Spiced Molasses Brownies

By • February 15, 2012 18 Comments

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Author Notes: When this contest was first announced, I immediately thought of making a brownie featuring tart cherries, star anise and chocolate, which I use together in a sundae sauce, the recipe for which I posted here in 2010. But then as I started thinking about the star anise, I was reminded of the exquisite trio of star anise, cinnamon and ginger used to create a fragrant broth in a (contest winning) pho recipe by WinniAb. To make these, I've adapted the fudge-y “Chocolate Molasses Brownie” recipe in the 1943 “The Joy of Cooking”. You can make these in an 8 x 8 pan or, for a prettier dessert, bake them in a 9” round pan. We like them topped them with vanilla-scented whipped cream, but vanilla ice cream would also work well. Either way, enjoy!! ;o)

Food52 Review: Go out and make these brownies RIGHT NOW! While the recipe says the white pepper is optional, I recommend it. There is so much going on in these brownies but it works, and each bite reveals another of the great flavors in this recipe. I couldn't help myself and added some chunks of dark chocolate to the batter before baking. Don't forget the vanilla whipped cream, it's the perfect topping for these delicious brownies.cgilsbach

Makes one 8 x 8 pan or one 9" round pan

  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 ½ ounces dark chocolate
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • (optional) ¼ teaspoon freshly ground star anise (toast gently before grinding)
  • ½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon (use more if not using a Vietnamese cinnamon)
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger (or more or less, to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • Vanilla whipped cream or ice cream for topping (see note below)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8 x 8 square or 9” round pan. (When using a round pan, I find a springform to be handy for this. When using a square pan, I line it with a sling of parchment pager for easier removal.)
  2. Finely chop the cherries and combine with the bourbon in a small bowl. Use a pinch of regular sugar on the cherries if they stick too much to the knife while you're chopping them.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium, heavy saucepan. Add the sugar and molasses and stir well.
  4. While the chocolate and butter are cooling, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  5. Add the vanilla, the crystallized ginger and the cherries with their soaking liquid to the chocolate and butter in the saucepan. Stir well to combine thoroughly.
  6. Beat the eggs very lightly using a fork just until they are a uniform color. (I do this in the bowl I used to soak the cherries.) Add the beaten eggs to the saucepan. Using a large spoon, stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Don’t beat too hard, unless you want a crackly top on your brownies (which I understand is actually a meringue, created by beating the batter very hard once you’ve added the eggs).
  7. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until the batter is well mixed. Do not overbeat.
  8. Put the batter into the greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. (The toothpick may be just a bit wet, but it should not have any batter on it.)
  9. Allow to cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan and slicing.
  10. Top with a generous dollop or two of vanilla whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  11. Enjoy!! ;o)
  12. N.B. The JOC recipe calls for ½ cup each of white sugar and molasses, 2/3 cup sifted flour, and does not include the cherries, bourbon, ginger or any of the spices.
  13. Star anise can be a very "loud" spice. As one Food52 member so aptly put it, the spice can make everything taste like Good 'n' Plenty candy. These brownies are delicious without it.
  14. To make vanilla whipped cream, rub the seeds from ½ a vanilla pod into 2 tablespoons of sugar before you begin making the brownies. If you think to do this the night before, all the better. I do it right in the bowl in which I’m going to whip the cream, and I use the back of a small spoon, to avoid getting too much of the vanilla flavor on my hands (as opposed to in the sugar itself). About an hour before serving, put the cream into the bowl with the scented sugar, and then put the bowl into your freezer with the beaters of your electric mixer. Shortly before serving, remove the bowl from the freezer and immediately whip the cream to the consistency you like. If you don't care to use vanilla seeds, add ¼ teaspoon best quality vanilla to the sugar and rub it in well with the back of a small spoon. ;o)

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