Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ESPRESSO BROWNIES WITH SPIKED RICOTTA SWIRL

BROWNIEPALOOZA AND THE PRODIGAL SON RETURNS


My eyes snap open as the remnants of dreams evaporate like dust in the darkness. I am wide awake much too early and as I lie in the warmth of my bed in the obscurity I am suddenly aware of the eerie calm and I realize how this city sleeps alongside of us, still snuggled up in a star-studded haze at six a.m. No trucks rumble through the streets, no gaggles of teens chattering like magpies clatter across the cobblestones on their way to school, no voyagers scurry across the square on their way to the train station. All the city seems to be asleep. Or else tiptoeing on velvet slippers so as not to wake my still slumbering men.

And I smile to myself as I realize that we are a family again, all tidily tucked up asleep under one roof, the four of us, and it comforts me. Simon arrived home yesterday from New Orleans, tall and lanky, face brushed by sideburns, with nothing more than a backpack strapped to his twenty-year-old back for his 3-week stay. Nonchalant and casual as always, he gives us each a hug, wrestles with Marty until his embarrassment and the sudden blush of redness on his cheeks dissipate, then he slides right into the household as if he has never left. Clem, on the other hand, shows an excitement that he rarely allows to bubble to the surface and he tumbles out of his bedroom office to giddily greet his little brother, proffering his hand and prattling on and on a mile a minute, verily gushing over his sibling, his face glowing with happiness. Stranger things have yet to be seen.

But as Simon collapsed into bed and passed out from exhaustion from the long journey, the house was all a-bustle with activity. Friends we haven’t seen for two years came for lunch, arriving a short time after Simon disappeared into his bedroom. Their own son, one of Simon’s closest friends, trailed in after them, even taller, lankier and more nonchalant than ours. We began catching up over bowls of olives, marinated artichokes and spicy accras as poor Léo, all alone without Simon, stared off into the distance, wondering why he had bothered coming. But miracles do happen, and it soon came out that he, like Clem, was now studying architecture, so instead of heading back home he was speedily welcomed into the conclave of young dudes in the back room, architectural students all. Finding common ground, they chattered and laughed happily among themselves.


And thanks to JP, lunch was a success. Normally, for some strange reason, some uncontrollable urge takes over whenever I know that guests are coming for a meal. I comb through cookbooks and invariably put together an impossible menu comprised solely of dishes that I have never made before, all time-consuming and last minute. I, of course, end up panicking, rushing and ruining everything. And twist myself into a bad mood on top of it all. This time, JP and I sat down ahead of time and planned the menu together from beginning to end. No home-baked bread, no first course, just a fabulous, flavorful oven-baked chicken that was placed in a marinade the night before and only had to be breaded and tossed into the oven with an armful of fingerling potatoes right before the guests arrived. Dessert was my luscious Lemon Charlotte, also prepared a day or two ahead of time. JP ran out first thing Sunday morning (as I did the final leg of house clean up) and bought bakery bread and an array of nibblies for l’apératif. And wine. Smooth sailing, indeed.

Rarely has our home been so alive! The four “grown ups” in the diningroom, the four architecture students in the kitchen; the food was delicious and abundant, enough for everyone to enjoy this hearty lunch. The noise of talking rose above the clatter of knives and forks, laughter resonated from room to room. At one point Raymond, our friend, intrigued by the animated conversation, the vivacity coming from the kitchen, sidled up to the doorway, finger pressed to his lips, to listen in, wondering that his son could so easily slide into the bonhomie of the group. He soon disappeared completely only to be discovered a few minutes later with the guys, hobnobbing congenially with the young dudes. I pulled out the tray of Lemon Charlottes from the refrigerator amid the brouhaha, the stacks of plates, empty serving dishes and restless bodies and began divvying out the goods to a roomful of ooohs and ahhhs. And dessert was served and savored. And in no time at all, the young men hustled back to the computer room (overheated and wreaking of young men, if I may say so) leaving the adults alone in a quiet space and me facing an impressive amount of cleaning up to do.


