Browsing articles in "Chocolate"
Jan 15, 2010

Cakey Sour Cream Brownies


So are you a fudgy brownie person or a cakey brownie person? Because I fall into the former category, and these brownies fall into the latter. And to be honest, I am so on Team Fudgy that I considered not even mentioning them to you. But upon further mulling of the whole thing, I decided you really do need to know about this recipe. Because even though they are not my ultimate brownies, they are still very good and if you are on Team Cakey, well, they may end up being yours. And I can’t in good conscience deny any cakey brownie-loving POC readers that pleasure. I’m here for you, people.


For the rest of us, I will not call these brownies, rather I will dub this recipe Rich Chocolate Snack Cake and share its many virtues. Not the least of which is a deep, satisfying chocolate flavor that isn’t shrouded by a cloying sweetness. The chocolate flavor really does shine here.




Another bonus of this recipe is that it’s easy, easy, easy. Which, really, all brownie recipes should be, but who doesn’t love easy? Communists, that’s who. All it takes is a little bit of flour, some melted some butter and chocolate, dark brown sugar, eggs and sour cream.



Back it up now, sister–what?
Oh, yes, I said sour cream. That’s what drew me to this recipe in the first place. And it’s the magical ingredient that keeps these cakey brownies from being dry and boring. The sour cream adds moisture and an edgy flavor element that keeps the chocolate from tasting flat. If ever there was a cakey brownie that might seduce the die-hard Fudgies, this would be it.


I should also mention something about this recipe that has become an obsession of sorts for me lately: the texture and flavor of these brownies actually improves the day after baking them. Even more moist, maybe even a little denser, more chocolatey. I flippin’ love that. In fact, on the second day, I got to thinking about other things that could be done with this recipe because of their transformation after a rest on the counter.


Vanilla ice cream and hot fudge on top, well, yes, yes, of course, but I’m feeling like pouring this batter into two round cake pans and frosting it with a thin layer of Vanilla Bean Buttercream or more generous swirls of Seven-Minute Frosting might just make for the most orgasmic, do-ahead layer cake in the history of the universe. If anyone tries this and you can still speak or type, could you report back with your findings? Awesome, thanks.



Sour Cream Brownies (aka Rich Chocolate Snack Cake)
Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker

I’ve made several changes to this recipe–most notably, I left out the generous amount of walnuts that the original recipe calls for because I don’t like my brownies walnutted (2 cups toasted and chopped; if you love nutty brownies, add them). I also added a bit of cocoa powder, which gives a much-needed punch of chocolate flavor, but really only works if you use a premium, rich, dark cocoa powder like Valrhona. Make these brownies a day before you want to serve them and wrap them well–the flavor and texture improve the next day.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons premium cocoa powder (I love Valrhona)
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces (chocolate chips work fine, I like Ghiradelli)
1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Set an oven rack to the center position and preheat the to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Allow it to bubble for about 10 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute or two, and then whisk until smooth. Let cool for a minute while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream, salt and vanilla until well-blended. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture just until it dissappears into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the until the brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes.

Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack before cutting into squares.

Dec 30, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crumble Bars


The Piece of Cake Kitchen Presents: Moments in Life During Which You Might Think to Yourself, “Oh, man, I am IN FOR IT.”

1. You suddenly realize you are drunk in front of your future in-laws.

2. The doctor says, “I think we need to try forceps.”

3. You are mid-recipe for these completely insane Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crumble Bars.


If the name alone doesn’t get you into all sorts of trouble, then maybe a rundown of what we’re dealing with here will: a chewy, nutty, oatmeal cookie-like base, a salty-sweet streusel topping studded with chocolate bits, and to hold it all together, a layer of what basically translates to peanut butter caramel hovering in between. Oh, I said it. Like a young lady who drinks her face off in front of her future in-laws, I said it.


Now, I know you may be thinking to yourself, “Sweet Lord, Shauna, you’re throwing something with chocolate and and peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk at us four days after Christmas?!” Just hear me out, okay? Yes, these bars are crazy, I know that. But! They came out of a need to clear out the few last bits of goodies that were acquired from weeks of holiday baking and entertaining–some half-consumed bags and bars of chocolate, leftover nuts from cocktail noshing, that sort of thing. So these bars are resourceful! These bars are green, people! They are also chockful of health! Heart-healthy nuts and oats, guys!

