Friday, November 5, 2010
AMARETTI BROWNIES WITH AMARETTO
Good things have been happening lately, compliments paid. One French author and bread guru recently sent me a message saying “vous avez le talent pour mettre les mets en mots” ("you have the talent to put food into words"). A long-lost and newly-found old high school friend and undoubtedly grade school crush with whom I have been chatting on Facebook lately said to me “you are funny!” and then he continued to wonder if I had been this funny in high school. And then a great friend of mine, a masterful writer, e-mailed me exclaiming “your sh*t is good!” Ah, blunt and to the point as always. But it made me feel good.
Sometimes we all need to hear kind words, be showered with compliments and praise. Especially in rough and tumble days like we are living through now. Demonstrators take to the streets in both of my countries, ranting and railing against something I am not quite sure that they understand. France, as always, comes to a brief but effective standstill while Americans vote against their best interests. Or sometimes the jabs come low and personal, sharp, jagged pains best left ignored yet we all love to rub salt into our own wounds and feel just a little bit sorry for ourselves, don’t we? Our blog brings us down, self-doubt rushes over us, others seem to pass us by in leaps and bounds. Our insecurities rub like sandpaper, taking away every shred of confidence we have succeeded in gathering together in our silk-covered world. Or we worry over the kids or the husband comes home from work with his Sir Grumpiness of Crabby Kingdom crown perched atop his weary head. Life is good but sometimes…well, not so good.
And the rain and the sunshine play a game of hide and seek, making promises as a fickle lover does, teasing with gorgeous golden days of warmth and light only to dash our expectations to the ground as we are pulled once again into a dismal, dreary, depressing, gray embrace. We keep our spirits up as best we can, treating ourselves out to a restaurant, allowing ourselves to be pampered and waited upon, smiling up at le serveur with our most engaging smile, indulging ourselves in a little dessert and we lift our wine glasses in a toast to ourselves and our own fortitude in trying times.
Weekend mornings, more often than not, are now spent in bed, those lovely, delicious grasses matinées, snuggled down under the covers as if hiding from the big bad world, just the two of us, giggling and sharing secrets. The forest and the vineyards, our other-worldly havens of peace and tranquility, our escape from the real world of a morning, are inundated with hunters who seem to be lurking behind every clump of trees; nowhere is safe. And even if the ring of distant gunshots doesn’t keep us away, the days upon days of rain has turned the forest floor into puddles and our morning would be spent slogging ankle-deep in mud, wet leaves clinging to our boots and pant legs. So we slide down just a little deeper under the blankets and while away the best of the morning before facing the world. Do we complain? No, not a bit. Well, maybe just a bit. But we slog on as if knee-deep in mud and make a game of it all, laughing at what we don’t have, dreaming of greatness. Or getting away from it all. I write and husband writes, I bake and husband tinkers around in the garage, I warm up the coffee and he flips on the tv and we watch the world flit by on the screen, demonstrations and hurricanes, upheavals both natural and political, scandal, reality shows and silly bloopers, people just making idiots of themselves for all the world to see. But sometimes we see heroes and great things happen, sometimes we enjoy warm days and good news, and sometimes, just sometimes, we smile and sit back and allow ourselves to be swept away into our dreams.
So, yes, we all need comfort and compliments, a little tea and sympathy. Kind words and a pat on the back. And something easy and soothing to eat, just a tad luxurious to make ourselves feel pampered. Slide a slice onto a plate, pour a glass of deep, rich red or a warming glass of Amaretto and place the plate and the glass down carefully along the edge of the tub and glide down into the bubbles, hot and steamy, turn the lights down low, just a glimmer of moonlight flashing off of the mirror, close your eyes and take a nibble on a very adult brownie. A subtle hint of almonds, the warmth of Amaretto, a lightness that melts on the tongue, a deep, intense chocolate flavor. Savor something rich and decadent, something earthy, indulgent and, yes, sexy. Just for us.
AMARETTI BROWNIES WITH AMARETTO
Adapted from a recipe in Brownies by Linda Burum
These luscious, smooth, creamy brownies are a delightful change from regular brownies. Rich in flavor, dense and moist, these squares are light and airy and elegant thanks to the whipped egg whites. The top will be crispy, crackling away to reveal the dense, super moist interior with that wonderful hint of almonds. Simply gorgeous!
3.5 oz (100 g) or more crunchy Amaretti cookies, ground to make 2/3 cup measure
5 oz (140 g) good-quality semisweet chocolate*
2/3 cup (150 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar
4 large eggs, separated and left to come to room temperature
1/3 cup (45 g) flour (lightly spooned into measuring cup and leveled)
1 ½ Tbs Amaretto
2 – 3 Tbs slivered almonds for the top
* I used Lindt Excellent Dark Chocolate with Grilled Almonds because not only is it a mellower semisweet chocolate, less bitter than the 70% dessert chocolate I usually bake with, but also to add more almond flavor.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175/180°C). Butter a 9 x 9-inch (22-cm square) square baking pan.
Grind the amaretti cookies to a powder using a robot mixer and then measure out 2/3 cup (about 100 g).
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl or pan over simmering water, stirring constantly as it melts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Place the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl with a few grains of salt and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter with the sugar until smooth, creamy and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating in each until combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat until smooth and blended. Beat in the Amaretto. Beat in the flour, then the crushed amaretti cookies.
Using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites for 30 seconds on low speed then increase to high speed and beat until soft peaks hold. Gently yet firmly fold the whites into the chocolate batter, a third at a time, until well blended, no white chunks are visible and the batter is smooth. Scrape into the prepared baking pan and smooth. Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top.
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the top is puffed, a dull brown color and set. Be careful that the top doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.