Saturday, August 30, 2008

Outrageous Symphony Bar Brownies

This recipe resulted from the combination/adaptation of two ridiculously extravagant brownie recipes: The Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies, and Cathy's Symphony Bar Brownies. Paula Dean might even balk at the ingredient list. Keep reading, I guarantee your jaw will drop, but do not let the copious quantities of chocolate, butter, and eggs deter you! Just make the brownies, and then cut them into really really teeny tiny pieces. Then, tell yourself that you will just eat one piece. Bye bye baking guilt!

Ok, maybe we're kidding ourselves. If you're the type to wolf down the entire box of chocolates, maybe you should save yourself the grief, and buy that fat-free mix stuff from Trader Joe's. I hear it's not too bad. I'll wager it's at least edible. If, however, you are ready to face the ultimate test of self-control, bake-on!

Unlike most brownies, these are best eaten completely cool, or even refrigerated. Cooling allows the butter-fats and the Symphony bars to solidify, creating a smooth, fudgy consistency. The texture of the toffee bits transforms from gummy to crisp, so that a slight, yet satisfying crunch accompanies each decadent bite. The coffee and dark chocolate mellow as the brownies cool, such that the flavors stand out and complement one another, doing justice to the name "Symphony" Bars: a dark hint of coffee bass melding with a lyrical chocolate baritone, the liquid-smooth chord of butter, and a staccato toffee-almond crunch.

If you expect to be bested by impatience, have some vanilla ice-cream and black coffee on hand to cut the overwhelming chocolate experience of hot-from-the-pan brownies (so dark and rich that the term "chocolate flavor" doesn't adequately convey what it is like to fork the gooey mass straight to your eager mouth - it will shock your gustatory senses).

I promise that the grimace on your doctor's face when he tells you your cholesterol level will not make you regret trying this recipe. These brownies are to-die-for.


1 pound unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
Two 11 or 12 ounce bags of semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 toffee-almond Symphony bars (you can find these at grocery stores in the candy aisle)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan with butter.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate. Be careful not to burn it- I usually melt everything together in the microwave using 30 or 45 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture (make sure the chocolate mixture is not too hot or it will cook the eggs) and cool to room temperature.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture along with the chocolate chips. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Lay the Symphony bars over the top of the batter. You may need to break some of the bars into smaller pieces so that they fit the pan. Try to cover the batter completely with the Symphony bars. Pour the rest of the batter over the Symphony bars, and spread it evenly.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Serves about 80 self-control freaks, 40 dessert-lovers, or 20 masochistic gluttons. Discover your dessert profile today!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Multiplying Midnight Macaroons

Ok, what the heck? Why is it that every time I bake I end up with three times as much batter as the recipe claims to produce?? Two cookie sheets my ass. I ended up using two cookie sheets and three 8x13 in. baking pans (Don’t ask me why I have a shortage of cookie sheets and an abundance of baking pans... I also have an excessive five springform pans. Go figure). Of course, it’s always better to have too much than not enough, especially when it comes to food. I’ll never forget my siblings and I hovering around the dining room table as our mother unpacked steaming cartons of Chinese food from one lonely brown paper sack. Once the last carton was on the counter, we’d pounce like a pack of wolves, grappling for the serving spoon in an effort to get a decent portion. Don’t get me wrong, there was never a shortage of food in my house, but Chinese was a treat and we were greedy little monsters!

I, however, do not have five ravenous children waiting for my baked goods with baited breath. Tonight I happened to be alone, and baking on a whim. Needless to say, I have no use for a towering stack of macaroons, and my roommates have instituted a baking ban, claiming I have caused them to gain 10 pounds. Moral of that long-winded story: less is more! Maybe halving the recipe would be a good idea…

I got bored of macarooning midway through the second cookie sheet, but there seemed to be enough batter for an infinite number of cookies. Up at midnight, with a bowl of batter, madly plopping dollop after sticky-fingered dollop onto wax paper, I felt like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia with macaroons replacing multiplying brooms!

