Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Very Cherry Brownies - an experiment

I got all excited in the grocery store earlier this week when I saw a huge bag of cherries at some ridiculously low price. After eating quite a few of them as-is, I realized I'd have to do something with the rest before they went bad, and gorging myself on a half pound of cherries wasn't an option. I really kind of wanted to make something cheesecake-y, but we had neither cream cheese nor sour cream on hand, so I just made some brownies instead.

I pitted and halved the cherries (about 3 1/2 cups total) during the 4th-6th innings of Sunday's Red Sox game, about an hour total. Not bad given that I was just using a paring knife - played around with technique a bit and determined it was easiest to slice around the pit, twist the halves apart, and then twist the pit out of the half it stuck with.

After pitting, I coated the cherries with about 1/4 cup of sugar and let them sit for more or less the remainder of the game - which went to 19 innings, so almost 3 hours - stirring occasionally. This got a lot of liquid out of the cherries, which I later drained into a saucepan, and reduced to a syrup (boiled on medium heat until thick) to drizzle on top of the brownies.

I doubled a basic brownie recipe from a Cooking Light cookbook [normally I'd go with a richer brownie, but I've been making a lot of sweet/fatty foods lately]; spread half the batter into our new-ish quarter sheet pan (13"x9"), layered on the cherries, spread the rest of the brownie batter over them, topped with the cherry syrup, and then baked.

I was kind of skeptical of the Cooking Light brownies. They came out chocolatey, fudgy and moist, but I'm sure the moistness was at least partly due to all the cherries and cherry juice. I wouldn't say I absolutely *love* these brownies, but I haven't had much of a problem eating them. I like the idea of them, though, and am curious to try it (or something similar) with a different brownie batter. Anyone out there got an AMAZING brownie recipe they're willing to share?

[this is the doubled recipe, can be halved to make an 8"x8" pan of brownies]
2 egg whites
1/2 c. margarine [I used butter]
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 Tbsp. water [this is why I was skeptical of the recipe]
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside in a separate bowl. [folding the egg whites into the batter at the end of the recipe gives you a lighter texture... a little odd for a "fudgy" brownie recipe?]

Cream together margarine and sugar, add water, vanilla and eggs (one at a time) and beat until fluffy.

Sift all dry ingredients together in a bowl (this is especially important for the cocoa, which tends to clump quite a bit) and stir loosely into the egg mixture. Fold in the egg whites.

Transfer the batter into a 13"x9" buttered and floured pan and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

One last note: While looking for something to do with the cherries, I came across a couple really, er, interesting recipes. I almost want to make this Cher-Rhuba-Chini Pie (cherries, rhubarb and zucchini mixed together in a gelatin base, with a brown rice pie crust) out of morbid curiosity. Shrimp and Cherry Quinoa, on the other hand, looks unique but still tasty, very sort of Iron Chef.


elle said...

that sounds pretty good to me-at the moment I have cherry stained fingernails from all the cherries I've been eating.I did get the best recipe from brunchy.blogspot.com-oatmeal, toffee, chocolate and cherry cookies. I made these twice-second time put the uncooked dough in the fridge and ate it uncooked all week.

Jackie said...

ooh, cherry and toffee sounds fantastic. Wonder if the dough would be good in some vanilla ice cream?

I know what you mean about the stained fingernails - mine are still a little purple from all the hand-pitting on Sunday!

Kelly said...

Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies are marvelous, and not ridculously rich:

Cocoa Brownies
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 16 brownies

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

Shelley said...

I, too, am wary of water in baking recipes. If necessary for moistness, I'm more apt to use milk (also a must for hot chocolate and oatmeal).

This sounds fantastic, though. I'm going to have to grab a bag of cherries tomorrow and try this.