chocolate malted whopper drops

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I’m a pusher, plain and simple. My friends can vouch for this and you, gentle readers, probably can, too.

The thing is, we all work hard. I don’t care if you do a 9-5 office-type job, a stand-on-your-feet-all-day job, a mom job, a dad job, a super-secret-spy job: you are working your butt off. And you deserve to treat yo-self! Sometimes that means a new purse. Other times, a relaxing vacation. In my world, it almost always means baked goods.

To me, there are few desserts more perfect than a delicious, chocolatey cookie. Which is why Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops totally siren-songed me. How can I resist chocolate and my FAVORITE candy (Whopper it up!) rolled into a single, amazing treat? The answer is, I can’t. So I made a full batch of these to share at work…not before I sampled a few, of course. Safety first.

These are really simple to pull together. Just 10 or 15 minutes of your time will produce a bowl of sweet, sweet batter. And three batches of cookies later, you’ll have a fantastic display of chocolate discs almost too pretty to eat. Almost being the operative word.

I tried these with a glass of cold milk and a cup of coffee. Both were fantastic. And, hey, you can’t go wrong with a cookie served over some vanilla bean ice cream. YUM.

So what are you waiting for?

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sprinkle sugar cookies

Sprinkle Sugar Cookie

Confession: I will buy any lotion, lip balm, candle, body mist, foot cream (!) that boasts a scent identical to sugar cookies. Clearly, this is a sickness.

I think my obsession started with the super-soft sugar cookies my Mom would pick up from Mars (Baltimore’s finest grocery store chain). They were big and sweet and covered in crunchy sugar granules. They were also the very likely cause of some extremely awkward chubby years between ages 11 to 13.

Sprinkle Sugar Cookie

With time, my love of sugar cookies has evolved from just devouring them to baking THEN devouring them. (I believe this is called progress.) So you can trust me when I say that these Sprinkle Sugar Cookies from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen are a sugar cookie connoisseur’s dream. The cookie itself is perfection–light and airy, soft, with a melt-in-your-mouth quality. Then it’s taken to 11 with the ridiculously delicious almond-sugar glaze.

Nate had me leave a few unglazed (he claims that the icing was just gilding the lily), but I think the glaze is a MUST. Do they have marital counselling for baking disagreements? Because, seriously, that’s an untapped market right there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, these GLAZED cookies won’t eat themselves!

 

 

mocha madness ice cream

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Hi friends!!!

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? My blog calendar tells me I haven’t posted since May 1, which means I haven’t written a thing in 25 days. Yikes.

Now, I know that excuses are for the birds, but I actually have a pretty decent one to explain my absence: we went to Italy! And for almost two weeks I ate pasta and drank wine like a champ.

Our trip started in a house in Umbria (next door to Tuscany)…

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There was a cooking lesson (I’ll be sharing more about that in the future!)…

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A day trip to Florence…

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And a stay in Rome…

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After all of our travels (and all of our eating!), I’m finding it difficult to stay focused in the kitchen. Maybe it’s being away compounded with the fact that it’s pretty much summer and all I want to do is play outside, but I’ve noticed that I only have the attention span sufficient for quick meals and desserts. And since ice cream is one of THE EASIEST and most satisfying desserts, I figured I’d share with you King Arthur Flour’s phenomenal Mocha Madness Ice Cream (you know, in case you’re in the same “attention span of a gnat” situation I’m in).

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I first tasted this treat at a friend’s house. She topped my bowl off with an Oreo and I thought, Wow, so cute! And then I tried a bite and thought, GIMME THE BUCKET OF ICE CREAM AND NO ONE GETS HURT. My inner hungry girl can get kinda scary sometimes.

Not one weekend later, I made this recipe for myself and the rest is history. I think this might be my tenth time making this ice cream, and since this isn’t my first rodeo, I do have a few notes:

1) Add one more tablespoon of espresso powder–the coffee flavor is intensified and it is awesome.

2) I’ve eaten this after it’s been frozen for a bunch of hours, and I’ve eaten this soft serve-style, right after churning. Either way, it is perfection.

3) I have used 2% milk instead of the whole milk to no ill effect. But if you try to swap out the heavy or whipping cream for something lighter, I will have to un-friend you.

4) Three words: Chocolate-Filled Oreos. The original is fine, but these are extra credit.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! I hope it’s filled with lots of food and fun!

vanilla bean marshmallows

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You might not know this about me, but I’m something of a local celebrity in these parts.

I wish it was because I made the best apple pie in town or because I could skip really fast or something cool like that. Instead, my fame extends only to the sweet Korean and Vietnamese women I live near and their astounding interest in my translucent skin.

