Black Bottom Coconut Bars and the Art of Baking the Gift

June 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

When I don’t know what to give, I bake. Be it a distant friend’s birthday fiesta or a dinner party or whatnot, concocting something delicious seems a more personal present than the usual bottle of wine. Does he/she seem like a chocolate chugger? A vanilla villain? A peanut butter lover? Once I find out, I stir, pour, and mix away until the doing’s done and then wrap it in wax paper, then cellophane, then tissue paper, and tie ‘er up with a funky ribbon. So much sweeter than a boring bottle o’ tipsy. And always creates magic.

These BBC bars are so gooey. The textures of the crispy topping, creamy center, and crunchy nutty bottom are such a magnificent combo. I’m graduating college in less than a week (eek!) and made these for an intimate goodbye dinner among friends. Baked them the morning of, tied each bar up in red wrapping paper and blue ribbon, and gave them out at the end. Thanks, BBC bars. You were loved.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter + more for greasing pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Coconut Filling
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces)

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil.
  2. Heat butter on stove top or in microwave. In a bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, and salt. Whisk. While stirring, add egg, cocoa, and flour. Continue to mix until smooth. Spread evenly in prepared pan.
  3. Bake about 12 minutes, or until just set.
  4. While bottom cools, prepare filling: in a clean bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Mix. Gently fold in flour, followed by coconut (BUT set aside 1/2 cup for later).
  5. Drop globs of coconut topping onto crust and, with moistened fingers or a wet spoon, smooth until evenly distributed.
  6. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut and bake in oven for 25 minutes, or until knife comes out almost completely clean.
  7. Cool in pan before lifting out and cutting into squares.

adapted from always amazing Martha.


My New Fave Chocolate

May 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have a new favorite chocolate. 70% Sirius, Pure Icelandic. It’s so smooth but so rich, so subtle but so sweet. I seem to be eating at least a bar a week (and that’s not including my other dark chocolates). It’s too good.

Sold at Whole Foods. Go get some!

Chocolate love,

Ideal Cookie Dough + ?

April 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Without a strong foundation, a building crumbles. Without its roots that reach deep within the earth, a tree falls. Without a stable family life, a child is more likely to fall behind her peers. It’s the same with cookies. Without a sturdy, strong base – the dough that holds everything together – all is lost and the cookie will not only taste bad, but it will look bad.

Here, this is not the case. After many a moment spent in front of my computer, web recipe perusing, and after many another moment staring at the many inhabitants of my baking shelves, an ideal cookie dough has been achieved. I say “an” and not “the” ideal cookie dough because, as we all know, there is always room for improvement. Do you know of one, already? Let us know. In the meantime, try this very simple but abnormally delicious recipe.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 tablespoon. vanilla extract
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, cream sugars and butter. Add vanilla and eggs, mixing thoroughly.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and add, in two or three parts, to the creamed mixture. Mix well. (Use your hands! )
Done with Part 1: the foundation. NOW comes the fun part. Add whatever you like. I divided the dough into two parts and added butterscotch chips to one and large bittersweet chocolate chips to the other. Amend step 1 of Part 2, below, as you see fit.
  1. Divide dough into two parts and add butterscotch to one half, kneading to incorporate chips into dough. Do the same with remaining half of dough and chocolate chips.
  2. Line two baking pans with parchment paper. Roll dough into smooth, small balls and place at least one inch apart from each other on pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Best with vanilla ice cream!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

April 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s quite amazing how the simplest of ingredients have the potential manifest into something so magical. This is a rapid recipe for a bodacious dessert that will most definitely delight your eating companions.

Best served with fresh whipped cream (i.e. heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar whipped up with an electric mixer on high). This cake is so chocolaty, so dense, yet extremely smooth. Refreshing yet satiating. Chocolate lovers, prepare yourselves!

4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper and butter pan (including paper).
  2. Set a metal bowl over a saucepan or pot of water (flame on medium), and add butter and chocolate. Slowly stir until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove bowl and whisk in sugar. Add eggs. Whisk. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Whisk.
  4. Pour batter into pan and place in middle of oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a thin crust/shell has formed on surface of cake.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a platter.
  6. Once cake has cooled, dust with cocoa powder (and/or confectioner’s sugar, if you so desire). Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. (Don’t refrigerate it!)

Adapted from Gourmet Mag’s 1997 original recipe.

