Frozen Triple Chocolate Truffle Cookies

A friend recently spent a weekend in Columbus and my strongest recommendation was to eat at Northstar Cafe as much as possible. She’s a chocolate fiend, so I knew I didn’t even have to point out that she should definitely try the chocolate truffle cookie aka cookie brownie aka brookie. She returned with rave reviews, of both the restaurant and the cookie.

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I got together with her for dinner recently and thought I would try to dig up the recipe to make some for her. These definitely aren’t exact, but they’re pretty close. I made them a lot smaller for easier popping. I almost ignored the tip about sticking them in the freezer, as I fall on the hot side of the hot/cold baked goods debate. (Yes, this is a thing, at least in the circles in which I travel.) So glad I followed the directions! These are good out of the oven or at room temp, but they are excellent straight from the freezer, which makes them oh-so-perfect to stash for chocolate emergencies on hot summer days.

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Frozen Triple Chocolate Truffle Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit

10 oz dark chocolate, chopped
½ c plus 2 t all-purpose flour
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dutched)
¼ t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 c sugar (I would probably cut this back to ¾ c next time I make these)
5 T butter, room temp
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 350 and line two large baking sheets with parchment.
  • Using a double boiler or the microwave, melt the chopped chocolate. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • In another medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each.
  • Slowly add the melted chocolate and beat to combine. Add the vanilla.
  • Add the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop the cookies by the tablespoon onto the baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes, until the tops are just starting to crack. Cool completely, then store in a sealed container in the freezer. These will be edible way longer than they will be around.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Snackers

Having friends who love to cook and bake is great. In a perfect world, they would live close enough to sample their creations. In reality, I’m a plane flight from most of my best friends. Very sad, but at least I have fun places to visit. And they send me recipes saying, try this! It’s so good!

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That was the case here. I saw this recipe, dismissed it, and the only person I know who bakes more than me – my friend Mara – forwarded it and said, try it – it’s easy and a huge hit. Concise and so true. This is an excellent thing to have in your fridge to help stave off any afternoon hunger pangs. It’s salty, sweet and satisfying without being a total sugar crash disaster. I’ve definitely made versions of this bar involving sugar and cream, and these really are just as good.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Snackers
adapted from The Kitchn

1 ⅓ c peanut butter
1 ½ c pitted dried dates
½ c oatmeal
1 ¼ c roughly chopped dark chocolate, divided

  • Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the peanut butter and dates together, stopping to break up any date chunks, until fairly smooth.
  • Throw in ½ c chocolate and the oatmeal and pulse a few times to mix them in.
  • Dump the dough into the baking dish and press it down to spread it out.
  • Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave using short bursts, or in a double boiler. Pour on top of the dough and use an offset spatula to spread it out. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour before serving. Use a very sharp knife to cut into small squares. These will keep in a covered container in the fridge for a week.

Pluot Ricotta Tart

This tastes like a giant scone. A giant, rich, wonderful, dotted-with-jammy-fruit scone. If you hate scones, feel free to stop reading. I will not be offended. If however, like me, they are one of your favorite ways to start your day, don’t hesitate. Gather up some ricotta and stone fruit and make this delicious treat.

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I had some leftover pluots and ricotta cheese sitting in the fridge, so this recipe came through my Facebook feed at the exact perfect time. It was easy to throw together and baked up like a beautiful biscuity pillow. The best parts are unquestionably the areas surrounding the fruit, but I threw restraint to the wind, slathered some creme fraiche on the rest and gobbled it down quite happily. A lovely mid summer’s treat.

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Pluot and Ricotta Tart
adapted from Food 52
2 ½ c (300 g) all-purpose flour
⅓ c sugar
2 T baking powder (yes, tablespoon)
¼ t salt
7 oz ricotta
6 T milk or cream
4-6 T olive oil
1 egg
4 pluots (or plums)
coarse sugar for sprinkling

  • Heat oven to 390 and grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the ricotta.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then stir in the milk and oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Start with 4 tablespoons of oil and add more if you need it to help your dough come together. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl to form a ball, then set it aside to rest for a few minutes.
  • Quarter the fruit. Plop the dough into the prepared pan and use your hands to spread it out to fill the pan. Press the fruit, skin side up, into the dough. Sprinkle liberally with sugar.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cake is just turning golden. This is best the first day or two.