And where do these brownies fit in? Rich and decadent, I have been forgoing baking brownies since Simon went away as husband and I have been avoiding these calorie-laden goodies and Clem’s friends clamor for my macarons. But somehow or other I’ve been bitten by a peculiar craving and have pulled my cookbook of Brownies by Linda Burum off the shelf and have gone on a Browniepalooza. And no ordinary brownies will do, no siree! I began by baking Amaretto-infused Amaretti Brownies made special by the addition of ground Italian amaretti cookies and folding in light and airy whipped egg whites, which lend a meltingly smooth, ethereal quality to a super moist, chocolate-rich confection. Adult indeed; this is as comforting as it gets! Elegant and sophisticated, the Amaretti Brownies with Amaretto would feel right at home at any dinner party. I then selected another amazing Brownie, a dense, chewy espresso and Amaretto brownie with a rum and Amaretto-spiked ricotta cheesecake swirl.

Absolutely fabulous, this crowd pleaser pleased them all! I asked the young dudes to taste and give me their honest opinions before posting on my blog. The pan rapidly disappeared only to turn up, half empty, in the back bedroom cum office where they gather. Fingers were licked, smiles spread across young faces and the brownies were pronounced absolutely delicious. I grabbed the pan and scarpered with whatever was left to serve with coffee after lunch. Which I did. Flavorful and elegant yet scrumptious and satisfying, these brownies are a riot of flavors, the heady scent of rum and Amaretto, the kiss of cinnamon, chocolate touched by the earthiness of coffee, the sweet lightness of ricotta cheese, all melding together into a mellow yet astonishing luxuriously fragrant brownie.


As all good times must come to an end, this party finally did as well. And as I find myself standing before a sinkful of dishes, humming and smiling to myself, I am thankful for the family and the friends that I have, and I find that I don’t mind the washing up as I usually do. My frazzled, bleary son straggles into the kitchen and plops down beside me in a jet-lagged haze and starts to chat and as we nibble on the last chunks of brownie sitting among the crumbs on the plate I find that life can actually turn out to be pretty darn good.


The good news is: our first From Plate to Page Workshop is sold out. The other good news is that you can already register your interest for the second From Plate to Page Workshop provisionally scheduled for Autumn 2011 in Italy. We are blown away by the excitement and interest this workshop has generated and thank you all for your support!


I will be hosting Magazine Monday on November 15 for Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and I am very excited! To participate, you simply need to find a recipe in one of your many magazines you have spread around the house, cook or bake that recipe and then post it on your blog. Send an e-mail to either me or Ivonne (see how to here) with your name, blog name and blog url, the url of the link to your Magazine Mondays post, the title of the recipe and the magazine the recipe is from before November 15, the day I will be posting the round up!


ESPRESSO BROWNIES with SPIKED RICOTTA SWIRL
Adapted from Brownies by Linda Burum


Rum-Amaretto Ricotta Filling:

1 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese
2 tsps rum *
1 tsp Amaretto or brandy *
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
1 large egg
4 tsps cornstarch

* the alcohol may be replaced with 1 tsp vanilla extract and ½ to 1 tsp almond extract to taste.

Place the ricotta in a wire strainer over a bowl and allow to drain for one hour. Skipping this step may add that extra liquid to the mix and create a soggy brownie.

Remove the ricotta from the strainer and place in a medium bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer only until smooth. Don’t worry if there remain “crumbs” of ricotta.

Espresso Brownies:

Rum-Amaretto Ricotta Filling
5 oz (150 g) good quality semisweet chocolate (I used a dark, slightly bitter dessert chocolate 70%)
6 Tbs (90 g) unsalted butter
¾ cup (95 g) flour, spooned lightly in a measuring cup and leveled
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
2 tsps Amaretto or brandy *
2 tsps dry instant espresso powder

* the alcohol may be replaced by 1 tsp almond extract

Once the ricotta has drained for one hour and the Rum-Amaretto Ricotta Filling has been prepared, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter an 8-inch (21-cm) square brownie pan.