Caffeine Surprises

April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

HEADLINE: Espresso-Infused Cookie Dough Goes on Caffeine Rampage and Overtakes Innocent Chocolate Kisses.

Evanston, IL: It was a breezy Saturday afternoon. The sun was out, the sky was a cloudless blue. Students traipsed down the street on their way to the library. Dogs led their owners by their leashes, stopping every so often along the sidewalk. Besides the wind, all was quiet.

Inside one apartment, however, evidence of the crime was glaringly conspicuous. Pans slammed against the cupboards. Every ten minutes, the oven creaked open and shut. The aroma of melted chocolate wafted into every room. Cookie crumbs were scattered about the kitchen surfaces. Chocolate Kiss-less wrappers were strewn about the counter tops. The cookie dough, maniacal from the caffeine of the espresso within it, had gone berserk and devoured every Hershey’s kiss in sight. With every bite, it birthed a new cookie.

And then I devoured the cookies.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso (Medaglia D’oro!)
2 tablespoons sour cream (or heavy cream)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
large bag of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter. Add vanilla extract, espresso powder, sour cream, and egg, and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir flour and soda together. In two or three parts, add dry to wet, stirring constantly.
  4. Once batter is complete, refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  5. With a soup spoon, drops small scoops of dough, about two inches apart, onto prepared baking pan. Lightly press a dark chocolate Hershey’s Kiss into the center of each scoop (see above). Cover with another small scoop of dough and seal each kiss into center of cookie. Make sure no part of the Kiss is visible in each cookie ball!
  6. Sprinkle each cookie with a little espresso powder and place on upper middle rack in oven.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, until edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Cool for about ten minutes, and enjoy!

Best eaten while hot…while the chocolate center will flow out, onto your tongue, with eeeevery bite.

Chocolate Clouds

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s something mystical about a good cookie. From that first crunch – as your teeth sink down, your lips closing in around that rotund little disc, its sugary essence seeping from your mouth onto your tongue – to the crunch, the swirl, the taste that envelops your every sensory faculty – you just feel its goodness percolate every part of your being. You know what we’re talking about? I assume so. That’s what being a foodie’s all about – how food touches your soul.

A good cookie – made with quality ingredients, with skill, and with care and warmth – engenders this sensation. But only a good cookie.

Here’s a recipe that’s bound to do it to it. The recipe’s a derivative of the magnificent cookie magician, Sarabeth.

1 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips

  1. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 3 half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Combine sugars and beat in butter until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs, continuing to stir.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  4. In three parts, while continuing to mix, add dry ingredients to wet. Add chocolate chips and mix just until combined.
  5. Empty the dough onto the work counter, and use your hands to thoroughly distribute the chocolate chips in the dough.
  6. Using a large tablespoon, drop onto pans, about two inches apart.
  7. Slightly flatten each dough ball with the heel of your hand. ball of dough.
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating pans about halfway through, until the cookies are evenly golden brown. During the last 3 minutes, rap each pan on the rack to achieve crackle effect.
  9. Cool for 5-10 minutes.

ideal oatmeal cookies

April 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Perhaps the perfect oatmeal cookie recipe has been found.

I don’t enjoy raisins in cookies, so I never use them for baking. If YOU like raisins, though, feel free to add them (and any other fixin’s) to your liking. Merrill, thank you for bringing such a magnificent recipe to life.

Although I’ve added a little something here, taken a little out of something there, the recipe remains well intact. Food52 has become a mainstay of my daily gastro-web endeavors. Get ready for some externally crisp yet internally CLOUD-LIKE oatmeal foodgasms. Best eaten warm, in a bowl, with a scoop (or 5) of vanilla ice cream.

1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is my fave)

  1. Heat your oven to 375º.
  2. Combine flour, salt, soda, and spices in a bowl. In another, cream butter and sugar, and then incorporate eggs and vanilla extract.
  3. A bit at a time, add dry to wet and mix with your hands! Continue until all is evenly distributed within your dough.
  4. Add chocolate chips and oats, and continue to stir until combined.
  5. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and flatten large tablespoon-sized balls onto sheets, about two inches apart.
  6. They’re finished when the cookies are golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.
  7. Cool before serving, about 10 minutes.

Enjoy with a cup of steamy, freshly brewed tea and ice cream on the side. MAJOR foodgasm.

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