C’est le temps des cerises…. aaah, as I continue with my lyrical ramblings on the wonder that is France during the Summertime, let me take a moment to talk about cherries. There are cherries EVERYWHERE. Piles and piles of deep bordeaux-colored cherries on every street corner, all delicately laid out in large fruit stands patiently waiting to be taken home by passersby and baked in cherry pies and clafoutis and jams and be worn around the ears of little girls in their little print dresses. Ok so it’s not exactly like that but let’s say that it is because it’s such a nice picture. Anyways, I bought some cherries, and probably more than I needed (2 pounds, to give you the whole story).
Remember when I said I was looking to develop the perfect brownie recipe when I posted my Intensely Dark Chocolate Pecan Brownie recipe? Well I have stuffed my beloved friends and roommates with more brownies than they had probably eaten in their entire lives (add to that: sugar-free, dairy-free, bittery dark chocolate, superfood brownies, probably leaving them craving a big fat McDonald’s brownie at the end of the day) in my attempt to understand what makes a perfect brownie: more melted buttery chocolate or more cacao powder? coconut milk or not? 1 egg, 2 eggs, 3 eggs? Should it be fudgy, spongy or crumbly? Almond flour, coconut flour or no flour at all? After quite some trial and error, I can say that THIS IS THE ONE. At least until I find an even better combination, since I am always whipping up brownies when I get the chance, but in all objectivity I really think I’m starting to nail the whole flourless brownie situation. In fact, it was approved by a special jury of picky chocolate dessert lovers… i.e. my parents. What? Of course they will say that it’s good, after all I am their flesh and blood, but I believe the phrase “one day you were born, and twenty four years later you made this brownie” pretty much sums up that there was no faking in their appreciation. Ok and maybe our judgments are not entirely objective, but are they ever when there’s chocolate involved?
Let’s talk about the brownie in itself: first of all, as usual, we’re dealing with very dark chocolate here. Like in the first recipe and in most of the chocolate desserts I make, the brownie is intense and the chocolate flavor is deep, the way the Gods of Cacao meant it to be if you ask me. I don’t like milk chocolate or sugary chocolate treats because I feel it ruins the taste of the chocolate, but I’ve been told by several of my devoted brownie guinea pigs that they don’t necessarily share my taste for bittery chocolate so I won’t hold it against you if you want to turn the chocolate intensity down a notch and add some sugar. I used both unsweetened cacao powder and 85-90% chocolate in this recipe, but feel free to use chocolate that matches your taste for the ganache and the melted paste. However, I highly encourage you to still use raw, organic and unsweetened cacao powder instead of a regular alkalized cocoa powder which is processed with alkali solutions and therefore does not offer the same nutritional benefits that you can get from raw 100% cacao powder.
Secondly, the cherries are mascerated for several hours in red wine and a tad of chocolate liquor which brings out a fantastic taste in them. I recommend using a rather fruity wine like a Cabernet or a Syrah to bring out the tartness of the cherries, and the chocolate liquor is optional (you can also use a tad of bourbon instead). Finally, I am really happy with the ganache (or should I say the luscious ganache – pronounced Nigella Lawson-style of course). I had never made one for brownies because I always thought it would be “too much” – I mean, why add chocolate over chocolate? – but thank god I decided to prove myself wrong on this one because it’s actually a fabulous addition, especially since the brownies are quite fudgey so it adds some bite to them. I used coconut oil to make it because it helps the ganache harden in the fridge, it would probably also work with butter but the cooling time might be a little longer. Now the recipe:
Recipe: Cherry-Red Wine Brownies with a Luscious Dark Chocolate Ganache
Makes 9 brownies
For the brownies:
1 cup of raw, unsweetened cacao powder
1/4 cup (60g) of dark chocolate (I used 85% but it can be lower if you prefer lighter chocolate)
1 stick of butter (100 g)
3 tbsp of coconut sugar
1/4 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (gluten-free)
2 cups (200g) of cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/3 cup (2.5 fl oz or 75 ml) of a fruity red wine (like a Cabernet or a Syrah)
Pinch of salt
For the dark chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup (60 g) of dark chocolate (I used 85%)
4 tbsp of coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup (or raw honey)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1 tbsp of chocolate liquor
1. Wash the cherries and place them in a bowl. Pour the red wine over them, cover the bowl and let them mascerate in the refrigerator overnight. Do not discard the liquid afterwards.
2. Preheat oven to 330°F (165°C) and grease a 7″x7″ (18x18cm) square brownie baking dish.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and dark chocolate over very low heat until perfectly smooth. Set aside and let cool.
4. In a large bowl, combine cacao powder, almond flour, coconut sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk together in a separate bowl the eggs, coconut milk and vanilla extract and add them to the dry ingredients. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and combine all the ingredients with a whisk, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate well. Finally, add in the cherries with the red wine and liquor. Pour the batter in the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely in the refrigerator before unmolding.
5. When the brownie is cooled, prepare the ganache: in a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and the coconut oil on very low heat. Add in the maple syrup, vanilla and chocolate liquor if using and let simmer for 30 seconds then remove from heat. Pour the ganache over the brownie and spread evenly with a spatula. Let cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more, until the ganache has completely hardened over the brownie.