the season of fruits and spices

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 butter
200g dark chocolate
250g sugar ¹
3 eggs
125g plain flour
100g dried cherries ²
100g walnut pieces (I omitted this)
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional) ³

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate over a pot of simmering water, or gently in a microwave, till well blended.
  3. Beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy  and creamy.
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate + butter until well blended.
  5. Stir in the flour, cherries and walnuts, if using.
  6. 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.

Recipe Notes:
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.

24 thoughts on “the season of fruits and spices

  1. the mister

    Ooooh! Those are some nice looking brownies!

    They look like a ‘kek kukus’ hybrid with the ‘kek kukus’-y sides! 😀

  2. ovenhaven Post author

    bie: Ummmm okay, for that we’ll have to ask the resident kek kukus connoisseur i.e. the mother 😛

    jean-marie: How abt hinting to P to put it in your giftbox?? *hint hint back* Haha 😀

  3. tracieMoo

    awww.. the brownies look great. And the sound of cherries in it does reminds me of xmas. I don’t celebrate it too but I love the feeling of this xmas. It’s very merry where everyone comes together. Actually I like all kinds of festive. They bring back the warmth and where everyone gathers to celebrate 🙂
    Xmas or not, I hope you have a great holiday !

  4. ovenhaven Post author

    tracieMoo: Thanks, sweetie! You too 🙂 I love the festive season as well, because it brings everyone together.

    zurin: Thanks, dearie. I’m not a fan of dried fruits, much less in bakes, but this definitely added a nice touch 🙂

    thecoffeesnob: I’ll be looking forward to all your baked goodies this Christmas!

  5. grace

    i know what you mean–enough with the christmas music! these bars are certainly reminiscent of the holidays, but they’d be fabulous anytime. and for me, much more cinnamon would be involved. 🙂

  6. felicia

    i personally don’t celebrate christmas either.
    but the thought of just using this as an excuse to give/receive gifts is awesome 😛
    and of course, to bake! heehee.
    mmm. fruits and chocolate. yum!
    love the pictures dear 🙂

  7. ovenhaven Post author

    The Little Teochew: Thanks, Ju! I love the fact that Christmas is near the New Year, so we’ve got an extended sale period ~ haha 😛

    Allie: Thanks, sweetie! I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves the crackly crust 🙂

    grace: Haha, I guessed as much! It’s my first incorporating cinnamon in brownies (I’ve tried it in chocolate cookies), and I must say it won’t be the last 😀

    felicia: Thanks, babe 🙂 Yup, any excuse for a gift exchange is definitely welcomed!

    Helene: Thanks, dearie 🙂

  8. Alison

    Ok, enough lurking on your amazing blog, I had to say something when I saw these!! I love your blog and the little tidbits of your life you include in it! You sound like such a sweet person, and your talent is just mindblowing! Such an inspiration!!:D

    Back to the brownies…I need to make them and fast! My family back home would love these, especially my dad, for dark chocolate and cherry is his favorite. I’m stranded at the moment between two places…I’m in the UK (where my fiance is from), but my family is in the US, and I’m not feeling quite in the spirit of Christmas right now (since I don’t know where I’ll end up)…but this post kind of made me realize I need to make the most of where I am for the holidays…so I think these will do the trick to start that notion!

    Keep up the amazing work, and thank you for being an inspiration and a talent!:)

  9. ovenhaven Post author

    Awwww, that totally made my day 🙂 Glad to hear you’re enjoying reading my humble blog. And thank you for your kind words! I love the positive outlook you’ve chosen to adopt, and you’ve given us all a great reminder to be living and more importantly, loving, the moment 🙂 It brings to mind a favourite quote of mine (by Omar Khayyam) that goes, “Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

    I hope that you’ll enjoy these brownies, and bring a lil cheer to you and your loved ones 🙂

  10. nia

    hi there! i always have this problem of cutting brownies, i cant cut them in perfect sizes coz they will get crumbly or too fudgey, so what i did was to let it cool in the fridge and then cut it, but still not as clean and neat as yours! could you share a tip or two on cutting perfect square brownies? maybe i need to do something with the knife or use any specific knife eg the pizza cutter? haha im so long winded, hope to hear from you soon!
    thanks so much 🙂

  11. ovenhaven Post author

    Hi nia, thanks for dropping by 🙂 Y’know, I’ve never put much thought into the slicing, but perhaps I’m lucky to have had fudgy chewy brownies to be my favourite, and they really pretty much stick together, and aren’t crumbly, which makes the slicing an ease. I don’t stick my brownies in the fridge because that’d dry them out. I usually just leave it to cool in the pan for about an hour (and sometimes even longer!) before cutting them.

    What you can try doing is to dip your knife in hot water, wipe it dry, and then cut into the brownies using an up and down sawing motion. I usually do that for crumbly cakes, so you could give that a try!

    Hope that helps, sweetie 🙂

  12. Luqman

    May i ask…how much vanilla extract is needed?
    and erm erm…about the cherries…what method is used to cut it?or sliced it..


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