Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth of July food festivities tend to be all about the grill, but I prefer to focus on dessert.The holiday today is a time when we can pull out all the stops on celebration, and few things express this better than a pile-up (literally) of American classics. In this case, it’s a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, crowned with the most perfect, in-season fruits: nectarines and raspberries. A smooth, rich, mood-altering experience awaits you, even if you were feeling pretty good in the first place. Make them this morning for today’s picnic or cookout. The baking time is only 12 to 15 minutes, and then they rest for 10 minutes before being cut into squares.

Traditional peach Melba involves peaches and raspberries (sometimes plain, other times in a syrup) over, under or next to vanilla ice cream. This version uses nectarines, and it sits upon a brownie.

Brownies a la mode with nectarine Melba

Nonstick spray for the pan.

6 ounces (half a bag) semisweet chocolate chips


½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

5 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Dash of salt (optional)

1 pint high-quality vanilla ice cream

4 (or more) perfectly ripe nectarines, pitted and sliced

1 to 2 pints perfect raspberries, washed and shaken dry in a strainer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

Place the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, and slowly let them melt.

In the meantime, beat the butter at high with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Crumble in the sugar, and beat for about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.

Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.Keep the beaters going as you slowly add the melted chocolate. Beat well until the chocolate is completely incorporated. (If you let the chocolate just sit there, it will curdle the eggs. Keep it moving.)

Toss in the flour and optional salt, and beat for another minute or so, then transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Spread it evenly into place with a rubber spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly touched in the center.

It might seem underbaked, but these are moist brownies. If they’re too moist for you, it’s OK to leave them in the oven until a toothpick inserted all the way into the center comes out clean.

Let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then cut into squares of your preferred size. Remove the squares from the pan and let them cool on a rack. Serve the brownies warm or at room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream and strewn mightily with nectarines and raspberries.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


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