Cut the butter into about 4 large chunks and coarsely chop the chocolate. Place the butter and chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Place the pan over very low heat and, stirring, melt the two together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from the heat and continue to stir the mixture vigorously until completely melted, only returning the pan briefly to the heat if the remaining chocolate doesn’t melt. The mixture should be completely smooth and creamy. Allow to cool.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and whisk or stir to combine.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer until light and thickened. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then beat in the Amaretto and espresso powder. Beat in the melted chocolate-butter mixture gradually and then finally beat in the dry ingredients.

Pour 2/3 of the Espresso Brownie batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Pour the Rum-Amaretto Ricotta mixture evenly over the Espresso Brownie batter in the pan. Pour the remaining Espresso Brownie mixture over the Rum-Amaretto Ricotta mixture and very gently and carefully try and spread it out just so it isn’t clumped up. The brownie mixture is much thicker and firmer than the ricotta mixture so be gentle so as not to mix the two together. Now marble the brownies by cutting through the batter with a sharp knife quickly from side to side adding a large zig-zag in the other direction.


Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes or until puffed (the top may be a little cracked in places) and just set. A tester inserted halfway between the center and the edge will come out clean. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours then cover with aluminum foil and allow to set ideally overnight or at least for several hours to allow the flavors to mellow.


57 comments:

Miriam said...

Lovely post and I'm glad your workshop is sold out! How could you possible doubt it? Now I can think ahead and try to attend next autumn, though it seems soooo far away...

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

Hey!!
I use this brownie recipe all the time and so glad that u use dark choc, that exactly what i do. Now I see why I like ya so much.This is so adorable!

Such a great write up Jamie, so glad that you are having your time. Makes me miss my home back in India. Great food, friends and family, what more can one ask in life?

Oh and I also like ya so, 'cause that was exactly my problem when I had guests. Trying to do too much and new recipes, panic, irritation. Gradually I have found to calm down, get to recipes that are easier and not trying to do everything.

Heather Davis said...

Jamie

A few things:

1) So excited for you that your workshop is sold out! You ladies rock. Keep me up to date on the Autumn one in Italy. I can only hope..
2) I was right there with you in your kitchen, seeing your son arrive, eating with you and your friends. Life is good in these moments. Thanks for sharing that.
and finally,
3) these brownies look amazing!
Love Hx

Peter M said...

I do love the marbled look of the Brownies. DO you accept delivery orders|?

Jamie said...

@Peter M: I would if I knew they'd enjoy the trip! How about you sending me a plane ticket and I'll come to Toronto and bake them for you. In exchange for some of your amazing Greek food?

@Miriam: I wold love to see you at one of our workshops! Would love to work meet you!

@Kulsum and Heather: Thanks for the love ladies and sending the love back! xo

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

These look swirly wonderful, you must be delighted to have Simon back even if it's only for a short time. Fabulous to hear that P2P has sold out so quick. Can't wait to see you in a couple of weeks. xx

Jamie said...

@Sarah: I know! I am so excited to be seeing you so soon!

Nuts about food said...

It must feel great to have both boys home with you! I am sure that, alongside the great food, wine and company, knowing your youngest was sleeping in the other room made it a great party.

Jamie said...

@Nuts about food: Absolutely! Knowing he was close and I could once again take care of him and know he was safe - even at 20! - is wonderful!

Nina Timm said...

Oooh, I love that all-of-us-under-one-roof-feeling!!! I dread the day my children have to leave home!! The brownies are a delight, yum!!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very rich and decandent, indeed! Those Brownies are divlishly deliciouzs looking. *drool*

Cheers,

Rosa

shaz said...

That is one awesome brownie! So happy to hear that your baby boy is home. Lol - I used to get stressed about the food when friends came over too, preparing first time dishes and underestimating the time it would take! Nowadays I do exactly as you did, cook a few essential things to share, and some shopping at a good deli to spread it out .

SMITH BITES said...

Having family under one roof is a comforting feeling - I think this is why I love the holidays so much because family always stay with us. And we all get in the kitchen and cook, and eat, and laugh, and love . . . happy sigh . . .