Also, there’s only a couple days left to ride that cushy denial train until we arrive at the New Year and skinny jean-fitting reality comes crashing down on us. Won’t you join me? All aboard!


Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crumble Bars

You truly can make this recipe all your own. I’ve listed some suggestions, but go with whatever varieties of chocolate and nuts you happen to have on hand–milk, dark, semi-sweet chips, bits of stocking-stuffer candy bar, salted or unsalted nuts, whatever you’ve got. If the nuts are raw instead of roasted, a quick toasting while the oven’s preheating adds a nice touch of flavor.

Makes 16

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, soft but still cool
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts (I used half pecans, half roasted, salted almonds)
1 egg, at room temperature
7 ounces (about half a can) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (crunchy is ok, don’t use natural peanut butter)

Position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with a strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil that will fit along the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan with a bit of overhang to create “handles” to easily remove the bars later.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Stir in the brown sugar, oats and nuts. Put about a quarter of this mixture (roughtly 1 1/2 cups) into a small and stir in the chocolate bits. Set aside.

Into the remaining three-quarters of the crumb mixture, stir in the egg until it comes together into an evenly moistened mass, sort of like a loose cookie dough. Pat the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and pre-bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter until well-blended. When the bottom layer of the bars is finished pre-baking, spread the peanut butter mixture evenly over the warm layer. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate-crumble mixture evenly over everything and press down lightly.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes, until golden brown. The bars will feel very soft and not done in the center, but they will set as they cool. Let the bars cool in the pan for 10 minutes before running a thin knife along the edges and removing the slab to a cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into 16 squares. Store any leftover in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Dec 24, 2009

Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark

Chocolate and peppermint is the Brangelina of the holidays. Fact.


Just in time for the Christmas cutoff, I’m finally sharing a recipe with this celebrated holiday combination, while simultaneously packing like a madwoman for our trip to Colorado, being careful not to forget the essentials, like several pairs of stretchy yoga pants.

If you’re looking for an extra little something to add to the cookie plate this year, something with true holiday pizazz–this Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark is it, guys. And I’m happy to report that this peppermint bark has more personality than any other I’ve tried. Sure, you’ve got the usual suspects–white chocolate and a generous sprinkling of crushed peppermint candies–but with a layer of bittersweet chocolate and a smattering of candy bits tucked within, you get a particularly awesome flavor and texture that keeps you going back for just. One. More. Bite.


Beyond the fabulous texture (spectacularly crunchy at the outset, melting into a silky sea of white and dark chocolates on the tongue), and blast of refreshing mint flavor (so nice after a hearty winter meal), you just can’t beat the pretty factor with this treat. And you and your oven will enjoy a much-needed rest from the holiday baking frenzy–whipping up a batch of this bark feels delightfully more like a creative, crafty project than anything cooking-related.


Now, between you and me, there would really be nothing wrong with making a batch of this stuff solely for the purposes of self-indulgence while doing some last-minute online shopping. We’re totally worth it. But the sparkly, elegant look of the finished candy is just begging to be wrapped up in pretty glass jars with holiday ribbon and gifted to the people you really like. Consider it an amendment to the POC Treats for Gifting Guide! Happy, happy holidays, guys. Enjoy!



Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark

Adapted from Bon Appetit

For the chocolates, you can use either bar chocolate or chocolate chips, but keep in mind that the results with bar chocolate will be a little bit finer textured and more luxurious than if you use chocolate chips (which have stablizers in them). For the dark chocolate, I like to use a half-and-half blend of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates, but use whichever you have on hand. Crush the peppermint candies by placing them in a large ziptop bag, having at them with a rolling pin and release that holiday stress!

Makes about 36 pieces

17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (I like Ghiradelli, see note)
6 ounces coarsely crushed peppermint candies (about 30 round striped ones or 12 regular candy canes)
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (see note)
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Place the white chocolate in a metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (being careful not to allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water), and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth and a candy thermometer registers 110°F. Pour 2/3 cup of the melted white chocolate onto the baking sheet, and using an offset spatula, spread it into about a 9×12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour the dark chocolate mixture in long lines over the white chocolate rectangle (pouring it in a puddle will start to melt and smear the white chocolate layer) and using a clean spatula, spread the chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 25 minutes.

