Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

Fruit? Good.
Chocolate? Good.
Fruit and Chocolate together? Not good.

Or so I used to think. You know how it is… it’s hard to shake your childhood palette sometimes. In my head, some things just aren’t supposed to go together and to illustrate that… I present the following evidence…
Russell Stover’s Boxed Chocolates.

Oh sure, they are innocent looking enough, with all the deliciously draped milk and dark chocolates. But beneath that luscious, silky chocolate… lies potential secret grossness. Oh, sure there are a couple in there that have caramel in them.. (my bet was always on the milk chocolate square shaped ones… and I was usually right) and there are a few nutty type ones that were good. But, the majority of these are filled with yucky orange, strawberry, lemon, or raspberry creams. Presenting a tastebud game of roulette that I could never resist, but always regretted (sounds eerily familiar to the vegas roulette, no?).

Whenever I hear of chocolate and fruit, I think back to those chocolates.

There was one exception though. The cordial cherry. For whatever reason, a chocolate covered cherry got a free pass in my culinary world. My argument would be that the chocolate didn’t actually touch the cherry… the syrupy goodness served as a buffer between the two.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve slowly warmed up to some fruit and chocolate marriages. For instance… chocolate covered strawberries. While, I’d probably enjoy them more, if they were separately on their own, I do like chocolate covered strawberries and will eat them happily.

So, when I first saw that Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook chose something called French Chocolate Brownies, I was initially very excited. Yum. Brownies. Then I read the recipe…


… oh yeah…apparently lots of people do (raisinetes. duh). And then I realized… my palette has grown, but it hasn’t grown quite that far yet. So, instead of raisins, I subbed dried cherries. Problem solved. .
The only other issue I had with the recipe, is that while I do love rum, rum doesn’t love me. In fact, it hates my body so much, that I can have one rum and coke and about 15 minutes later… well… I’ll just leave it with the comment, that I need a ponytail holder close by. I realize that by baking with rum, I’d not have a problem… but, I didn’t want to make a special trip to the liquor store to buy a mini bottle of rum (basically, because instead of leaving with just the one mini bottle of rum, I’d presumably leave with 5-6 bottles of wine, some tequila and maybe some vodka, oh yeah and hopefully I wouldn’t forget that mini bottle of rum. Okay, you’re right, I would). At first I thought, well I’ll just plump the cherries in some water and skip the flambéed part. But, I started snooping around in my cabinets and fridge looking for a sufficient cherry plumper. That’s when I saw the unfinished bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon sitting on my counter. People drink wine with chocolate, don’t they? So, that’s what I used instead of rum.

These brownies are what I would call sophisticated brownies. These are the type of brownies that you’d bake for your significant other’s snooty sister that lives in some up and coming chic neighborhood outside of Seattle or Chicago or Austin or something. You know what I mean… these are pretentious brownies. They present a multi-leveled flavor buffet for your palette. I think it has more to do with the cinnamon than anything else. I’ve never had cinnamon with chocolate, and the jurys still out on whether or not I actually like the two together.

Try these brownies sometime when you are looking to serve something that looks simple, but tastes different. I might make these again sometime, especially as a dessert for a wine tasting party or something.

Be sure to check out everyone elses over at Tuesdays with Dorie.

French Chocolate Brownies
- makes 16 brownies -Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden

1 1/2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.