Brownies are one of America’s best baking inventions. They first turned up, without any fanfare, in the 1906 edition of Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. No, Mrs. Farmer’s brownies did not contain lavender. But they were rich, dark, and full of chocolate flavor, so she got us off to a very good start!
These are in Mrs. Farmer’s classic brownie style (no chocolate chips, no cheesecake swirls, no icing), but with a surprising and enticing taste twist provided by raspberry jam and lavender. They are fruity and nearly as rich and deeply chocolaty as fudge—also a very good thing!
- Tip: The baking time depends greatly on the pan used, so check frequently for signs of doneness. In a heavy, dull metal pan that absorbs and holds heat readily, the brownies may be done in only about 20 minutes. But a glass or shiny metal pan they may take up to 8 minutes longer. Use the toothpick test to tell.
1/4 cup raspberry jam or preserves combined with 3 tablespoons water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender buds
1 2/3 cups all-purpose white flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
11 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon raspberry extract or homemade lavender extract, optional
4 large eggs, at room temperature
- Heat the jam-water mixture and butter almost to boiling in a small saucepan, then set aside. Stir in the lavender buds and let stand while readying the other ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with heavy aluminum foil; let it overhang the narrow ends. Grease or coat the foil with nonstick spray or cooking oil.
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.
- Strain the butter mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large saucepan; press down to force through as much of the mixture as possible.
- Stir the sugar into the saucepan. Heat, stirring, just until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot but not boiling; don’t worry if it looks curdled or oily.
- Remove it from the heat.
- Add the chocolate, stirring until completely melted.
- Set aside until cooled to just slightly warm (if the mixture is hot, the eggs may curdle when added).
- Stir the vanilla and raspberry or lavender extract (if using) into the pan.
- Vigorously stir in the eggs one at a time.
- Stir in the dry ingredients just until the batter is evenly blended.
- Turn out the batter into the baking pan, spreading to the edges.
- Bake (middle rack) for 20 minutes, then begin frequently testing for doneness: When the center top is barely firm when tapped and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean except for the bottom 1/8-inch (which will look wet), the brownies are done.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack.
- Let stand until cooled to warm, about 20 minutes, then, for easiest cutting, refrigerate until chilled.
- Using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully transfer the brownie slab to a cutting board.
- If desired, trim away the uneven edges using a large, sharp knife. Cutting through the foil, cut the slab in half crosswise. Carefully peel off and discard the foil from the bottoms.
- Cut each brownie slab into 2 1/8 by 2 1/4-inch bars, or as desired; remember they are very rich. Wipe the knife clean with damp paper towels between cuts.
- Stored airtight, the brownies will keep well for 2 or 3 days. They also freeze well for up to a month. If freezing, leave the brownie slab whole, then cut into portions when partially thawed.
Makes 32 2 1/8- by 2 1/4-inch bars.