Ah, the brownie – considered by many to be the perfect treat. Rich, tender, and delightfully chocolate-y, there aren't many ways to improve on a brownie, unless it's to add two kinds of cherries; almonds; plus chunks of chocolate; then coat bite-sized pieces in chocolate, and add fun decorations. The perfect portion with a touch of whimsy. Now that's a BROWNIE!
One of the most frequent things we hear working as bakers and King Arthur Flour employees is "OH, how I wish I had your job!" followed closely by "OH, I would gain so much weight if I worked there!" As a self-proclaimed Short Fat Fanny, I love to tell folks about how much I love working here, and that I was a size 4 when I started working at KAF. Honestly, I haven't been a size 4 since before high school, but with such talented bakers producing copious amounts of goodies on a weekly basis, there's definitely a risk of (ahem) "expanding your horizons" at work.
Here at King Arthur, we definitely have access to a plethora of sumptuous treats, but we also have excellent access to a myriad of ways to live a healthy lifestyle, too. All employees have access to yoga and Pilates classes, and walking during lunch break is definitely encouraged on the KAF-sponsored walking trails nearby.
We even have a health fair every year with exhibitors and booths on topics like weight loss, sleep management, blood pressure and vision screenings, and the ever-popular stress relief (yes, it includes a foot massage!). So while we do make, bake, and eat, we also bend, stretch, and walk off those pounds when we need to, with the full support of our fellow employee-owners.
One great way to keep a handle on your love handles is portion control. These bite-sized brownies with their whimsical toppers satisfy in so many ways that you won't miss the bigger portions. These are also perfect for taking to dinner as a hostess gift, or sending to the classroom party (just use juice instead of liquor to soak the cherries ). The best part is that they look so fancy everyone will think you spent hours making them, and only you need know how easy they really are.
Ready to start? Let's make Cherry Almond Brownies.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare a 8" x 8" pan by spritzing with cooking spray. Lay a piece of parchment paper in the pan that's cut to fit the width of the pan, and is slightly longer on the ends. (I confess, the photo is a 13" x 9" x 2" pan. I realized it right after the fact and switched pans)
Next, chop the dried sweet cherries. You still want some texture from these cherries, as well as taste, so a rough chop is best. The finished pieces should be about the size of raisins.
Place the cherries in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with your choice of liquid. I'm a big fan of Amaretto, so that's what I used here.
Do you have to use liquor in the recipe? NO, not at all. You can use fruit juice or even water; you just need some liquid to re-hydrate the cherries a bit.
Microwave the cherries for 45 seconds. Set aside to cool.
Melt the unsweetened baking chocolate and butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, chocolate, sugar, and salt until all is smooth and no chunks of chocolate remain. This may take a few minutes, due to that whole "oil and water don't mix" thing, but it will smooth out.
Add the eggs, and then the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended.
Ohhh, ahhh, brownie batter. After you lick that little bit off your finger (aawh, come on, you know you're gonna do it! ), it's time to get the rest of the add-ins into the batter.
Add the cooled soaked cherries, the candied cherries, the chocolate chunks and the almonds. It looks like a lot of "stuff" to add in, but it will incorporate into the batter just fine. Trust me, I'm a doctor baker.
Pour the batter into the prepared 8" x 8" pan and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. The brownies are done when the kitchen smells of chocolate, the edges of the brownies have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center only has a few moist crumbs on it.
Now, you have a choice here. If you just want to serve the brownies without the chocolate coating, you can let them cool a bit more and serve away. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would be a heavenly addition.
If you DO want to do the chocolate coating step, I highly recommend chilling the brownies in the fridge for several hours or overnight, or in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. This will firm the brownies and allow you to make straight, even cuts with very smooth sides. Let me show you what I mean.
The left side of this piece was cut after chilling, while the right side was cut before chilling. See how much smoother the chilled side is? I know, it's not a big deal, but if you want those "beauty shot" perfect brownies, this is a big help. So let's get ready to dip these beauties.
You'll want to set up a drip tray to catch any drips of melted chocolate as the brownie bites set. A cooling rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet is ideal.
(I know, it's a cruel picture, isn't it? All that chocolate and you can't reach it! I'm sorry, I really am.)
Our new coating chocolate melts beautifully. It's silky smooth without any off or waxy flavors that you can sometimes get with coating chocolates.
I like to melt several bowls of chocolate in a low oven (150°F-200°F). Just place your bowls on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven until melted. Be SURE the oven is preheated, or...
...the high heat of the preheat cycle can really do a number on your chocolate. No, these aren't toasted marshmallows, they're white chocolate coating disks. Lesson learned.
If you prefer to microwave the coating chocolate, use short bursts of power, about 15 seconds or so, and stir well between bursts until melted.
Here's my favorite chocolate dipping tool. A plain plastic fork with the center two tines removed. It's sturdy, reusable, and cheap!
Place a brownie into the chocolate and use a spoon to scoop the chocolate until the bite is completely coated.
Lift the brownie up with your fork/tool and let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
To get the sugar decorations to stand up a bit off of the top of the brownie, just hold the deco by the top until the chocolate is a bit set. This only takes a minute or so. Think about your favorite vacation or a friend you appreciate while you wait.
My absolute favorite sugar deco this season are these eyes. I have a large collection of google eyes at home, and these just make me smile every time. Here you can place the eyes on the side of the brownie to start a little critter action.
Use a regular fork dipped in another chocolate to add some fur to your creepy critter.
Perfectly spooky for your Halloween buffet! The cupcake paper makes a pretty and portable presentation.
Have fun trying different decorations on each brownie, and enjoy each rich chocolate bite with the added surprise of sweet and tangy cherries. That's the boo-tiful thing about these tasty treats!
Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Cherry Almond Brownies.