Fernet Branca is a type of amaro – a bitter Italian herbal liqueur – that was invented in 1845. The liqueur is complex, with 27 secret ingredients that go into it to give it its unique flavor. It is hard to describe what it tastes like because it is so complex, but I can say that it is reminiscent of cough syrup, with a very herbal and bittersweet finish – but it is much better than any actual cough syrup that I’ve had. I will also note that it an acquired taste, to be sure, but it is pretty darn good once you’ve acquired that taste. Whether you choose to sip this amaro or not, it is actually a fantastic ingredient to bake with. In with all those herbal notes, you’ll pick out some of the same fruity flavors that you can find in unsweetened chocolate and toasted cacao nibs. This means that adding a splash of Fernet to a chocolate baked good can really intensify its chocolate flavor.
These Fudgy Fernet Branca Brownies are an adaptation of my favorite one-bowl recipe, though I actually used two bowls to put this all together. The brownies call for dark chocolate and cocoa powder to make their chocolate base, and Fernet Branca, vanilla and peppermint extract are added for flavor. While the peppermint extract might seem like an unusual inclusion, the herbal liqueur actually has a slightly minty note to it and a small splash of mint extract supplements it well. The brownies are dense and fudgy, studded with crisp cocao nibs and rich chocolate chips. They’re deeply chocolaty with an unexpected complexity that makes them unforgettable.
It may seem like there isn’t a lot of Fernet in this recipe, but a little goes a long way because it is so potent. You’ll be able to taste it in the finished brownies very well on the first day and, while it will mellow out by day two (as the flavors of the brownie meld together), it will continue to highlight the naturally fruity notes of the cacao nibs. If you’re not a regular fan of this amaro, don’t buy a whole bottle to make this recipe. You can easily find Fernet in small sample-sized bottles at liquor stores for just a couple of dollars. One mini bottle will be enough for a few batches of brownies.
Fudgy Fernet Branca Brownies with Cacao Nibs and Chocolate Chips
2 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup butter
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Fernet Branca
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp cacao nibs
2/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch pan, or line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Melt in 45 second intervals, stirring regularly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Stir in cocoa powder. Allow mixture to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, Fernet, vanilla, peppermint and salt until smooth. Stir in flour until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold in cacao nibs and chocolate chips.
Bake for 32-35 minutes, until brownies are set and slightly firm around the edges of the pan.
Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan before slicing.