Verdens Beste Cake

One of the main reasons I travel is to eat. I don’t know if that makes me shallow, but it’s true. I still remember the most delicious piece of cake I had in Buenos Aires back in 2008 that I vowed to bake myself upon returning home. Still hasn’t happened, although a trip back to sample the same cake is significantly cheaper now.

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Since my traveling has been curtailed as of late (hello, parenthood), my culinary explorations have been focused closer to home. Thankfully, my brother has been picking up the slack. He and his girlfriend went to Norway this spring and he passed along this recipe for what is supposedly the national cake of Norway. On the surface, it looked complicated and out of my league for a quick dessert to throw together for a casual Sunday dinner. However, upon closer inspection, I was pleased to discover it’s not at all fussy yet yields impressive results.

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In a nutshell: yellow cake topped with meringue with a big fat layer of whipped cream in the middle. I was sold, as were all in attendance at said dinner. Don’t be intimidated – give it a go. Only one modification to make it even better: I might have eaten the leftovers topped with some chocolate ganache the following day.

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Verdens Beste Cake
adapted from Sweet Paul

10 ½ T unsalted butter, softened
1 ⅔ c sugar, separated
1 ⅓ c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
5 eggs, separated
⅓ c whole milk
⅓ c sliced almonds
1 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla

  • Heat oven to 350. Line an 8×12 or 9×13 inch metal baking pan with parchment.
  • Beat the butter and ⅔ c sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, then the milk.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and spread it out into a roughly 8×12 rectangle.
  • In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form, then very slowly add the remaining 1 cup sugar. If you add it too fast, you’ll kill the meringue (I speak from experience), so take your time. Once all the sugar is added and the meringue is just starting to firm up, plop it on top of the cake batter and spread it evenly across the top.
  • Sprinkle the almonds on top of the meringue.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until the meringue is puffed and golden. This stressed me out because you can’t test the cake for doneness. You just have to trust your instincts here. The meringue will be a lovely golden brown color and the cake will be perfectly baked.
  • Cool completely and slide the cake onto a cutting board.
  • When the cake is cool, put the cream and vanilla into a large bowl, and again using the whisk attachment, beat to soft peaks.
  • Cut the cake in half so you have two square-ish pieces. Put one half, meringue side up, on your serving platter. Spread the whipped cream on top of the meringue. Place the other cake half, meringue side up, on top of that. This cake was best the day it was made and pretty good the next day as well. It should be stored in the refrigerator.

Coconut Brown Butter Cookies

This cookie made me a believer in brown butter. I have tried baking with it before and was always skeptical if it was worth the time it took to make it. I think I was probably doing it wrong. In this recipe, with very clear instructions, I finally achieved brown butter perfection and the ensuing nirvana provided by eating way too many of these cookies.

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Don’t take my word for it. I had seven other independent parties verify their outstanding deliciousness. I made them on a bit of a whim – the tab had been open for awhile in my browser, and I wanted an easy little something sweet to serve to friends after dinner that night. Little did I know I was discovering what will surely be an oft-repeated staple of my cookie repertoire. Again, Deb can do no wrong. I should just give up all other sources of recipes and start making everything she posts.

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Coconut Brown Butter Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 T water
½ c sugar
¾ c packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ t vanilla
1 ¼ c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
¼ t table salt
4 c (240 g) unsweetened coconut flakes (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 c chocolate chips (optional – opinion was divided here. I preferred them with, Brad without)

  • Brown the butter. I am not even going to try to replicate the instructions. Click through and follow the original. Like I said, this is the first time I’ve ever gotten it right. Keep in mind that you’ll need to chill the melted butter for at least an hour, so build that into your anticipated cookie-making schedule.
  • Heat oven to 350. In a mixer, beat together the chilled brown butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then the vanilla, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter in two additions, then add the coconut in two additions, stirring just to combine.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips if using.
  • Line a few large baking sheets with parchment. Scoop out tablespoons of dough and leave space between as these will spread a decent amount. Bake 9-10 minutes, until the cookies are nicely browned all over. These are really best the first day or two.

