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A decadent summer dessert
“Look Charles, things grow so fast in California they say you have to plant and step back quick or you’ll get knocked down.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I left a sunny 65° Salinas and headed northeast to Gilroy to pick Bing cherries. Buckley Orchard is a small family owned orchard in the southern Santa Clara Valley. When I arrived in Gilroy at 10 a.m. it was already 82°. Heading home several hours later, the temperature had climbed to 93°. It was very warm at the cherry orchard for someone used to living along the coast! The trees were bursting with cherries and picking them was easy. Photographing the lush cherries was my favorite part of the trip to the orchard and that is how I ended up in the heat long after my basket had been filled.
Ornamented with glistening red cherries, the trees boldly announced that summer had arrived. I felt small under the canopy of green leaves. There was summer magic hovering in the thick warm air. A cool breeze would have blown it away. Like a child confronted with an seemingly endless stack of birthday gifts I was in awe of the branches heavy with crimson fruit waiting to be picked.
Cherries and chocolate are a classic dessert pairing. The iconic Black Forest Cake never is out of style. Chocolate, cherries and whipped cream; I had visions of recreating the classic on a smaller scale. Triple Cherry Brownies after a trip to the orchard. Cherries in the brownie, cherries on top of the brownie and fresh cherry syrup flowing over everything. And the brownies would be more decadent than a chocolate cake. After all cherry season is only once a year.
I had searched for years to find a brownie recipe that I could call my favorite. We like brownies which are fudgy, not gooey or dry and cakey. A few years ago I took a chance and bought Fat Witch Brownies. If a bakery in Manhattan has thrived on their brownie recipe it must be good. And so it was, the best brownie recipe ever had been found! I have adapted the recipe, adding more chocolate, brown sugar and the dried cherries. I also use a different technique to mix the ingredients together. My daughter prefers the original recipe and technique. In addition to the namesake Fat Witch Brownies, the cookbook has a myriad of other scrumptious cookie recipes, I highly recommend it.
I made the Triple Cherry Brownies in two versions, with fresh Bing cherries and also with dried, tart cherries. Directions for both are included. I am not sure which brownie is better, they are similar, yet different. Fresh Bing cherries are in season and evoke the flavors of The Black Forest Cake, while the dried tart cherries offer a tangy surprise hidden in the luscious fudgy brownie. My taste testers were divided in their assessment! Either recipe is a fleeting burst of summer dessert madness. Why else would the long lost cherry pitter resurface from the depths of the utensil drawer?
|6oz||butter, room temperature|
|3/4C / 115 grams||60% cacao chocolate chips|
|3/4C / 120 grams||brown sugar|
|3/4C / 180 grams||granulated sugar|
|4||eggs, room temperature|
|1/2C + 3T / 60 grams + 20 grams||flour|
|1/2C / 75 grams||dried tart cherries, see below for fresh cherries|
|Cherries and cherry syrup|
|2C||fresh Bing or other sweet cherries, pitted|
|1/4C / 40 grams||brown sugar|
|1T||water||sweetened whipped cream or ice cream|
|12||fresh cherries with stems for garnishing the finished desserts|
- Preheat the oven to 340°.
- Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave. This may only take a minute if your butter is soft. Remove from the microwave when there are still a few chocolate chips visible in the bowl. Stir to combine to finish melting the chocolate. Set side to cool.
- While the chocolate mixture cools, line a 9” x 9” square baking pan with parchment paper. Grease and then flour the parchment paper. This will ensure removal of the brownies from the pan after baking.
- In a small bowl, mix the dried cherries with 3 T flour. With your fingers, break apart any clumps of cherries and make sure each cherry is covered in flour.
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. When thoroughly combined, add the cooled butter and chocolate mixture. Mix again until thoroughly combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour and salt on top of the batter. Gently fold the flour into the chocolate mixture. When the dry ingredients are almost combined with the wet, gently fold in the flour covered dried cherries.
- Pour the batter evenly into the parchment lined pan and bake for 30–35 minutes. When done, a cake tester will come out clean and the brownies will have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Do not over bake.
- Let the brownies cool for thirty minutes. Then remove the entire brownie from the pan by carefully lifting the parchment paper from the pan. Finish cooling before cutting.
- To make the brownies with fresh Bing cherries follow the cooking instructions for preparing the cherries below increasing the Bing cherries to 4 Cups total, mix with 1/2 C brown sugar. Gently press 2 Cups of the drained cherries into the top of the batter just before baking. Baking time will be increased by 8–10 minutes. Toward the end of baking I covered the edges of the baking pan with foil. (Omit the dried cherries.)
- While the brownies are baking and cooling, prepare the cherries and cherry syrup. Gently combine the brown sugar, water and cherries in a saucepan. Over medium heat, simmer the mixture just until the juice is starting to be released and the skin of the cherries just begins to peel away from the edges of the fruit, approximately 3–4 minutes. (similar to tomatoes or peaches, but a much smaller scale) Do not overcook the cherries as they will become mushy and dull in color.
- Drain the cherries, saving all the juice. After ten minutes return the saucepan and juice to the stove. Bring the juice to a low simmer and cook until thickened and reduced in volume by a third to half, approximately 30–45 minutes. When thickened the syrup will coat the back of a wooden spoon. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. The cherry syrup is best served at room temperature. Cool completely before serving over sweetened whipped cream.
- Plate individual brownie servings and top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Spoon some of the cooked cherries over the brownie and cream. Place a cherry on top of the cream. Finish by spooning the cherry syrup over the cream and brownies. Serve immediately.