Black Forest Brownies

Black Forest Brownies
If you claim not to like Black Forest Gateaux, I’m afraid I just don’t believe you. Chocolate cake, cherries and cream. Seriously, what’s not to like? If I’d been a housewife in the 1970s, I can guarantee my hostess trolley would’ve been frequently sagging under the weight of this déclassé classic. I could’ve posted a standard recipe for this perennial favourite, but where’s the fun in that? You can find a recipe for BFG just about anywhere. So how about Black Forest Brownies? As mentioned in my very first recipe post for Salted Caramel Brownies, I’ve got a thing about these squares of cheeky chocolatey goodness. And also cherries. Funnily enough, you put ’em together and it just makes sense. Top with a cream-cheese based layer and you’ve got brownies, Black Forest style. These are kitsch, gooey, sticky – and so wrong, they’re right.

You’ll need a 9″x9″ brownie tin (shallow cake tin), greased and lined with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 170c / 325f / Gas mark 3.

For the cream-cheese top layer (prepare this first and set aside):
225g / 8oz cream cheese
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the cherry brownie base:
100g / 3.5oz good quality plain/dark chocolate (cocoa solids 70% min)
125g / 4.5oz unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 tsp sea salt
225g / 8oz caster sugar or light brown soft sugar (or a mix as you please.)
2 large eggs (in the US use extra large)
10g / 2 tbsp cocoa powder
80g / 3oz plain flour (all-purpose)
150g Morello cherry preserve
100g Morello glacé cherries (about half a tub) or fresh cherries
An additional 50g melted dark chocolate to drizzle on top of the baked brownies (optional)

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To make the cream cheese layer: Put the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract into a bowl and mix until smooth. (You can do this by hand or mixer). Add the egg and thoroughly combine – it will look a bit like a very thick and creamy sauce. Set aside.

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To make the brownie mixture: Chop up the butter and chocolate and melt together using a bain marie or in the microwave – I do it in a jug or bowl in the microwave for about 60 seconds, stirring half way through. Keep an eye on it though. You just want to melt the chocolate and butter, not cook it til it’s boiling! Once you have a smooth, glossy chocolate sauce, stir in the sea salt and set it aside to cool a little.

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Measure out the sugar into another bowl. Add the vanilla and eggs and stir gently, just until you can’t see the sugar. It’s absolutely essential to avoid overmixing. These are brownies, not cakes; you want as little air as possible in these babies. A silicone spatula is best for this – scrape around the sides of the bowl and “cut in’ to the mixture – a bit like outlining a figure eight, but don’t break your back over it!

Now tip in your slightly cooled chocolate mix. Again, stir gently. You want to thoroughly incorporate the chocolate but don’t overdo it.

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Sift in the flour and mix, remembering to scrape down the sides, until you can’t see any white bits.

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Pour about half of the brownie mix into the prepared tin. Smooth with a palate knife or the back of a spoon. Now spoon all the morello cherry preserve evenly over the batter – but try to avoid going right to the edges. It will spread as it cooks!

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Spoon the remaining brownie mix all over the top. Distribute evenly and spread gently until you have completely covered the cherry preserve. I use a fork for this as it ‘grips’ the brownie mix better with minimum disruption to the layer underneath. Smooth the top as flat as possible. Now pour on the cream-cheese batter. At this point, if you can visualise how you plan to slice the brownies when cooked, you can gently drop whole glacé cherries into the batter, one for each square you intend to cut. (See below!) These are extremely rich brownies and I cut quite small – about 20 squares. Place the tin in the centre of your preheated oven.

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This will need about 30-40 minutes in the oven. Check after 30. The cream cheese top will still be pale – perhaps slightly golden around the edges, which should feel slightly ‘done’, but not really firm – that means it’s overcooked. Test with a cake tester – it shouldn’t be at a runny batter stage either. The centre will be soft but again, not runny. It’s sometimes a tricky judgement but try to remember that brownies carry on cooking and will firm up as they cool; also, no-one likes a brownie that bites back.

Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool for a good half an hour or so before attempting to remove from the tin. If you can bear to wait that long. (I know, it is hard.) This will easily cut into 16-20 squares (make them small – they’re pretty rich) . You can melt about 50g of dark chocolate and drizzle or swirl on top if you like. Despite being a relatively accomplished cake decorator, I’m like a bull in a china shop when it comes to decorating with chocolate, as demonstrated below. Please note, due to the cream cheese layer, these are best kept refrigerated in an airtight tub. Bring to room temperature before eating – or pop in the microwave for five seconds and add a dollop of whipped cream. What? I did NOT say that. It’s your sinful imagination.

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