I decided to push my luck a little this week. What is so controversial that I feel like I have to push my luck? Chocolate. I love, need, want chocolate. My boyfriend tends to avoid it. Why? I suspect it is childhood trauma. In fact, I would almost say it is child abuse (but I’m just kidding you, so don’t get all riled up).
Here is some background about the chocolate situation in this house. My boyfriend grew up with a Mom who studied nutrition during a time in our history when people were very keen on health food. She not only taught her kids that sugar was very bad but she was convinced that my DBF had an allergy to chocolate. This could be true, he seems to be sensitive to milk so milk chocolate could be a problem… but… his Dad, I suspect, did not like chocolate and used this as an excuse to ban the substance from the house. When the mention of chocolate comes up within the family it is jokingly referred to as that stuff nobody can eat because of my poor BF and his problem with it. His Dad grins from ear to ear when the subject comes up.
Well, he has no physical problem with it. He can eat it and I have seen him eat it and he does not get a rash, his lungs do not explode and he does not fall over in a coma. He just doesn’t eat it because his Mom’s good habits are severely ingrained into his psyche.
I missed Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend this year due to my family crisis. My Boyfriend promised to make it up to me. He asked me what I wanted and I told him that I wanted a box of expensive chocolate from a local chocolatier. He obliged by buying a larger box than he would have and he filled it with half of what I would love and half of what he would want to try. He ate 95% of his share of that box of chocolate.
I suspect that he has had his fill of chocolate for a while. A box of the finest chocolate available doesn’t really stop me from wanting more chocolate. In fact, it probably feeds a flame that should be controlled or put out.
I was shopping in Trader Joes last weekend and came across a bar of unsweetened baking chocolate. Years ago I made the fudge brownies in the Moosewood Cookbook. They were so delicious that my sister, who isn’t the happiest human being on the planet, and her wonderful husband (who we all wish was really our family’s brother/son ‘cause he’s so fabulous) ate most of them and my sister was happy. Really happy. Almost an entirely different person. She was kind to me. This was highly unusual and a most welcome turn of events. It was unfortunately temporary. But hey, that is the magic of these brownies that call for unsweetened baking chocolate, which is a rarity in my cupboard. Once I had the chocolate in hand, I immediately thought of making brownies. I started to fantasize about what kind of brownies they would be. Why would I do that when I have a recipe? Well the genius thing about the Moosewood fudge brownie recipe is that Mollie Katzen leaves the details and creativity to her readers. Like her quiche recipe, it is a template that gets you started. She provides the means to get to a moist yet cakey, fudgy good brownie. She gives a few suggestions how to flavor them and then your imagination can run wild from there.
I made some other brownies one year for Christmas. They were filled with raspberry jam and topped with hazelnuts. The concept was good but the result was a dry brownie: a disappointment for sure. When I began to brainstorm my brownies, I decided I wanted to fill them with jam. Brandy soaked tart dried cherries sounded like a good contrast to the chocolate so cherry jam would work well for the filling. I wanted nuts. Pecans sounded just right. I set about to create my wonderful concoction.
My boyfriend had a bite of the brownies and declared them to be perfection. That’s all he had and he suggested I donate them to my coworkers. I decided to do no such thing! I ate one last night accompanied by a cold glass of milk and I took one to work with me. Will these brownies cause contention? Will I gain ten pounds? Will my boyfriend secretly scarf them down himself? Only time will tell.
After reading this blog post hundreds of people made these brownies. They were all very content.
Cherry, brandy soaked cherry and pecan fudge brownies
Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
5 oz unsweetened bitter chocolate, melted and cooled
1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached white flour
1 cup tart dried cherries
½ cup or more brandy
6-8 oz cherry jam
1 cup pecans
Prior to making the brownies, soak the dried cherries in the brandy. If you use just a ½ cup brandy you may need to stir the cherries periodically as you let them soak for at least one hour to make sure all of the cherries soak up the brandy. When you are ready to use the cherries, drain them and reserve the brandy for another use such as drinking. (It gets flavored with the dried cherries and is something you won’t want to waste).
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over a high simmer. Cool the chocolate before proceeding with the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F.
Butter a 9”x13” pan
Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer. Add the eggs and mix well. Add vanilla and then beat in the melted chocolate and the flour. With a spoon or spatula, fold in the drained cherries and the pecans.
Spoon half of the batter into the pan smoothing the surface so that the batter covers the entire pan. Spoon the cherry jam all over the top of the batter, carefully spreading it over the top of the batter so that most bites of your brownies should get some jam. Spread the remaining batter over the jam.
Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the brownies and then cut into squares.