Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

Bittman’s Brownies

Ni hao, friends!! I’m back from China, jet-lag free and super excited for the coming weeks filled with graduation festivities, friends, family (all coming in for my graduation party), and even more fun.

Whirlwind recap of China: Extremely tiring since every day there was something else exciting to see but definitely a lot of fun. Highlights include Shanghai (what a lovely city!), the Great Wall (picture below), a friend’s wedding, and literally spending every last penny of ours on food. It was two weeks with one of my favorite people in the world, our first trip longer than an extended weekend, and it was wonderful.

Now for the baking. Towards the end of our trip I was constantly complaining that I wanted some serious chocolate cake or brownie action. If you’ve eaten Asian food, you’ve realized that they’re not big on chocolate and their cakes are not the rich, dense versions you’ll find in any Western bakery, but rather light, fluffy sponge cakes with a barely detectable flavor. For this girl, whose refrigerator is never without butter and heavy cream and whose pantry is constantly stocked with dark chocolate, satisfaction with Eastern desserts could only last so long. So while I enjoyed my time in China I was looking forward to getting back into my own kitchen and whipping up some serious brownies.

These are serious brownies. They were not as chewy as I like my favorite brownies but they sure satisfied that gnawing in my stomach from a lack of a really good chocolate dessert.

Bittman’s Brownies
adapted from Eats Well With Others

Makes 16 or 1 8×8″ square pan.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 8×8″ baking pan with aluminum foil. Melt chocolate and butter together in a medium-sized bowl over gently simmering water. Once almost melted, take off heat and continue stirring until completely melted. Stir in sugar with a wooden spoon followed by the eggs one at a time, salt, and vanilla extract. With a spatula, fold in flour until it just disappears. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until just set. Eat with a spoon as soon as they come out of the oven.

Yeahhhhh spoon!!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’m leaving for China this coming Sunday. (Can I get a what WHAT??) Don’t worry, I have posts lined up while I’m gone.

There are errands to do, ends to tie up (as it’s also my last week of school), things to buy, and bags to pack. In all the frenzy, I developed a craving for muffins. Something I can run out the door with and get enough of an energy boost to keep me going. Cue wonderful muffin recipe falling into my lap.

These muffins are delicious. They’re grainy and healthy tasting but with just enough chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth. The hint of cinnamon in the background of it all doesn’t hurt either. And bonus you don’t even need to break out any electrical mixers for this – it can all be done with a whisk and a spatula inĀ  just two bowls. Oh yes, this recipe is all kinds of wonderful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to call my credit card company so that I don’t get completely cut off in the middle of China.

PS. Have you been to China? We’re going to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hanzhou with a day trip to the Great Wall (we’re thinking Mutianyu). Any recommendations/tips/advice are much appreciated.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from How Sweet It Is

Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1 c milk, divided (I used whole)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, mix rolled oats and 1/2 c milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and brown sugar until caramel-colored and well combined. Add in vanilla and butter and whisk until combined (some chunks are okay). Add in oat mixture, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix. Stir in remaining 1/2 c milk. Finally fold in chocolate chips. Portion out about 1/4 c batter per muffin cup and bake for 18-20 minutes.

I didn’t even share these with Boy. I ate all of them myself. Yum!

Neapolitan Ice Cream Cake

Lessons I’ve learned thus far in my quarter of a century existence on this earth:

1. Double knotting sneakers can never be a bad thing.

2. Facial moisterizer is necessary after I wash my face or I dry up and it’s not attractive.

3. People have a funny way of surprising you (this can be good or bad but there are lots of surprises either way).

4. Coffee is not actually essential to my being though I enjoy it.

5. Ice cream cakes are best made in a pan with four tall sides for ease of transport and the least amount of messy.

Yup. That’s it. Five things. That’s one thing for every five years I’ve been alive. But the quantity isn’t what matters, it’s the quality, and friends, that’s some quality lessons learned up there. Let’s talk about the last one, shall we?

Several weeks ago we went out for a going away party for a friend (she just left for Korea for a month). While she was out of earshot, her boyfriend said that he thought she snuck a cake into their car because she’d be out of town for his birthday. He then remarked that out of all the years they’d been together she’d never gotten him the cake he truly wanted. My ears perked up. Cake? I’m in!

Turns out all he wanted was an ice cream cake. And that’s what he was going to get.

