My routines ebb and flow regularly. You’ve heard that saying about change being the only constant? For me, I stick firmly to habits, repeating them again and again, until one day: poof! I switch them up entirely. (There is the exception of a few daily rhythms, in which I’ve rarely wavered over the years: I always exercise in the mornings (when possible). I always shower at night before putting on pajamas and having dinner (when possible). I read a book before falling asleep. I only stretch after a run, and never before.Read More
Here is a nice way to have a nice day. First, get up and get out of bed. This is imperative to the plan—really, it just doesn’t work if you loll about reading old articles of Shouts & Murmurs on thenewyorker.com and wishing someone would bring you a plate of crispy bacon.
Okay, so you’re out of bed! Good! Well done! But that’s not going to be enough. Now listen carefully to this next part: tear through the “brush-teeth-wash-face-put-on-running-clothes-lace-up-sneakers” process. Under no circumstances are you to overthink this, or do it slowly, or put on your shoes but then instead of running shorts, try on a few nonsensical outfits like that ill-advised llama-print t-shirt you bought last spring from J.Crew with a long flowy silk skirt just to see if you can “pull off the high-low trend” (you can’t).Read More
Let’s talk about your sense of adventure. How is it these days? Thriving? While I believe each of us to have our own innate level of comfort with adventure—that can certainly fluctuate throughout the years. I think of myself as a solid 8 out of 10 on the adventurous scale, but I’ve dipped down as far as a tentative, trembling 2 at times and sometimes soared high as a fearless 14 (yes, out of 10), craving all sorts of risk, seeking hits of adrenaline in far-flung places.Read More
Last week, I spent a few days in the Florida sunshine. I returned to New York, facing down a dreary stretch of cold, rainy weather—within minutes of landing on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport, it was already hard to remember the sensation of soft, still-warm evening breeze on my skin. Of the sting of hot water hitting sunburn in the shower. Of the humidity that hangs in the air, like hot breath on you. Of palm trees and iced coffee and peeling ripe citrus poolside, the juice dripping down your fingers.Read More
Wait, I know what you’re thinking. Po, you literally just posted a brownie recipe. And you swore it was perfect! And you also mentioned about 1,000 other brownie recipes you have! You are a woman obsessed. Okay, I might have gotten that wrong. I know it’s not all about me. Maybe you’re actually thinking gosh, I’d love a grilled cheese sandwich right now or truly I wish I could leave work and go get a margarita right now. Maybe you’re worrying about your daughter or trying to remember when your next dentist appointment is or wondering if it’s appropriate to read Harry Potter in public after the age of fourteen (the answer is yes).
Mind-reading isn’t one of my many skills (I kid, I kid), but I would imagine you are a little puzzled by all this talk of brownies. Even a serious chocolate lover might question the need for not one but two recipes in the span of a week.
I’ll start by saying that “need” might be a strong verb choice here. Rather, you would benefit greatly from making this recipe—and adding it to your list of easy, memorizable baking skills.
Here’s why: these are not just any brownies. They resemble a classic brownie—the same crackly sheen on the top, the same fudgy texture, the same deep chocolate flavor. But there’s more to them. Upon first bite, one friend turned to me with his mouth full and mumbled “these are so good” and then quickly followed up with “but what is the flavor in them…cherry?” I laughed and said no, and tried to get him to guess again. He couldn’t.
That’s because the secret ingredient here—almond paste—is so subtle. It doesn’t add enough nuttiness that you can identify what it is, but it makes the brownies more nuanced and flavorful. It also helps to maintain a very fudgy texture without making the brownies too soft.
Personally, I like to underbake my brownies slightly (what can I say, I live on the edge), and the almond paste helps to add some structure to them even when underbaked. They’ll firm up as they cool, and it goes without saying that they are very good frozen. (Sorry, are you tired of me talking about frozen brownies? Too bad. Can’t stop, won’t stop.)
I should mention that I am—ahem—a little bit addicted to almond paste. I add it to everything: apple pie, chocolate chip cookie dough, and waffles. I put it in biscotti and muffins. Evidently this has not gone unnoticed—when I posted a photo of last week’s perfect fudgy brownies, someone commented saying “but no brownie version with almond paste yet…” and I thought, “MAJOR OVERSIGHT”.
This isn’t solely a flavor thing: almond paste improves the texture of so many baked goods, too. It makes cookies a little chewier, waffles more tender, and cakes more moist.
Almond Paste Brownies
Makes one dozen large brownies
1/2 cup (113g, 1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cup (340g, 12 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, divided
198g almond paste, cut into pieces
1 cup (198g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28g) cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9” x 13” pan with parchment (you can use a slightly smaller pan if you want thicker brownies; know that they’ll be even softer in that case).
In a double boiler or microwave, melt the butter with 1 cup of the chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the almond paste with the sugar and salt until the mixture is sandy. Don’t worry if there are some bigger chunks of almond paste—those are delicious.
Place the almond paste/sugar mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the eggs, beating at medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Don’t skimp on this step! It gives the batter some volume.
Fold in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.
Add the vanilla, espresso powder, flour, and cocoa powder and mix until just combined.
Stir in the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips, and pour the batter into your prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
Remove from the oven and let cool fully (if you can stand it!) before slicing and eating.