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Sophisticated Merlot Brownies Make being a Grownup Sweet

Monday, January 01, 2007 | 06:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Remember how amazing treats tasted when you were eight?  How sweet and perfect every cookie, every cupcake was?



“Well, those days are over,” says Tammy Algood.  “Lots of things have changed since way back then, including the number of active taste buds you have and how each taste center in your mouth now experiences food.  You’re likely to be a little disappointed when you try sweets from your childhood and they seem a little too much, or just don’t taste the way you remember.”

“But don’t despair,” says Algood, a food expert.  “With age, you come to have a deeper, richer understanding of life.  You see that things are a lot more complex than when you were young.

“In the same way, adults tend to be able to appreciate tastes that are much more complex.  You can still be sent over the moon with a great dessert, just like when you were a kid— it just needs to be as complex and grownup as you.

“Merlot brownies are the perfect remedy for a palate that craves surprise along with sweet.”

Tammy Algood is the spokesperson for the statewide Pick Tennessee Products campaign, a promotion developed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to help consumers identify and choose food products grown or processed in Tennessee.  Algood develops recipes that feature Tennessee farm or processed products and highlights seasonal products that can be purchased direct from the farm or farmers market.

“The surprising element in these brownies—yes, wine—is exactly what makes the sweetness of the brownie ‘pop’ in your mouth,” says Algood.  “Merlot is a dry wine, which means it doesn’t have a sweet taste.  You’ll discern a nice grapey flavor, and it’s that flavor that will actually help you taste the sweet chocolate.”

“The sweetness of a wine is defined by the level of residual sugar in the final liquid after fermentation has ceased,” says the food expert. “However, how sweet the wine will actually taste is also controlled by acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is ‘sparkling,’ or carbonated.”

“I always tell people just to go to a local winery and talk to the vintner about the types of wines available and all the ways to serve and use it.  At a winery, you can put dry and sweet wines side by side and experience the difference in the taste.”

“There’s really no topping the educational and practical benefit of going straight to a winery to learn about wines or your own sense of taste,” says Algood, “and we’re fortunate in Tennessee to have more than 20 wineries in locations all across the state.”

“Whatever you do, don’t try to use grocery store cooking wine,” says Algood. “That would be disastrous.  Cooking wine has salt added to it so that it’s not drinkable, and that’s why our food stores are allowed to sell it.  All that salt will throw off every recipe you try.  Just use any wine you like in recipes calling for cooking wine.”

“When you make these brownies, be sure to save the rest of that bottle to share some wine and dessert with another, very special someone,” says Algood. “How sweet it is to be all grown up!”

To find a listing of local wineries or more recipes featuring Tennessee farm and processed products, visit the TDA Market Development Web site at


1 cup Tennessee Merlot
3/4 cup butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup White Lily all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 13×9-inch baking pan.  In a small saucepan, simmer wine over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Pour into a large bowl and set aside.  In top of a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate over simmering water.  Pour into wine and whisk until smooth.

In top of double boiler, whisk together sugar, eggs and vanilla over simmering water until very light and thick.  Pour into chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.  Stir in flour and ½ cup of pecans.  Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining pecans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool and cut into squares.  Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

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