The first birthday cake I made for my group of friends was actually for Boy. He too wanted an ice cream cake but only told me this on the day of his celebration which led to a lot of scrambling around. Needless to say, the cake was improperly frozen and proceeded to melt all over me as we tried to transport it from my freezer to the restaurant. There was toilet paper involved. Don’t ask.

The second ice cream cake I made the next year was for Boy’s roommate. I discovered the joys of building the cake in a disposable pan with tall sides so that if it began to melt it wouldn’t melt on me. Much better. However, I baked the cake in a separate pan and then transferred it which meant some holes and not the prettiest slices.

This time around, I think I finally perfected my ideal cake. I baked a bottom cake layer in the pan and simply built up the cake by adding homemade ice cream on top. It was a huge hit with the birthday boy, Boy himself, and all our friends and was much simpler than my previous versions. I may switch up the flavors but this will definitely be my method!

Note: If you’re looking to plan out your time, I suggest making the ice cream bases the night before and refrigerating overnight. The cake can also be made the day before if desired or the morning of. Make sure you freeze it for at least an hour before spreading ice cream on top. I then churned my middle layer (vanilla), immediately spread atop the cake, and froze for 20 minutes while my top layer (strawberry) churned. I didn’t wash my ice cream maker in between and went straight from flavor to flavor. You can spread this part over a few days if you like. I’m just insane.

Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

Makes ~ 1 quart.

Ingredients

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Bring milk and cream to boil in a heavy saucepan. Meanwhile whisk together yolks and sugar until slightly thickened. While whisking, drizzle 1/3 of the hot mixture into the eggs to temper. Pour the rest of the hot mixture in, whisk, and then transfer back into the pan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture is 170-180F or the custard coats the back of a spoon without running when you slide a finger through it. Strain into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate until ready to churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Strawberry Ice Cream
adapted from epicurious

Makes ~5 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 c heavy cream
  • 3 3×1 inch strips of lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar, divided
  • 1 lb frozen strawberries (fresh if you can find really great ones), trimmed and quartered
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions
Combine cream, zest, and salt in a saucepan and heat until just to a boil. Remove from heat and discard zest.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and 1/2 c sugar until well combined. Add a small amount of the heavy cream to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Then add the rest in, mix, and pour back into the saucepan. Turn the heat back on medium-low and whisk constantly as you heat the mixture to 170F. Be sure you do not exceed 180F. Pour through a sieve into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until cool.

Once cooled, puree strawberries with remaining 1/4 c sugar and lemon juice in a blender. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds. Mix into the cooled custard. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Chocolate Cake
adapted from Gale Gand

Makes 1 9×13″ cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 1/4 c + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 eggs*
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c boiling water

*for the half egg, you can break the egg into a bowl, whisk, then measure out half of the mixture

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13″ cake pan and set aside.

Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl fitted with an electric mixer, combine eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat on low for 5 minutes. Gradually add the hot water, still mixing at low speed until just combined. Pour batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool and freeze at least 1 hour to firm up before assembly.

For Assembly: Ensure that the vanilla ice cream is soft before spreading by either spreading right after churning or letting the ice cream sit on the counter for 30 minutes. Spread vanilla ice cream onto the frozen chocolate cake. Freeze for 30 minutes while you churn or soften the strawberry layer. Spread strawberry ice cream and freeze at least 1 hour before serving. Decorate as desired.

I love ice cream cakes, don’t you?

Samoa Bars

In my reader, I have amassed quite a collection of blog posts and recipes that I’m dying to try. Unfortunately, that collection grows by the day and I can’t quite keep up. Also, when a stroke of inspiration strikes, there’s no guarantee that an appropriate recipe is already sitting in my files so I go off hunting the internet and alas the list of recipes never gets shorter.

This week, however, I was determined.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally settled on this recipe. Browned butter, chocolate, coconut, and the namesake of the hands-down best Girl Scouts cookie out there. What could go wrong? Nothing, I tell you, nothing. These bars are an exercise in moderation they’re so delicious. They can single-handedly bring a diet crashing down with the first bite of wonderful. The only thing I would change would be to do some kind of caramel drizzle over them to really get the quintessential samoa experience.

I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Samoa Bars
adapted from honey & jam

Makes one 8×8″ pan.

Ingredients

  • 10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/4 c sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 c bittersweet chocolate chips

Ingredients
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 baking dish with aluminum foil.

