One Bowl Brownies

I love baking. I really, really do. So much so that I often can’t understand why some people find it unbearable and stressful. But every once in a while, I just can’t bring myself to do it. There’s the taking out of ingredients, the actual BAKING, not to mention the always egregious cleanup… no thank you. Sometimes I just want to whisk an egg and some oil into a box of Duncan Hines and call it a day. And when I’m really not feeling it, I go for Pillsbury slice and bake cookies; the only stressful part of making those is that they harden into cement-esque lumps after 15 minutes of being out of the oven, so you gotta move fast.

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This one bowl brownie recipe is so fab because it marries my desire for amazing, homemade brownies, and an easy cleanup that doesn’t make me raise my hands to the sky and shout, “why God why?!”. I adjusted the original recipe from Allrecipes.com a teensy bit to omit the nuts (you’re welcome) and add chocolate chips (you’re welcome).

In the fudgy brownie vs. cakey brownie war I definitely fall on the fudgy side– if I want chocolate cake, I’ll make chocolate cake! These brownies are pretty dense but not hardcore fudge status, so I imagine cakey brownie lovers will like them as well. Make them in a pinch for a BBQ, potluck, or a Saturday night.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups white sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9″x13″ glass baking pan with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients in the order shown using a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Pour into the baking pan and bake for 25-32 minutes. Remove from oven once a toothpick is inserted and comes out dry.

Top with ice cream and go bananas.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I ate Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for the first time at my cousin’s Confirmation lunch when I was eight or nine. I didn’t know what it was, but I had three servings and only stopped my gluttonous endeavor because the tart rhubarb started to make my mouth hurt. For years after, I ordered it any time I spotted it on a dessert menu.

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Fresh rhubarb can generally only be found in the spring, and I’ve missed my window of opportunity the past few years. But lo and behold, the bright red stalks caught my eye at Fairway this week and I grabbed them like they were the last drops of morning dew in The Land Before Time (for those of you who don’t get that *v cool* 90’s movie reference, I snatched the rhubarb quickly and without hesitation).

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 Pillsbury pie crusts, thawed according to package instructions

1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch slices

1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (to dot)

1 large egg yolk beaten and blended with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

1 tablespoon turbinado or granulated sugar (to sprinkle on top)

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Press one pie crust into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan. In a large bowl, combine the fruit, sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour into prepared pie crust. Dot with butter.

You can either place the full second pie crust on top, crimp the edges, and cut slits for ventilation, OR cut the second pie crust into strips and create a lattice work top.

Once the second crust is on, brush it with the egg-water glaze. Sprinkle the turbinado (or 1 tbsp of granulated) sugar over the top.

Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and baked for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes*. The filling should be thick and the crust golden when you remove it.

*I have a powerful oven, so you may need to keep it in for another 5-10 minutes.

Let cool on a rack then enjoy with vanilla ice cream!

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Birthday Cake Truffles

Oreos are like my Mr. Big a la Sex and the City. I go back to them time and time again no matter how bad they make me feel (i.e. this directly correlates to how many I eat). My friends warn me about repeating bad decisions, but something keeps me coming back. I’ve dated them all: the birthday cake, the mint, the double stuf… no matter the flavor, they’re all my old standby.

This recipe gives air to an old flame; it’s amazing what adding cream cheese and chocolate to a relationship can do. These Birthday Cake Truffles are sort of a hybrid between a truffle and a cake pop; the texture is so creamy you wouldn’t know Oreos were the primary ingredient. Though delicious, they are exceedingly sweet, so have a cool glass of milk ready! There I go, pushing milk again.

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INGREDIENTS:

16 oz. white chocolate chip morsels, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (not whipped– save it for your bagels!)

1 package Birthday Cake Oreos (you can use golden or chocolate but for the classic cake pop taste, go for golden!)

2 tbsp. rainbow jimmies

1 tbsp rainbow nonpareils

DIRECTIONS:

Set aside a baking sheet.

Put Oreos in a food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms, about 45 seconds– I used to use a meat mallet to smash the Oreos, but it never got the crumbs fine enough.

Dump Oreo crumbs into medium sized mixing bowl with cream cheese. Mix well, then add jimmies until combined. Roll Oreo mixture into balls that are about 1 inch in size. Set on baking sheet. Let chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.

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One by one, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set back on the baking sheet. I used a fork to dip the truffles into the chocolate, which was pretty successful. In the past I’ve used toothpicks and they always fell out!

Put a pinch of nonpareils on each ball as you go. Don’t wait until the chocolate has set or none will stick!

Wait until the chocolate has hardened, then eat!

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Jumbo Sugar Cookie

As much as I love baking, sometimes I’m not in the mood to go through all the setting up and cleaning up involved. That’s why this recipe, courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction, caught my eye– it just makes one huge sugar cookie. Meaning, it’s a much smaller project than making a full batch. It requires lower ingredient measures and therefore, smaller baking tools can be used.  I LOVE when a recipe only needs 1 or 2 small mixing bowls and teaspoon/tablespoon measures. Small bowls can be popped in the dishwasher and more of them can simultaneously fit on drying mats. Aka, quicker and easier cleanup. Oh, and did I mention the best part? If you only make one giant cookie you don’t have to worry about cookie vultures*; if there’s only one cookie, they know who it’s for.

