Sunday, 12 September 2010

Black Forest Brownies

This time of the year is my absolute favorite!  The days still have lingering sunshine and pleasant temperatures, but a cooler crisper air now allows for the comfort of fuzzy cardigans, favorite jeans and the excuse to eat big bowls of soup and buy cute new autumn boots.  I absolutely love the first hints of autumn colors- even if they are just in clothing stores.  Autumn colors and trends of any kind always take their lead from the changing colors of the trees as well as the autumnal harvest; pumpkins and squash and apples all doused in cinnamon (or green chile if you live in New Mexico).  Autumn is a season of anticipation for me.  Growing up it was the anticipation of going back to school, starting something new.  Now it's the anticipation of my favorite color and flavor palate.  Autumn is my favorite time of year to eat.

Autumn brings Rosh Hashana- Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur- a day of atonement.  These holidays revolve around the food cooked for them, even if one of them focuses on a long fast (as Jews we are always preparing for the next meal, and my form of fasting has always pretty much been just those few hours in between meals).  Autumn also brings Halloween, a holiday nearest and dearest to my heart which not only allows you to step outside yourself by dressing up, but exalts both the pumpkin and the apple- what could be better? 

Autumn for me brings the anticipation of Thanksgiving- by far my favorite holiday of them all.  This time of year is about cozying up with family and friends and cooking for the people you love with some of the richest natural flavors possible.

I promise you (and me) any itch for a butternut squash/pumpkin/apple/spice recipe will surely be scratched over these next few glorious months.  Just not today.  I too am trying to develop the art of building anticipation...

I am however in serious need of comfort food.  This adulthood thing, it's hard.  And not just hard like 'wow that math test last week was hard'.   Adulthood can sometimes be the kind of hard that you just can't study for.  And it times like these, it's good to have a recipe on hand for Black Forest Brownies.

The history of the American Brownie goes a little something like this:

The brownie first appeared in public during the 1893 Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, Illinios. A chef at the city's Palmer's House Hotel created the confection after Bertha Palmer requested a dessert for ladies attending the fair; it should be, she said, smaller than a piece of cake and easily eaten from boxed lunches. These first brownies featured an apricot glaze and walnuts, and they are still being made at the hotel according to the original recipe

There are two major schools of thought when it comes to the texture of the brownie; either dense and fudgey or cakey.  Culinary historians have traced the first cake brownie to the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich and chocolaty version of the brownie we know today, which only used two squares of melted Baker’s chocolate. We don’t know if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source, printed it as is, adapted it, or provided the name.  As the recipe evolved people started adding more chocolate and more eggs to create a denser fudge consistency like many of us know (and LOVE) today.  While the first brownie recipes were published and variations began to evolve in the first years of the 20th century, it took until the 1920's for the brownie to really catch on and become the delicious and exalted baked good it is today.

Now, let me tell you a bit of history behind this particular brownie recipe.  The original recipe was for 'White Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies' and comes from the cookbook put out my my old temple in Cleveland, compiled recipes from congregants.  I however have never been a huge fan of white chocolate so I have adapted this recipe over the years to suit my tastes.  I should also add that while I will be using a slightly modified (and secret) version of this for an amateur 'brownie bake-off' next month!  Winner (fingers crossed) gets a 6 month supply of chocolate (I wonder if they're prepared for what my husband and I consider that to be...).  Here is the version I made today to remind me of home:

Black Forest Brownies

½ cup unsalted butter
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a combination of dark and milk chocolate)
½ cup sugar
1 cup plain white flour
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
pinch salt
2/3 cup cherry jam

Preheat the oven to 325C/ 155F.  Grease a square 8” or 9” pan.

In a small pot over the stove melt your butter.  Add to it 1 cup chocolate chips but DO NOT STIR.

In a large bowl whip eggs until fluffy.  Add sugar and mix at a high speed until the color is lemony and sugar is combined.  Add melted butter/chip mixture at a low speed, followed by flour, vanilla and salt.

Pour 2/3 of your chocolate batter evenly into your pan and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Meanwhile on a low heat melt your jam until it is very thin and liquidy, taking care to continuously stir it so it does not bubble or burn.

Pour heated jam onto your baked brownie, making sure to evenly cover the surface area.

Stir your remaining chips into your reserved brownie batter and dollop evenly onto your baked brownies.  Some jam will show through- don't worry it will look beautiful!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Take care not to over bake, this will dry your brownies out leaving you with no choice but to cover in ice cream before eating... not always a bad thing I suppose...

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