Rewarm the bowl of white chocolate over barely simmering water again, to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet chocolate layer and spread evenly to cover. Immediately sprinkle the remaining crushed peppermints over the surface of the candy. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

If using a silicone mat, slide a thin spatula under the slab of bark and remove it to a cutting board. (If using foil, remove the entire sheet of foil with the bark to a cutting board and trim the bark on the foil, removing the pieces once they’re cut.) Trim the edges of the slab of candy, and then cut the bark into 36 pieces. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving. Can be made 2 weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Dec 21, 2009

Thin, Chewy Chocolate Cookies


I don’t know about you, but I’m running out of just about everything over here, guys. Shopping days, patience for fellow shoppers, time, mental capacity, clean pairs of stretchy yoga pants to house the results of all awesome holidayfood I’ve been consuming as of late. And on a related note, I’m also running out of my beloved Valrhona cocoa powder because in order to cope with the madness, I’ve made a double batch of the best dang chocolate cookie you’ll have all season.


Because it makes me feel better about my stress levels, I’d like to think that we’re all in this harried holiday race together, so I will just get to the point and tell you what you really need to know: this particular chocolate cookie gives the legendary World Peace Cookie a run for its money. And that’s no joke. Consider it the soft, chewy counterpart to that cookie. And if you haven’t tried a WPC and have no idea what I’m talking about, well, now you’ve got an awful lot of chocolate cookie baking to do. Both are the epitome of sweet-salty-chocolately perfection. But this chewy chocolate cookie has a texture on top of that amazing flavor that is so incredibly craveworthy. It’s really something. If, like me, you’re still trying to milk these last few holiday baking days for all they’re worth, this recipe is a fantastically worthy candidate. Perfect for stacking in holiday cookie tins, too.


Now, I’m not one to go on and on about how you always have to use, say, the BEST vanilla extract or the BEST chocolate in a recipe or it’s just not even worth attempting the recipe. I’d much rather have people use the best ingredients they can afford, whatever those may be and not make anyone feel all bad about not buying the $15 bottle of vanilla extract (can you hear me, Martha and Ina?). But because we’re friends, I will always gently point it out when spending more for a premium ingredient makes a big difference in a recipe. And this, my friends, is one of those times. Going for one of the excellent cocoa powders on the market makes for a rich, midnight-dark dough that really makes this cookie spectacular.

These cookies are one for your permanent repertoire–dead simple, big chocolate flavor and so, so right with a hot mug of coffee or cocoa on a wintry day. I should know; I’ve been routinely regrouping from all the holiday craziness by parking myself on the sofa with a mug in one hand and one of these cookies in the other, in a pair of aforementioned stretchy yoga pants.

Thin, Chewy Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

This is a time that it’s so worth it to spend a little more for a dark, rich, premium cocoa powder. I love Valrhona and Scharffen Berger in this recipe. In place of regular salt, I like to use 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel when I’m feeling extra fancy–it does make a difference.

Makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (see note)
1 1/4 cups (2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Additional granulated sugar or sanding sugar, for dipping

Into a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla on medium speed until it is creamy, about one minute. Scrape down the bowl and add 2 cups of sugar and the eggs. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about two minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually stir in the dry ingredients until the dough i just combined and there are no dry pockets. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about one hour.

When you’re ready to bake, position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the dough by level tablespoons and roll each portion into a smooth ball. Dip the top of each dough ball into granulated sugar or white sanding sugar to coat. Place the dough balls onto the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are set, but still soft in the center, about 8-10 minutes (you will notice the cookies will puff and then deflate–they will be finished about one minute after they deflate). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Dec 10, 2009

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

Now really, people, how many baked goods can you honestly think of that can’t be improved upon by adding chocolate? Let’s do this.


If the jaunty name alone doesn’t get you fitting your stand mixer with the whip attachment right this second, then surely the mere concept of something called Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake will get you on board. A heavenly, tender angel food cake taken to the next level with miniscule shards of unsweetened chocolate is sheer brilliance, I tell you. Although, to be totally honest, I didn’t get the use of unsweetened chocolate at first. Why not bitterweet?, I mused aloud, as nearly all my musings are lately, often with unnecessary animated hand gestures, because I spend all my days with a tiny person clinging to my jeans. At first, I was doubtful of this unsweetened chocolate thing. Reeeeaaalll doubtful.


