Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Sour Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies and Sweet Basil Lemonade

Written by Tracy Candido
 Active Image The recipes included in this section are Sweet Basil Lemonade and Sour Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies. The smell of basil always reminds me of two things: my mother's garden and my grandmother's dinner table. My mom has been an avid gardener since I was young, and during my childhood summers we would often venture into the herb bed to rub the leaves between our fingers and inhale the intoxicating aromas of basil, mint, and sage. My grandmother is first generation Italian, and basil helped make her fresh homemade tomato sauce (stewed with pork sausages for hours) even more fresh and delicious. The basil-infused simple syrup in this lemonade is a surprisingly fresh twist on a familiar classic.

 Photos by Tracy Candido {multithumb blog_mode=popup thumb_proportions=bestfit resize=1 full_height=600} 

The recipes included in this section are Sweet Basil Lemonade and Sour Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies. The smell of basil always reminds me of two things: my mother's garden and my grandmother's dinner table. My mom has been an avid gardener since I was young, and when I was growing up we would often venture into the herb bed to rub the leaves between our fingers and inhale the intoxicating aromas of basil, mint, and sage. My grandmother is first generation Italian, and basil helped make her fresh homemade tomato sauce (stewed with pork sausages for hours) even more fresh and delicious. The basil-infused simple syrup in this lemonade is a surprisingly fresh twist on a familiar classic.

Sour Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies is an easy but decadent go-to recipe for me for bake sales and birthdays. These brownies are a great gift during any season. I adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart's Chocolate-Ginger Brownies recipe and used ideas from her Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries. Martha’s Chocolate-Ginger Brownies are delicious, but I had some leftover sour cherries that I wanted to use. I had made her Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sour Cherries before but never really loved the outcome. So I omitted the ginger and spices from the brownie recipe and added vanilla and the reconstituted cherries, doubled the recipe, and left out one egg. The result is an amazingly chewy and chocolaty brownie with just the smallest hint of tart. They are a crowd pleaser for sure. These brownies are the closest I've ever come to recreating the box-brownie-mix-chew I love so much!


Sour Cherry Dark Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients:

• 2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
• 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 3/4 cups sugar
• 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (my absolute favorite is Valrhona cocoa)
• 3 large eggs
• 1 cup dried sour cherries, reconstituted by soaking in tepid water for at least 15 minutes and chopped to 1/4-inch pieces after soaking
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Butter a 13x9-inch baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over 2 sides. Butter parchment; set aside.

3. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate chips, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the chopped sour cherries.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with moist crumbs. Let the cake cool in a pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then lift it out and let it cool completely on a rack. Cut it into 16 2-inch squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Sweet Basil Lemonade


Ingredients:

• 2 cups basil lemon syrup*
• 2 cups cold filtered water
• 2 cups ice cubes
• 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice (about 8-10 lemons)
• Garnish: fresh basil sprigs; lemon zest strips
• (To make this an adult beverage, add a splash of vodka!)

Directions:

Stir all ingredients together in a large pitcher, then pour the drink into tall glasses half filled with ice. Lemonade, without ice, can be made 3 hours ahead of time if it is then covered and chilled.

*Basil Lemon Syrup

Ingredients:

• 4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs, washed thoroughly and patted dry
• 4 cups water
• 2 cups sugar
• 9 (about 4 X 1 inch) strips lemon zest

Directions:

1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture stand at room temperature, covered for 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

2. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, for 5 days.

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