Well, it’s December, which means it is officially time to get my holiday treat making on. From a very young age, my mother instilled in me the tradition of holiday baking. We worked hard, whipping up shortbread, gingerbread, almond crescents, sugar cookies, and other morsels of Christmas cheer, always sampling at least one new treat each year.
I’ve decided to start early this year and sample as many holiday goodies as I can before the 25th. My waste-line may not like it, but I’m pretty sure that the secret to happiness can be found in Christmas cookies, so it should all work out.
This weekend, I took a David Lebovitz book out of the library, and though overwhelmed by the number of recipes I wanted to try immediately, I eventually settled on a recipe for brownies with dried cherries.
Lebovitz calls these rich nuggets of chocolaty goodness the “absolute best” brownies, and I’m not going to argue with that. They come out exactly the way a brownie should: thin, soft, and a little gooey. I am a huge dark chocolate fan, so these are ideal for my tastes: not too sugary, but very rich, and plenty sweet. I used 60% cocoa this time, but I think I’ll bump it up to 70% or higher next time and get a true dark chocolate brownie.
And then there are the cherries. Is there any better combination of ingredients as chocolate and cherries? Wait, don’t answer that—it doesn’t matter. These brownies are like black forest cake without being so cake-y. The recipe calls for dried cherries, and I was tempted by the candied cherries in that thick, gooey syrup at the grocery story, but I am very happy I stuck to what the recipe told me. The dried cherries added just the right amount of flavor and fruitiness without adding any sweetness. I think the candied cherries would have made them too sweet and sticky.
Absolute Best Brownies with Dried Cherries
Adapted from Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz
Makes 9-12 brownies
6 tbsp. butter
8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
¼ cup flour
1 cup nuts, toasted and chopped (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans)
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan. Chop the chocolate and add it into the butter, stirring over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 minute, until the batter loses its graininess and becomes smooth and glossy.
Stir in the chopped nuts and cherries. Scrape batter into prepared cake pan and bake 30 minutes. Cool completely before removing the brownies from the pan.