A while back, while I was going through an experimenting-with-flavours phase, I baked a basil and chocolate cake. The idea seemed good at the time but, to be honest, it wasn’t a great success. The cake was too rich and strongly flavoured. And adding a layer of chocolate icing was definitely a step too far. The cake was taste-tested by the members of our school gardening club and came second (of two) to a batch of lemon verbena cupcakes. Not even a close second – the vote came down unanimously in favour of the cupcakes.
Not entirely disheartened by this experience, I rethought the whole basil and chocolate idea and made a second attempt. This time in brownie form – after all, brownies can’t really be too rich, can they? The whole point of a good brownie is that it’s a square of rich, fudgy chocolateyness. And while the chocolate is important for a good brownie, adding sun-warmed basil and zingy lime could bring a seasonal taste of summer to that lovely richness. This time I think I may have got it right – I’ll have to wait until school is back next month to see if the rest of the gardening club agree!
I’m entering these brownies in this month’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, hosted by Karen over at Lavender and Lovage. If you’re looking for seasonal recipe inspiration there’s a whole list of great herby ideas, sweet and savoury, to choose from.
Basil & Lime Brownies
275g light brown soft sugar
70g basil leaves, washed and dried
250g unsalted butter, softened
200g good quality dark chocolate
3 large free-range eggs
zest of two limes, and juice of 11/2 limes (save the other half for the icing)
65g plain flour
65g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
For the icing –
1 tbsp lime juice
about 6 tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180oC, 350oF, Gas 4. Line a 22 cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the sugar and basil leaves into a food processor and whizz until you get a lovely fragrant, green and slightly gooey sugar mix. Tip this mixture out into a large bowl, add the butter and beat until you get a light and creamy consistency.
Break the chocolate up into small chunks and put into a small heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water.
Add the eggs to the sugar and butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. Stir in the melted chocolate, lime juice and zest. Then fold in the sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Tip the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Deciding when to get the tin out of the oven is the tricky bit with brownies. It’s getting the balance right between the brownie being cooked through, but not dried out. I use a skewer to test the centre of the mixture – if it comes out with raw mixture on it then the brownies go back in the oven for another couple of minutes before I test again, but some moist mixture is good – if the skewer comes out clean the brownies are overcooked and will be dry.
Allow the brownies to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before lifting them out and leaving them on a wire rack to cool completely. These brownies are perfect just as they are, but a drizzle of lime icing improves on perfection. Mix the lime juice with enough icing sugar to make a runny icing that you can drizzle over the top of the brownies. Then cut out squares of delicious chocolately brownies, find someone to share them with and enjoy!