When I go to a conference or a doctor’s office or a small gathering of drunk authors, I bring these brownies in those tiny plastic “snack” boxes from the dollar store. This recipe makes about six pounds of brownies.
They’re super-quick to prepare as long as you soak the cherries in advance. I keep a jar of cherries soaking in whiskey at all times.
At least one night before you bake, and up to weeks or months beforehand:
1-1/4 cup dried sour cherries, such as purchased from CostCo
2/3 cup hot water, or whiskey, brandy, rum, your choice
OR 1/3 cup morello cherry syrup and 1/3 cup hot water
Pack the cherries into a jar that has a waterproof lid, such as a former peanut butter jar. Pour in the liquor (or syrup & water mix) to cover the cherries and seal tightly. Put the jar in the fridge at least overnight, if not longer. This plumps up the cherries and infuses the liquid with their cherry flavor. Note: the alcohol bakes out, but the whisky flavor remains.
The day you bake:
2 sacks Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix
1 12-oz package Ghirardelli 60% cacao dark chocolate chips. I started throwing in three additional handfuls when they cut back on chips in the box mix
2 large eggs, ideally warmed in the shell in warm water
12 Tablespoons butter (that’s 1-1/2 sticks)
powdered unsweetened baking cocoa, about 1/4 cup
coarse sea salt
1 Tablespoon powdered espresso
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Melt the butter in the baking pan in the oven while it preheats. Keep an eye on the pan if you don’t like the flavor of beurre noir, i.e. browned butter. I use a giant heart-shaped pan, but a 9×13-inch pan also works.
While the oven preheats, drain the cherries, reserving the liquid. You should have about 2/3 cup of cherry-infused liquid. If not, add more whisky or hot water to make 2/3 cup. Dump the cherries and liquid back together into a bowl.
In a separate bowl, empty both brownie mix sacks. Add the dark chocolate chips and espresso powder and mix casually.
When the butter in the baking pan is barely melted, remove the pan from the oven and carefully swish the melted butter around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the cherries and liquid. Drain the baking pan well. Stir the melted butter into the cherries to cool it.
Sparsely sprinkle the buttered bottom and sides of the baking pan with 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Then dust the inside of the baking pan with cocoa powder. This uses a lot of cocoa, maybe as much as 1/2 cup. If there’s extra cocoa powder in the pan, dump it into the brownie mix. It’ll make a mess, so do that over the sink.
Beat the eggs separately until light yellow and foamy. Add the beaten eggs to the butter, whisky, and cherries and stir until until well mixed.
With the minimum number of strokes, stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients–only 10 to 15 slow strokes. It’s okay if there are a few patches of dry brownie mix dusting the batter here and there.
(NB: A good thirty percent of my long and happy marriage works because at this point I refrigerate a good cup and a half of the raw batter for my husband.)
Dump the batter into the pan. It will be super thick and chunky. Spread it out gently with a spatula. Sprinkle another teaspoon of coarse sea salt over the top. You want just enough salt that every third bite or so triggers the nom-nom “crack” effect.
Bake 50 minutes in a convection oven, or 55 minutes in a normal oven, 325 degrees F. The brownies will be soft to the touch in the center when done. DON’T OVERBAKE.
Remove. Cool at least 15 minutes. The brownies will still be fabulously gooshy and warm after cooling for 15 minutes. If you want the brownies to be firm before you cut them, cool 2 hours, or refrigerate, but be aware that the colder they are, the harder they’ll be to cut. The extra chocolate chips harden in the fridge.
Eat them warm for a terminal chocogasm, alone or with ice cream and a glass of red wine.
Sometimes I write a book with way too much stuff in it. Like these brownies, Walking on Sunshine, the fourth book of the Slacker Demons series, ended up so value-added that there are too many genres in it to name.
I got to write about vodou and aristocratic French billionaires and sex demons and the curse of immortality and magical eroticism and the slow build of unearthly pressure on an ordinary human being who is not quite ready to become a god but tough titty it’s happening. And that’s just half the book. This book has two covers, but only one is available so far. What do you think?