My family will be all over these brownies and in fact, I predict an empty pan and many smiling faces!

Congrats on a sold out workshop Jamie!

TKW said...

You had me at "rum-amaretto swirl." Congrats on the workshop and sign me up for Browniepalooza!

MeetaK said...

it's raining brownies here!but i am liking these a lot!! so glad that simon is there again - reuniting the family. i giggled at your mail this morning though ;o) i think you need to bring a batch of these to london in 2 weeks!

Debugcooking said...

You amaze me...how did you manage to whip these beauties while planning P2P? I will definitely be making these for dinner party this sat..Cant wait to catch up in Weimar ;-)

Pavithra said...

Wow wonderful brownies.. they looks absolutely gorgeous and moist.. This is so adorable with the Ricotta.. Beautiful.

Cathy said...

Decadent is truly the right description for these luscious brownies. There's nothing more wonderful than having the whole family together under one roof.

LaDue & Crew said...

Its 6:30 a.m., dark, and so quiet in this house. As soon as I saw the photos of these I let out a big "Oooooh"... lol... Fab, Jaime, simply fab!

Marisa said...

I'm assuming that eating the spiked ricotta mix with a spoon would be frowned upon...

Heavenly Housewife said...

Soooooo pretty, and what delicious flavors. This should make your son stay home for a while.
Congrats on the success of your workshop daaaahling, though I cant say I'm surprised, you are a star!
*kisses* HH

Jan said...

Oh my! These look incredible! I love the ricotta swirl (then again, who wouldn't?)! Wow!

Eliana said...

These brownies look amazing! And I love that they are so jammed packed with such incredible flavor.

Asha @ FSK said...

love the ricotta swirl!! gives the decadent look of cheesecake swirl but without the guilt.. lOL..

Congrats on the sold out workshop.. :)

Sue said...

Isn't it always so nice to have the kids home! :) I would LOVE to go to Italy next year!
Your brownies look so beautiful and fudgy!

RamblingTart said...

Ohhh, I'm SO glad all your men are home with you! At least for a little while. :-) What a splendid meal you made. Hooray for supportive JP!!! :-) I hope you have a fabulous time with your son while he's home. :-)

asiangrrl said...

Ah, Jamie. Lovely story as usual, and the brownies look to die for!

Sugar Daze said...

wow these look so so so good! think i may have to whip a batch for my monday night book club! ;)

Ananda Rajashekar said...

i could gulp few of those without any guilt, how beautiful thy look, love the swirl decadent!

Lana said...

I enjoyed reading your story. It made me a little nostalgic, because my eldest is gone to college, and every time she comes back home is an emotional roller-coaster.
I don't know why I have not found your blog earlier. But now I have something to look forward to - reading from the beginning and getting to know you:)

Rubo said...

This is the first post you've ever written where the part about dinner sounds like me! I remember the first time I ever made Profiteroles from your recipe and they were a disaster! lol! I lied and said they were zombie e'clairs .... it worked. This is the US after all. Lovely post and my heart sings for you to have everyone under the same roof. When that happens here, I get up in the middle of the night and go to each room just to hear them all breathing. True story.

But brownies ... now you are speaking my husband's language! So I'm forking this recipe over to him! :)

Anh said...

Lovely post! I have never come across ricotta in brownie. Wanna try now :D.

Sara said...

I definitely want to join you on your Autumn in Italy workshop!!! Can you teach me how to make these brownies too!!! :-))

tasteofbeirut said...

Jamie
I realized reading you I have not kept up with the wokshop but am glad you are meeting such interest for it and are sold out! love these brownies, I actually made some this weekend with ricotta but they did not turn out as well as these; now I hav a better recipe to follow~

Barbara Bakes said...

How great to have your son home! Sounds like a wonderful homecoming. I could go for one of your fabulous brownies right now!

Jamie said...

@Lana: Welcome! Welcome! And when I write my blog posts I always hope that I can stir something up, touch a deep place inside that we all share and get people thinking and sharing. Thanks for your visit and I look forward to seeing more of you!

5am Foodie said...