You should know that few things are etched in my memory like the time I was knee-high to a cricket and excitedly came across a huge bar of chocolate in a kitchen cabinet. I very quietly broke off a gigantic chunk of it before putting the rest back neatly in its place and creeping to the privacy of my bedroom to devour my find, only to discover that it tasted a whole lot like shoe polish or something equally as acrid and horrible. Coughing and choking and pawing the offending matter off my tongue with a Barbie dress, I thought surely it was a setup to deter young children like myself from stealing unauthorized chocolate. And that’s how I met unsweetened chocolate. So I was skeptical of this recipe. Would it be sort of awful or really awful or just plain weird? But I pressed on. I am quite the warrior these days, you know.


As it turns out, Rose Levy Berenbaum, she of all things genius in the baking world, was right. Again. Naturally. After tasting this cake, I slapped myself for ever doubting her. The unsweetened chocolate makes complete and total sense here. By nature, an angel food cake is a sweet, sweet thing, since it pretty much is just sugar, egg whites, air and a bit of cake flour. And an absolute thing of beauty. On a side note, I could make angel food cakes all day long and never tire of the etheral quality of the whole thing. The billowing meringue and gentle folding of the soft, weightless batter over itself in a quiet kitchen…sigh…it’s totally hypnotic. Om…..

So what was I saying? Oh, yes. Rose Levy Berenbaum is super smart again and angel food cakes are super sweet. And because of the high sugar content of an angel food cake, any sweetened chocolate, even a bittersweet one, would push the whole thing into cloyingly sweet territory. The bitter and sweet balance here is what makes this cake so incredibly craveworthy. And the addition of chocolate to the batter gives just the right amount of oomph to a cake that can so often be overlooked because it’s so light and neutral in flavor.

It’s the perfect dessert for this bridge time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll find yourself passing it on your way through the kitchen and devouring half of it yourself in no time flat, via the “oh, I’ll just have a sliver” method. And don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. I can’t be the only one that keeps a crumb-covered knife in my cake dome.


But if you can manage to share this cake with others, it would be an awesome end to a fancier dinner party with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder. And with the beautiful way the finely grated chocolate is woven throughout the batter and how well this cake keeps, I could see making this recipe several times over and giving the cakes away as holiday gifts, wrapped in cellophane with a kicky little ribbon. But perhaps warn the recipient to keep the cake away from small children who might steal away to their bedrooms and eat the whole dang thing.




Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

Adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

Use a good quality unsweetened chocolate here–lesser quality unsweetened baking chocolates are horribly waxy and fake-tasting. If you don’t have superfine sugar, just take regular granulated sugar for a spin in your food processor or clean coffee grinder (my preference). A box grater is the best tool for grating the chocolate and not getting it all over your kitchen. This cake doesn’t hold up well to sauces, but a nice dollop of unsweetened whipped cream is a perfect compliment.

Makes 1 10-inch cake, serving 8-12

1 1/2 cups superfine sugar, divided
3/4 cup cake flour, lightly spooned and leveled
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (about 16 large egg whites)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ounces fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, finely grated and chilled

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 10-inch angel food cake pan. Also have an empty wine bottle or similar vessel at the ready for inverting the cake during the cooling process–you want the pan to be high above the countertop so air can circulate all around it as it cools.

In a small bowl, whisk together half the sugar, the flour, and salt until evenly combined. Sift the remaining sugar onto a piece of foil or parchment to make it easy to pour it into the batter.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar. Beat at medium-high speed until the egg whites reach the soft peak stage. With the mixer running, slowly rain in the other half of the sugar and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift the flour mixture over the egg whites, about 1/4 cup at a time, gently folding in the dry ingredients after each addition, a few flour streaks may remain and that’s okay. Sprinkle in the grated chocolate and gently fold it in, until the batter is evenly speckled with chocolate (don’t forget to get all the way to the bottom of the bowl when folding–there is a lot of batter here!).

Spread a thin layer of the batter all along the sides of the pan, up to about half an inch from the top, so that the sides of the cake will be smooth. Scrape the rest of the batter into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a wooden cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs (a metal tester will come out clean). The surface will have several deep cracks. Invert the cake onto the bottle and let it cool completely. Loosen the sides and center of the cake with a thin spatula. Unmold the cake and let rest until the top of the cake is no longer tacky, about one hour. Store the cake at room temperature in a cake dome or airtight container for up to three days, or up to ten days in the refrigerator.

