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Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

When I think of lemon bars, I think of my Grandma Betty, and her puckered lips and beaming smile after taking a bite of one of these tangy-sweet treats.  She loved to make a batch, usually with lemon jello or pudding mix, and then refrigerate them so they were cool.


Inspired by Betty, I made these bars for a recent picnic and barbecue. (h/t Bon Appetit 2004)  They’re a wonderful eggy-custardy texture on top, and the coconut in the crust makes adds a chewy, tropical dimension on the bottom.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with some red raspberries on a platter — turned out great.
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Two of my favorite candy bars growing up were Mounds — dark chocolate covered chewy coconut — and it’s sweeter, milk chocolate sister Bounty. Since the latter isn’t marketed in the U.S., I remember hoarding pocketfuls of the bars on summer trips to Canada and carefully rationing them when I got home.  They are worth it!

This is a baked take on those treats, turned inside out:  Moist, rich dark chocolate cake filled and topped with creamy coconut-vanilla frosting and sprinkled with coconut flakes.

I love this chocolate cake recipe from scratch, using Ghirardelli cocoa powder, courtesy Gourmet Magazine from 2004. My coconut-vanilla frosting recipe follows below.

Coconut Vanilla Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp

1 can coconut milk, reduced until thickened (use 1/3 cup)

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

pinch of salt

1 3/4 cups sweetened coconut flakes

(1) Blend butter, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add more milk if too thick to taste.

(2) Frost bottom layer of cake, adding 1/2 cup of coconut flakes spread evenly on top.  Then add top layer.

(3) Frost top layer and sides of cake.  Sprinkle remaining coconut flakes on top and along sides.

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I haven’t been a big fan of Bon Appetit since it took over my subscription from the now-defunct Gourmet last year. But they get props for this incredible brownie recipe, featured on the cover of February’s edition.

What puts these over the top is the brown butter, which is new to me but not hard to prepare. You melt unsalted butter over medium heat and allow the milk solids to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan and brown.  It adds a rich, nutty flavor to the mix that complements the walnuts and earthy unsweetened cocoa powder.  And the texture is perfect: rich and chewy on the inside, slightly crispy on top.

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Picture the perfect chocolate chip cookie… For me, it’s thin with a slightly crisp bottom and softer top; a balanced mix of chips and nuts; and, a buttery not-too-sweet richness overall.

And after many rounds of trial and error in my kitchen, I can honestly say these might come closest to the mark. They are without doubt the best I’ve made in over a year. Hat-tip to my fabulous colleague and talented baker Susan James for this recipe, circa 1979!

Her secret is to use about a half cup less flour and sugar each than a standard cookie recipe calls for — keeping all other quantities the same — yielding a softer and wetter batter that bakes down thin to irresistible, chewy/crunchy goodness.

Susan James’ Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup oats

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Unsweetened coconut, nuts and chocolate chips to taste

*Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, but watch them carefully in your oven to make sure they don’t burn.

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¡Este pastel es increíble! Chalk it up to Mexican magic: this two-layer bundt cake by Marcela Valladolid requires you to suspend disbelief of both its incredible decadence and how it’s made.

First you prepare a rich chocolate cake batter and fill the bottom half of a buttered bundt cake pan. Then, you pour the liquid, eggy flan mixture — which includes 4 ounces of cream cheese — on top of the batter.

But while you bake it covered for an hour, the layers magically invert:  the chocolate cake rises to the top and the custardy flan sinks to the bottom. When you flip the creation onto a serving platter, the result is a beautiful creamy, vanilla-caramel flan layer atop a rich, moist chocolate cake.  Drizzle with a salty caramel sauce.  It wowed everyone’s socks off.

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No trip to the great Northwest wilderness is complete without a classic dessert prepared artfully over the open flame:  the s’more.  Gooey toasted marshmallow sandwiched between crunchy honey grahams and rich sweet chocolate. Heaven in the woods — and totally worth every mosquito swat while toasting the ‘mallows over the fire.   This year we decided to shake it up and use Nutella — the European hazelnut spread — in place of the standard Hershey’s milk chocolate bar. I was won over my the creaminess and the nutty flavor.  Try it out next time!

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Like lemon?  Then you’ll love these zesty and moist cakes with a sweet lemon glaze. Perfect for a brunch, picnic, or taking to the office to share.  The eggy cake batter includes 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest, which gives a hint of tang on the inside.  But it’s the double dose of lemon on the outside that really puts these over the top:  shortly after taking the cakes out out of the oven, you drizzle a sweet lemon syrup on top, allowing the liquid to soak in.  Later, you frost the tops with a creamy lemon glaze.   Adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe here.

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