A lovely read as always, Jamie. I find I have to set aside time to go through your posts - I don't want to hurry through them, I want to really read and enjoy them. Hence it's 7:10am, the kids are still asleep, I'm curled up in bed with a cup of tea and enjoying your words. As for brownies, as a fellow North American they are part of my DNA. With Christmas coming its time for this year's inaugural batch of orange, chili & spice brownies.

crustabakes said...

what a heartwarming story! i totally enjoyed it. :) and the brownies look delectable!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

This is why I love your site. I felt like I was a visitor in your house watching this all unfold :D Oh and delicious looking brownies!

Cake Duchess said...

Jamie-I am thrilled your workshop soldout! I wish I could be there. I love brownies and these look fabulous! What a great treat for your sweet son to have. Great story:)I want to do the Magazine Monday!:)xx

Sanjeeta kk said...

The brownies look delicious. Love the swirls in it. Excellent color.

lisaiscooking said...

I'm slowly but surely learning to stick to tried and true recipes when we have guests! Of course, I'm always tempted to make too much and try just one (or two) new things. And, for brownies, these are just what I like. Lots of added flavor with the espresso, amaretto, and ricotta. They look like winners!

Su-yin said...

Love the twist you've put on these brownies, am not surprised the boys loved them!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

OMG< booze, chocolate AND coffee in one gooey, chewy package?! You had me at hello. And I feel as if I was part of the genesis somehow as we were chatting while you were baking these :) Gorgeous!

catty said...

I love the start of this story, about Simon coming home :) Your brownies dont look half bad either!

gastroanthropologist said...

I love having a house full of people - so fun! And brownies, oh dear, my Achilles heal, and swirled with ricotta to boot. We have tentative plans for a trip to Korea this summer to introduce Grandpa to his newest great grandson so unfortunately I'll have to skip out on Italy too. See you soon!

Deeba PAB said...

Browniepalooza... I'm loving it sistah! Welcome back Simon, and I can feel the virtual excitement sending waves on our shores! What a beautiful post Jamie, and now that the sis has brought me some espresso, I can see me making these sometime soon. Glad dinner was good, and also glad the workshop is sold out. Will be there one day, nibbling store brought bread and oven baked colourful chicken, sipping wine & chatting non stop...I will! Wishes, wishes, wishes... tanti baci bella!

Cherine said...

Those brownies are wonderful!! A fabulous treat!

Chef Bee said...

This brownie looks amazing. I'm a sucker for brownies and usually eat most of the batch.

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Chow and Chatter said...

lovely post so pleased your boys are back home enjoy :-) and wow great brownies

Mary said...

Jamie, you've outdone yourself again. The brownies look fabulous and I can imagine hoe delicious they must be to eat.

It sounds as though your life is moving perfectly along. Congratulations on the workshop. I know you'll do a super job. Enjoy the gaggle now at home. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

Really, I loved reading this. You've again taken us into your home and it just feels so nice in here. I'm so glad to have found another dinner-party-stresser, as bad as that is for us both! I need to learn to just chill out when having friends around. I am sure treating myself to brownies would probably help this, though I guess there is the chance it would just send me into a sugared up frenzy ;)

Irishgirl said...

Jamie,
I have just spent a wonderful hour or so reading your blog. You seem to have made a great success of it and I'm delighted to hear that your workshop is sold out!

You also made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions.

If you get a chance, PM me at the mudflats...I lost your phone number. I would love to ring you one morning in the midst of one your manic cooking episodes. lol

I thought of you today as I opened a cookbook and discovered your recipe for cheddar mustard muffins. I think I made them before a France vs Ireland rugby match.

Much love to you and JP, Clem and Simon.

Irishgirl

Susan: My Food Obsession said...

OMG! I have to make these instantly!! They look just delicious.

Chef Dennis said...

These are truly amazing brownies!! So glad to have found your blog! Thanks for such a great post!
Dennis

azélias kitchen said...

Make some brownies yesterday with salted caramel and they looked just like these with the swirls.

I need to re-work the recipe slightly with changing tin size but it will be fun making another batch...

Good looking brownies.

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