Nov 9, 2009

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Recently I got to thinking about some of the most polarizing food subjects. You know, the things that get people talking in a great, spirited love-‘em-or-hate-‘em debate. Cilantro, for starters. Sushi. Gin. Tomatoes. Rachael Ray. You get where I’m going here.

Coconut is definitely on that list, am I right? Its such a complex food that you can’t really be on the fence about it. Its bold flavor, distinct scent and rough, chewy texture puts it in a category of its own. Other things taste like coconut, never the other way around. So if, like my husband, coconut makes you do that shuddery “I’m getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about putting it near my mouth” thing, then I’ll catch you next time. But if you are on Team Coconut, then I hope you’ll try this recipe ASAP, because it makes one of the best dang macaroons I’ve ever had.


Typically, coconut macaroons are among the simplest, quickest cookies to make. Even if you decide to dip them in chocolate, the number of ingredients and steps is under five. The simplest recipes use egg whites, sugar, vanilla and sweetened coconut, and just like that they can be perfectly delicious. But so often, you can end up with something kind of clumsy and chewy and cloyingly sweet and it ends up taking a whole day to eat one, nibbling away at it here and there. Now, there’s really nothing wrong with that, per se, but I love finding recipes that aim to create the perfect version of something, and in doing so make it totally craveworthy and render me completely unable to put the rest away for later, even if I’ve probably already had enough.


This is why I am totally obsessed with the recipes from America’s Test Kitchen. They take stuff that’s already good and somehow find a way to make it even better. Although they rarely provide the simplest way to get there, its so worth it. And maybe I should keep this to myself, but I get the biggest thrill out of having to hunt down a certain ingredient that I’ve never used before. Like the cream of coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk or unsweetened coconut cream) that has a full, round, creamy coconut flavor and makes these macaroons out of this world.


More greatness about the version of this recipe: it uses a mixture of unsweetened coconut and the sweetened variety usually found in the baking aisle, which makes for a much more balanced sweetness in the finished product. Plus the combination of textures of the two kinds of coconut (the unsweetened variety is dry and very finely shredded, unlike coarsely grated and almost wet sweetened coconut) makes the macaroon more like a cookie and less like the center of a candy bar.


The drier mix of coconut and the combination of the cream of coconut and sugar in this recipe create the most fantastic crunchy crust on the bottom of the cookies, a texture you don’t always get with a macaroon. It makes for the most awesome textural element between the chewy coconut and the slick of chocolate on the bottom of the cookie.


When I sent some of these home with a friend, she and her husband thought there was some kind of wafer-like layer involved under the chocolate and made it seem like I’d put waaaay more effort into making these than I actually did. Ha! Awesome. I love when that happens. But then I always end up ruining the glamour by telling people the truth. I should work on that.



Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Sweetened cream of coconut, often used to make pina coladas and other cocktails, can usually be found in most supermarkets by the booze, canned and under the brand name Coco Lopez. Finding the sweetened coconut is no problem in the baking aisle, but for the unsweetened coconut, you may have to check the Asian foods aisle or a natural foods store. If you have no luck finding the unsweetened coconut, then use all sweetened coconut, but reduce the cream of coconut to 1/2 cup, omit the corn syrup, and add two tablespoons of cake flour to the coconut before adding the wet ingredients.

Makes 4 dozen

1 cup cream of coconut
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3 cups sweetened shredded or flaked coconut
10 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)

Place the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper sprayed lightly with cooking spray or silicone baking mats.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream of coconut, corn syrup, egg whites, vanilla and salt until well-blended. In another large bowl, using your fingertips, toss together the shredded coconuts. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

Drop the mixture by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Form the cookies into loose haystacks with your fingertips (moistening your fingers with water will prevent sticking). Bake until the cookies are softly set and golden in spots on top and your can see the bottoms are deeply browned, about 15-17 minutes. Cool on the sheets for about two minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Line the baking sheets with fresh parchment paper or wipe the silicone mats clean. When the cookies are completely cool, place about two thirds of the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Melt the chocolate on high power in 30 second intervals, stopping to stir after each interval. Put the remaining third of the chocolate chips into the melted chocolate, stirring again until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Holding a macaroon by its pointed top, dip the bottom of the cookie into the chocolate, using a spoon to gently coax the chocolate up the sides a bit if necessary. Place the dipped cookies on the lined baking sheets, and refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Nov 4, 2009

Toblerone Brownies


My friend Sara has all these wacky-but-completely-lovable traits that you’d really never see coming. She is sunshine personified, this girl–all blonde and loud laughs and positive energy. You’d never think she’s the type to get too hung up on details, based on first impressions. But you would be very, very wrong about that.

