Fudgy Two-Bite Brownies

Need a dessert idea? You can’t go wrong with chocolatey, sea salty, fudgy bite-sized brownies. They’re the ultimate crowd-pleaser and these brownies will leave them wanting more.

Ingredients
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups white sugar
  • ¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder or very finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped, or ⅓ cup chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, while whisking constantly, until it’s a pale golden brown and the particles suspended in it are reddish brown. This usually takes about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Then add the cocoa powder, sea salt, baking powder and espresso powder. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula after each one. When the mixture looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the vanilla extract and the flour. Stir until you no longer see streaks of flour. Then beat vigorously for 50 strokes with the wooden spoon or spatula.
  6. At this point, the mixture should be no more than slightly warm (if not, let it cool for a few more minutes). Fold in the chocolate chunks or chips.
  7. Spread the batter in the lined pan. Bake on the lower rack for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Cool the brownies in the pan on a baking rack.
  8. Once the brownies are completely cool, lift the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the brownies into 16 squares.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

The holidays are creeping up and it’s an excuse for me to start baking more desserts. Generally I don’t bake too often because it’s just myself and Dan…and it’s usually myself who ends up eating the desserts. So generally if dessert posts show up, then you know we’ve been to a potluck or our co-workers have been well fed.

This year, we’re taking part in the 2nd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap hosted by our friends at Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. So I’m getting started with testing cookie recipes to share. A few months ago, I made the chocolate crinkle cookies from Hummingbird on High and loved them! So the other day, I put my own spin on these and made a few other types of cookies and brownies. My co-workers (as well as Dan’s) loved this cookie the most! They were surprised by how few ingredients were in them too! These cookies, adapted from Williams Sonoma, have a moist brownie-like texture in the middle but the outside has a thin crunch and a coating of powdered sugar. These cookies definitely taste great and turn out beautifully. They’re perfect for serving to guests or enjoying for yourself!

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter or use parchment paper.
  2. Put the powdered sugar into a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Turn off the mixture and scrape down sides. Add 1 egg and beat on medium speed until blended. Add the other egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
  6. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until just blended.
  7. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of dough.
  8. Roll dough into a ball using your hands and roll the ball in the powdered sugar until covered.
  9. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat, spacing the balls 1-2 inches apart.
  10. Bake until the cookies are cracked and puffed, about 10-12 minutes.
  11. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.
  12. Using a spatula, move the cookies onto the rack and let cool completely.

Cook’s Notes

When I started to beat the butter and sugar together, I realized that the butter was not soft/warm enough and instead of getting creamy, it started becoming crumbly. If this happens, just turn off the mixer and microwave the butter and sugar mixture for 10 seconds, but be sure to not melt the butter. If this does happen, just refrigerate the mixture for about a minute.

Banana Pudding

Oh, why hello there. I’ve been on hiatus since January and it’s definitely nice to be back. But don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. I’ve actually been training for a half-marathon since we went on break. So my weekends were spent running in Central Park rather than at the Greenmarket or in the kitchen. Besides, I was just eating bagels – lots of them – and they weren’t even homemade…so nothing too blog worthy there. I’m happy to say that the training is pretty much over since the race is next Sunday. And just in time too – Spring is here; although, it has felt like Spring for almost all of 2013 so far. And what better way is there to say hello to Spring than seeing all the seasonal produce pop up at the Greenmarket. Ramps have been spotted on some menus in the city and we ran down to Union Square this afternoon to pick up 2 bunches for ourselves. You can be sure that there will be a ramps post coming up soon.

But getting on point to this welcome back post – Spring means picnics and potlucks. Banana pudding is a great shareable dessert that is hands-off and incredibly easy to make. Even its colors resemble Spring. This recipe is a crowd-pleaser…and it’ll definitely feed a crowd (or two). Everyone will need to pitch in to eat it because if you let leftovers sit in the fridge for an extra day or two, the wafers will get too soggy and bananas too dark and mushy. I’m a vanilla fan, but for chocolate lovers, you can use chocolate Jell-O pudding mix instead. Also, if you want to make these into individual servings for a nicer event (and if you have enough mason jars to cover a 4-5 quart capacity), then assemble the banana pudding in mason jars rather than in a wide/trifle bowl. Mason jars for sure add a nice, rustic touch to the dessert. To be certain, this banana pudding tastes great, jar or not.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, beat together until just combined (about 1 minute) the condensed milk and water using an electric mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add in the pudding mix and beat well for about another 2 minutes.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight before continuing.
  4. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until still peaks form using an electric mixer on medium speed.
  5. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
  6. To assemble, in a large (preferably glass) bowl (4-5 quart capacity), arrange 1/3 of the wafers to cover the bottom, overlapping if necessary.
  7. Then top the wafers with 1/3 of the sliced bananas, then follow with 1/3 of the pudding mixture.
  8. Repeat this layering two more times.
  9. Using the handful of wafers set aside, break them into large crumbs and sprinkle over the pudding to form the top layer.
  10. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.
  11. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or up to 8 hours, before serving.

