Top Pick Of The Week

August 15, 2006

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On top, Celesola, macadamia nuts with pineapple chunks soaked in Bacardi Gold. On the bottom, Donamato, walnuts and plum soaked in Kahlúa Especial. Photo by Melody Lan.
WHAT IT IS: Elegant, fudgy “brownies for adults.”
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Four flavors with different liqueur-soaked fruits and nuts—plus a plain version that deserves equal attention.
WHY WE LOVE IT: In the ubiquitous designer brownie market, these brownies have layers of flavor and are exciting and sophisticated enough to be dessert at the end of a fancy dinner.

Dolcielo Brownies:
Sweet Heaven

Regrettably, the founders of Dolcielo decided to pursue other interests and ceased operations in mid-2008. If you are interested in acquiring the assets and continuing to produce these exceptional brownies, write to


CAPSULE REPORT: Not just another line of fudgy brownies, Dolcielo’s flavors are chock-full of liqueur-marinated fruit and nuts. They’re baked with a European sensibility: if Italians made brownies, they would make these. Although there are lots of big flavors, they all balance to perfection; and while they are melt-in-your-mouth fudgy, they are not too sweet. In fact, while we knew from the first bite that they were good, we ate a few before we realized exactly how special they are. It’s an achievement to combine all those ingredients without being too rich, sweet or heavy.

Their creator calls Dolcielo “brownies for adults,” but we’d take that one step further: they’re brownies for adults with sophisticated palates. Read the full review below.

  • For reviews of more of our favorite cookies and brownies, click here.
  • For the table of contents of the August issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles, click here.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on, in chronological order and by product category.

Bake Your Own Brownies

Brownie Points Ultimate Brownie Book Brownies To Die For
Brownie Points: Over 100 Outrageously Delicious and Easy Variations on North America’s Favorite Dessert, by Lisa Slater. Tested and proven, easy-to-make recipes for every imaginable kind of brownie delicacy, including muffins, cupcakes and cheesecakes. There are sugar-free and gluten-free recipes too, along with detailed discussions of baking methods and equipment. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Ultimate Brownie Book: Thousands of Ways to Make America’s Favorite Treat, by Bruce Weinstein. Each recipe comes with a large number of suggested variations, both subtle and flavor-forward (toasted pepitas and chopped dried prunes in banana brownies, for instance). Some variations, such as Mexican Chocolate Brownies, are au courant, while Chile Brownies and Sweet Corn Brownies are cutting-edge. Click here for more information or to purchase. Brownies to Die For!, by Bev Shaffer. This collection of recipes ranges from cakey to fudgy, from plain to fruit-laden, from unadorned to frosted, from coffee and liquor-spiked to creamy white chocolate brownies. There’s one that goes back to the roots of chocolate, spiked with chili powder. If you die from eating too many brownies, you’ll die happy. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Dolcielo Brownies: Sweet Heaven



There are hundreds and hundreds of brownie recipes and dozens of well-regarded gourmet brownies, available online at a click. If you want to get noticed, you have to do something different—and Dolcielo founder Nanette Littlestone has. Her “brownies for adults” are for sophisticated palates, and the sophisticated palates at THE NIBBLE™ think they are very special. If we have one nit to pick, it’s that some Italian studies are required to pronounce the name of the company and the individual flavors. We’ll do our best to help. Dolcielo is a coined word for “sweet heaven,” from the Italian dolce meaning sweet and cielo meaning heaven. It’s pronounced dole-CHAY-lo (sounds like J-Lo).


Italians are among the greatest cooks in the world; and while buttery chocolate desserts are not part of their classic repertoire, we venture that they would consider these brownies perfetto. The Dolcielo concept is bittersweet chocolate brownies (Littlestone uses Guittard 70% couverture) with a dried fruit soaked in a liqueur or liquor and paired with a nut. No expense is spared: from the chocolate to the generous amount of top-quality fruits, nuts and liqueurs, these brownies are packed. They are the fudgy style of brownie: your teeth sink right in, and they melt in your mouth.

A word about the liqueurs and liquors in the recipes: some of the alcohols are extremely subtle; and at any rate, don’t imagine the brownie version of a saturated rum cake. Dried fruit is marinated in the alcohol, which adds a dimension to the fruit: there is no alcohol-soaked cake. The liquor is a small musical note, not a marching band.

The Heavenly Brownies

There are four “flavored” brownies and an “original,” plain, brownie. You can taste all the goodness in each bite; and if that isn’t enough, the ingredients for each flavor are spelled out in detail on the website (not the recipe, though: you’ll have to figure out how to make the magic happen yourself).

We asked Ms. Littlestone why her brownies had coined names instead of flavor-related names, which is how consumers traditionally think of foods. In addition to seeking names that could be trademarked, she explained that the business had a “heavenly” name and she wanted flavors that reflected the theme, as well as the sophistication and elegance of the brownies (i.e., “Cherry Pecan” or “Amazing Amaretto” just weren’t right for the brand). “Italian is such a wonderful language,” she said, “It has beauty, elegance, passion.” We agree that these unique brownies deserve to be called something more poetic than Pineapple Bacardi and Kahlúa long as they come with a translation! Here, the brownie “menu,” translation and all.