Seeded Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe might have been made for me – it hits that perfect mix of sweet treat with a healthy twist. It’s a fine line trying to make something you really want to be a dessert just a little bit healthier. Go too far and you have an inedible block of quinoa, almond butter and cocoa nibs. I speak from experience.

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These cookies tread that line perfectly. A little whole wheat flour, restrained use of sugar, throw in some oh-so-healthy seeds for good measure. Just pay no attention to that stick of butter. You could easily make these without the added seeds and they would be a very respectable chocolate chip cookie. I love the added texture and flavor the seeds add and intend to think about adding a handful of seeds here and there when trying new recipes in the future.

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Seeded Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the New York Times

¼ c plus 2 t sunflower seeds
2 heaping T pumpkin seeds
1 T chia seeds
½ c oats
½ c whole wheat flour
½ c all-purpose flour
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 c chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 350 and line two large baking sheets with parchment.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds and oats. Set aside.
  • In another medium bowl, combine the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat just to combine, then stir in the seed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • As with most chocolate chip cookie recipes, this will taste a little better if you cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. However, I rarely have that kind of foresight, so I just plowed straight ahead and baked them immediately. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough, spacing a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes until the edges are just starting to turn golden and the centers are set. Makes about 3 dozen.

Magic Almond Cake

My baking has slowed dramatically as of late, and it has taken me way too long to write this post. But I am still going to do it even with a couple of weeks’ delay because I so loved this cake. It is perfect in its simplicity and versatility.

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There is no shortage of almond cake recipes, should you be so inclined to search one out. On one particularly productive baking day, when I wasn’t even looking to make an almond cake, the recipe on the bag of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal caught my eye because of one unique ingredient – coconut flour. Of course I have a container of this stashed in the fridge. Even if you don’t, I think it would be worth investing in one so that you could use it to make this cake and have it as your go-to summer dessert for the next few months. The small amount of coconut flour really adds a nice undertone and sets this apart from other similar recipes I’ve made.

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This cake begs to be topped with berries, but if you don’t have any of those handy, a drizzle of some chocolate sauce or caramel, or a big scoop of ice cream would be delicious.

Magic Almond Cake
adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

6 T butter, room temp
½ c sugar
2 eggs
¼ c whole milk
½ t vanilla
¾ c almond meal or flour
¼ c coconut flour
¼ t salt
1 t baking powder

  • Heat oven to 350 and grease an 8 inch round cake pan.
  • In a medium bowl or mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the milk and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the almond and coconut flours, salt and baking powder. Add to butter mixture and beat just to combine.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 25-30 minutes, pull it from the oven when a tester comes out barely clean. This will taste good for 2-3 days.

Berry Pie Crumble Bars

I’ve made these three times in one week. Twice with strawberries and once with blueberries. They were devoured every time. One pan (mostly) by me, one pan at a gathering my mom went to, and a third by some friends and our kids. If that’s not enough to get you motivated, I don’t know what would.

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Simple, flexible, delicious, reasonably healthy (as far as desserts go) – these bars will be a wonderful staple through spring and summer to bring to cookouts or have on hand for afternoon snacks. I would like to try them with rhubarb as in the original recipe, but so far haven’t had any when I needed it. I think the tartness of that fruit would be a really nice counterpoint to the berries.

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Berry Pie Crumble Bars
adapted from One Bowl Baking via Smitten Kitchen

1 c oats
1/2 c + 2 T all-purpose or white whole wheat flour (I tried with both and did not notice a difference)
scant ½ c brown sugar
heaped ¼ t table salt
heaped ⅛ t baking soda (what an obnoxious measurement)
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1 t cornstarch
1 T lemon juice
1 T granulated sugar, divided
2 c berry of your choice

  • Heat oven to 350. Grease an 8-inch square pan. This recipe is easily doubled for a 9×11 inch pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Drizzle with the butter and mix until evenly distributed.
  • Set ½ cup of the crumble aside and press the rest into the bottom of the pan.
  • Top with half the fruit. Sprinkle with the cornstarch, then with the lemon juice, then with half the granulated sugar.
  • Spread the other half of the fruit on top, then sprinkle with remaining half tablespoon of sugar. FInish by sprinkling the last half cup of crumble on top.
  • Bake about 35-40 minutes, until the crumble is toasty and the fruit is bubbly.
  • Let cool in pan. I found these best in the first day or two, but still tasty for another day or so after that.

