Ralph Lauren’s boozy chocolate brownies are the hit of the Hamptons

A shot of rum dresses up the beloved dessert, as made by his mother-in-law


The secret to the generous, cakey brownies is the rum glaze on top

THE Hamptons in New York’s Long Island got a lot of attention this spring. It happens. This year though, the conversation was geared less toward rental prices and more towards the pandemic and how wealthy New Yorkers were escaping to “luxury coronavirus bunkers”.

But what interests me is the food.

This year, the Ladies Village Improvement Society of East Hampton celebrates its 125th anniversary. For more than a century, the society’s members have worked hard — and, it would seem, effectively — to keep their community well maintained and appealing to both locals and visitors.

They’re marking the anniversary with a new book, “The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook: Eating and Entertaining in East Hampton”, by Florence Fabricant (Rizzoli, US$45 or RM195).

Besides some terrific vintage pictures of the women in action through the decades, there are over 100 recipes in the book, which is broken up into entertaining menus: “Lunch around the Pool”, “Breakfast for Weekend Guests” and “Feasts by the Fire”, to name a few.

Many of the recipes are contributed by recognisable names, including Ina Garten, the doyenne of the Hamptons’ culinary scene, as well as Martha Stewart, Le Bernar- din chef Eric Ripert, Butter chef and Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli and Food Network star Katie Lee.

The book features over 100 recipes, many of which contributed by famous chefs such as Ina Garten and Martha Stewart

Tucked inside the “High Season Buffet” menu is a recipe from Ricky and Ralph Lauren for decadent brownies. (The Ralph Lauren Corp founder’s home is in neighbouring Montauk, but there’s a Polo Ralph Lauren store on East Hampton’s Main Street; visitors to the town were allowed to contribute recipes.)

The recipe comes from the designer’s mother-in-law, whom he called Nana.

“Ralph loved Nana’s brownies so much that he offered to put a brownie department in his stores so he would not have to wait until his October birthday when she would make another batch for him,” says Lauren’s wife Ricky in the book. She adds that when her mother stayed with them at their oceanfront Montauk estate, she made the dessert for the family throughout the summer.

The secret to her generous, cakey brownies, besides its intense chocolate flavour, is the glaze on top, spiked with a healthy shot or two of rum. It breaks through the sweetness and lends a different kind of indulgence. It also makes it a treat specifically for adults: The glaze never gets hot enough to cook the alcohol off.

A version of the brownies, made without rum, is a bestseller at Lauren’s Polo Bar in New York, but why go that route?

These days, we deserve every indulgence we can get. And once you taste that heady alcohol glaze, you might wish he had put a brownie department in his stores after all.

Maybe, he still will, to juice the recovery. Here’s hoping.

This recipe from Ralph and Ricky Lauren is adapted from “The Ladies Village Improvement Society Cookbook”. — Bloomberg

Nanas Rum-Laced Brownies

Makes 32 Brownies Brownies

  • 1⁄2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 11⁄2 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 11⁄2 cups chopped walnuts, plus more for garnish (optional)

Rum Glaze

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp dark rum or brandy

Making the brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with butter and dust with flour.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter with the sugar over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla until mixed, but not frothy.
  5. Stir in the chocolate mixture and then the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  6. Spread in the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are set and a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let cool.

Making the rum glaze:

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat.
  2. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and salt.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and rum, and keep warm.
  4. Spread the brownies with the warm rum glaze.
  5. Cut into 2-inch square shape and decorate each with a walnut half.
  6. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.