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Dessert

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as much as i love cookie dough – straight to the face, homemade, eaten sitting on my couch in my oversized flannel PJ pants while watching house hunters – sometimes, a girl just wants a brownie. an ooey gooey mess of chocolate that leaves a trail of crumbs in its wake. i’ve tackled red velvet brownies, but last night, i just wanted to plain old CHOCOLATE. so i turned to my ice cream guru david lebovitz, who, surprise surprise, has some pretty other fantastic recipes too. like these brownies, which are quite possibly the easiest thing in the world to make. you’ll have to trust me when i tell you these are THE BEST. THE BEST EVER. as in, you can cover me with these brownies when you bury me (or at the very least, leave a few in my coffin for me to eat during my eternal slumber). i added some extra chocolate chips to mine, but i get the sense that you can add just about anything to these and they’d still be delicious. which makes me think that next up, i’m going to make s’more brownies. think of it…chocolate…crushed graham crackers…MARSHMALLOWS…i’m salivating just thinking about it.

so, without further adieu, best ever brownies.

The Recipe

Makes about 9-12 brownies, depending on how big/little you slice ’em.

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (i just used about 3/4 of a bag of semi sweet chips from trader joe’s)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla (i added 2…whoopsies, a bit liberal with the pouring)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup all purpose flour (yes, that’s it)

1 cup walnuts, or whatever else you want to mix in (you can skip this step all together if you’d like)

to make, preheat your oven to 350. line a 9 x 9 baking pan with tinfoil or parchment paper.

melt the butter in a saucepan* over medium to low heat. once butter is melted, mix in the chocolate. stir until melted and smooth. resist the temptation to stick your fingers in it/slather your body with it. it should resemble willy wonka’s chocolate river.

*if you have a stand mixer, use a small pan – you’ll do your mixing in the kitchenaid. if you don’t have a stand mixer, use a large saucepan  – you’ll do all your mixing in it.

remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the sugar and the vanilla. transfer the mixture to your stand mixer and beat in the eggs, one at a time. if you don’t have a stand mixer, keep everything in one place – but still beat the eggs in one at a time. once evenly combined, add the flour. beat vigorously for 60 seconds. count it out. twirl your hair. practice your vocabulary. call your BFF and leave a lengthy voicemail. whatever you do, make sure you beat for the full minute. at the onset, the batter will appear grainy, but once you’ve beat it (just beat it…BEATTT ITTTT…BEAT ITTT…sing it, MJ!), it will be smooth and creamy and delicious. now you can stick your fingers in. just one little taste. you deserve it. it’s been a long day.

if you’re adding mix-ins, add them now and mix just enough to fold them in. pour the batter into the pan and use a spatula to ensure it’s spread out fairly evenly. bake in the middle of your oven for about 30 minutes. mine ended up taking around 40 to be done; ovens vary. check with a toothpick to ensure that the brownies are done before you take them out for good.

let cool fully. as in, don’t try to cut yourself a bite after twenty minutes. the brownies need to set. once they’ve cooled down, you can cut them up and distribute them to friends and loved ones and the homeless guy outside the post office if you feel so inclined.

ps: david lebovitz, you’re a good among men.

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what’s better than chocolate?

NOTHING. that’s right, folks. there’s little in life i believe to be better than chocolate. well, maybe cats. cats, and cookies – is it a coincidence that all these things start with the letter “c”? i think not. 

so, back to the chocolate. you know what’s good? a really well-made snickerdoodle. you know what’s even better than a really well-made snickerdoodle? a CHOCOLATE snickerdoodle. oh yes, my friends, a choc.o.late. snickerdoodle. break it down and think about it. think about all that cinnamon sugary goodness mixing with the amazing invention that is chocolate. i’m one of those people who thinks most things are made better by the addition of chocolate. peanut butter? way better when it’s with chocolate. mint? HELLO, peppermint patties! junior mints! those babies would be nothing without my dear friend chocolate. and while we’re on the subject, i’ll go right ahead and say it: when my dear aunt flo comes to visit, get outta my way, especially if “in my way” means “standing in front of the chocolate at the grocery store.” i think most women would agree, when it’s that time of the month (and when we’re sad/angry/happy/frustrated/cranky/tired/emotional), we need to find us some chocolate, and fast.

