I've hidden both of these books in our new vintage camper and when the list of to-dos in the field and greenhouse gets to be too much for me, I pop out there for a coffee and a chapter. The fabulous Ruth Reichl has written a first novel, aptly called "Delicious" and as full of sumptuous food porn as her restaurant-critic memoirs, and I'm reading it alongside food blogger Molly Wizenburg's first cookbook/memoir "A Homemade Life." Both are wonderful in their own ways and both are relentless when it comes to descriptions of recipe origination. Reading about others' culinary impulses finally drove me into the kitchen to work this recipe out today.
So it started as a gift recipe from my friend Pat who dropped it off one day when she came to pick up her CSA box. Chocolate Basil Cake. It was already a genius concept when I added bourbon to the chocolate sour cream frosting. This held its own at various parties and events for several years, and grew moister and richer as I continued to increase the ratio of pounded basil. But this morning I could just about taste mint flecks between my teeth as I read my chapter-a-day and finally got the mint - now 4 times the original amount of basil leaves - into the food processor this afternoon. The cake became a brownie last year when I wanted to thin it out and stretch it to take it for organic-farmer-food samples at a food festival I was working at in Madison. Tomorrow I'm representing the Wisconsin Farmers Union at a farmer's market in Monroe, WI, so I need tiny treats again.
I have Reichl to thank for the addition of a brush of rye whiskey over the finished brownie before adding the glaze. When her character Billie brushed bourbon over an orange gingerbread in Chapter 1, I immediately thought of revisiting my Basil Cake recipe. I have Mark Emberson, my town grocer, to thank. I planted his flower boxes with edibles this year, and asked for payment in booze. he thus introduced me to the lovely Templeton Rye that I brushed on the brownies and folded into the glaze. And I have Wizenburg to thank for the glaze itself. Her recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes recommends a simple glaze of melted bittersweet chocolate rather than the over-the-top ganache bombs we've been moving toward in the past few years.
I couldn't be more pleased with the finished product. In fact, after a few tastes, I had to remove it from the house entirely. It's in my summer kitchen fridge because I need it for an event tomorrow and there won't be any left if I leave it close by me. CSA members - take note. You'll be getting a generous bouquet of Chocolate Mint in your first share boxes that come next week.
BOOZY MINT LEAF BROWNIES
1 c. sugar
3 c. packed fresh mint leaves, preferably chocolate or another sweet mint variety
5 T butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
3/4 flour (white whole wheat works fine)
1/2 c. hot water (or leave cup short and top off with a bit of rye whiskey)
1/4 c. bittersweet or dark chocolate pieces
1 tsp. half and half
1 T rye whiskey, plus a bit more to brush the top - Templeton is recommended
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 13 pan with coconut oil and dust with flour. Wash mint and add with sugar to food processor. Blitz to a wet paste. In large mixing bowl, whisk or use a whisk attachment on a mixer, to combine melted butter, sugar/mint paste and cocoa powder until well blended. Add eggs one at a time until blended and smooth. Stir in baking soda, vanilla and salt. Gradually add flour to the mix, stirring just until blended. Add hot water with rye all at once and stir just til combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes or so, removing while still quite soft. Cool slightly on rack and brush with about a tablespoon of rye.
Melt chocolate and half and half in a double boiler, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when melted and add rye. Spread thinly over brownie and allow to cool before serving if you can bring yourself to stay out of it.