Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cookies & Cream Brownies

It feels almost cannibalistic to put cookies in brownies. I'm sorry.

Cookies & Cream has always been one of my favourite ice cream flavours. It's like the experience of dunking Oreos in milk minus the dunking, so it's even less effort. It's a faster way of getting full cream dairyness and chocolate cookies into my mouth faster.

This recipe features a quality fudgey brownie batter with the addition of crushed chocolate cookies and pure white chocolate chunks to create that "cream" effect.

White chocolate is mainly cocoa butter and milk solids flavoured with vanilla, so it makes complete sense.

Not all white chocolate is made equal.

This is a classic case of you-get-what-you-pay-for. Real white chocolate is beautiful stuff with a rich milky, buttery taste. And if you close your eyes while it melts on your tongue, you might just taste that complex nuttiness that comes with good quality chocolate even though it doesn't contain any cocoa solids.

The rule is: use pure white chocolate. No hydrogenated vegetable oil allowed. The only fat we want to see is cocoa butter. I prefer Lindt creamy white with Madagascan vanilla.

White chocolate doesn't last as long as dark chocolate either. Over time, and especially in hot climates, the milk solids can separate making it have a less than melt-in-your-mouth texture and leaving it quite chalky.

This also makes melting it nearly impossible - you will likely end up with a thick paste.

Making these brownies is a pretty smooth ride.

It starts with melted chocolate and butter. I add a bit of cocoa to boost that chocolate flavour and add some batter-building solids without drying it out.

Next we go in with the sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs. I use caster sugar, which is fine sugar - finer than your typical granulated sugar. It helps the sugar dissolve more readily to encourage that fudgey texture.

After stirring in the flour and just before the mixture goes into the pan, we fold in some pieces of chocolate cookies and pure white chocolate chunks.

Don't forget to save some for scattering on top.

If you're thinking of serving these with Cookies & Cream ice cream, I'd say you are awesome and I want some.


Cookies & Cream Brownies
Makes 16 brownies

120g (4 ¼ oz) bittersweet chocolate; coarsely chopped
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, cut into large cubes

1 tbsp (6g) cocoa powder
¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

2 large eggs
½ cup (71g) all-purpose flour
½ cup chocolate cookies pieces
½ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate, butter and cocoa in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour until just combined. Fold in cookie pieces and white chocolate, reserving a few for scattering on top.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter reserved cookies and white chocolate over top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chewy Coconut Oil Chocolate Chunk Cookies

So coconut oil... How 'bout it?

It's everywhere. The internet has exploded with recipes using coconut oil.

Could it be the paleo obsession or the viral (mis)information that it is so super healthy?... I struggle with this.

See - I like coconut oil. It's delicious. Every time I open the jar I think I'm on the beach in Mexico, or Thailand, or somewhere in the Caribbean. It's gorgeous stuff. I need a margarita. Stat!

Here are the things I do with coconut oil:

1. Rub it on my skin - moisturizer.
2. Rub it in my hair - again, moisturizer.
3. Cook Sri Lankan curries, Indian curries and Malaysian satays - it makes them taste so rich and very authentic.
4. Mix it with melted chocolate for a hard crackle topping on ice cream.
5. Use it in place of butter in a classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for a super tropical cookie flavour.
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Creamy White Chocolate Lemon Curd Tart

I only ever have your best interest: consider making twice as much filling because you will end up on the couch with a spoon. This is for real.

This lemon filling is like lemon pudding if lemon pudding won the lotto, bought a black Bentley, drove to the airport, flew to a Polynesian beach, put up a hut and ordered margaritas until the sun went down. It's that rich and that happy. 

A lot of times you'll hear people say "less is more" and that is very sound advice when it comes to great cooking and baking. I practice this advice all the time and make great meals with few quality ingredients.

But sometimes more is more! Like ice cream with split banana, hot fudge, caramel sauce, roasted peanuts, whipped cream and cherries. I'm OK with that. And I'll have two of those please.

Or, like this tart - flaky pastry enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with luscious lemon curd enriched with white chocolate and whipped cream.
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Maya Chocolate Cookies

Quick fix cookies are what I'm all about today.

Something that doesn't require soft butter because all of my butter is in the fridge... Doh!

