Dark Chocolate Bourbon Brownies are rich and fudgy with a subtle undertone added by the bourbon used in the batter. Chocolate and bourbon for the win!
Including bourbon in brownies
With the Kentucky Derby at hand, we think of fast horses, fancy hats, and cool Mint Juleps. Me, I think of food and drink (naturally) – fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, Derby Pie (or Pecan Bars)…and, of course, bourbon.
It was fortuitous then that I acquired two bottles of whiskey from Ken Gordon at Gordons DTX...he was doing a “spring cleaning” at a recent Whisky Wednesday and I offered to take a couple of nearly-empties off his hands. As thanks for letting me have them, I promised to bring in bourbon brownies to share with the group.
When I saw that the two bottles were completely different styles, I decided that the Great Bourbon Brownie Bake-Off Battle was about to begin. (Try saying that 3x fast!)
The battle contenders
Ironically enough, neither of these two bottles are from Kentucky…Clyde May’s Alabama-style whiskey is the official Alabama state whiskey, aged in oak and finished with a hint of apple.
Meanwhile, Berkshire Bourbon Smoke & Peat (from my adopted state of Massachusetts) is straight bourbon whisky aged in oak and finished in Laphroiag and Ardbeg casks, adding an ashy quality to the taste.
So even though these samples weren’t Kentucky bourbons, I wasn’t going to split hairs. I think we can be flexible for the Derby, and besides, who is going to argue the technicalities when there are brownies to be had?
Searching for a battle-ready brownie recipe
Before the Bake-Off Battle could begin, I needed a great brownie recipe. I knew I wanted to use dark chocolate (for both the baking chocolate and cocoa powder) because I wanted a rich base that would set off the flavors in the bourbons.
I decided to adapt two recipes for bourbon brownies that I found, Free the Recipe's Kentucky Bourbon Brownies and Tutti Dolci's Bourbon Brown Sugar Brownies.
Why? There were elements of both recipes that I liked. The Kentucky Bourbon Brownies used cocoa powder in the batter (which I wanted) but had a very large amount of baking chocolate (too much, I thought).
The Bourbon Brown Sugar Brownies included vanilla, salt, a reasonable amount of baking chocolate, and brown sugar (for an underlying caramel note that I thought would complement the bourbon), but it didn’t have cocoa powder or enough bourbon in the batter (2 Tbsp vs. 3 Tbsp).
My recipe for Dark Chocolate Bourbon Brownies yielded a rich and fudgy bite, and the difference in flavor for the two samples was…well, let’s wait for the results, shall we?
Make the battle for bourbon brownies fair
In order to have an even playing field for both bourbons, I made sure the brownie ingredients were weighed carefully. They were the control group, after all.
I also tried by best to see that the brownies themselves were prepared simultaneously. The only things I couldn't mimic exactly was the size of the saucepans I used to melt the chocolate and butter and that my 9- x 9-inch baking pans had the same finish (light vs. dark).
On the other had, having different finishes to the pans helped me distinguish pan held which bourbon brownies. That, and looking at the pictures.
The expert judges
My tasting panel consisted of myself, my husband, my older daughter, and her fiancé. First we sampled the bourbons, then the brownies. You have to be thorough about these things.
For those interested, here are my bourbon tasting notes for the Clyde May's and Berkshire Bourbon.
And the winner is...
Both of these dark chocolate brownie recipes were rich, and fudgy, with a deep chocolate flavor. We all agreed that, while subtle, there was something different about each one. The Clyde May’s brownie was almost sweeter with a presence of baking spices, while the Berkshire Bourbon brownie had more body and support for the dark chocolate.
If you didn’t know that two different whiskies had been used, you might have missed the subtlety and just proclaimed these as “really good brownies,” as my daughter put it.
So even though the Great Bourbon Brownie Bake-Off Battle didn’t have a definitive favorite, the winners were us for having wonderful family time with drinks and dessert to share. No horse race can beat that!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes using dark chocolate
Remember, even though these recipes use dark chocolate, you can generally substitute the chocolate type of your choice. Go ahead and use your favorites!
Dark Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 9- x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting it overhang on two sides.
- Combine dark chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring until smooth.
- Remove pan from heat and whisk in the dark brown sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the bourbon and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture just until combined (do not overmix).
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached.
- Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Just before cutting, chill the brownies in the freezer for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the parchment to remove the brownies from its pan and place on a cutting board; cut into 1- x 2-inch pieces with a sharp knife. Serve and enjoy!