Due to the extraneous cookies, there was not enough chocolate filling to go around, so I opted to smooth a layer of rhubarb jam between the rest of the chewy-crisp, chocolaty discs. I actually preferred the bright bite of the jam paired with the macaroons’ mellow sweetness. Macaroons are to cookies what angel food is to cake. A thick, gloppy blanket of chocolate sauce can easily overpower such airy, delicate desserts. The tangy jam might add a harmonious high note to the baritone of the ganache if paired together… just a thin slick of dark chocolate under a sheen of jam, sandwiched between two weightless wafers… Another day!

Makes untold quantities of sandwich cookies:

1 1-pound box powdered sugar
2 cups blanched almonds
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)

Jar of ganache, or bowl of homemade ganache, or good quality rhubarb or apricot jam

For macaroons: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely grind nuts in a food processor, add powdered sugar and continue to process another minute. Make sure the nuts and sugar mix evenly. Add cocoa and blend 1 minute more. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into whites in 4 additions, making a thick batter.

Dollop batter in walnut-sized mounds on cookie sheets, allowing about half an inch between each dollop.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until firm to touch in center and dry and cracked on top, about 11 minutes. If any cookies run together, separate them with a sharp knife while still hot. Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from parchment.

Assembly: Dollop filling onto flat side of macaroon, top with second macaroon, flat side down. Press lightly to adhere. Repeat with remaining macaroons and filling. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Serve cold.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Moody Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

To call today a lemon of a day would be an understatement. Today definitely registers more along the lines of a rotten banana day. Rotten bananas, standing alone, are far worse than lemons. If life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade, or marinate shrimp, or brighten up your soup, and some people even like eating lemons plain (try a slice dipped in sugar for a pucker-inducing snack). But how gross are blackened bananas? Their pungent, overripe smell clings to everything. Their unpleasant squishiness renders them completely inedible. I don't even like to handle those old bananas with the shriveled flesh and glistening, stringy innards, let alone eat them. If that doesn't deter you then their grainy, mealy texture, and acrid sweetness certainly will. Rotting bananas definitely serve as a fitting metaphor for the worst day ever. But I have never encountered a cloud without a glint of silver lining, or a sour lemon without a higher calling, and just as surely, those gnat-attracting bananas at the bottom of the fruit bowl can be transformed into something wonderful. And you know what? I'd much rather have a hot, sticky slice of chocolate chip banana bread than a boring old glass of lemonade anyways, so bring on the blackened banana days!

When life hands you squishy, disgusting, blackened bananas, make chocolate chip banana bread!


1 c. sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
1 1/2 c. blackened (ok, don't go crazy here, they can't actually be rotten) bananas (3-4)
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
cold cream cheese or cold butter for serving

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a loaf pan. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat the eggs with the mashed bananas and then add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar. Beat well. In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Fold GENTLY into the wet ingredients until just mixed. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 45min-1hr. Cool 10 min and serve slathered with cold cream cheese or butter. Feel mood improve immediately.

This post is dedicated to Amon. It really should be a posting of brown-sugar cornmeal biscuits since those were his specialty, but life handed me blackened bananas, not cornmeal. Besides, he was the only one that knew the secret to the perfecting his biscuits, and he has taken the secret to the grave! Maybe one day I will figure out how to replicate those biscuits riddled with pockets of caramelized brown sugar, but until then he will have to be content with my dedication of banana bread. And as someone who lived a mellow, yet rich and full life that I hope to aspire to, I think he'd be quite pleased with this recipe.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rainy Day Coconut Dulce

All you need for this recipe is a can of coconut milk, brown sugar, and some rain to keep you indoors for an hour or so ... strawberries optional. Or, try saltines with globs of dulce de leche for a delicious gooey-crunchy, salty-sweet dichotomy. A spoon to lick will also suffice nicely.

1 14oz can coconut milk
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
pinch of salt

Pour the coconut milk into a small saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat and continue simmering until the dulce reaches the consistency of sticky pudding. This could take anywhere from 30 min to 45 min, so keep an eye on it and stir occasionally.

Serve with strawberries, saltines, or spoons. Oooh, or ice cream! That would probably be good too. You can't really go wrong.