I wasn't planning to bake cookies today but sometimes life is more exciting when you're not prepared. Except when you have final exams, or a job interview, or a driving test, or a dream to climb Everest - best to be prepared for that. Cookies aren't as exhausting as climbing mountains so this is totally doable despite the availability of soft butter.

It's hard for me to bake a cookie that doesn't contain chocolate. This one is twice the chocolate - cocoa cookie with bittersweet chocolate chips.

There's plenty going on in here besides all the chocolate. I've added some chili and spice for an old Maya kick.

When cocoa beans were first discovered in Mexico by civilizations known as the Olmecs and the Mayans, they would combine bitter cocoa bean paste with ingredients that were native to the land, including sugar cane, cinnamon, chili and vanilla. Chocolate was first consumed as a hot frothy drink before it was ever made into silky smooth bars.
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Dark Chocolate & Apricot

Don't tell me it's wrong to want to wake up on Sunday morning and do absolutely nothing until at least 1pm. Can I just make some tea, eat a piece of cake and put my feet up all before noon? I don't want a green smoothie or kale salad right now. I just want cake.

Even if the sun is shining and I could totally get to the beach, I just want to sit here with my piece of cake. Do you get me?

Sometimes doing nothing is more than enough. To quote my grandmother "I'm tired for doing nothing". I get it Nonna. You were wise.

Sometimes doing nothing can be exhausting in itself because when your body does nothing your brain does everything. Thinking is grueling.
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Soft Date Turnover Cookies

Sometimes eating is more for the mind than it is for the stomach. Like a tasteful time machine that brings you back to the good old days. I can't ever resist pear nectar or Glosettes because it makes me feel 9 years old, watching Muppets, cuddled up with a knit blanket on Nonna's couch. Not a care in the world!

And giant wedges of cucumber with salt and pepper is a snack I'd have coming in from the blow-up kiddie pool/garden hose chaos set in the tiny patch of grass among Nonno's grape vines. Cucumber sounds healthy right? It was quickly followed up with an ice cream cone.

These cookies here today remind me of my schoolgirl days. If you know Nutrigrain bars, then you know what I'm talking about. There was always a box in the cupboard, and I often found one in my lunch box.

My version today is made up of a soft oatmeal & coconut cookie dough with a sweet, smooth date filling. The coconut is key - it's subtle, but I can always remember that flavour being there.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chocolate Brownie Peanut Butter Pies

Remember Joe Louis? The wagon wheel cake lunchbox snacks. Two rounds of cake with a white as rice cream filling all dunked in fake chocolate?

I would bite around the edges first because the edges had the thickest layer of chocolate. Never save the best till last. Worst phrase ever.

Many things can happen while you are saving...
- that best part of a hot meal will get cold
- someone might eat it before you do
- you could get full eating all the other stuff that you won't want to eat any more
- seagulls

Eat the best part first! End of story.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cranberry Orange Pistachio Bars

2015 seems like a big number.

I feel like I need to do a lot of stuff this year. Big stuff... like make a 12-tiered cake and travel to Japan for the finest sushi. I want to learn more words in Thai and fall asleep on every beach I see. I want to spend more time with family and feed them big delicious meals. I'm going to worry less and plan more. I want a puppy! (but maybe not this year...)

How about a big fat hair cut? I've always wanted a buzz cut but Britney Spears made that just look crazy.
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Vanilla Walnut Crescent Cookies

Just because Christmas has passed doesn't mean we stop baking cookies.

It doesn't mean we have to stop eating 7-course meals everyday or slip whiskey into our morning coffee either. 

And unless your new year resolution is to put more chocolate in your life or bake cinnamon rolls every single Sunday, then I don't want to hear it.

And if your resolution is too kick sugar, then I'm afraid this relationship isn't going to work.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookie Shapes

Merry Christmas!!

It's as good a time as any to add another cookie to your list.

Every year we have a tradition called "cookie buffet". It is exactly as it sounds - a selection of at least 8 different varieties of cookies that I make in bulk and then put out on a plate for the family to munch at after dinner during the nights approaching Christmas.
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

10 Things You Might Want to Bake/Make this Christmas

Christmas morning breakfast! Molasses Cinnamon Rolls.

For loyal friends of chocolate + hazelnut: Ferrero Rocher Crescent Cookies

After a satisfying 7-course Christmas meal: After Eight Cookies

Because Christmas can't pass us by without at least one thing gingery: Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Butter Glaze.

