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Last week, we posted a recipe for Mario Batali’s Double-Chocolate Pot Brownies—and got a reaction we never anticipated. Many of you commented on the post and the recipe that we had done it wrong, all wrong. The heart of the matter? Not that we'd suggested putting pot in these brownies, but that the technique was flawed: The recipe never calls for the pot to be strained from the butter.
To be honest, and as you may have already guessed, we tested and photographed the non-pot version of the recipe (you know, since FreshDirect doesn’t carry marijuana, legal concerns, and the low productivity that would come with serving pot brownies to the editors).
Mario jumped into the conversation to point out that his process—of not straining the weed—is the old-school way to make brownies: “Imagine the 70s,” he wrote, “That’s where all my technique was born and lives while Jimmy Page was in charge…”
Raquel Pelzel, who's co-authored eighteen books, including one she wrote herself, recently developed cannabis recipes for Cedella Marley's (Bob Marley's daughter) upcoming cookbook. She explained to us the differences between the old-school and new-school approaches to cooking with cannabis. She said that when cooking with marijuana became popular in the mainstream, in the 1960s and 70s, it was "used like oregano—you just threw it in." But Raquel equates this with "throwing fifty-dollar bills into a coffee grinder." As she puts it, "You're using a lot of material and not really extracting the T.H.C., the compound responsible for the psycho effects."
Nowadays, people heat-activate the T.H.C. by cooking marijuana in a water and butter solution for 8 to 10 hours, then straining the butter to remove the buds—or by heating the marijuana then adding it to an oil or alcohol tincture. This, Raquel explains, leads to a better flavor (no munching down on marijuana buds) and saves marijuana. She did the math for us:
Mario's recipe calls for 4 grams of marijuana. If the marijuana used contains about 20% T.H.C. (which is around average), then using all four grams for nine brownies (the yield of the recipe) as he proposes comes down to a serving of 88 milligrams per brownie. Most edibles contain 10 to 15 milligrams of T.H.C. per serving, so 88 milligrams would lead to an intense high that would last several hours, and may not be enjoyable to most.
Instead, Raquel proposes infusing—that is, heating together and then straining out the solids—that same amount of marijuana in 2 cups of butter to make a large batch of cannabutter, as it's called. Just a 1/4 cup of it would go into Mario's brownie recipe, yielding a more palatable 10 to 15 milligrams of T.H.C. per serving of—and leaving you with 1 3/4 cups cannabutter for other marijuana-laced creations. (It will keep in the freezer for months.)
To go this route and use strained cannabutter in Mario's recipe (rather than folding the pot right in as he recommends), sub in 1/4 cup cannabutter mixed with 1/4 cup regular butter, since the recipe calls for 1/2 cup total butter. Raquel recommends this lower dosage to err on the side of caution—you can always eat more if necessary, and with a such low dose, the brownies will actually taste like brownies.
Here are some of our favorite comments from the recipe so you can decide whether to go old-school or new-school (or to skip school entirely):
Alicia wrote, "You should NEVER leave the weed in the butter. That's just nasty! You gotta strain the butter."
"Is pot the reason Mario is stuck in a wardrobe coma?," wondered jk.
Jocelyn McAuley arrived at the same math Raquel did, adding "For the truly pot-brownie-curious, this dosage is NOT FOR YOU[...] shaking her head in legalized Oregon."
"Naive me thought this was a recipe for brownies that required you to mix the batter IN a pot and right now I'm just enjoying all the comments," said Liz Deutermann. (Others agreed.)
Some, like Chef Carlos, had other plans for game day, "Apparently we've learned a lot since the 70's about making buzzy brownies, not going down this road even if it's the Broncos. Going for margaritas instead!"
Heather Christine got to the root of the matter and tested them for herself, "This was a great brownie recipe! I did choose to add the optional ingredient and they were an excellent, dark and chewy brownie. I chose to add icing to mine and they were amazing~~!"
To strain or not to strain? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!