  • Amureo (“Golden Love”): Apricots marinated with Amaretto Disaronno plus large chunks of almonds. The apricots contribute a nice texture rather than lots of apricot flavor. The Amaretto is not pronounced, so don’t worry if you don’t like a heavy hand of liqueur: the effect is more of a delicious almond brownie.
  • Bellasanti (“Sainted Beauty”): Red cherries soaked in Cherry Heering liqueur with pecans. Whereas you might have to guess the fruit if you were tasting the others blind, the cherry asserts itself beautifully. This fruit flavor shows the best because the dried fruit and the liqueur fruit are the same. Our favorite.
This photo shows how much fruit and nuts are
packed into each brownie. This flavor is Amureo, apricots marinated in Amaretto, plus almonds.
Our favorite, Bellasanti, has the vivid taste of cherries soaked in Cherry Heering liqueur. Each flavor is clearly articulated: you can taste the butter, the chocolate and the cherries.  As it should be!
  • Celesola (“Celestial Isle”): Pineapple soaked in Bacardi Gold with macadamia nuts. Although we never would have thought to add pineapple to a brownie, this was our second favorite flavor. The Bacardi Gold put a good hit of alcohol into the brownie—it’s 80 proof, more than twice the strength of a typical liqueur—but the effect is still elegant. The pineapple, though subtle, did show itself.
  • Divina (“Divine”): The “original” flavor, a pure chocolate brownie without any embellishment. It is, true to its name, divine.
  • Donamato (“Beloved Gift”): Plums with Kahlúa Especial, cinnamon and walnuts. The least sweet of the flavors; the plum is subtle and the Kahlúa barely discernable. But the overall effect is charming.
  • Elegrazia (“Graceful Elegance”): A limited holiday edition, cranberries soaked in Triple Sec with walnuts, will be available from October through December. We plan to serve them as a holiday dessert and give them to especially deserving friends.

These are truly brownies for those who deserve “the best of the best”; they are impressive desserts for any occasion, for tea parties, dessert parties, office parties and special events. Serve them instead of another uninspired cake. We also enjoyed snacking on them throughout the day, cutting small pieces to have with our cups of tea and coffee. They even got us to drink more milk.

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Brownie Recipe & Serving Tips

If you like fudgy brownies versus cake-type brownies, or vice versa, how can you tell what you’re getting before you invest time and money in baking a tempting-looking recipe?

  • Fudge brownies are made by first melting the butter and chocolate together, then adding all the other ingredients. Cake-type brownies start by creaming softened butter and sugar together in a bowl.
  • Cocoa powder, rather than melted chocolate, produces a cakier brownie.
  • Fudge brownies will look underbaked when done. They are ready when they just begin to pull away from the edges of the pan with the center still slightly molten. They will firm as they cool. Don’t overbake fudge brownies—moistness is required for the fudgy texture. And don’t overmix the batter: the more air that is mixed in, the more dry and cake-like the texture becomes.
  • To test if a cake brownie is done, insert a cake tester or a toothpick in the middle; moist crumbs indicate doneness.
  • When refrigerated, brownies become fudgier.
  • Brownies can be served with whipped cream, crème fraîche, slightly sweetened sour cream, ice cream, crème anglaise or a sauce of puréed fruit (raspberries are most popular but strawberries, cherries and other fruits pair well). If you’re making whipped cream, cut the sugar by 1/3 to 1/2: the brownie provides enough sugar.
  • You can add cognac, framboise or other liqueur to the sauce for an even more festive preparation.
  • A good, quick sauce: melt a pint (2 cups) of vanilla or coffee ice cream at room temperature and stir in 2 ounces (jiggers) of bourbon, rum, coffee liqueur, Godiva or Irish Cream liqueur.
  • Aside from whipped cream or crème fraîche, the best sauce match for the Dolcielo brownies is a purée of the fresh fruit that matches the fruit in the brownie. You can also dot the purée with a tiny dice of the dried fruit in the brownie. If you want liqueur, add the one that’s in the brownie rather than introduce a new flavor.

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Each batch of Dolcielo brownies is baked to order and gift-boxed. Corporate gifts can be customized. The company itself is a good corporate citizen, donating 2% of sales to major nonprofit organizations that support children and wildlife.

Brownies freeze well—you can send someone a dozen without worry that it’s “too many.” (They’re delicious right from the freezer as well as at room temperature.)

With these extra-special brownies, here’s some freezing advice:

  • Wrap them in plastic wrap, then in foil, and place them in a heavy-duty airtight bag (Saran® Wrap is the preferable plastic wrap since it is not air-permeable.)
  • Thaw the brownies inside the plastic wrap; then remove and enjoy.
Dolcielo Box Top
Who wouldn’t want a box? Corporations can put
a logo or message on the box lid.

Final Notes

Dark chocolate continues to get good press for its health benefits. Our weekly Gourmet News column seems to report a new study every few weeks. The latest research, which we reported on the week of August 1st, showed that cacao stimulates blood flow in the brain among the elderly and  has cardiovascular benefits for the middle-aged. (You can sign up to receive Gourmet News by RSS on If you’re going to have a brownie, make it one with a 70% cacao base that tastes this good.

We had ordered a half dozen of each flavor of Dolcielo brownies, and after we had tasted one brownie from each box, we thought we would give the rest away—share the wealth, spare the calories, move our focus to the next group of items to be nibbled. But then we tasted a second brownie, and decided to keep them all. That’s an indicator that something truly is a Top Pick Of The Week.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves brownies or sends elegant gifts or corporate gifts.


Amureo (apricot, Amaretto DiSaronno, almonds), Bellasanti (cherry, Cherry Heering, pecans), Celesola (pineapple, Bacardi Gold, macadamias), Divina (original, no fruit or nuts), Donamato (plum, Kahlúa Especial, walnuts), Elegrazia (cranberry, Triple Sec and walnuts—holiday special)

  • One Dozen, All Flavors
    $50.00 (shipping included)
  • Half Dozen
    $30.00 (shipping included)

Shop online at or
telephone 1.888.DOLCIELO.

Prices and flavor availability are verified at
publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.

Open Box
Half a dozen brownies are emissaries, “healing the world with love and chocolate.”

Read about some of our other
favorite treats in the
Cookies &
Brownies Section
online magazine, and check out these
related sections:


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