Makes:9 to 12 |
Prep Time:20 minutes |
Cook Time:30 minutes
Today is “giving Tuesday” and while the idea is to give to charities to offset the consumerist gorging of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’m thinking about gifts I can give from my kitchen this year. I’ll make sugarplums for my father (more on those soon), and maybe lemon-rosemary salt. One year I bottled homemade vanilla for everyone. But the recipe that popped out at me this year is Viola’s brownies made with Baci — you know, those Italian foil-wrapped kisses that come in a blue box and have a multi-lingual love note in each one. I could go on and on about my love of Baci, how they come from Perugia where I once had a handsome Italian boyfriend, how I ate a whole box of them while sitting on the piazza (literally on the ground) in Siena when I was 18 and falling in love with Italy. But giving is supposed to be about the recipient and not about me, so onwards.
To make these, you grind up the candies in the processor then fold them into a cocoa batter that bakes up cakey and not overly sweet. These brownies keep well; in fact, they got better as the days went by, stored in the fridge. So cut them up and put them in a tin and tell your recipient to savor them one by one, maybe with a cup of tea, like I did. Or do that yourself. And if you want to learn how to make more gifts from the kitchen, check out my friend Diane Morgan’s online class on the topic on Craftsy (which is a great site if you haven’t seen it).
Note: You can get Baci in some upscale groceries, at Cost Plus World Market or online and in lots of Italian markets everywhere.
15 Baci candies
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. (The best way to do this is to use 2 pieces: tear off each sheet long enough to cover the bottom of the dish and hang over the sides by a few inches. Lay one piece along the bottom of the pan in one direction then lay the other crosswise to it. Fold each sheet so it matches the width of the bottom of the pan if you want perfect corners.)
Unwrap the Baci, making sure to read every single love note (as Viola advises). In a food processor, finely chop the Baci. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and cocoa together then add the salt.
Slice the butter into tablespoons and divide between two small glass bowls or measuring cups. Melt half the butter in the microwave then pour it over the other half and stir to melt everything. You want a creamy-looking butter, with a few white specks, that has cooled to room temperature.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl with electric beaters), beat the eggs and sugar on high until they are pale yellow and have thickened considerably, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the melted butter and flour-cocoa mixture alternately in thirds. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped Baci then spread the batter in the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 30 minutes until just set; do not overbake or brownies will dry out. Let cool in pan on a rack, then cut into 9 to 12 squares and dust with powdered sugar to serve.