For instance, she goes positively bananas for laundry day. Like a micro-sorting-into-categories-of-whites-that-I-didn’t-know-existed-and-serious-opinions-about-detergents-level of interest in laundry. It used to be that I would know not to call her before a certain hour on Thursdays, because I knew it was Sara’s Laundry Day, but if I just had to call her about something and she did happen to pick up, she’d have this very Sara-esque cheery-but-absentminded tone because she’d really rather be ironing and folding her many, many sets of sheets than talking on the phone. But I will say that her meticulous nature with housekeeping duties makes being a house guest at her place one of the loveliest experiences ever.


You’ve also never met someone with so much restraint. Don’t get me wrong–girlfriend knows how to have a good time. A wonderful appetite for life and good food and wine, but when she decides to reel it in, sister goes hard core. I’ve always admired that about her. She doesn’t have a raging sweet tooth like me, so she can be especially good about sweets in strict moderation. I will never forget the time I went to her apartment and saw a huge Toblerone bar sitting on the kitchen table, only a chunk or two gone out of the whole thing, purchased at the movie theater two days before (an obsession with going to the movies alone is another Sara Quirk). I could not wrap my head around how one could have a partially eaten chocolate bar sitting in the same spot for more than a couple of hours, and on top of that, how could she have only eaten a smidgen of it to begin with?! Oh, Sara.


After that, Toblerone bars always remind me of Sara. And although I can say with great certainty that chances are good that she is on some sort of dairy-free-gluten-free-sugar-free dietary experiment as I write this, I’m sure even she would have a hard time resisting one of these fudgy brownies, chunky throughout with hunks of Toblerone pieces and toasty hazelnuts, with an unexpected hit of cinnamon.


This recipe is the first I’ve tried from a cookbook I recently bought on a whim. I had gone to the bookstore only to buy a birthday gift for a friend, nothing more, and reminded myself of that the whole way there. But because I was at the bookstore in rare form–sans toddler and showered, for starters–I lingered for a longer than I should have. I really don’t need another cookbook, I told myself as I traced my fingertips over the spines of so many culinary volumes that I’ve been eyeing as of late. But with latte in hand and no tiny person yanking at my jeans, the spine-tracing turned to back-cover-glancing and then flipping and then skimming and then “Ooh. Well, THAT looks good”, and so forth. And so it would be: The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook is the newest addition to my cookbook collection.


Cheesetastic subject matter aside, the recipes in this book are the sort that you just know have been tested hundreds of times over, in home kitchens by real people all over the place. Cookies and pies and bars and cakes of family and church gathering lore, the kind of baked goods that are named after people known by a certain dishes in their personal circles. Which is all to say that these recipes are uncomplicated, very transportable and not at all precious, sometimes unusual, and totally delightful. I haven’t been so charmed by a cookbook in a really, really long time. And any book that touts a brownie recipe with hunks of Toblerone bar is all right by me.


A word about Toblerone: the wrapper is not child-proof. If you fail to remove it from your child’s pudgy-knuckled grip to avoid a meltdown in the car on the way home, you may arrive home to find that in your back seat sits a little chocolate-smeared face with shining eyes and leech-like suction on one end of the package, which now looks like this:

Toblerone Brownies
Adapted from The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook

I love Ghiradelli chocolates for baking–they’re good quality and easily found in most supermarkets. For the Toblerone, use either the milk chocolate or dark chocolate variety–whatever you like. I like hazelnuts in this recipe, but pecans would also work well, as would almonds to echo the almond nougat bits in the candy bar, but remember to toast them before adding them to the batter for the best flavor. Toast them while you’re putting the rest of the recipe together at the same temperature as the brownies–350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Like most brownies, these keep beautifully in the freezer.

Makes 16

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped
1 Toblerone bar (3.52 ounces), milk or dark chocolate variety, chopped (I cut each triangular hunk into quarters)

Position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch square pan with aluminum foil to make removing the brownies easier. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place the butter pieces and unsweetened chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate together on high power in 30 second intervals, stirring well after each, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture until well-blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the dry ingredients by hand. Stir in the nuts and candy pieces.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out nearly dry, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the brownies using the foil sleeve and cut into 16 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days.

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