it was in one of these sad/happy/emotional states that i decided that snickerdoodles, an old standby in the spiced cookie category, could use a little, well, spicing up. and what better way to improve upon something already delicious than by adding chocolate? so add chocolate i did! and i am proud to say the results were pretty darn spectacular. these cookies still taste like traditional snickerdoodles, but they also, miraculously, taste like chocolate. these are so good, they’ve got me thinking i need to make me some mexican chocolate (cinnamon, almonds and vanilla) sometime soon. but we’ll save that for another day.

The Recipe (adapted from The All American Cookie Book’s recipe for “Best Ever Snickerdoodles”)

2 3/4 cups all purpose white flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

3 tbsp cocoa powder (i get mine at trader joe’s)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened (note: this means you can stick them in the mic – but only for about 15 seconds!)

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For topping

1/4 cup sugar, combined with 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

preheat oven to 375. grease several baking sheets or line them with silicone baking mats. 

in a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and nutmeg; set aside. in another large bowl (preferably a stand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar, and corn syrup until well blended and fluffy, about two minutes. add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended and smooth. turn the mixer to low/off and add half the flour mixture. increase speed and beat until the flour mixture is evenly incorporated. turn back down to low, add the remaining flour mixture, and beat again until incorporated.

let the dough stand for 5-10 minutes to firm up slightly. in the meantime, mix up your cinnamon sugar topping in a small bowl. 

when your dough is ready to go, roll portions into soft 1 1/2 inch balls. roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture until fully covered. place on baking sheets, spacing evenly about 2-3 inches apart. bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8-11 minutes (mine took about 10). transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1-2 minutes. then, transfer the cookies to wire cooling racks. if you keep them on the hot baking sheets, they’ll continue to cook. let stand until completely cooled. now, eat, drool, and proceed to eat again.

store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 2 months. 

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hi, my name is sarah, and i am a chai-a-holic. i can’t start my day without a venti iced nonfat chai from my besties over at starbucks (they really are my besties, they know my name and my order. we’re friends, right?). i’m partial to starbucks’ tazo brand, but if pressed, i can also drink oregon chai and whatever brand they serve at the green bean (a wonderful breakfast place in my hometown of northampton, mass). 

as an individual who could and should be admitted to chai rehab should such a thing ever be created, you can imagine my happiness when i stumbled across this recipe for chai cupcakes. chai CUPCAKES. i mean, hello GAWH-JUS. come to mama. i made these babies yesterday, and to my delight, they taste pretty darn close to the real thing. i couldn’t stop myself from shoving my fingers into the frosting a few times before i actually frosted the cupcakes themselves – but i’m telling you, if you make these for yourself, you won’t be able to stop either. frosting delirium. 

the cupcakes themselves are pretty close to perfect as well – not overly sweet; they could almost masquerade as muffins if they didn’t have frosting on top. lightbulb moment…can i eat these for breakfast?

i didn’t change a thing from this recipe, so hop on over there to see it for yourself. 

note: my cupcakes are decidedly less fancy-pants than miss jenna’s. when it comes to frosting, i’m not a piper. i like to just swirl it on with the spatula and let it settle. but that’s why hers look way prettier than mine. 


when i was a wee little thing back in high school, my nickname was “mrs. fields” – after the infamous cookie shop found in every suburban mall around the country, and supposed maven of all things chocolate chip. i loved me a good bake sale, and my a capella group always needed to raise more moolah. i spent many a first period sitting outside the library in a little nook that was positively made for bake sales, touting my brownies and cookies and things.

chocolate chip cookies are one of the first recipes i learned to bake myself (though i also make a mean no-cook peanut butter ball), but it took me years to truly perfect the art. you see, folks, there is an art to chocolate chip cookie baking. too sweet means you can’t eat much of them. too salty means they don’t taste like cookies. too flat means a crunch that simply shouldn’t be associated with anything in the cookie family, and don’t even try to talk to me about anything that comes from the pre-made area in the supermarket.

here are a few things i’ve learned over the years, otherwise known as “follow these rules if you want a perfect cookie.”

