02 June 2015

White Chocolate Almond Brownies


Summer Love...

I once had a recipe for the perfect summer dessert bar: White Chocolate Brownies. I found it in an issue of Southern Living Magazine. The photo was luscious 80’s elegance, a stack of pale squarely sliced bars drizzled with a grid of dark chocolate and arranged on a red plate. They looked picnic ready and utterly delectable. I swooned and clipped the page.

That recipe called for a white chocolate candy bar with almonds. Though the brand name wasn’t mentioned the only readily available option at that time was Nestle’s Alpine White with Almonds, a creamy white candy bar with a quick smooth melt and just the right amount of almonds to add chewy resistance and balance the white chocolate sweetness. Though I wasn’t always a huge fan of white chocolate that candy bar was one of my favorites.

I made those moist and delicious Alpine White brownies again and again that summer. I loved the subtle depth of flavor, the moist and chewy texture, the refined appearance. I made them occasionally afterward but, unfortunately, I saw that Alpine White bar less and less after that summer until it disappeared from store shelves altogether. In its place I tried several other varieties of white chocolate candy bars but they were never the same. Though I hung onto that clipping I eventually gave up on finding a suitable replacement and the recipe got buried in my files.


...Rekindled

Recently, on a warm afternoon, I rummaged through my pantry. In a small glass mason jar I found a handful of sliced almonds. I tasted them for freshness and found that they had a nice al dente texture in the afternoon heat, resistant but yielding with a mild nutty flavor. Then I found a half used bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I shook a few morsels from the bag and was surprised by the way the heat of the afternoon enhanced the smooth melt of those chips on my tongue. They were creamy and sweet, with a nice hint of vanilla. The combination of almonds and white chocolate took me back to that long gone Alpine White candy bar and those White Chocolate Brownies of summers past. Then I wondered why I hadn’t tried to simply concoct my own balance of white chocolate and almonds long ago, instead of depending on the capricious availability of a particular candy bar to make the perfect white chocolate brownies.

I dug out that old magazine clipping and made a few changes to the original recipe. I now melt some white chocolate chips with the butter to mix into the batter along with a restrained quantity of sliced almonds. A little almond and vanilla extract adds flavor and balance. A hint of dark chocolate, drizzled in the same spare grid pattern as in the original recipe’s photo, adds shape and definition to the subtle chocolate character of these ivory bars.

I like the result. These White Chocolate Almond Brownies seem to taste every bit as good as those Alpine White bars of so many sweet summers ago. Tasting these brownies I can see them joining me for picnics, barbecues, al fresco dinners or a tall glass of lemonade or tea on a hot summer afternoon. There we can quietly reminisce about bygones while embracing new friends and sharing something sweet with the next generation.


White Chocolate Almond Brownies
Adapted from a recipe in an old issue of Southern Living magazine

5.5 ounces white chocolate chips
¼ cup butter
1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup sliced almonds

1 ounce semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine white chips and butter in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl over hot, not boiling, water. Stir and watch carefully until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the eggs until thick and lemon colored (about 3-5 minutes.)

Gradually add the sugar as you continue beating. Add the vanilla and almond extract, beating until well combined.

Stir in the flour mixture. Add the white chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in the sliced almonds.

Spread the batter in a greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rake.

Melt the semisweet chocolate chips in the microwave or in a small bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the cooled brownies. Chill the brownies until the chocolate sets. Cut into squares.

Enjoy!