Drunk Blondes


Every baker should have an ace in the hole. For me, that never-failing treasure is my Drunk Blonde, a whiskey-soaked butterscotch blondie. Blondies can be pretty bland, but these guys pack a punch: you better eat your share before putting them out on a a platter, because people act like hawks around these things. There’s a whole lot to like about the Drunk Blonde, but what wins me over is the lack of leavening. So many blondies aren’t much more than glorified chocolate chip cookies, and have a fluffy, cakey texture. These bare-bones blondies, lacking any leavening at all, are gooey to the point of being almost fudge-like, with the alcohol adding an extra richness. I’ve made this recipe several times, and it’s impossible to mess up. Each result has been more delicious than the last.

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Balsamic Chocolate Truffles

As much as I try to keep a smile on my face, it just isn’t realistic to be happy all the time. Some days are sad days, and there’s virtually nothing you can do beyond hope for a brighter tomorrow. That’s not to say that you can’t ease your pain a little bit, though. When I was in a dark mood last week, there was only one thing I could think of to comfort myself: chocolate.

These truffles are no frills, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The chocolate taste is so intense that one truffle is more than enough — even in my sourpuss mood, I was totally satisfied with one bite. (Not that there’d be anything wrong with eating a bunch at once. I certainly couldn’t fault someone for enjoying their chocolate.) While the recipe calls for balsamic vinegar, it doesn’t add any bitterness or tartness, but only serves to make the chocolate flavor deeper.

Truth be told, these truffles didn’t clear away my depression instantaneously, but then again, nothing has that power. They did, however, make my misery a little more bearable. I look forward to making them again when I’m in a much more buoyant mood — if they tasted delicious when I’m feeling bad, I can only imagine how yum they are when I’m feeling good.

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Sables Korova

I’m almost tempted to simply say, “Presented without comment: Sables Korova.” Some things are just so good that words will never be enough, and if any cookie is that outstanding, it’s these.

I’m not much of a fan of sugar cookies. I don’t think most people lose their minds over sugar cookies, really. And at a glance, these look like your standard sugar cookies, but with chocolate. When I had wrapped some up to give to a friend, she looked at them in their cellophane bag and thought I was handing her dry, mediocre store-boughts. I don’t think she was all too thrilled about eating them. That is until she took her first bite.

These cookies are alternately known around the Internet as World Peace Cookies, because if everybody could just eat them, we’d all chill out and war would be a thing of the past. Sound like a stretch? I also call these the Crack Cookies, after giving them to another friend and seeing him wander down the hall in a daze, wondering out loud to no one in particular, “What is in these cookies? Crack?” If you don’t like making light of drug use, these can just as fairly be called the Headache Cookies, since my dad once ate so many in one sitting that he gave himself a migraine.

These sandy, buttery little morsels are sitting next to me as I type, and I’m nearly getting a high from just their smell. There’s little that is more irresistible in this world than double chocolate — I’m having a very hard time not shoveling these things in my mouth by the fistful.

Now that I think about it, I’m reticent to call these World Peace Cookies. I’m pretty sure a war could break out over them.

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World’s Best Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

 

I just recently decided to quit my job. I didn’t come to this conclusion easily; it was only after some soul-searching that I realized I had gotten all that I could out of my employment, and it was time to move on. I wanted to leave on a sweet note, however, and couldn’t think of anything sweeter than my number one go-to cookie recipe. I’m not good at saying goodbye, so I let the baking do the talking for me, and gifted my bosses with farewell cookies.

These oatmeal cookies have been my favorite cookie recipe since middle school, and that’s saying something, as I’ve tried a lot of cookie recipes since then. They are the best with chocolate chips, but it’s no loss to make them with raisins either, if that’s your thing. Cookie preferences are highly personal, but these match my cookie ideal to a T. They are soft and chewy in the middle, with a nice crunch along their golden outside. These aren’t your puffy, cake-like cookies; they are lean and gooey and meant to be shoveled in your mouth one after the other.

A little secret? These cookies are even better frozen than they are straight out of the oven. Everyone in my family prefers to eat them pulled out of a ziplock baggie in the freezer.