* always add a little more vanilla than the recipe calls for. don’t think, just pour.

* don’t over-melt your butter! it took me years to figure this out. YEARS, people. i’d read “slightly softened” and stick that baby in the microwave and end up with flatter than flat cookies. i have had many a meltdown over cookies that came out flat. i don’t even want to talk about it. actually, yes i do. in these situations, i freak out and through out the entire batch. i don’t do pancake cookies. can’t handle it. they make my eyes water the way onions do. when it comes to butter, room temperature means leave it out for a little while to soften. as a general rule, don’t put butter in the microwave. when you do, you tend to over-melt it. leave it out and let it do its thing. if your butter goes into the dough 75% melted, it’ll melt the other 25% in the oven – which is what makes for pancake cookies.

* keep your chocolate chips in the freezer. this way, when you add them into the dough, they’re cool – so they won’t totally melt when the dough goes into the oven.

* invest in a stand mixer. once you go kitchen aid, you never go back. trust.

The Recipe (taken from The All-American Cookie Book)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (two sticks) butter, slightly softened (remember what we learned about butter above)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (note: i like to add 3)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (i use the bag from trader joe’s)
optional: 2 cups nuts (i hate nuts. no nuts for me. keepin’ it simple.)
preheat the oven to 375. grease your baking sheets, or lay silicone baking mats (lifesavers!) on your baking sheets instead and grease those lightly. 
in a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. set aside. in a large bowl (or stand mixer), beat together butter, brown sugar and sugar until well-blended and fluffy. this may take a few minutes. once fluffy, add the eggs and vanilla. mix well. stir in the flour mixture, then add chocolate chips (and nuts if you’re one of those weirdos that likes that sort of thing). 
now, eat at least three spoonfuls of dough. consider putting aside a bit of dough for those bad days when you just need to stuff your face with something delicious. 
once you’re feeling sufficiently nauseous from the raw egg consumption, drop the dough onto your baking sheets about two inches apart. they should be about the size of a tablespoon. bake cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of your oven for 8-11 minutes. take those babies out when they’re golden brown all over and slightly darker at the edges. Let cool on the sheets a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks. 
store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 1 month.
 
 

meet the perfect cookie: crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, and oh.so.chewy. you can thank chef anne burrell for this masterpiece - the molasses cookie. simple to make, fast to bake, amazing to eat. 

a few months ago, i watched anne make these cookies on her show, secrets of a restaurant chef. she served them with a coriander chicken dish that i have yet to make, and i literally salivated whilst sitting on my couch. i made the cookies that day, and have since made them multiple times. 

this recipe is a huge crowd pleaser - my coworkers love it, my friends adore it, even the folks at the bar method (where people are long and lithe and appear to never have consumed a single cookie in their entire lives) can’t resist these babies.

make them now, thank me late.r 

i’ve got two words for you: rainbow cake. no, three: rainbow swirl cake. this badass confection is so much fun to make, but even more fun to make. i made this for a coworker’s birthday, and suffice it to say, she was a happy girl with a happy tummy as soon as we cut this bad boy open. 

rainbow cakes look a lot more intimidating to make than they actually are. there are a myriad of great tutorials out there, so i’ll spare you the details and just link you here. basically, just make yourself some damn good yellow cake*, split the batter into bowls, color each bowl, then drop the different colors into concentric circles in your cake pans.

