Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Velvet Brownies Follow the Feast of the Seven Fishes

This year, my family celebrated Christmas Eve in the traditional Southern Italian way — by indulging in a Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci) at my cousins' half Jewish, half Roman Catholic house.

While the Feast of the Seven Fishes originated with seven fish dishes, our particular feast included even more types of fish and was followed up with twice as many types of desserts, including the Red Velvet Brownies and two types of Rugelach I brought.

The dessert spread, starting with my cousin's Tiramisu cake
My Christmas Eve kicked off with some early morning baking (what else!?) followed by a family stroll through the North End. My family wanted to see my apartment and have a nice Italian Seafood lunch before our nice Italian Seafood dinner, so we went to the Daily Catch, a teeny restaurant the my parents remembered as a favorite from when they lived in Boston over 17 years ago. One small room hardly bigger than most living rooms contains tables to seat 20 people, a kitchenette with enough room for one cook, and enough walking space for one waiter to maneuver around. The entire menu is written on a chalk board on the wall.

And the food was fresh and delicious!

After lunch, we got some coffee, grabbed my laundry and returned home to get ready for the evening's festivities. The Jews were the first to arrive to Mark and Valerie's house — we tend to flock to food.

After several more fish dishes (I think I counted nine), dessert was served! With over 14 variations of treats, there was something for everyone, including this little lady's self-decorated cupcakes.

My contributions included some Red Velvet Brownies topped with a White Chocolate Buttercream and two types of Rugelach. The Rugelach get their own post soon. On to the Brownies!

Red Velvet Brownies (Recipe from How Sweet It Is):
Makes one 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" pan of brownies.
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Either butter and flour an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" brownie pan OR line with parchment paper (recommended)
  • In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, red food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until a thick paste form, and set aside
  • In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy
  • Add eggs one at a time, then add remaining teaspoon of vanilla
  • With the mixer on medium speed, add in cocoa powder mixture and beat until batter is completely red
  • Add flour and salt, mixing until just combined
  • Spread batter evenly into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • Let cool completely before frosting
NOTE: I recommend lining the pan with parchment paper, because I had a very hard time, extracting the brownies from the pan. My ever helpful mom finally shook them free by turning the pan upside down and whacking it. Not recommended because:

More than a few brownies were sacrificed
However, even with the few sacrificed brownies, lost to jagged edges, I struggled to pack the brownies up in a container that could accommodate them all. In addition to the jagged brownie bits, this guy got left behind. 

Isn't it amazing how much silver sprinkles add to the festivity of the treats!?

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (adapted from How Sweet It Is):
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk if needed
  • Cream butter in an electric mixer until fluffy, then add vanilla
  • Slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on low speed
  • Add melted white chocolate and beat until incorporated
  • Add milk if needed to reach desired consistency
NOTE: I read some reviews that the original frosting was too sweet and didn't taste enough like white chocolate so I decreased the amount of powdered sugar and increased the amount of white chocolate just a touch. Still, the frosting was very sweet on its own, but complemented the brownies nicely. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some Christmas Day traditions to attend to.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Chinese food filled night!

UPATE: I've shared this post on a blog carnival. Check out the other submissions!

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