It’s that time of the year again when the streets of shopping districts and the throngs of malls island wide receive an appearance overhaul with the help of spectacular blinding lights, fluffy white props spelling mimicry of winter, and the usual suspects;– fun-loving reindeers alongside variants of a pot-bellied bearded man with an unfathomable charm enough to lure children (and adults, no less) onto his lap.
While I personally do not celebrate this season, one can’t possibly escape the myriad of traditions associated with it, and much like other festive seasons, Christmas brings to mind, for me at least, a wide variety of sweet-toothed delicacies to look forward to.
Candy cane, caramel toffees, log cake, fruit cake, panetonne, gingerbread men, linzer cookies, and even colour-coordinated M&M’s. As a child I would marvel at the range of sweet treats awaiting me, while I sat patiently, watching the mother pry open huge gift hampers the dad received from clients. The mother would read through the ingredient list, and those containing non-halal ingredients would be set aside to be given away to neighbours and friends.
Growing up, I began to associate Christmas with specific flavours. Aside from slithering through the mad crowds congregating within a metre of ‘sale’ signages, attempting to hold a decent conversation over a cacophony of jingles and Christmas songs (I believe I’ve heard about five different renditions of Last Christmas in the past two days) blasting through speakers of shops and eateries, I’ve grown to identify this festive season with the flurry of old favourites and new flavours boasting tangy spices and dried fruits.
These chocolate cherry brownies reminded me of that Christmas flavour. The tiny pieces of chopped dried cherry lended a subtle fruity tang to the velvety melt-in-your-mouth deep-flavoured brownies. Moist, chocolatey, and topped with the prettiest characteristic paper-thin crust, these smooth flourless-cake-like brownies may not be the signature fudgey chewy type that I love, but these dark brown squares are so packed full of flavour that it definitely deserve a place on your next party table, or in the Christmas giftbox you’re bringing over to your friend’s.
Chocolate Cherry Brownies
(adapted from Jo Pratt’s In The Mood for Food)
200g dark chocolate
250g sugar ¹
125g plain flour
100g dried cherries ²
100g walnut pieces (I omitted this)
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) ³
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Melt butter and chocolate over a pot of simmering water, or gently in a microwave, till well blended.
- Beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy and creamy.
- Stir in the melted chocolate + butter until well blended.
- Stir in the flour, cherries and walnuts, if using.
- Bake in a greased 9-inch square pan for about 25mins, until the top is cracking and the centre is just set. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before cutting into squares.
¹ The original recipe calls for 300g.
² You may substitute with other dried fruits, such as dried apricots.
³ I added in just a little cinnamon for that extra kick, but you could easily increase the amount, or do without it. The original recipe doesn’t call for it.