This Surprising Ingredient Makes Any Brownie Recipe Better

No, we're not talking about espresso powder.

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June 07, 2019

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FNK CLASSIC BROWNIES **CLASSIC** Food Network Kitchen Food Network Unsalted Butter, Allpurpose Flour, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate, Sugar, Eggs

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

I love making classic brownies because they’re really darn easy. No hand mixer, no problems. But recently, I discovered a way to elevate them that’s as effortless as it is elegant. And no, I'm not talking about creating cream cheese swirls — or dumping in a bag of crushed candy pieces.

This 5-second trick involves something much more unexpected: Cured sumac. You might recognize the vibrant red Middle Eastern spice in the context of savory dishes like roast chicken, hummus or fattoush. But its tart, lemony, vinegary flavor is also magical in brownies.

Much like flaky sea salt, cured sumac balances out the dessert’s sugary bite. Baked into the batter, it lends the brownies subtle, unexpected juicy berry flavor and a deep burgundy-cocoa hue. Upon taking a bite, you’d never in a million years guess "sumac" — cherry-something, maybe, or just quite simply the best brownies you’ve ever had.

Curious? Snag some cured sumac in the spice section of your supermarket. Unlike dried sumac, it’s made from finely chopped fresh sumac berries preserved in salt. Its texture is slightly damp, but it can be stored at room temperature on your spice rack.

Start with a box of brownie mix or your favorite homemade brownie recipe (if you don’t have a go-to, check out Food Network’s Classic Brownies). Stir 1 teaspoon of the cured sumac into the batter, bake per usual and use all of your self control not to eat half of the pan straight from the oven.

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