The all-American way made smaller: Gooey Little Pecan Tarts

And another variation of that... Caramel Apple Pecan Tarts.

Fruity, light and authentic: Italian Raspberry Crostata.

For your cookie exchange: Raspberry Coconut Jam Dots

Something for Santa to dunk in his milk: Orange Date Almond Biscotti

Red and white and totally decadent: White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

A coffee table nibble, maybe dipped in chocolate? Sweet and Salty Peanut Brittle.

Christmas morning brunch! Perfect Breakfast Brunch or even Lunch

A celebration cake: Raspberry Jewel Devil's Food Cake. Chopped toasted hazelnuts or rum-soaked rasisins can replace fresh fruit in the winter time. Canned cherries (drained well) work too!

Merry Christmas foodie friends. May your every appetite get wetted. 
With love & chocolate, 
Christina xox

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Olive Oil & Bitter Chocolate Muffins

I know why everyone loves a muffin - it's portable, it's satiating and dang easy to make.

You know I'm always harping on about how butter rules. Butter is better, no question. BUT, if there were ever an oil that could hold a candle, it would be olive oil.

Olive oil is rich, intense and has body. 

Exquisitely enough, olive oil also matches very well with very dark chocolate. It's those peppery, citrusy, fruity notes that complement the bitter, roasty, yet also fruity notes of the darkest chocolate.
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Sunday, November 30, 2014

White Chocolate Gooey Cake

Sometimes it's as much about texture as it is about flavour.

Think about South-East Asian desserts for example.... Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam...

When it comes to sweets, it is all about textures! Most of them are made with very few ingredients. The most important one being boat loads of sugar - coconut sugar, palm sugar or cane sugar. The remaining ingredients contribute pleasant, but subtle flavours. 

Some of my favourites include pandan jelly custard, mango with coconut sticky rice (OMG so good), and sweet black glutinous rice. These flavours are not as loud as chocolate and peanut butter, but they're balanced and satisfying. 

The thing that makes them really stand out is their wonderfully weird consistencies. They can be sticky, gooey, jelly, creamy, bouncy, slimey, crispy or everything at the same time. To put it simply - they are fun. 

This cake plays on the gooey, creamy, sticky parts.
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Salted Chocolate-Coconut Crust Tartlets

Gluten-free is great when it's not intentional.

These crunchy crispy little tart shells are made with a macaroon recipe, starring coconut and almond.

Imagine coconut toasted to its nth degree, and flavour transformed from creamy, milky, subtle to BAM! - nutty, caramel-y, roast-y!

Plus this is super easy and as much as I love love loooove making pastry, I don't always have time for that critical dough-chilling step. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I rolled out warm pastry. No way Jose.

Toasted coconut and chocolate pair well together just as chocolate and almond, chocolate and hazelnut, chocolate and pecans...

It's because chocolate is a by-product of carefully roasted cocoa beans and this roasting brings forth nutty flavours through a process called Maillard browning. These reactions are what create the brown crust on a loaf of bread, a flavourful sear on steak, that caramel flavour in dulce de leche, the robust sweetness of raisins and that rich butterscotchy-ness of a perfect chocolate chip cookie.
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Devil's Food Chocolate Cake

I have a recipe for chocolate cake that I go back to again and again, yet I reaaallllllly have 26 recipes for chocolate cake.

It's amazing how many chocolate cake recipes are out there... some with butter and some with oil; with brown sugar or white sugar; milk or buttermilk; coffee or water....

Do we need that many? Yes. Isn't one enough? No. 
You can never have enough recipes for good chocolate cake. I love all my 26 equally.

Devil's Food Cake is named for it's reddish brown-coloured crumb. Achieving this colour depends a lot on the type of cocoa powder you use and ultimately the pH, or acidity, of the batter.

A true Devil's Food chocolate cake will have baking soda as part of the leavening system. It will also use water as some portion of the liquid ingredients along with buttermilk or sour cream to provide some acidity. 

Classic chocolate cakes use milk which is relatively neutral and produces a gentle, soft chocolate flavour. Milk proteins also interact and bind with the colour-producing polyphenols in cocoa powder, which can alter their flavour and appearance.
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