Soft, succulent red raspberries are peeking from the plants growing in the ditch along my road. As I walk down my driveway, I pick a few of the bright wild berries with their velvety skin.
I slide the sweet, fragrant fruit right into my mouth and as I do, the delectable juiciness of the berries and the earthy fragrance of the woods remind me of a time so many years ago when I attended a Girl Scout day camp. At the end of each day, as the campers headed down a path through the woods to get to the school bus that would take us home, we filled small paper cups with the raspberries we plucked along the way. On the bus ride home, we'd pop the sweet and subtly tart fruit into our mouths, one after the other, until our small cups were empty.
People I know who have domestic raspberries growing in their gardens tell me it's a bumper crop this year. Others I know have picked their own at local berry farms. The raspberries I've been seeing in the grocery stores are big and bright.
Luscious flavor is not the only reason to indulge in raspberries. When raspberries are ripe, they carry their highest nutritional value along with their best flavor. Offering about 60 calories per cup, fresh raspberries provide disease-fighting antioxidants and a good punch of vitamin C.
Like many berries, raspberries are exceptionally rich in dietary fiber.
If you are purchasing raspberries, be sure to choose only those that are deep in color, plump and slightly soft. They do not ripen once they are picked. It's a good idea to buy just the amount you plan to use. Refrigeration helps the berries retain their vitamin content and increase their storage life.
There's always a debate about whether to rinse fresh raspberries before eating. Since water encourages spoilage, do not wash raspberries before refrigeration, but do sort through them and remove any that are damaged or moldy. Return the unwashed berries to their original container, or spread them out on a plate, cover them with a paper towel and plastic wrap.
Since raspberries are very delicate, wash them gently and pat them dry right before eating or using in a recipe.
Fresh raspberries are simply exquisite when eaten with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream or layered into a yogurt parfait. I like to toss some into my morning smoothie.
And, although they do lose some of their nutrients when exposed to the heat of baking, I do enjoy fresh raspberry muffins. And brownies with whole raspberries tucked into the batter.
Raspberry Brownies make the best of the luxurious combination of chocolate and fresh, juicy raspberries. Once baked, the brownies resemble a lattice crust topped pie, with raspberries showing through. But the lattice work is chocolate - slightly crisp on top with an ambrosial raspberry surprise inside the soft, melt-in-the-mouth middle.
These brownies are wonderful eaten right out of your hand. They become decadent with a squiggle of rich, creamy chocolate.
Raspberry Brownies evoke a whole new scene in my mind as I pick more wild berries this week. Suddenly, I can almost feel the comfort of my kitchen and the fragrance of chocolate and raspberries begin to fill my nostrils.
And it pushes me home to make more Raspberry Brownies.
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9- x 13- x 2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Lightly butter the foil that lines the bottom and sides of pan. Set aside.
Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix.
Sift flour, cocoa and salt together. Add to butter mixture and blend at a low speed. Spoon batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Arrange raspberries over the top, slightly pushing them into the batter using a gentle touch.
Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
Grab ends of aluminum foil and carefully pull brownies out of pan. On work surface, cut the brownies into desired shapes.
In a small heavy saucepan, heat whipping cream and 1 tablespoon butter until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat and add chocolate morsels. Stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon Chocolate Drizzle into a plastic sandwich bag. Use scissors to snip a tiny piece from one bottom corner of the bag, forming a small hole to squeeze the chocolate mixture through. Sprinkle cut brownies with powdered sugar. Squeeze and drizzle chocolate over the cut brownies. Makes 1 to 2 dozen square brownies, depending on the size.
Tip from the cook
--If you happen to have framboise or other raspberry-flavored liqueur in your cabinet, add 1 tablespoon to the batter before baking and reduce the vanilla to 1 teaspoon.