The Herbs Uplift: Chocolate Basil Brownies

Sarah Kieffer's recipe for "Chocolate Basil Brownies" piqued my curiosity, but I was reluctant to give the recipe a try. The combination of chocolate and basil just seemed a bit out there, and Kieffer even offers an easy way out, suggesting a substitution of mint for the basil if "basil isn't your thing." But what finally pushed me to try the recipe was a bumper crop of basil in our garden, just there for the picking.

The brownies have three components: Kieffer's "My Favorite Brownies," a basil-infused ermine buttercream, and chocolate ganache. First, I baked, cooled, and chilled the brownies. Then I steeped basil leaves in a mixture of milk and half-and-half, bringing the mixture to a simmer and chilling it for a few hours before squeezing all of the liquid out of the leaves. I combined the infused cream/half-and-half with sugar, flour, and salt; brought the mixture to a boil; and cooked it until thickened. Then I went slightly off script from the recipe. 
The recipe says that you should cool the flour mixture and gradually add it in to softened butter. I have always done the reverse to make ermine buttercream, and I decided to stick with the method I know. So I put the hot cooked flour mixture into the bowl of my stand mixer and beat it until completely cool (this usually takes about 10 minutes -- I just set a kitchen timer, walk away, and do something else to pass the time while the mixer is running); gradually incorporated softened butter; beat the frosting until it was light and fluffy; and added vanilla. I spread the buttercream on top of the brownies and chilled the brownies again before topping them off with a ganache made from dark chocolate and heavy cream.
I chilled the brownies one more time before cutting them, and they sliced cleanly. The layer of buttercream was as thick as the brownie itself, which seemed a little excessive at first glance -- but I have to admit that I enjoyed the generous amount of silky buttercream when I took a bite. The light basil flavor was surprisingly uplifting and harmonious with the chocolate, and it helped cut through the richness of the brownie and ganache. But make no mistake, this fudgy (but not too fudgy) brownie slathered with buttercream and ganache is decadent. I never would have guessed that the combination of basil and chocolate could work so well!
Recipe: "My Favorite Brownies" and "Chocolate Basil Brownies" from 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer, recipe available here (without the ingredient weights, ugh) at Edible Nashville.


Sally said…
I have to make these! I have SO MUCH basil this year.

Have you made her cakey brownies? I ordinarily don't love cakey brownies but thought that they'd go well with this frosting and ganache.
I am putting off trying the cakey brownies as long as possible... I just don't get the point! But I trust Sarah, so I'm sure I'll get to them eventually! :)