Double Strawberry Bread

Today was the first day of the year that felt like summer. Our poor old lab just wandered the house panting all day. It was perfect timing for the warm weather as I had some mom friends and their little munchers over to play and we got to bust out the new water table. Huge hit.

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I wanted to make something kind of summery, but as a trip to the farmers market in mid-May in northern Ohio let me know, we’re still a long way from getting anything aside from leafy greens and ramps around here. So I settled on using some giant frankenberries from the grocery store and a jar of this delectable strawberry jam I had just received courtesy of my new jam of the month club subscription from Confituras. (Yes, I know I have problems.)

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The original recipe says the jam is optional, but I think it’s essential. Maybe because I was working with such good stuff. I used half the recipe for a loaf and the other half for mini muffins (kid-friendly of course). Judging by the speed at which they both disappeared, I think they were enjoyed by moms and kids alike. There are definitely worse ways to bide your time while waiting for local berries to show up at the market.

Double Strawberry Bread
adapted from Saveur
3 c flour (I used a white pastry flour, all-purpose would be fine too)
1 t baking powder
1 heaping t cinnamon
½ t kosher salt
1 ½ c sugar
1 ¼ c canola oil
4 eggs
1 t vanilla
4 c strawberries, chopped (this is about one large container)
½ c strawberry jam

  • Grease and flour two 9-inch loaf pans.
  • Heat oven to 350.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  • In another medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla for about a minute.
  • Combine the two, stirring just to combine. Fold in the strawberries.
  • Pour half into each loaf pan. Spoon a 1/4 cup line of jam down the middle of each, then use a knife to swirl it around.
  • Bake for just about an hour, removing from oven when a tester comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pan for about a half hour, then flip onto your serving plate.
  • For mini muffins, I skipped the jam, which was sad, and just sprinkled the tops of each with a little coarse sugar. These baked in about 10 minutes.

Sweet Potato Date Muffins

I have been baking kind of a lot lately, but not posting much of it. Why is that? Lots of the stuff has been healthy. I should say Healthy with a capital H. And the problem when you try to make baked goods Healthy is that they often don’t really warrant sharing.

My incentive for all this virtuousness is a certain little 14-month-old boy who would be perfectly happy to consume nothing but berries, milk and bread, and often does just that. So I’ve taken to trying to hide some other parts of the food pyramid in forms he will eat. I realize I am not the first parent to pull this. The real trick lies in finding something I want to eat too.

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Again, Good to the Grain comes through. This cookbook, if I haven’t already beaten the topic to death, deserves a spot on every baker’s shelf. It is consistently wonderful and allows me to have my treats without feeling too terribly guilty about it. I tried the banana muffins from here too and they were kind of a bust. So stick with these yummy poppers. For the moment, Blake has decided they are worth admitting into his diet as well.

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Sweet Potato Date Muffins

adapted from Good to the Grain

1 medium to large sweet potato (about 12 oz)

2 c white whole wheat flour

1 T cinnamon

1 t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t salt

½ t nutmeg

¼ t allspice

4 T unsalted butter, softened

¼ c sugar

¼ c brown sugar

1 egg

1 c buttermilk

½ c plain yogurt

6 large dates, pitted and chopped (or use another small dried fruit like cranberries)

  • Roast the sweet potato. Rinse it, dry it, wrap it in foil and place it in the oven set to 425. Set the timer for an hour. Check for doneness by sliding a knife in. When it goes in easily, it’s done. If you’re using a really big potato, you might need an extra 15-30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then peel off the skin.
  • Heat oven to 350.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and soda and salt.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then the sweet potato. Beat to combine, but there will still be some chunks of potato left.
  • Gently stir in the dry ingredients.
  • Whisk the buttermilk and yogurt together in the bowl from the dry ingredients, then add those to the batter. Mix just to combine.
  • Stir in the dates.
  • Grease about 16 muffin tins. Fill them ⅔ – ¾ of the way full. Bake 16-18 minutes, until a tester comes out mostly clean. These are good in a sealed container for a couple of days and freeze well.
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