Cook’s Notes

If you’re using medium sized bananas (about 6″), then you can count one banana as one cup.

I wanted to go lighter on the whipped cream and only used 2 cups, which is fine for the pudding too.

Be sure to let the pudding mixture set well for 3-4 hours or overnight (which I do), so it forms a smooth consistency.

Alfajores

Hi all – long time no see! We were off on holiday the last week; but don’t worry, we’re back – and looking forward to an exciting 2012. But before we can fully begin, there are a few remnants, mainly in the form of desserts, from the holiday and New Years festivities that we need to clean out. So here’s one more cookie recipe. Shhh…we’ll start our New Years healthy eating and living resolution next week.

I first came across this cookie in Peru a few years ago. The cookie has sweet, creamy dulce de leche sandwiched between two rich, buttery shortbread-type biscuits. The fillings I’ve seen are usually dulce de leche; but I have come across jam-filled alfajores. So if you can’t find canned dulce de leche in your grocery store, jam is a good alternative. And for the daring bakers, after you assemble the cookie sandwiches, dip it all in chocolate!

 Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.
  3. Gradually mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until combined.
  4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt until combined.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, or by hand, add the flour mixture in batches into the butter mixture until a dough forms.
  6. Place the dough on wax paper, parchment paper or foil.
  7. Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness.
  8. Place the dough onto a platter and freeze for 2-3 minutes, until it slightly hardens.
  9. Using a 2″ round cutter, cut out 48 cookies.
  10. If necessary, refreeze the dough between cuttings if it gets too soft to handle.
  11. Place cookies onto lined sheet.
  12. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not over-bake or let the cookies become golden.
  13. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
  14. To assemble, scoop a desired amount of dulce de leche and spread onto the bottom of a cookie. Top with another cookie to make the sandwich.

Cook’s Notes

The dulce de leche is quite sweet so I reduced the amount of sugar to 1/3 cup when I made them.

Whenever you’re handling cookie dough that needs to be rolled out and cut, work on top of a sheet of foil or parchment paper. This allows you to easily move the sheet of dough onto a plate and into the fridge to be cooled.

I actually don’t have any cookie cutters. For this recipe, I used the cap of a bottle of oregano. The cap was approximately 2″ in diameter. Be careful, if you apply too much pressure when cutting the dough, the dough can get suctioned into the cap, making it difficult to take out unless you break up the dough. Instead, apply a medium amount of pressure so you see the perforation of the round into the dough; and then you can peel the cut shape out of the sheet.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Orange-Mint Buttercream

There is an inevitable surge of dessert-eating during the holiday season. Potlucks, cookie-swaps, you name it. A key preventing your kitchen from exploding is it keep the recipe simple and easily scale-able. I’ve made about 80 of these whoopie pies (meaning 160 individual cakes!), among other desserts, within the last 2 weeks. Needless to say, I’m glad to be done with baking this holiday season. Now I have time to share what I’ve made with all of you. This recipe doesn’t need much of an introduction. Who doesn’t like the flavors of mint and orange mixed with chocolate? But if you really don’t, omit the peppermint extract and orange zest from the filling to get a classic vanilla buttercream. So if you have time, put on a classic holiday film and get to baking!

 Directions

– For the Cakes –

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. In a large bowl, using a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the egg and beat until well combined.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low, or hand mix at this point, and alternately mix in the flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally and mix until smooth.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter about 1-2 inches apart onto the baking sheet.
  7. Bake in the upper portion of the oven for the first half of the baking time and switch to the lower third of the oven for the second half of the time.
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes until the tops are puffed and the cakes spring back when touched.
  9. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before assembling.

– For the Filling –

  1. Using a stand or hand mixture, beat together the powdered sugar and butter on low until the mixture is crumbly, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, peppermint, salt and orange zest and beat on high until smooth, about 3 minutes.

– For the Assembly –

  1. To assemble, spread a desired amount of filling onto the base of a cake and top with another cake.