Brown the butter in a pan over high heat. To do this, stand very close by and wait until it begins to change color and smell nutty. Take off the flame and allow the butter to cool for a few minutes until just warm. Combine with the brown and granulated sugars in a large bowl. Add in the egg, vanilla, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon. Slowly add in the flour, coconut, and chocolate chips until the flour just disappears. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top over. Bake 25-30 minutes. The center will still be soft but avoid overbaking. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Clearly I was too eager to wait for these babies to cool.

Have you taken childhood favorites and changed them up?

Bailey’s Cheesecake

My brother’s birthday was last week and when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted for it, he had two words.

“Cheesecake” and “Alcohol.”

The alcohol part I understood. He’s young (23 years to be exact), hip, and just beginning the 3-year road on the way to being a lawyer. Of course he’d want alcohol for his birthday! But cheesecake? Even my mom was surprised. My brother has never enjoyed cheesecake, has never asked for a slice of cheesecake even when we, as a family, have one in the house. He always passes.

So why the change of heart this time?

We celebrated his birthday on Sunday and his finalized request for cake was delivered to me Saturday evening at 5pm so I didn’t really have time to argue with him about whether or not he’d even like his birthday cake. I needed to grocery shop, bring ingredients to room temperature, and bake and chill a whole cheesecake for lunchtime Sunday!

But when we sat down to scarf down this wonderful cheesecake, he told us that two nights before (Friday) he had gone out to dinner and tried out a Bailey’s cheesecake (coincidental that I picked the same alcohol) and realized that he didn’t mind cheesecake so much. He liked dense, rich cheesecakes.

Uh oh.

This was not a dense cheesecake. And the one he tried on Friday was by a friend of a friend who owned a bakery. Could mine live up to it?

Oh blog world friends it did! It carried the flavor of Bailey’s without tasting like hard alcohol, beautifully balanced by the sweet mini chocolate chips and Oreo crust. It was light and airy, owing to my beating the filling like no one’s business and my straining of it at the end, and my brother liked it! The texture was silky smooth and the crust crunchy. Every bite was the perfect bite.

My brother who doesn’t like cheesecakes liked it, going so far to say that it topped the one he had tried two days ago. I don’t think he could have hoped for better.

Even my 93-year-old grandmother who I’ve never seen drink even a drop of alcohol liked it. That’s gotta say something!

Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake
adapted from yumsugar

Ingredients
For crust:

  • 1/2 c pecans, toasted, cooled, and crushed (400F for 15 minutes or until fragrant)
  • 2 c Oreo crumbs (scrape out the filling)
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

For filling:

  • 2 1/4 lb cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 c sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c Bailey’s Original Irish Cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c mini chocolate chips

For topping:

  • 1 c heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1/3 c confectioner’s sugar

Instructions
For crust, Preheat oven to 325F. Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl until moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides (as much as you can) of a 10″ spring form pan. Don’t pack it down too hard or it will be impossible to cut the finished crust. Bake 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the filling, Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed 3-5 minutes or until very smooth. Gradually add in the sugar followed by the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Add in the Bailey’s and vanilla and beat another minute or two. At this point, my filling was still a bit lumpy so I strained it quickly before moving on.

Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips over the baked crust. Spoon in filling then sprinkle with remaining chips. Place onto a baking sheet or roasting pan filled partially with warm water. Bake at 325F for 1 hour 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off oven and crack the oven door open, allowing the cake to cool in the oven a bit for 20-30 minutes before removing and chilling in the refrigerator overnight.

For serving, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the coffee and sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Taste and adjust accordingly.

You can garnish the cake with chocolate curls or toffee bits but I was pretty happy as it was already.

The aftermath. Not so pretty but definitely yummy!

Are you a fan of alcohol and baking?

PB Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

This is the biggest week in my medical school career.

On Thursday, I find out where I am employed for the next four years of my life, where I will make my lifelong connections, where I will train to be the best possible physician I can be. At noon, my entire class will open our envelops containing the destination we’ve worked so hard to get to for the past four years. We’ll find out how far away we’ll be leaving one another. There will be tears of happiness and tears of sadness.

The thought of it makes me want to vomit.

Which is where this cookie cake comes in!

From the moment I saw this on Ellie’s blog, I knew I’d be making it in a time of turmoil. It looked comforting, inviting, and warm. And after all was said and done and I was eating my first slice, I knew it was exactly what I needed. The butterflies in my stomach vanished for a moment as I filled it instead with chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow goodness. How could I be stressed with a mouthful of what tastes like unbaked cookie dough?