So needless to say, these bad boys are dangerous. One is never enough. I’ve watched many a friend fall prey to these guys. Bake at your own risk.

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Caramel Oats Bar


I spent two months at a treatment center for anorexia nervosa. A huge part of my treatment was exposure therapy, meaning meal upon meal upon meal. The daily routine was breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner-snack. At the height of it, my snacks were all averaging 500 calories, and the meals were even larger. Of course, I needed it. I was dangerously underweight and completely unwilling to feed myself.

In treatment, I had two choices: eat my meal plan, or drink Ensure Pluses. While many of my peers chose the caloric supplement drinks, the foodie in me balked at the idea of skipping actual food to slurp down some grainy, protein-heavy mystery concoction. If I was gonna gain weight, I was gonna gain weight on something that tasted good. After all, having subsisted off of sweet potatoes and mustard for so long, I did miss real food. A lot.

The cook would try to bake a treat every day so that those who were feeling extra daring could have something fresh and homemade to eat at snack time. There was no nutritional information for them, no calorie counts to guide us. We simply had to eat what the staff deemed was an appropriate amount. It was terrifying. I was nearly done with the program before I had built up the courage to eat one of her special-made snacks.

I had picked her caramel oat bars. They were gooey, salty, crunchy, and chewy, all in one. Even though they are simple, they pack a lot of punch. All that sweetness, topped off with a hearty dash of sea salt, makes them all too easy to devour. When it was time for me to advance out of the intensive level of treatment, I asked the cook for the recipe.

And in case it isn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out: it says a lot when an anorexic loves eating something.

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Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bonbons (Vegan)

Vegan dessert. Prior to becoming a vegetarian, the very idea struck fear in my heart. What is dessert without dairy? In high school, a well-intentioned vegan friend of mine had subjected me to a slough of rather tasteless, artless vegan desserts, and it has taken years to undo the damage.

When I suffered a five week stint as a vegan, the only thing that was an actual challenge, besides eating meals out, was finding vegan sweets that could compare to their dairy-stuffed counterparts. Even living in Los Angeles, a veritable haven for vegans and their desserts, I felt at a great disadvantage in the world outside my own apartment. That month I had to form an even tighter bond with my oven and stovetop. The very first vegan dessert that I made and loved was a very simple, easy, chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookie. Now longer a vegan, I still make this cookie recipe, not just because it is tasty in its own right but because, lacking eggs, I don’t have to worry about salmonella poisoning as I shovel the raw dough in my mouth.

These chocolate-dipped bonbons are dreamed up for all the other raw cookie dough lovers out there. They’re small, but the chocolate coating gives them a richness that makes eating just one a fully satisfying experience. While the original recipe for the dough calls for water to be added to the wet ingredients, I prefer substituting coffee for a more intense flavor. I also add coconut oil (solid at room temperature) to the tempered chocolate to give this bonbons a summery twist.

While the following recipe uses my vegan cookie dough, this treat could easily (though less sanitarily) be made with any eggy, buttery cookie dough. Animal-lover that I am, I like to make things cruelty-free where easily possible, but I’d fault no one for preferring the deliciousness of real animal fat.

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Nutty White Chocolate Bark

Just a week ago, the world outside my bedroom windows was dreary and rainy and grey. Seemingly overnight, Mother Nature cranked the heat up and saturated everything with color. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was summer.

I had been mulling over the idea of throwing together some dark chocolate bark, but if the weather is any indicator, the dark chocolate ship has sailed for the time being. It’s not that I typically color-coordinate my desserts with the season–rain or shine, I’m going to eat what I want to eat–but it just seemed wrong to celebrate the real coming of spring with something 70% cocoa. White chocolate turned out to be the perfect compromise. I got to have the bark I’d been hankering for, but I also got something beautifully suited for the bright seasonal shift.

