Scientifically Sweet: Caramelized Fruit Fudge Brownies

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Caramelized Fruit Fudge Brownies

I've come to a very sad realization recently.

There's seems to be a battle against butter, milk and sugar on the foodie inter-space-web-world and it scares me. I'm nervous about this.

It's becoming harder for me to find recipes that are made with these lovely simple ingredients, and more and more frequent that I come across recipes for chocolate chip cookies & brownies made with apple sauce, almond milk and hemp seed flour (is that a thing?).

I don't have anything against apple sauce, almond milk and hemp seeds. They're great in baby food and smoothies, but can they make consistently great baking results every time? I don't know...

Oh jeez. Does this mean I'm going to get hate-mail about how healthy baking can be great too? I can get that. I understand intolerance and I think gluten-free baking can be fun and challenging. Really. This isn't personal, I promise. I'm just a bit protective of my milk cows and hard working chickens. 

But, truly indulgent and delicious desserts begin with rich butter, deserve the body and sweetness of sugar, and require the strength of wheat flour. It's traditional and repeatable and flavourful. 

So, what am I about? I'm about an active lifestyle and moderation. Eat well, stay active and indulge a little. It keeps me sane and satisfied. That's how I like it.

These brownies aren't made with apple sauce or black beans.

They're made with chocolate, butter and eggs. They're rich, dense and full of flavour and texture. They can be made with ingredients that are readily available and then enjoyed in small doses.

Using the word "fudge" to describe brownies is probably redundant and unnecessary.

If they're not fudgy then they're not brownies. End of story.

This recipe features a different way of making them. It's quick, fuss-free and makes the kind of square that leaves teeth marks when you take a bite. You know. I know you know.

Mixing the flour and sugar at the beginning might sound ludicrous because it means that the flour will get more mixing time than if it were added at the end. And over-mixed flour + water usually means tough and chewy. Agreed.

Well, chewy is a good thing for brownies, but tough is not invited. I like them to be utterly melt-in-the-mouth. Sugar, when combined thoroughly with flour, protects the flour from getting too strong and makes a beauty of a brownie.

Dried fruit with chocolate is magic, just like it is with wine. Actually, pair this up with a glass of red and you've got yourself a date! Slice with a very sharp knife to cut nicely through the fruit - it is dried after all and still has quite a bite to it, but those concentrated apricot and cranberry flavours fit bitter roasty dark chocolate like a glove.

Chocolate and red wine fit me like a glove, so excuse me while I....

Caramelized Fruit Fudge Brownies
Makes about 16 brownies

7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter
170 g/6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
½ cup (71 g) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 dried apricots
¼ cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch  baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Place dried apricots and cranberries in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Over the bowl and set aside to soak.

Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool.

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl until evenly combined. Add eggs, orange juice and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated and mixture is smooth. It will appear very thick at first, but continue beating to dissolve the sugar.

butter and chocolate mixture to the bowl with the egg mixture and whisk to combine evenly. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer. Drain dried fruit and pat dry with paper towel. Slice the apricots in halve lengthwise and lay them cut-side-up over the brownie batter. Scatter cranberries over top.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan completely before slicing.

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  1. Your knowledge of baking would make me think that you are the ideal individual to develop healthier alternatives with an almost negligible sacrifice in taste. (note i said healthier not healthy)

    On the spectrum of beautifully decadent and delicious and cardboard (I'm lying if I say this tastes good or I've convinced myself kinda stuff) I hope that you would consider something in between. Scientific baking tips that let you get a way with just a slight decrease in richness for a similar taste. For example recipes 1/2 butter and 1/2 apple sauce or something. Or maybe even 3/4 butter and just 1/4 apple sauce (I'm assuming apple sauce is a butter moistness replacement I could be wrong). A 25% change won't significantly affect calorie count (and would keep away the health nuts) but just like diet and exercise small changes that are reproducible for a longer period of time are the ones that are most effective over a lifetime. I would do this myself but I honestly don't know anything the science of baking.

    If anyone else reading this knows of a blog that actually does this well please reply!

  2. I love this post and totally agree. Side note--do people really eat as many popsicles as the foodie-inter-web would suggest?
    Can't wait to try the brownies!

  3. I made these yesterday without the fruit on top and they were ridiculously chocolaty and fudgy. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. I agree with Saad, sorry Christina. If that's the way this world is heading, why not experiment with some healthier options? With your vast knowledge, you could really knock our socks off with something truly exceptional and delicious while using healthier ingredients. We know your love for butter but it's ok to cheat on butter sometimes! Put a popsicle stick in your flax seed-kale-and-chia seed brownies and you'll be famous all over the web with your new creation!
    Also, I like when you share a personal side to your blog. You should do that more often :)

  5. These look delicious! Yeah, in my opinion if you're eating a baked good, you need to go all out and eat the good stuff. It's just a waste going for these 'healthy' options because all in all they're not still not healthy and they are certainly not as delicious! I want my indulgence to be worth it.

    What I am ok with though is if it's for a genuine allergy. My niece is anaphylactic to wheat, dairy, eggs, a number of nuts and other things. She's 8 now and her mum has perfected her 'safe' chocolate cake and a number of other things. It's not anything like the real thing, but it's still pretty nice considering... and at least she can have a birthday cake! (Plus she loves it because she doesn't know what she's missing (poor thing))

    Anyway, I love and adore baking. And I will never be one to substitute butter, milk or eggs or anything. That's just crazy talk! Also I love your blog and recipes :)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. And good on your niece's mum for nailing an allergen free cake!! That's not easy.


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