Unfortunately, in my moment of need last night I polished off more of the cake than I anticipated. I’m not sure how I’m going to tide my nerves between now and Thursday now!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
adapted from Almost Bourdain

Makes 1 9″ cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c smooth peanut butter
  • 1 c lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 c chocolate chips (I used 60% cacao)
  • 1 c minimarshmallows

Instructions
Preheat oven to 355F. Grease and line a 9″ circular cake pan. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. Add in egg and beat another minute on medium speed, scraping down sides as needed. Switching to low speed, mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and marshmallows with a spatula. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 18-22 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan before running knife around edge. Then cool in pan for at least 4 hours before turning out and serving.

 

What kind of week are you having?

Olive Oil and Coconut Brownies

Let me tell you about these brownies.

They taste like olive oil.

Now, many recipes tout ingredients in their titles that don’t always play a huge role in the flavor category. This one doesn’t. These actually taste like olive oil with some surrounding chocolate and a helping of coconut. So if you don’t like any of those ingredients, I’m sorry but these are probably not the brownies for you.

However, if you do like any (or all) of the above ingredients, you’re going to love these! I happen to be one of those people who could (did? I’m not telling!) eat these in spoonfuls out of the pan, who finds the flavor combination both sublime and addicting. The only real problem for me is that they’re not super awesome washed down with a glass of cold milk. Milk and olive oil? Not the best duo. But olive oil and chocolate and coconut with a few grains of salt? Oh baby, come to mama!

This Week I Ate..

  • Eats Well With Others’ Chicken Enchiladas with Mashed Plantains. After a slightly panicked text message, I was reassured in replacing the red chiles with 3 chipotle peppers (with accompanying adobo sauce) and Boy and I could not love this dish any more. It was the perfect amount of spicy and the queso fresco on top completely won us over. (I used an entire 12 oz block). I wish I still had leftovers.

Olive Oil and Coconut Brownies
adapted from NY Times

Makes 16-25 brownies, depending on how you cut them.

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c + 1 tbsp water, boiling
  • 1 oz unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate (I used 72%), finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 c + 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 heaping tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 60%), coarsely chopped
  • 1 c shredded sweetened coconut
  • extra kosher salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8″ baking pan with foil and grease lightly with extra olive oil. Set aside.

Whisk together cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth. Add 1 oz unsweetened/bittersweet chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in olive oil. Whisk in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add in sugar and whisk until completely incorporated. Switch to a spatula and fold in flour and salt until just mixed. Fold in coarsely chopped chocolate.

Pour half of the batter into the pan and smooth over. Sprinkle half the coconut over the batter. Then, in big spoonfuls, plop the rest of the batter over top the coconut and smooth over (it’s okay if it’s not perfect). Sprinkle with the remaining coconut and a good dose of sprinkling salt. Bake 25-30 minutes or until just set. Disregard the tester in this case because it won’t come out clean. Allow to cool completely on a rack.

This has been submitted to Sweets for a Saturday!

S’mores Bars

I apologize for the lack of posting this week but I’ve been doing a lot of carpe diem lately. This past week I went to the NY Wine Expo (and became a hot mess), watched the Knicks v. Heat game on Sunday while eating wings (yum), shopped for snowgear (but didn’t buy anything), and ate out a grand total of five times. Also I saw the King’s Speech, 127 Hours, and Tangled. All of which were fabulous. (If you want my opinion, while I thought King’s Speech was good, I didn’t think it should have won Best Picture but that’s the Academy for you!)

And all this time I’ve been working.

So there hasn’t been much time for baking or blogging (my Reader is out of control at the moment). But there has been time for these bars because they took all of 10 minutes to throw together! They were delicious to boot. Who can resist the classic s’mores combination? I have to say the chocolate was a little bit too sweet for my taste though. Next time I may try bittersweet chocolate or even unsweetened (the condensed milk adds a lot of sugar). These were easy, quick, and perfect for any sort of gathering. (Except I ate all of them on my own but shhhhhhh don’t tell!)

This Week I Ate..

