Liso’s French B-day Brownies

A little birthday treat for my littlest Liso who celebrated her big 28 last Friday.

I needed something that was compact and easy to transport—and something that would not make me look totally ridiculous waiting in line at the club (so much for that one—one club manager thought I brought my make-up kit). Brownies seemed like the wisest choice, yet again.

I could never get sick of brownies (baking or eating), but they are far from what I would call pretty. They’re  frumpy, brown squares—not exactly delicate or eye-catching. So how do you turn something ho-hum into something ta-dah?

You call them French (or at least, according to Dorie Greenspan, French-inspired) and all of a sudden you’ve upped the ooh la la quotient in a major way. That’s exactly what Dorie did in her recipe for French Chocolate Brownies (not sure why she thought it necessary to include “chocolate” in the title).

The base recipe is basic; same story with the method. And the resulting texture is good: crackly top and smooth and creamy middle. What makes these different is  Greenspan’s addition of rum, raisins and a dash of cinnamon to the batter, nothing fancy by any means, but oh, what a difference they make.  You’ll love these for the same reason you love rum-raisin ice cream—for that warm all over and ever so slightly naughty sensation you get when you eat them. (^o^”)

By the way, I substituted vanilla extract for the rum—I didn’ t have any at home, and vanilla was the closest thing I could find that has a similar alcohol flavor.

Dorie Greenspan’s French Chocolate Brownies (original from Baking From My Home to Yours and adapted by Dorie here on Serious Eats)

makes 16 brownies


1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden

1 1/2 tbsp water

1 1/2 tbsp dark rum (I replaced this with 1 tsp vanilla)

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp / 6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp and cut into 12 pieces

3 large eggs, at room temp.

1 cup sugar


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you’re using it.Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed. (I obviously didn’t do this last part as I used vanilla—just added it straight to the raisins.)
  3. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
  4. Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you’ll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won’t be completely incorporated and that’s fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

*Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they’re even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

*Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

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