Pairings: Wine of the Week, Cashmere 2016 California Red Wine, shines with brownies

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In a certain way, the name of our Wine of the Week, Cashmere 2016 California Red Wine ($23) is as evocative a moniker as I’ve ever heard for a wine. The wine is lush and plush, like a cashmere sweater or your favorite socks.

The wine, made by Cline Cellars, is a blend of three Rhone varietals — mourvedre, grenache and syrah — each of which expresses itself beautifully and contributes to its overall success. There are bright notes of Queen Anne cherries, red raspberries and juicy Santa Rosa plums, with a foundation that suggests black peppercorns, sweet spices, especially allspice, clove and cardamom, and chocolate.

You’ll enjoy this wine with a panorama of fall foods, including winter squash, sturdy greens, earthy potatoes and heritage turkey. Slow-cooked stews, especially of beef, are great matches.

Although the wine has broad appeal at the table, it was chosen because it goes well with bittersweet chocolate. Today’s recipe honors that match but takes the compatibility a step further, by adding salt to brownies.

If you are one of those individuals who doesn’t care much for chocolate — I’m in that group — you’ll be amazed at what a bit of salt can do. It counters what some of us feel is a cloying quality, and it furthers the match with the wine by engaging its pretty acidity. Chocolate fans will love it, of course, but it may change a few palates, too, as it has mine. The recipe is from “The Good Cook’s Book of Salt & Pepper” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, $18.99).

Salt Brownies

Makes about 2 dozen

1 tablespoon + 6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) butter, preferably local and organic

2 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, grated or chopped

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 large eggs from pastured hens, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons best-quality unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon, or to taste, Maldon salt flakes or similar flake salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use the tablespoon of butter to coat the inside of a 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside.

Fill the bottom part of a double boiler with a couple of inches of water and set over high heat. When the water begins to simmer, reduce the heat to very low. Put the 6 ounces of butter and the grated chocolate into the top part of the double boiler and set it over the simmering water until both are melted. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Put the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them (with a whisk or electric mixer) until they are pale yellow and quite foamy. Slowly add the sugar and kosher salt; beat until creamy.

Use a rubber spatula to quickly fold in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture and the vanilla; do not overmix at this point.

Combine the flour and cocoa and fold into the chocolate mixture; again, do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish and agitate the dish slightly so that the batter settles evenly. Sprinkle the salt flakes over the batter, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center and remove it; if done, it will come out almost but not quite clean. If there is a lot of raw batter on the toothpick, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool.

Cut into squares and enjoy.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at

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