Baking & DessertDinner

By Suzanne Lehrer | June 20, 2011

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

One of my primary observations about rum is that when you bring it up, as in ‘Let’s make a rum punch!’ or ‘Who wants come over for dinner this week? I’ll be cooking with rum!’ it brings a smile to everyone’s face-and it’s no wonder.

Rum has very happy connotations: jolly pirates, tropical vacations, Captain Morgan, Captain Jack Sparrow, that time you first tried Malibu over Spring Break… But the truth is that rum has quite the sordid past, as it figured prominently into the triangular trade of slaves, rum, and sugar, amongst other goods, between the American colonies, Africa, and the slave-run Caribbean plantations. Slaves on sugar plantations were actually the first to discover that molasses could be fermented into alcohol, and it’s thought that Barbados was the birthplace of the sugary drink. Rum soon became Colonial New England’s most profitable industry, and after the American Revolution, George Washington even requested a barrel at his inauguration.

The production process of rum begins with a period of fermentation, where yeast and water are added to molasses. Much like with the nuances of winemaking, the type of yeast used to ferment the molasses has significant influence on the final taste of the product; fast-acting yeast will probably yield a mild-flavored light rum, while slower-acting yeast will most likely be used to create a fuller-flavored dark rum. Since fermentation also produces such undesirables in your beverage as ketones and methanol (poisons), rum is then distilled carefully until only the alcohol is left. The rum is then aged, in either steel casks for light rum, or oak barrels for more flavorful medium and dark rums.

In my recipes this week, I only use dark rum, which I think should be added to food more often. Why not have your rum and eat it too?

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer



Rum is seldom used in desserts, except maybe for caramelized bananas (which are delicious), or a heavy fruitcake (which is not so delicious). But why not have more fun and use rum to spice up a regular-Joe type of dessert, like brownies? The rich flavor of rum is the perfect fit with dark chocolate, and to be honest, I think regular brownies can be a little monotonous sometimes. The rum in these brownies is an unexpected surprise, turning an adolescent treat into what one of my friends called an “adult brownie.”

Everyone feels differently about what category of brownie they prefer-“fudgy,” “cakey,” “barely cooked,” etc. I would say this recipe falls squarely in between the “fudgy” and “cakey” genres, and actually became fudgier two of three days out. If a cross between “fudgy” and “cakey” is not right for you, try throwing rum into your own tried-and-true favorite brownie recipe.


This recipe is a pretty easy way to feel like you’ve been transported to the Caribbean, when in fact you are still stuck inside your Manhattan apartment on a summer weeknight with the A/C full blast. It’s also a pretty easy way to get the flavor of coconut shrimp without having to fry anything. Take your pick for motivation, but either way this recipe brought some much-needed life back into my weeknight dinner routine.

Makes 2 dinner portions

For Brownies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • 250 g dark chocolate chips (I used about 55% cacao)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. dark rum
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
For Shrimp
  • 12 large peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 tbsp. shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar


To Make Brownies

Preheat oven to 325°, and line a 13" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper. Melt butter, dark chocolate chips, and brown sugar in a pot over low-medium heat, stirring often, until melted and combined (about 5-7 minutes). In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, white sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and rum. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, pour into egg mixture and whisk in. Stir in flour and pecans until completely combined, and pour into the baking pan. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean from the middle.

To Make Shrimp

Combine rum, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and brown sugar in a bowl and whisk together before adding shrimp, and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, toast shredded coconut fro about 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring often for evenness. Grill shrimp (if you don't have a grill or grill pan, a saute pan is fine, too) for 2-3 minutes a side, pouring a few tablespoons of the marinade over the shrimp as they cook. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

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