This is my 5th 4th in London.  I’ve always loved 4th of July – not out of feelings of patriotism (is that bad?), mostly because it’s always been so fun.  When I was a kid, we all went to the Elks Club, where the kids spent the day in the pool playing sharks and minnows and Marco Polo and the dads threw horseshoes.  The moms would sit around and gossip, taking the occasional dip in the pool to cool off, breaststroking around the shallow end, doing their best not to get their hair wet.  The days were filled with cokes, hotdogs right off the grill and ice-cold watermelon.  At the end of the day, we’d pile into the car to go home, tired, sunburned and happy.

In my 20s, I moved to Washington, DC, and I can honestly say that there is no place on the planet that does the 4th better – as you would expect.  There is always a festival atmostphere on the Mall during the day – no matter how hot and humid it is – followed by fireworks and the National Symphony Orchestra playing John Phillips Sousa.  I’ve lived in a number of different cities and have seen firework displays in some beautiful scenic places, but there is nothing like seeing the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pond lit up by fireworks.

So, now, I’m living in London and, on Monday, I’ll be in the office with my head down, doing my job.  No sunscreen on.  No watermelon.  No hamburgers hot off the grill.  So, this weekend, I’m having friends over for dinner and we’ll look out on the garden, with the beans on their climbing frame and the tomatoes in their bamboo stakes.  Maybe I’ll ask my husband to pick up some sparklers.

At any rate, here is a fantastic – and fantasticly easy – recipe for any picnic, barbecue or day by the pool.

Red, White and Brownies

  • Around 20 cherries, pitted and halved (strawberries and raspberries work well, too, but cherries are my favorite)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (I like Green & Black’s)
  • 12 oz chocolate – I use a combo of dark chocolate and bittersweet – 1 full bar of Green & Black’s baking chocolate and about a bar and a half of their dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 8 oz butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz white chocolate

Prepare a 24-cup minimuffin pan by buttering the sides – even if it’s non-stick – so that these little babies will pop right out easily.  This recipe makes about 30 bite-sized brownies.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place a medium-sized bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.  Put the chocolate and butter into the bowl and sprinkle the espresso powder over it.  Melt it down and whisk thoroughly, then remove the bowl from the heat and add the sugars, whisking to combine – this will help bring the heat down.  When it’s cooled a bit, add the first four eggs and whisk them in, then add the last one and the vanilla.  Mix them in, but don’t beat the heck out of it – you want a fudgy final texture, not cakey.  In a separate, smaller bowl, sift the flour and cocoa together with the salt, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture, using a spoon to stir in (rather than a whisk) until there are only a couple of traces of flour remaining. 

Drop a tablespoon of batter at a time into the mini-muffin holes, then press a half of a cherry into each and pop into the oven for about 16 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then remove the brownies from the tin – if they don’t lift right out, gently lever them out with a butter knife.  Cool completely on a bakers rack, then top with the white chocolate – use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate, then either dip the brownies into the chocolate or dollop on top.

The basic part of the brownie recipe comes from Baked and can be made in a regular square pan, as well.