingerly stirred in a decadent melted duo of bittersweet chocolate and butter. I know, one whole, buttery stick... but these are brownies - resist trying to lighten with applesauce! With that pale batter transformed to a dark, delicious pool, the other bowl was given a shock of color with mashed pumpkin, along with a smidge of canola oil. With all that pumpkin added, this one needed a couple spices to accentuate the sweetness - cinnamon and a few fresh grates from one of the whole nutmegs we have in the pantry did the trick. Add a half cup of chopped, toasted nuts if you like, but we left them out of this batch.
The two batters are then alternately layered into the baking pan, so you'll end up with 4 total, into which you'll stick a knife to swirl them together creating a lovely marbled effect. I do have one tip - once the batters are combined, work as quickly as you can to get them layered into the pan and swirled. The pumpkin batter was fine, but the chocolate will start to firm and set if you wait too long. Use a trusty wooden skewer or toothpick to test for doneless - you'll want to take them out when there isn't any wet batter left, but there are still sticky crumbs to be found. If it are passed that point, they won't be bad, they just will be a bit more cake-y.
While I wouldn't classify them as cake-style brownies myself, I don't think they quite fit into the fudgy mold either. When I think of describing them, dense, rich and moist come to mind, along with a nice chew that rounds out the texture. We also noted a slight tingle coming up our throats after a couple bites... remember that special ingredient I was holding back? It's cayenne pepper! Not much, a puny quarter teaspoon, which one probably couldn't point out as it doesn't scream its existence. However, we liked the complexity it added to these brownies. I wondered how prevalent the pumpkin would come across - it was definitely there, highlighted by those warm spices, but it played with the chocolate well enough to come across as a complete package without one competing with the other.