Tag Archives: chocolate

Oatmeal Jumble Cookies

For years now, I’ve maintained several beliefs to which I devote myself wholeheartedly:

1) My cat possesses healing qualities. His snuggles are therapeutic.
2) Completing craft projects is a reasonable and productive alternative to studying.
3) One should always have all the ingredients on hand to make simple, buttery cookies.

The last one is particularly important. It’s the reason I buy butter on basically every grocery shopping trip. What if I run out right before a cookie dough craving? What if Paula Deen buys all the butter on the Eastern Seaboard? What if cows go on strike?

Yesterday, my belief gained affirmation in the form of a snow storm. In early December. In North Carolina. Maybe “storm” is too generous, but once I saw that dismal fluffy stuff assaulting the lawn outside of our apartment, I knew I was having a snow day. As in a no-way-am-I-going-out-in-that-stuff day.

Fortunately, I had all the ingredients I needed to make jumble cookies–just what I wanted on a cold day. (I also had all the ingredients I needed to make veggie lasagna, but that’s for another day.)

Truly one of the best things you can do in winter is bake something with a lot of spices. The smell is more pervasive than a Yankee Candle, and the result definitely tastes better.

I used this recipe as my base, then found inspiration in my taste buds’ reminiscences of Whole Foods’ jumble cookie. They throw all kinds of fun edibles in those buttery delights.

Jumble Cookies, or Oatmeal Raisin/Cranberry/Cherry/Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar and white sugar for several minutes. Add the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
2) Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
3) Pour in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts. You’ll want to taste-test the dough repeatedly to verify appropriate raisin/cranberry/cherry/chocolate chip/walnut dispersion.
4) Drop teaspoon-sized rounds of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Let set for another few minutes on the baking sheet before removing. Or eat them straight out of the oven. I won’t judge.

Black Forest Cake

Today is my momma’s birthday. She wanted a chocolate cake with cherries. I delivered.

It’s nice to be able to cook and bake for her after all the years she’s spent in the kitchen keeping my family well-fed. Especially now that I can produce food that is surprisingly palatable.

Out of all my options, it’s appropriate that I made a Black Forest cake. Our family is mostly German, after all. And I like to think that I’m paying homage to not only my mother, but also my grandmother and her mother and all of those women, all of my ancestors, who baked up love in their kitchens.

I love being a part of that legacy.

The recipe is based on this one.

Black Forest Cake:
2 cups and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cherry filling
2 (20 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream frosting
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Bittersweet chocolate for topping (optional)
1/2 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur, also optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with canola oil, then coat the oil with a thin sprinkle of cocoa.
2) In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups of sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
3) Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
4) Meanwhile, drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup of juice. Combine cherry juice, cherries, 1 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring often. Then add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Let cherry mixture cool.
5) Remove cakes from oven and cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove cake from pans and let cool completely.
6) Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
7) With long serrated knife or a long piece of thread (I used thread), split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one of the four split layers into crumbs. (At this point, you can pour the 1/2 cup of Kirsch on the other three layers and let soak briefly, if desired.)
8 ) Take one layer and place on a serving plate. Spread about two cups of frosting on the cake, then top with cherry filling. Cover with another layer of cake and repeat the frosting/filling process. Cover with the remaining layer of cake.
9) Frost around the sides of the cake and the outer part of the top layer of cake. Take cake crumbs and pat onto the sides of the cake to cover.
10) Spoon remaining frosting into a pastry bag or sandwich bag and pipe out decorations along the perimeter of the cake. Add remaining cherry filling to the top of the cake. Grate bittersweet chocolate on the top to decorate.

Be sure to store this baby in the fridge. Make it ahead of time so the flavors get nice and cozy in the cake.

Chocolate Pudding and a Dirt Dessert

There are few food images more nostalgic than layers of sandwich cookie, whipped cream and pudding. Topped with a gummy worm.

Every time my mom made this chocolate pudding, a familial battle would ensue. We all wanted the skin that forms as the pudding cools. Mom always won with the compelling argument that she made the pudding, so she should get the skin.

Today, I got the chocolate pudding skin. As far as I can tell, that’s one of the primary benefits of being a grown-up.

Chocolate Pudding:
1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
three tablespoons cornstarch

1) Heat a pot on medium-low heat. Melt chocolate, add sugar gradually, then add 1 and 1/2 cups of the milk.
2) Mix the remaining 1/2 cup milk with cornstarch. Stir often until thick and pudding coats the back of a spoon.

