Back in 2016, something popped up on facebook about the death of Rapper DTTX (Bobby Ramirez), who was best known as one-half of the Mexican-American hip hop group Lighter Shade of Brown.
OK, it’s not like I was ever super into Lighter Shade of Brown. At the time of Ramirez’s death I probably hadn’t even thought about them for the better part of two decades, but there was this one song my best girlfriend and I were obsessed with back in high school. We found it on the B-side of the cassette single for “Sunday Afternoon,” for which we traveled all the way to the mall across town, purchased from Sam Ash, after which I proceeded to put it on every mix tape I made for my friends for the next four months. I pulled up this video and listened to it again for probably the first time since I was sixteen. Lemme take you back to the old school, ’cause I’m so cool:
While his family told reporters his death was related to heat stroke and cardiac arrest, they also mentioned he’d battled alcohol dependency for a large part of his life. A few verses in, he says he “took my first swig chillin’ at my homie’s crib,” and that struck me as remarkably sad. It got thinking about how, for however people feel about cannabis, however misinformed they are about what it’s like to be high, or its addiction potential, there is absolutely no deleterious physical effect of cannabis that holds a damned candle to what alcohol does to the human body. Because of this, our continued prohibition of cannabis and not alcohol is maddening and baffling. We seem to take it for granted that kids are going to start experimenting with alcohol at a young age, and still prohibit grown-ass adults from smoking something a harmless flower. Through the course of my life, I’ve watched plenty of friends and family die young and tank their futures with nothing but alcohol abuse and strings of resulting terrible decisions because of that. Persistent alcohol abuse is proven to be catastrophically damaging to the body and mind; deadly, even. Deadly; often. Some of the alcoholics or heavy drinkers I’ve known, and even the people who’ve been in relationships with alcoholics and alcohol abusers, have said intimated they think I am less than because I use cannabis, a drug that, wholly unlike alcohol, has enormous physical and emotional healing potential.
This post isn’t meant to be angry or sad. I am simmering with a low-level, but ever-present fury that is generally focused in the direction of Jeff Sessions, but generally speaking, I’m still pleased we’re making progress in normalizing cannabis and its users. One of the reasons I’m grateful and hopeful that cannabis is seeing more positive mainstream attention is because I believe in people being able to self-medicate safely, and without destroying their bodies. Because guys….we’re human. We’re going to self-medicate. For some people, it’s the only affordable and accessible type of medication there is. I think about this often.
There’s a growing movement of conservative soccer mom types around the country getting in on the CBD action for anxiety and pain relief, and when you get that community behind you, you get shit done. Today’s women don’t tolerate being told they have to endure hardship just because yet another misinformed fossil in Washington doesn’t understand science. Extend your well-manicured claws, ladies, for we will have our cake and infuse it, too.
Anyway, a couple days later, with that song fresh in my mind, I started working backward from my brownie recipe to create a chocolate free bar that was ultra-rich and delicious. They turned out a bazillion times better than any blondie recipe I’d ever tried and I didn’t want to misrepresent, so I decided to meet blondie and brownie halfway and give a little tip of the hat to Bobby Ramirez.
The appeal of brownies for traditional cannabis desserts is threefold. First, chocolate is an overwhelming flavor, which makes it good for partially masking the grassiness of cannabis. Secondly, brownies are really hard to screw up, and you don’t have to be any kind of master baker to produce a palatable brownie. And finally, percentage-wise, brownies are usually more oily than cake and cookies, meaning you can pack in more cannabis budder, which obviously means a higher dose in each serving. The particular appeal of this recipe is that this cake tastes great at the recommended normal recipe butter level of 8 Tablespoons per batch. However, this recipe will hold up to 16 Tablespoons of butter and won’t get weird or fall apart. A lot more butter turns it into more of a brownie texture, and less butter makes it a lighter cake. Either way, people lose their damned minds over this, even at the ultra-rich, over-the-top-butter version. Additionally, it’s really easy to make.
A LIGHTER SHADE OF BROWNIE
- 8 Tbsp cannabutter*
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup flour**
- (1) zest of one orange, and
- 1/4-1/2 cup of minced fresh/frozen cranberry***
Melt the butter and brown sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan until it’s mostly dissolved – you can also microwave it for 2 minutes, and then take out. Whisk briskly until the surface becomes glossy.
Add all the other normal ingredients in one single bowl and mix ’til incorporated. Add the bonus stuff and cook for about 22 minutes. If you cook it a little longer with a high butter load, it’ll carmelize and crisp around the edges. You’ll have to trust your nose and smell for when they’re done, waiting for a decadent caramel aroma. Gluten-free stuff cooks faster, so just keep an eye on it. I use a mini-bundt pan, but you can cook these like brownies in an 8×8 pan, as well. I recommend making these with the fresh cranberry + orange zest. They are outrageously good.
*This recipe can support up to 16 Tbsp budder; 10-12 Tbsp is my preferred recipe. Again, fluffier cake-like texture at 8T, ultra-dense brownie texture at 16T.
**Here’s the recipe for my gluten free blend base. With this recipe, I use 3/4 cup base blend, and 2 T each of buckwheat and coconut flour. It’ll hold up with that much protein because there’s so much oil.
*** You can also add fresh grated ginger – or walnuts/pecans + lemon zest and/or a touch of extract. I prefer the orange and cranberry, because this recipe is *really* sweet, and the cranberry and orange adds a much-needed tart pop to the caramel. I’ve made it without a couple times, working instead on lowering sugar levels, but with less sugar, we lose the caramelization and caramel flavor. With no spicy or tart accents, it’s a little too sweet (for me).