Sometime, more than thirty years ago, after I got my first food processor, I made a brownie I called 15-Minute Magic, and I’ve been noodling with the recipe ever since. Every time I do something to it, it’s great. The basic recipe (which is gluten-free, a term that wasn’t in the daily lexicon three decades ago) is a mix of almonds, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate and amaretti cookies, crackly puffs imported from Italy that manage to bundle the maximum amount of almond flavor into their dainty, featherlight shells. The ingredients are whirred and baked. That’s it. And whether I bake the brownies as a cake or a torte, or I serve it plain or glazed or buried under cream, jubilation ensues. That’s the reason I think of these as my lucky charm. When I decided to spice things up a bit and to dust the glaze with crushed amaretti, they quickly became another member of the magical 15-Minute Jubilation Family.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper and dust the pan with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.
To make the brownies: Toss the almonds, amaretti, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt into a food processor and pulse and process in short spurts until the almonds and cookies are finely ground. Add the butter and eggs and process, scraping the bowl occasionally, for 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light and homogeneous. Add the melted chocolate a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process for a few seconds to give everything a last go-round, then scrape the bowl and pour the batter into the pan. Rap the pan against the counter a few times to burst the biggest bubbles in the batter — stand back to avoid getting showered with errant cocoa powder.
Bake the brownies for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out streaky. If the top erupts in a couple of places — it happens — use a pancake turner to gently press the domes down as best as you can. Transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes.
Run a table knife between the sides of the pan and the brownies. Turn the brownies out onto the rack, peel away the paper, invert onto another rack and cool to room temperature.
When you’re ready to glaze the brownies, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place the rack with the brownies over it.
To make the glaze: Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream, sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, or do this in the microwave. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until you have a smooth, glossy glaze.
Pour the glaze over the brownies and use a long offset icing spatula to spread it evenly over the top. Sprinkle the crushed amaretti over the glaze. Refrigerate the brownies for at least 30 minutes to set the glaze (it will set but never harden).
When you’re ready to serve, transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut into 16 pieces. If you’re not going to serve all the brownies at once, it’s best to cut bars as you need them.
A word on the amaretti: The most famous of these cookies is the brand Lazzaroni Amaretti di Saronno. Lazzaroni amaretti come in a distinctive red-and-white box or tin, and the cookies are wrapped in colored tissue paper. Each paper holds two dome-shaped cookies, and I refer to them as double amaretti. There are many other brands available, though, and, in the thirty years that I’ve made these, I think I’ve probably used all of them, and I’ve had success with them all.
Called a “culinary guru” by the New York Times and inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, Dorie Greenspan is the author of 13 cookbooks, her latest is Everyday Dorie. Some of her other bestselling cookbooks include Dorie's Cookies, Baking Chez Moi, Around My French Table and Baking From My Home to Yours.