I started noticing my star power when I would go to the local dry cleaners to have my pants hemmed (short ladies REPRESENT!). The sweet woman who would measure the hem would always say things like, “You are so fair!” and “Your skin is like milk!” while gazing admiringly at my bone-white legs. I knew right away that she meant these to be compliments, but in a society where tanner is better, it’s a little disheartening to have other people LOUDLY exclaim that your skin reminds them of “the snow.”

Obviously, I had to ask a Vietnamese friend about my new-found popularity.  She promptly pointed me to Shiseido’s skin bleaching line and told me that I’d be “big in Vietnam.” With information like that, it’s hard not to let this fame go to my pasty white head.

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But until I can save up for a one-way ticket, it only makes sense for me to keep on keepin’ on here in the Condo’s kitchen. This week, I decided to stick with the alabaster theme and bring you fat, fluffy, and perfectly white vanilla bean marshmallows.

Taken directly from Jessica of How Sweet It Is, this recipe is awesome because a) it’s really easy, and b) no candy thermometer is necessary! WOOT. I’m a HUGE marshmallow fan (I could eat a whole bag of the things, the s’mores-sized kind being my favorite), and these do not disappoint. And hey, speaking of s’mores, can you imagine one of these beauties in between two graham crackers with a couple of rectangles of a Hershey’s bar melted in the center? Because I can. *Drool*

maple olive oil banana bread

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I’m afraid my doctor thinks I’m a hypochondriac. What’s more, I’m afraid I am a hypochondriac.

Today I went to the doctor. My throat’s been all owie and frowny-face, and I’ve been hating it. Mainly because anything even a hair outside of normal gives me the palpitations. So, I spent part of my day off sitting in a waiting room, listening to Kenny G’s sweet, sweet sax playing on the office’s radio, and sizing up my competition (i.e. the other patients).

Some of them clearly had me beat (like the lady with the walker–i.e. the waiting room trump card). But I still felt like I had some clout, considering I was pretty much positive I had strep throat or some other condition that Web MD assured me could potentially lead to death.

In actuality, I have nothing. I mean, I do have a sore throat that needs some time to heal. But you know it isn’t all that bad when your doctor says, “Gargle with salt water,” and, “Take a Tylenol.”

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The funny thing is, I was kinda bummed out that I didn’t have anything real. Mostly because I had to report my prognosis to Nate, and I knew I could no longer use my “condition” to garner pity. So I decided to baby myself by making a major comfort food favorite of mine, banana bread. But since I’ve made all sorts of “standard” b-breads, I knew it was time to try something new. Something like Shutterbean’s Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread.

This bread is great. It’s delicious. If your standard banana bread is the theme, this is the best variation. It is different, but in a fantastic way. A little less sweet that what you’re used to, it’s a comforting treat and exactly what my battered throat (and ego) needed.

brown butter brown sugar cookies

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cookies

How is it still winter?

I not asking you to explain seasons or the Earth’s proximity to the Sun or anything like that. I just want to know how in the heck is it still winter? Haven’t I suffered long enough? My nose is always numb. It’s still dark when I leave for work in the morning. I have to wear TWO PAIRS OF PANTS for chrissake.

I’m over winter. And I’m rebelling by making comfort food in hopes that it will comfort me in my time of need. Or at least put me into a sugar coma until Easter.

The recipe comes from a blog I just started following, Butter Me Up Brooklyn. This is the first time I’ve baked anything from this blog but I’m going to go out on a limb here and call her a COOKIE GURU. Because seriously, these things are fantastic. I mean really, truly fabulous. And very, very easy.

You start by browning butter. Throw in some brown sugar, vanilla, espresso powder, and an egg yolk. Fold in flour, baking powder and soda, roll out balls of dough, and bake. You don’t even need your mixer!

Eight to nine minutes later you have a completely unassuming but absolutely great dessert. It’s wonderful with coffee, vanilla ice cream, and as a midnight snack. These cookies will make you forget about your frozen toes and lull you into a state of pure bliss. They are Prozac in cookie form. So don’t forget to take a dose!

sophisticated fudge brownies

I’ve always considered myself something of a brownie connoisseur. In fact, back in high school I would make big batches of them to share (this was significant considering my only other culinary accomplishment was boiling water for hot dogs or Kraft Mac & Cheese). Everyone LOVED my brownies, and I felt no need to tell them they were courtesy of Mrs. Betty Crocker.

Since then, I’ve become a bit more adventurous, making brownies from scratch and trying out all sorts of add-ins (with a brownie base, you really can’t go wrong). On this blog alone I’ve shared FOUR recipes. And I wouldn’t bring you another one if it weren’t different (better?) than all the rest. Behold, The Baked Brownie (via Pink Parsley).

