Bourbon is an American whiskey distilled from corn mash, malt, and rye and aged in oak barrels, which give it a distinctive flavor. It’s a bit strong on its own for my tastes, but it actually goes extremely well with other flavors. For instance, it goes very well with toasted nuts, which work well with the oak flavors in the whiskey, and it makes a very nice pairing with both dark and milk chocolate, where it cuts some of the intensity and brings out some of the more subtle flavors in the chocolate.
I used a little bourbon in this recipe for Bourbon Brownies with Sea Salt to give a good chocolate recipe a more grown-up spin. The bourbon doesn’t dominate, but it does give them a hint of oakiness that you definitely wouldn’t get without it. There isn’t enough in the brownies to require a designated driver after eating them, although they do pair very well with bourbon drinks if you are so inclined. The brownies have a great chocolate flavor and a nice chewiness to them, without being too “wet” or overly rich. They use both dark chocolate and cocoa powder to get a balanced chocolate flavor. I topped them off with a sprinkle of salt as a finishing touch.
You don’t need to top these brownies with a sprinkling of sea salt (or other coarse salt) if you don’t want to or don’t have any coarse salt on hand, but it adds a nice bit of contrast to the chocolate in the brownies and helps to highlight the flavor of the bourbon just a bit. You can use any kind of bourbon – by which I mean whiskey and not bourbon vanilla, which is just a type of vanilla – in this recipe. I used Maker’s Mark, but just about anything will be good. If you don’t want to use the bourbon then you’re just making plain fudgy brownies, and I recommend checking out this recipe and maybe adding some chocolate chips to up the chocolate flavor and make up for the lack of booze.
Bourbon Brownies with Sea Salt
1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together butter and dark chocolate in the microwave. This should be done in 30-second intervals to avoid overcooking the mixture, stirring to ensure that the chocolate has melted. Allow mixture to cool slightly and transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk sugar and cocoa power into butter mixture. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by 1/4 tsp salt, bourbon and vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour and stir until it is just incorporated, and no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow brownies to cool in the pan, then lift the foil to easily remove them before slicing.