Let me start by saying that putting raisins in brownies is not something I would normally do. With a few notable exceptions (chocolate dipped strawberries come to mind), I don't usually like chocolate and fruit together. When I came across a brownie recipe with raisins that actually sounded appealing, I had to embrace that feeling and give it a try.
I am usually a little late with getting holiday or themed recipes on the blog--for example, I forget St. Patrick's Day was right around the corner and missed my chance to make some green pistachio cookies I wanted to try. Last weekend, Mike mentioned that the Kentucky Derby is coming up on May 3rd, so I made a mental note to blog about an appropriate, preferably bourbon-laced, recipe since the Mint Julep is the official derby drink.
The brownie recipe, from Baking by Dorie Greenspan, called for raisins soaked in dark rum, and right away I thought of switching it up to bourbon. Thus, I could complete a derby-themed recipe and indulge my current preoccupation with brownie-making. As it turned out, you can't really detect the bourbon in the final product, and the raisins--while a nice change of pace--were a little distracting to both me and Mike (despite the handful of semisweet chips I sprinkled on top because I felt a need to balance the fruit with even more chocolate). The raisins sort of got in the way of an otherwise really great brownie. On the other hand, if you like chocolate and dried fruit, you'll really like this.
The recipe produces a thick, moist (but not wet), fudgy brownie. I used fine quality bittersweet chocolate (Lindt 70%), as specified; great chocolate makes a great brownie. I also liked the addition of cinnamon in this recipe, and I raised the quantity to 1/4 teaspoon, which created a slightly spicy, but not overpowering, flavor that gives these brownies added interest. This is a nice recipe, so if you want to go with a derby theme sans raisins, just skip that part, tip in a shot of bourbon and you're good to go!
Fudgy Brownies with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
This recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, so I would look for something with a 65 to 75% cocoa content. I love cinnamon and always have a fresh, potent Vietnamese variety on hand (Spice Islands found in most supermarkets makes a good one); if your cinnamon isn't very strong or past its prime, add a little extra or replenish your supply.
Makes 16 brownies
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1/3 cup raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish, line with foil and butter foil; or use nonstick foil and skip the butter.
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave on medium power for 1 minute; stir thoroughly. Microwave again for 15 to 20 seconds and stir. Repeat, if necessary, until chocolate is just melted (don't let it get too hot and watch it closely to avoid burning). Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine raisins, water and bourbon; bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and beat on medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Add chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds (flour won't be completely incorporated). Finish mixing in the flour by hand with a rubber spatula. Fold in the raisins along with any liquid in the saucepan. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and press slightly into the batter with a flat hand.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (mine took 57 minutes), or until top is dry and crackled and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean (a few moist crumbs is good; wet means it's not done yet). Cool on a wire rack. Use the edges of the foil as handles and lift brownies out of baking pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cool completely (alternatively, refrigerating brownies makes them easy to cut if you don't mind chilling them). Cut into 16 squares.