If you aren’t familiar, Baked is a bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn with a reputation of having some seriously ROCKIN’ sweets, especially brownies. And while I’ve never tasted their version, this recipe has made me seriously rethink my whole delicious brownie criteria. I mean, they have the requisite deep chocolate flavor and amazing fudginess, but they also showcase the instant coffee and salt in a way that is both surprising and delicious. They are the sophisticated brownie lover’s brownie, and they are wicked good.

chocolate pecan scones

Chocolate Pecan Scone

So, I’ve been sick. And the thing is, I’m no good being sick. I’m terrible at it, in fact. You know those movies, like Fried Green Tomatoes, where the sick girl is pale but lovely, propped up on a pile of delicate pillows and smiling bravely? Now imagine the opposite. That’s me. Hacking, whining, sniffling, dressed in ratty old PJs and sending nonsensical text messages about NyQuil and soup.

Being home sick is boring, and I’m prone to cabin fever. But with absolutely no energy to venture outside, I decided to do the next best thing: bake. Because there’s no better way to forget your troubles than with sugar, flour, and plenty of vitamin B(utter).

Since I had the get-up-and-go of a sedated sloth, I knew an easy recipe was the best choice. And it only took a quick browse of King Arthur Flour’s site to know that these scones were my destiny.

Now, I’m no scone expert, but I think these turned out delightfully. They’re perfectly moist, have a dense crumb, and are lightly sweet. I tossed 3/4 cup of chocolate chips and 3/4 cup of pecans into my dough, but you can experiment with all sorts of add-ins. You really can’t go wrong.

baltimore’s finest: the berger cookie

Berger Cookie

If you know me or have been following the blog for a while (or if you’ve read my tagline), you know that I live in Northern Virginia. What you may not know is that I was born and raised in Maryland, not all that far from Baltimore.

If you aren’t familiar with Baltimore, you might think of it as some strange amalgamation of The Wire and Ace of Cakes, where drug deals and turf wars go down outside of  bakeries that make $2,000 desserts. And while that isn’t wrong exactly, there is actually a lot more to Charm City. Like an awesome aquarium, a phenomenal music school, tons of smarties in the vicinity of Johns Hopkins U, HonFEST, Bertha’s mussels, and perhaps the best dessert EVER: The Berger Cookie.

Berger Cookie

What’s so great about this cookie, you ask? Well, the Berger is a cake-like cookie topped generously with chocolate fudge icing. It is best eaten with coffee or a tall glass of milk, in pairs, and with reckless abandon. It defies diets, carbs, and portion control. It is the very best. Which, I guess, is why I shouldn’t have been surprised when the best baking team–King Arthur Flour–took on the Berger Cookie* and made a fantastic version for those of us who can’t get to Lexington Market to get our hands on the real thing.

You start by making the fudgy icing, because you want it at room temp before you dip your cookies. Next, you mix up the super simple batter, drop dollops of dough on your cookie sheet (being sure to flatten them with the bottom of a glass), then bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. When the cookies have cooled, dip them in the icing, distributing any of the leftover fudgy goodness atop the already-dunked cookies.

The general consensus is that these are even better the second or third day. But I wanted the full experience sooner than that, so I popped mine in the fridge for a few hours. I think this step is key–it helps the icing to firm up, just like the real thing.

Please give these a try. Whether you know what the original tastes like or not, you will LOVE them.

*Be sure to use Version 2 of the recipe offered by KAF. It is WAY closer to the real deal.

happy new year! sticky toffee date cake with bourbon glaze

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

Here we go again. December 31. The day we’re all encouraged to reflect and look forward. To remember and anticipate. To drink and revel. I’ll be doing all of those things, and I hope you will, too.

To me, New Year’s is also the last day to really over do it in the food department. Tomorrow, I’ll worry about vegetables and “balanced meals.” Today I want Ina Garten’s Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

And because I’m a grown-up and I gets what I wants, I made this cake with zero remorse. And, frankly, zero hardship. Like most Ina recipes, this is a straight-forward recipe with only a few steps and really good instructions.

You just boil some dates with water for a minute. Whip up the butter and sugar, and throw in some eggs and vanilla. Mix in your flour/salt combo and then slowly pour in the date soup. While that bakes, heat up sugar, butter, heavy cream, vanilla and bourbon. Pour it over your cake the second it comes out of the oven. Then try your darndest to let the cake cool before you devour it.

Which will be a serious hardship. This cake tastes like a deep, dark banana cake that is oh, so sophisticated. It’s the kind of cake that you’ll savor every bite of and then look wistfully at the remaining cake, wondering if you can fit in one more slice. Here’s a hint: you can.

Happy New Year to you and yours from all of us here at the Condo. 🙂