  • Smitten Kitchen’s Sour Cream Pancakes. These were wonderful! Tangy and fluffy, perfect for dousing in maple syrup with a side of strawberries. A solid breakfast is always best way to start my day.
  • Curry Creamed Chicken with Couscous Salad. I used to make this all the time when I first started living on my own but my need for variety and the staggering amount of good recipes I have yet to try have prevented me from making it the past few years. I revisited my old favorite and can only say that I usually double the cream sauce because it’s so delicious. This dish comes together in under 20 minutes and it’s great for a weeknight meal (and fairly healthy too besides the cream).
  • Annie’s Eats Chicken Ranch Pizza. There was a sale on fresh pizza dough at my local supermarket this week so I stocked up and made a bunch of pizza. This is one of my favorite pizzas ever! I’ve made it at least half a dozen times now and Boy can’t get enough.
  • Chicken BBQ pizza. With my extra pizza dough I just threw on about 1/4 c barbecue sauce (hickory smoked), 3/4 c shredded mozzarella, caramelized red onion, and cooked chicken, and called it a day. Simple but delicious just the same.

S’mores Bars
adapted from Williams Sonoma, seen on Annie’s Eats

Makes 16 or 1 8×8″ square pan.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c graham cracker crumbs (approximately 6-7 graham crackers)
  • 3/4 c sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c mini marshmallows
  • 2 whole graham crackers
  • extra butter to grease the pan

Instructions
Line an 8×8″ baking dish with aluminum foil and lightly grease with extra butter. (I found it easier to grease the foil first and then place in the pan.

Using a fork, mix melted butter with graham cracker crumbs until evenly moistened. Pour into the bottom of the pan and press into an even layer. (I used the bottom of a glass.)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the condensed milk and chocolate chips. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Quickly pour the mixture over the graham cracker base and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle marshmallows over the chocolate and gently press them in so they are anchored. Break up the whole graham crackers and insert between the marshmallows.

Cover and refrigerate about 4 hours or until firm. Cut into bars and serve cool.

When was the last time you carpe diem’d?

Chocolate Macarons

I don’t think of myself as a Type A personality. You know the type, the need to micromanage, to have complete control, for everything to be “just so.”

I don’t think of myself as a Type B personality either. I’m not the laid back, surfer, come what may, “que sera sera” type.

I’m somewhere floating between the two, in a weird combination of acting one way when most people would act the other. I’ll give you a few examples.

With countertops, I’m Type A. They must be clean at all times. Not a crumb. And I can’t stand left-behind twist-ties or the little plastic ring that you have to pull off the milk container before you can consume it. Throw them out or I go crazy.

With dishes, however, the things that are most likely to breed bacteria and cause smells, I’m more “whatever.” They can sit in the sink for a day or two and I don’t mind one bit.

With planning vacations, I’m Type A. Completely Type A. I have to remind myself to schedule in “free time” or we’d be running around like chickens with our heads cut off. I budget, I compare prices, I shop around for the best deals, I research the weather, the local customs, find things to do off-the-beaten-path. I run the show.

With school, I’m Type B. I know when things are due and yet I often save them until the last minute. I do the bare minimum these days, just enough to get by, not even really concerned with getting Honors (the medical school equivalent of an “A”) anymore.

When Boy mentioned that I hadn’t made macarons in awhile, I was Type B. “Oh! You’re right! I should make a batch sometime.” And that sometime ended up being weeks after the fact. I wasn’t in a rush.

But when the egg whites were aged and it came down to it, I turned into a Type A monster. I read and reread the instructions umpteenth times, I watched videos over and over again to make perfectly sure I knew how stiff my peaks needed to be, I measured and measured again, careful in ever movement, worried that I’d ruined their feet before they were even in the oven.

Macarons still elude me in many ways. I’ve had success with them in the past but I’ve also had failure, and I have not been able to decipher what went right or wrong in either case. These? They had feet. Beautiful feet! But one pan completely fell once I took them out of the oven, the feet becoming miniscule, and they didn’t seem to want to come off the pan no matter what. The other pan didn’t fall quite as much but after chilling and upon serving, it seemed the center wasn’t as cooked as I’d hoped. Instead of a crunchy outside and a soft inside, the inside was much more dense and it seemed I had put gobs of ganache on. There was no space of air between the top and the insides. They looked perfect, but they were not (although they were, of course, delicious because gobs of ganache can never ever taste bad).

In my quest to have perfect macarons every time, this was another semi-fail but it was still delicious and I will try the same exact recipe again in the future. With macarons, it’s the technique and not really the recipe so it’s worth a shot to try the same recipe multiple times. The ganache was definitely a win though!