As tempting as it is to go for the kitchen sink approach in making bark, I let simplicity reign supreme with the time-tested combination of a fruit and a nut. The almonds give the bark a satisfying crunch, while the coconut lends a fruity sweetness and bit of chew. I found myself shoveling it into my mouth almost unconsciously–and I saw my dad doing the same. It’s that sweet and salty thing, a pairing practically engineered to create a near chemical dependence.

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Chocolate Idiot Cake

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Though I was an A student all throughout school, I’ll be the first person (of many, I’m sure) to admit that I fall quite a few IQ points below Einstein. It’s not really a personal failure, from my perspective–I like to think that much gullibility and constant wonderment, and all the silliness that begets, is part of my charm. After all, nobody likes a know-it-all.

While in most respects, I think I have a pretty good palate, I’m still fairly fresh when it comes to actually working in the kitchen. Having both grown up with a mom who is not only a food writer but a fantastic cook herself and gone to a university with famously high-quality dining halls, it was only when I moved into my first apartment in my junior year of college that I needed to learn a skill or two about feeding myself. As a result, I may be 21 years old, but in cooking years, I’m still a toddler.

That’s why I am so grateful for the recipes like that for David Lebovitz’s flourless chocolate cake, lovingly nicknamed the Chocolate Idiot Cake. Flourless chocolate cakes are, across the board, quite easy, but this one is almost embarrassing in how little previous kitchen experience it requires. It garnered its name neither because it’s for people who go stupid for chocolate nor because you’d have to be an idiot not to enjoy it (though both of those would be applicable), but because even the baking equivalent of a green thumb could pull it off.

Though there are only four ingredients, this is no low-budget dessert. Rich and moist and dense, every bite of this decadent cake is a pray from a worshipper of the cult of chocolate ganache lovers. A lot of people like to use the phrase “sinfully delicious” to describe this kind of chocolate intensity, but there’s nothing naughty about it. It’s just damn good.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Milanos

I frankly don’t trust anyone who hasn’t, at some point in her life, eaten a whole pack of Pepperidge Farm cookies by herself in one sitting. After finishing my first serious paper at college, I unwound by buying a bag of Captiva Dark Chocolate Brownie cookies and eating every last one of them before dinner.

Still, there’s nothing better than a homemade cookie. No matter how convenient the Farm is, especially for a college student, you really can’t beat something fresh out of the oven.

As I ate a few Milano cookies last week, I thought to myself, “… I could make these.” There’s really not much to them: a thin layer of dark chocolate sandwiched between two sugar cookies, and that’s it. They say the best plans are the simplest ones, and that’s certainly true for this little treat. Now the homemade kind may not be quite as uniform as the real thing (after all, I don’t have an industrial cookie-making plant), but it’s the taste that counts, and in that regard these a more than a fair match for the Pepperidge originals.

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Mint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I’ve never been a big fan of mint. Why anyone would want to eat a dessert the flavor of toothpaste was beyond me. As a flavor, I’d give a pass to mint in tea form, but really only the spearmint kind, not the peppermint. The worst, though, would always be any combination of chocolate and mint. I’d stare resentfully at Thin Mints being passed around amongst classmates, thinking, “Why didn’t you buy the Samoas?” I’d peer over my chocolate fudge brownie ice cream cone with contempt at the sight of friends licking their mint chocolate chips. I’ve never enjoyed an Andes mint cookie. And the concept of a “grasshopper” anything (brownies, cupcakes, and forbid, even mochas) makes me about ready to give up on the world.

While grappling with some serious body image issues, I happily agreed to join a neighbor in baking some chocolate mint cookies. My logic was that I’d have fun baking and could share them with mint-loving friends and family, but would be able to spare my own waistline because mint meant no temptation.

Turned out my calculations were all wrong. These cookies were rich, gooey chocolate crinkle cookies, one of my biggest weakness. And the mint, smeared across the top and melting into the cracks, was delicate rather than overpowering. I had split off a little piece just to save face in front of my neighbor (it’s pretty weird not to eat what you bake), but it was so tasty that I popped the whole thing in my mouth. And another. And another.

I’m still not a mint fan, and you certainly won’t see me rushing to make another mint dessert anytime soon. Even so, I’m sure this won’t be my last encounter with these cookies.

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