We’re about to head off to Limerick to see in the new year – but I’ve just got enough time to squeeze in one last post for 2007…

People get just a wee bit possessive about their brownie recipes. On two different occasions recently, I was chatting to some friends, both exceptional cooks, and mentioned that I’d stumbled across a fantastic brownie recipe.

‘What?!’, each one glared at me accusingly, ‘Better than mine?’

Erm. How to answer that?

I think I mumbled something diplomatic like ‘No, of course not…’. But, and this isn’t an attractive quality, my brain was screaming, ‘Yes! Yes it is! It’s the best-ever brownie recipe in the world and it can’t be beat! Just wait till you try it!’

Clearly, I’ve also fallen victim to the Brownie Syndrome. Every cook thinks they’ve discovered the secret combination of ingredients that leads to brownie nirvana and and I’m no exception. However, there are probably as many ‘ultimate’ recipes out there as there are brownie lovers – it depends on vitally important matters such as how much flour you add to achieve your preferred consistency and whether you like nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chunks or perhaps fresh raspberries scattered through the mix. Serious stuff.

This contender for the crown (the winner! the winner!) comes from the kitchen of (who else?) Dorie Greenspan. As it happens, there are eleven different brownie recipes in ‘Baking…’ and I’ve got to admit that I’ve only tried two so far. But with its wonderful fudgy texture and the warm hint of cinnamon that hits the back of your throat, I just can’t see how anything could top this version. Guess I’ll have to try them all and report back…

Hope you all have a wonderful new year’s celebration – see you all in 2008!

French brownies from Baking – From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

You’ll need:

½ cup of plain flour
a pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1½ tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa content), finely chopped
180g (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar

1. Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with foil, butter the foil and place the tin on a baking sheet.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and cinnamon together.

3. Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to the boil over a medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum and let it warm for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum with a long match. Allow the flames to die down and then set the raisins aside.

4. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring until it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter doesn’t get very hot. However, if the butter isn’t melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of bits of unmelted butter, leave them – it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole.

5. Working with a stand/hand-held mixer, in a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale – about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated – you’ll have a thick creamy batter.

6. Then finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. Fold in the raisins, along with any liquid remaining in the pan. Scrape the batter into the baking tin.

7. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is dry and crackled, and a thin knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to warm/room temperature.

8. Carefully lift the brownies out of the tin, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.

Cook’s notes

I didn’t have any dark rum the first time I made this recipe, so I just left out the raisins (step 3) and added about a teaspoon of vanilla instead. Not sure if it made any difference, but the resulting brownies still tasted good 🙂

Don’t be tempted to add more than the amount of cinnamon specified. One eighth of a teaspoon may not sound like a lot (especially to a cinnamon fiend like me) but it’s just right.
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