Chocolate Macarons
adapted from LA Times and David Lebovitz

Makes 24-30 sandwiched macs.

Ingredients

For shells:

  • 1 1/3 c blanched almond meal
  • 2 c + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 aged egg whites (3-4 large, at room temperature after sitting out for a day or 3-4 days in the refrigerator)

For ganache:

  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions
For shells, Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Strain together almond meal, powdered sugar, and cocoa into a large bowl. Whisk to blend. Set aside. Beat egg whites using an electric mixer over low to medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed and continue beating until the peaks are glossy and medium-firm. Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions until just incorporated. It will be runny and look like cake batter.

Spoon half of the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round trip. PipeĀ  1 1/2 inch rounds by keeping the bag vertical and 1-2 inches above the sheet. Keep 2 inches in between rounds. Rap the pan against the counter and repeat with the second sheet. Allow sheets to sit for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 425F.

When ready to bake, dust macarons with extra cocoa powder and place each individual baking sheet atop a second spare sheet. Place in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350F. Prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the macarons are just firm to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and bring the oven back to 425F for the second sheet of macarons.

Once the oven has been reset, remove the first set of macarons from the parchment. I did not do this but LA Times suggests pouring a little hot water onto the baking sheet underneath the paper and tilt the sheet to dampen the parchment evenly. Let sit for 15 seconds and then peel the macarons off.

For ganache, Heat heavy cream and light corn syrup in a saucepan until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit for 1 minute before stirring until smooth. Stir in butter. Cool to room temperature before using.

For assembly, Match macarons up by size. Spoon or pipe ~ 1 tsp of ganache in the center of one macaron bottom. Sandwich with second macaron and press gently to spread ganache to edges. Refrigerate at least 24 hours, taking macarons out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving.

Love them feet.

Chocolate Crinkles

We’ve been having game night lately in my circle of friends.

It started off as a holiday exchange game brought in several board games that we couldn’t wait to try out. A little friendly competition can’t hurt, right?

Well now it’s become an all-out boys versus girls war.

Three times in the past month, we’ve rolled up our sleeves, put on our game faces, and have played Taboo and Cranium until the wee hours of the morning. The losing team is never satisfied with the result and the winning team can’t help but be greedy for more bragging rights.

Two game nights ago the girls lost for the first time to the boys in Taboo. Unheard of! Girls are better communicators, aren’t they? Better at using their words? But, alas, the stars aligned in the boys’ favor at the end of the night.

So I came up with a new strategy. Bring irresistible cookies to stuff the boys’ mouths with. Give them a distraction that they’ll never see coming. A sneak attack. A modern-day Trojan Horse.

And I give you Exhibit A.

A cookie Boy and I first discovered at Panera the night before this fated Game Night #3. A cookie Boy fell in love with and happily munched on while I was secretly plotting. I had found the cookie to make them weak in the knees, defenseless from the fudgy chocolate with a crunchy outer layer and a gentle dusting of powdered sugar! These came together in just an hour from start to cooled so they were easily made while Boy finished up some work at the hospital before we were off to the Games. (By the way, I’ve also been reading the Hunger Games series – I’m on book #2 – and so I’ve gotten even more competitive. What a great read!) And as the boys downed the cookies the girls steered clear. Perhaps they knew my strategy. Perhaps they were just watching their figures. But at the end of the night, the girls were again crowned victorious and that’s all that matters.

As one teammate put it, swinging her arms in a happy march/run motion and in a sing-song voice, “We are awe-some! We are awe-some!”

If you’re looking for a cookie to stop traffic with its delicious chocolate-y-ness, one simple to make with ingredients you likely already have on hand, this is the cookie for you.

If you’re looking to win Game Night, this is the cookie for you.

If you’re just looking for an awesome cookie, this is the cookie for you.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Makes 24-30 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar in a bowl, set aside
  • 1 2/3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for one minute after each addition. Add vanilla and beat thoroughly. Switching to low speed, add in flour mixture. Beat until just combined, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.

Take teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into a ball. Roll in powdered sugar to coat and place on prepared sheets approximately 2 inches apart. Bake sheets one at a time for 10-12 minutes. Cool on sheet for five minutes, then move to wire rack. Continue with remaining dough.

Do you have Game Night? What do you play? What do you eat?

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