*my go to cake recipe is smitten kitchen’s “best birthday cake” - you can’t go wrong with this recipe. don’t attempt to taste the batter, because before you know it, you’ll have slurped down half of the bowl. this shit is GOOD.  you’ll need cake flour - i like swan’s down brand. it comes in a red box with yellow cake on the front, so it’s hard to miss. cake flour is finer, so it makes for fluffier, all around better cakes/cupcakes. go for the real thing, you won’t regret it. 

does anyone else feel a little less guilty when they down an entire pint of sorbet? no? that’s just me? okay then. here’s what i like about sorbet: it seems healthier than ice cream or candy or cookies or brownies (all of which i adore), and it’s fresh. as in, cool, refreshing, perfect for summer fresh. i’m also big into strawberries. as soon as they start populating the fruit stands on the streets of NYC, i’m all, “you give me 2 for $5? alright i’ll take 4 boxes.” i know, my bartering skills are top notch, don’t mess. 

this month’s issue of cooking light (a great foodie mag, don’t be fooled by the “light” title) contained an entire section about to do with spring and summer strawberries. ALL HAIL THE BERRY GODS! i am making me some shortcake, stat. but in the meantime, the temps rose to the high heavens last week in new york, and i felt it was time to pull my ice cream maker out of storage. apparently, the cooking gods agreed, because they sent me this recipe, for strawberry buttermilk sherbet. note: i’m calling mine sorbet. try and stop me. 

this recipe is the epitome of fresh and easy. all you need is buttermilk, strawberries, agave nectar, and a little bit of fresh lemon juice (grab yourself some meyer lemons…mmm…DELISH). the recipe also calls for some chambord, but i’m not classy enough to have that sort of thing on hand in my kitchen, so i did a bit of snooping around on the internet. according to my boy david lebovitz, alcohol in sorbets/sherbets helps them freeze right - not too hard, not too soft. too much alcohol, though, and you’ll just have a drunken mess. i opted for about a teaspoon or two of vodka in my sherbet, and i have to say, it turned out damn good!

is there a person in the world who doesn’t like froyo? find me that person, will you? because maybe they can convince me not to eat the entire container of deliciousness i whipped up yesterday on a whim.

here’s the thing about vanilla frozen yogurt, and frozen yogurt in general: when i’m eating ice cream out in the world (not making it from scratch), i think froyo is sort of gross. i hate how it slinks out of the machine, looking all processed and chemically-laden. i’m a pinkberry devotee (i know, probably lots of chemicals in that too), so i was eager to try the plain frozen yogurt in my david lebovitz book, the perfect scoop.*

all i needed was a container of plain whole milk yogurt (i opted for greek style from trader joes because i am a cheap jew), sugar, and some vanilla. i mixed them all together, let it chill in the fridge for a bit, then poured it into my ice cream maker. 15 minutes later, i had heaven. delicious, light, slightly tangy heaven. dare you not to eat the whole thing. 

to make:

3 cups plain whole milk yogurt (or you can opt for greek)

1 cup of sugar (use only 3/4 if you use greek yogurt)

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

mix all. refrigerate 1 hour. mix in your ice cream maker. eat. 

* if you’re an ice cream fan, order this on amazon. you won’t regret it. recipes are to die for. 

red velvet brownies.

yes, you read that right. want heaven in your mouth? make these.* they are positively the most delectable thing in the universe. just like the famed cupcake, these guys have that perfect hint of chocolate, and are made even better by the addition of FROSTING. 

really, is there anything better in this world than frosting? how many nights did i spend in college eating pillsbury whipped vanilla straight out of the container with an oversized spoon? too many. but i digress - all things are, generally, made better with frosting, and these brownies absolutely, unequivocally, fall into that category. if you’re too lazy to make frosting yourself, a store bought brand will do, but these babies taste best with a batch of homemade vanilla buttercream.

*recipe from how sweet eats

oatmeal raisin cookies from the all-american cookie book.* perfectly dense and deliciously chewy, these babies are everything a great cookie should be. 

*i received this book for hanukkah a few years ago, and it’s probably the only cookbook i use on a regular basis. the author, nancy baggett, is a true cookie connoisseur; for every recipe in the book, she’s got a back story to go with it. for instance, did you know that the earliest oatmeal raisin cookie recipe appeared in a church cookbook published way back in 1906? it wasn’t until 1910 that quaker oats put a cookie recipe on its box.