Recipe: Buzz Button Browines
I enjoy a challenge. It’s fundamental for a food blogger, especially one who spends a lot of time coming up with original, tasty Korean fusion recipes.
As I was looking around on The Foodie Blogroll, of which I am a member, I noticed that MarxFoods was offering free samples of their dried mushrooms to Foodie Blogroll members. On the MarxFoods website I found the company is offering samples of an even more exotic food item called Szechuan buttons.
They threw down the gauntlet with this challenge:
Now is your chance to experiment with the buzz buttons. We will be sending out some free samples to bloggers who want to either develop a recipe for their blog or guest post with one on ours.
I totally forgot about the mushrooms and sent in my request for the Szechuan button samples. They sent me by overnight courier a package of 10 Szechuan buttons, which would cost over $13 on the market.
Now that I had these cute little yellow flower buds staring at me and 14 days to use them before they spoiled, I came up with a recipe to showcase their unusual sensory qualities. According to MarxFoods,
Eating a few tiny petals from a Szechuan button — pinched off between thumb and forefinger or cut using a knife or shears — will lead to a tingling sensation … almost like mild voltage or bubbles from an effervescent beverage popping on the tongue.
You can watch some Washington Post writers get the shock of their lives on this post from 2007.
As I looked at the recipe others had submitted I noticed an important pattern. Szechuan buttons are not an ingredient added at the beginning. These are best used as a flavor enhancer or a garnish, a flourish before serving. Putting them into a warm or hot sauce will not diminish their tongue-numbing qualities.
I had to come up with a recipe in which these little “toothache flowers” would be the star. Therefore, no garlic, ginger, gochujang (Korean spicy red pepper paste) or hot paprika could be a part of the recipe either. I had two weeks to develop and test my recipes before publishing.
I live in Sonoma County, which is world renowned for its wine, olive oil and cheese. Sonoma’s northern neighbor Mendocino County is world famous for an agricultural product that is much more counter-cultural: marijuana.
Mendocino County is also part of Northern California’s legendary Emerald Triangle, which grows tons of high-grade pot for personal use (with a doctor’s permission) and for sale (supposedly for those too sick and feeble to grow their own). People having been growing it up there for over 30 years (well before it became “legal” in California) and marijuana makes up 2/3 of Mendocino County’s economy, according to CNBC.
Since the Szechuan buttons are nicknamed “buzz buttons”, I thought I’d bake a legal, fun alternative to marijuana brownies, first made famous in the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.
Brownies with Buzz Button Garnish
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan (or line with wax paper).
In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
Then gradually stir the dry mixture into into the wet mixture until well blended.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownie begins to pull away from edges of pan. Allow them to cool before cutting into squares.
Sprinkle with copious amounts of Szechuan button flowers and give your friends a legal buzz!