To make dirt, layer pudding with crushed sandwich cookies and whipped cream. Gummy worms are (not) optional.

Tonight is my last undergraduate Halloween in Chapel Hill. I’m dressing up as a “Deviled” Egg. What about you?

Walnut Brownies

My London landlady introduced me to her friends as follows: “This is Meghan. She makes the world’s best brownies.”

I’ll only add that this recipe is my mother’s. So, technically, she makes the world’s best brownies. Like mother, like daughter indeed.

Walnut Brownies:

3 1-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate or 9 tablespoons of unsweetened chocolate and 3 additional tablespoons of butter
1/2 C. butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 C. of granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 1/2 C. chopped walnuts/pecans
1 C. flour

1) Whip butter and add eggs.
2) Stir in dry ingredients.
3) Coat a brownie pan (mine is 7×7 or so) with butter, then lightly dust the pan with cocoa. Pour in batter and bake at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes.
4) A toothpick test isn’t necessary, since these come out quite fudgey and they’ll continue baking once removed from the oven.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Courgettes. They sound so sophisticated, so French. Of course, when I first arrived in London, I stared dumbly down the produce section looking decidedly unsophisticated; I felt up several of the green squashes before confirming that courgettes are, in fact, zucchini. Turns out that the British are Francophiles, and I am just a woman who creeps people out while shopping for vegetables.

But I digress. The end of zucchini season means that those lovely green squashes must find their way into new foods. I’m tired of roasting ’em and frying ’em and putting ’em in pasta. They deserve a sweet ending. Plus, chocolate courgette bread sounds so lovely. It smells even lovelier. Plus, zucchini is healthy. By extension, anything that contains zucchini is healthy. So chocolate zucchini bread is healthy.

I made this bread only to give it away. (Hint: if you help me find a job, I’ll bake you something.) Yeah, you can call me Magnanimous Meghan. Because of the gift-like nature of this bread, I have not yet tasted it. (It is pending review by a very well-respected Yelper.**)

See? I have self-control. I really do. Excuse me while I go eat three chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (with skin)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Combine oil, sugars and vanilla. Mix in eggs and shredded zucchini.
2) In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. Slowly add dry to wet. Beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.
3) Scrape batter into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean.

**Yelper and Meghan approved. Lawdy, is this bread divine.

More Cupcakes

Variety pack: raspberry, vanilla, mint, and chocolate buttercream frosting.

Seriously, no more cupcakes for awhile. I mean it.

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Yes, I made whoopie. Pies. Recently I’ve noticed that an increasing number of publications are predicting the end of the cupcake trend, with these cookie sandwiches replacing cupcakes oh-so-sweetly, and rather sneakily. (See this Times’ article. Oh, and Lee Schrager has endorsed them, too.) Now, I don’t make a living predicting upcoming food trends, not that I wouldn’t adore a job in that field, but I won’t pretend that I do not appreciate the ease of a whoopie pie. With the cake encasing the frosting rather than sinking underneath it, a one-handed approach to eating is significantly more possible. Also, no frosting up one’s nose. I appreciate that.

Anyway, my dear roommate is celebrating her 21st birthday today, so I made mint chocolate whoopie pies for her party last night. Having served cupcakes at parties in the past, I can honestly say that these babies held up way better under pressure. They didn’t crumble all over our new carpet or induce any serious sugar comas. The Bakerella recipe I used was ideally dark chocolatey, a rich, not overwhelmingly sweet flavor that paired well with my mint buttercream frosting. They’re more like cakes than cookies. And not anything like pies. I definitely recommend using a Silpat for its non-stick qualities and a cookie dough baller to achieve uniformly-sized whoopies.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
3) In a bowl, sift together, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4) In another bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugar with a mixer on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
5) Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes.
6) Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and beat on low until incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.
7) Using a tablespoon or cookie dough baller (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets), drop batter on baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes each or until pies spring back when pressed gently.
8 ) Remove from oven and cool for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. If you have OCD, pair the similarly-shaped ones next to each other for some good-looking sandwiches.
9) Once cool, pipe frosting of your choice onto one whoopie cookie. Top with another similarly-shaped whoopie cookie.

I cannot recommend these highly enough for parties. I’m already trying to rationalize why I ought to buy the cookbook Whoopie Pies. Actually, I don’t even own Joy of Cooking yet. I need to get my cookbook priorities in order.

Has anyone else tried whoopie pies? Do you think it’s time for the cupcake trend to get burned?