October 19, 2006

They're Just Brownies... Or Are They?

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Up A Creek Without A PatL is hosting this round of Weekend Herb Blogging which was originally started by Kalyn’s Kitchen. As I understand it, all you have to do is cook with a herb and write about it. No problem. I’ve had this recipe floating around in my head for quite a while now but never got around to making it. The recipe may be a bit unusual for WHB because it’s not a main course, but it’s sort of unusual for a dessert too. At this point you’ve already seen the picture of brownies and are probably wondering what herb I stuck into them. That herb would be basil, the plant that tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell. The idea for basil brownies came to me one day while eating a chocolate chip cookie. I had just finished picking a whole bunch of basil to make pesto and the smell of basil was still on my hands. As I bit into my chocolate chip cookie, the taste of chocolate combined with the smell of basil and the result was quite pleasing. It was at that point that I decided I would attempt to make basil brownies.

Shortly thereafter I saw a post on Kiss the Hem of Her Apron with brownies that she claimed were made from the last brownie recipe she would ever use, because they were just that good. I’m always intrigued by recipes that people claim are the best ever and I usually try them because I like to know what other people consider the best. However, no matter how good they are, they will never live up to the hype, (see Lawsuit Buttermilk Muffins for more details…). This doesn’t mean that the recipe isn’t amazing and that I won’t make it and enjoy it again and again, it just means I don’t believe in perfection. That’s both good and bad, but what are you gonna do?

Anyways, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make both the only brownie recipe that Kiss the Hem of Her Apron will ever use again, as well as my basil brownies. I only made one batch of brownies, but divided the pan into two sections, separated by some tin foil. I poured half of the brownie mixture into one side of the pan, added the basil and then poured the rest of the mixture into the other side. When I originally conceived of this idea, I thought I would use fresh basil, plucked from my garden. That would have worked if I had made the brownies at the same time I had the idea. Instead, when I went out to my garden today to pick some basil I found nothing but naked stems. Right, that whole snow thing. Wikipedia tells me that basil is very sensitive to cold, and grows best in hot, dry conditions. And so I went back into the kitchen to rummage around the spice cabinet in search of some dried basil. I have a feeling the basil I found was past its prime. Throughout the summer I never used dried herbs because I have everything I could ever need in my garden. Unfortunately, Canadian winters are not very accommodating to herb gardens and for some reason I haven’t cultivated herbs indoors like smarter people do. Dried basil doesn’t have the same flavour as fresh either, but it was all I had and I was determined to make the basil brownies so I was using it. I don’t think I would have had to use nearly as much basil (4 tsp for half a batch of brownies) if my dried basil had been better, or if it had been fresh. My final verdict on these though is that they’re pretty decent. I like the fact that it’s an unusual flavour, definitely very basilly, but still chocolately as well. I’d make them again, but with fresh basil.

Brilynn’s Basil Brownies (or B3)
Adapted from Alice Medrich's ‘Cookies and Brownies’
Serves 16… if you like small serving sizes

6 T butter, (salted was all I had so I didn’t add any additional salt to the recipe)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp dried basil

Preheat the oven to 400F and line and 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil. I made a half and half recipe so I divided the pan in two. This meant all the basil went into one side, making it very basilly.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together, on top of a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring often until smooth. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Add eggs one at a time, followed by flour. Stir until very smooth, about 1 minute. If you’re making a half and half recipe as well, pour half the batter into the prepared pan, add the basil to the remaining batter in the bowl, combine and then pour into the other half of the pan.
Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a water bath. Fill a large roasting pan with water and ice about 1 inch deep.
When the brownies are done - and they will look a bit dry on top - take them immediately from the oven and place in the water bath. Add more ice to the water if necessary. Allow to cool completely in the bath before removing the pan and cutting the brownies.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Wandering Coyote said...

Hi Brilynn, thanks for stopping by my site. I've just gone through your main page here and am now craving chocolate! You describe in this post one of those happy accidents where great things are born. I would never in my wildest dreams have thought of adding basil to brownies!

Wandering Coyote said...

Oops - sorry for the double post...I cannot trash the second one since my laptop is old and isn't fully supported by Blogger.

Natalia said...

Very interesting combonation! I'm beginning to think that chocolate goes well with just about anything!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Basil! I love your adventurous spirit! :)

wheresmymind said...

That takes some guts adding basil to brownies!

Rachel said...

yum! i love that idea.

Lauren said...

I've been missing out on your entries as I scrolled down I was just drooling!

What an interesting concept - Basil Brownies.. I'd be interested in trying that.

I'll be back much more often!!

Veron said...

What an interesting concept, herbs and chocolate. Hmmn ...I do like basil, it'll be interesting to try this.

Brilynn said...

Ok, after letting the brownies sit overnight, the basil flavour has definitely become more significant, so maybe I could have cut back some...

Foodie's Hope said...

Basil brownies!! That's new, sounds cool!! I like your photography of towering brownies!YUM!!

ejm said...

Your reasoning is sound to choose not to cultivate herbs indoors. They just don't have the flavour of outdoor herbs.

Can you taste the basil in your brownies?

Next year, make your own dried basil by hanging any of your garden fresh basil (that hasn't been used for pesto) upsidedown in the kitchen. The resulting dried basil actually smells like basil when it's crushed - much better than storebought dried basil.


P.S. I have a brownie recipe that I consider to be the best as well: Brownies Cockaigne in "The Joy of Cooking"

Ellie said...

Hehehe, love the name of these - B3 ;) Sorry to hear about the basil, perhaps you could buy some seedlings and leave them in a pot in a warm place in your house?

peabody said...

Basil and chocoalte....hmmmm. Not sure but willing to give it a try :)

Anonymous said...

saw this on Slashfood, what a great combination of flavors!

Jer said...

Another mention on Slashfood! Congrats I suppose....(you are officially "food porn""!)

I am sure fresh basil would work much better.

And I disagree with the guy/girl from Slashfood... Spices and chocolate are an EXCELLENT combo. Cayene and Chocolate = yummy, most spices actually and chocolate = yummy...

Kalyn said...

Very interesting idea. I'm guessing the combination of chocolate and basil would be a very good one. Welcome to WHB. Thanks for entering; fun finding your blog.

surfindaave said...

What a kick! Sounds like a lot of fun to make and eat!

gattina said...

very interesting story!
btw, Alice Medrich is one of my favorite bakers :D

Genie said...

Brilynn, I love the sound of this combination -- I definitely want to give it a try. Fascinating! I love those little happy cooking accidents like the one in which you discovered the two might go well together. Thanks for sharing this -- I'm going to hang onto the recipe, and might try some other herbs in it, as well. Who knows...I might discover a fabulous combination as well!

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