*A cookie vulture is a person or animal that circles the kitchen while you’re baking and snags a cookie before it’s even hit the cooling rack. When I’m not the one baking, I am one hundred percent a cookie vulture.

This is the first time I’ve made a small batch version of a classic, and part of the reason I chose this recipe to be my first is that it still calls for an oven. I keep seeing recipes for single serving microwave brownies and microwave cakes, but there’s something about *baking* by *microwave* that feels wrong to me. Would it taste the same? Maybe. Would I think it tasted the same? Most likely not.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

3 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons beaten egg (crack the egg, beat it, and use 2 tbsp)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 Tablespoons sprinkles — the more colorful, the better!

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or cover it with a piece of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the 2 Tbsp of egg and the vanilla extract.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overdo it!

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Flip the cookie dough out of the bowl and onto the baking sheet so that it looks like a tall ball (if it’s too flat it will be way too thin!). Bake for approximately 15 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. I took mine out at 13 minutes because I wanted an ooey gooey center, but that’s your call! Just remember that it will continue baking for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven, so don’t overcook it.

Allow the cookie to cool completely on the cookie sheet– no cooling rack needed here.

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Cup of Dirt

Growing up, my favorite place to get dessert (besides cheesecake in Philadelphia…), was Ground Round. Ground Round, for those of you unfamiliar with the 90’s haven, was a chain restaurant that led kids eat for a cent per pound of their body weight. Crazy, right? Yes, crazy. And crazy cheap. But the best part for me as a kid was the dessert. Their specialty, if you will, was cup of dirt. A child friendly delicacy made out of pudding, Cool Whip, crumbled Oreos, and gummy worms. They were always a little chintzy with the worms, so I had to ration them out through the meal. So now that I’m an adult and it’s within my power to add more worms, I decided to make them on my own.

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INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 6 servings

1 package of chocolate pudding, made

1 8 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed

1 small package of gummy worms

1 sleeve of oreos, crumbled (I smashed mine with a meat mallet)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, fold the Cool Whip into the pudding. Be careful not to over mix. Put a few spoonfuls into a small glass. Slide a couple of gummy worms into the pudding, letting them hang over the side of the glass. Top with Oreo crumbles. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

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4th of July Berry Pie

The past few weeks I’ve been in a heightened state of spring cleaning. Throwing out random receipts (except the ones from Sur and Moonlight Rollerway in LA, obv), old shoes, and a terrible hat collection has been my go-to pastime. As I ran out of things to toss from my room, I set my sights on the refrigerator. In it, I found remnants of my insanely brief smoothie faze: a bag of frozen mixed berries. Next to this sad ghost of a healthier me sat an unopened bag of frozen cherries, which were leftover from last week’s cherry pie. In a fit of glorious, cleaning-driven energy I whipped up this five berry pie. It’s based on a recipe from Food Network, though I changed it a little bit to make it tarter since I love a good tang in my pie. I also used a star shaped cookie cutter from Christmas to make cute stars to top the pie with, turning what would be a regular, ho-hum-da-dum pie into a stunningly fabulous Fourth of July Berry Pie.

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cups of frozen berries, thawed (I used cherries, strawbs, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)

2 Pillsbury pie crusts

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (you can use a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you want the filling to be)

4-5 tbsp cornstarch (depending on how thick you want it to be– I’d start with 4 and work your way up if you need to add more)

1/8 tsp vanilla

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tbsp butter, to dot

1 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle

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DIRECTIONS:

Place berries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot berries and mix well. Mix in the lemon and vanilla. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool– I always lose patience and just wait until it’s not hot… oh well. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place one Pillsbury crust in the pie pan. Using a star cookie cutter, punch stars out of the other one. Set aside.

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Pour the cooled berry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Top with the star cutouts, then sprinkle the remaining tbsp of granulated sugar on top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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Fluffy Key Lime Pie

I made this pie what feels like ages ago, and just haven’t gotten around to posting it. Which is a shame, because it’s the perfect summer pie in a couple of respects. 1. It’s made with key limes, which hit their peak around now. And 2. It’s a Weight Watchers recipe, so you don’t have to eat it and then worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool. Not that that’s how eating works, but you know the feeling.

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3 weeks ago I went to the beach with my friend Ashleigh after stopping at the deli to pick up some sammies. Naturally, I picked the hottest, most buttery, sauerkraut filled sandwich there ever was. Eating that on the beach, though decadent and clearly uprooting social norms, is probably not something I would do again. Although the melted butter dripping off of the bread did give my hands the beautiful sheen of a basted chicken, so maybe I should reconsider.

But I digress.

I first tried this recipe at least a decade ago, when some family members were on Weight Watchers. Even as a kid, I remember becoming obsessed with its light, marshmallow-esque texture and its tangy but sweet flavor. And the graham cracker crust?! Fuhgettaboutit!

INGREDIENTS:

1 package (.3 ounce) sugar-free lime gelatin

1/4 cup boiling water

2 cartons (6 ounces each) Key lime yogurt — try to find something that’s not full on Greek yogurt, since that’s so thick, but a derivative is fine

1 carton (8 ounces) lite Cool Whip

1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (8 inches)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Whisk in yogurt. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour into crust. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.

Top with more Cool Whip (I assume you bought two..).

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Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

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Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

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Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

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For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

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To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

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Fudgy Cheesecake Brownies

I’ve been craving cheesecake brownies for upwards of two weeks. I had off from work today, it’s raining, and my uterus hurts*. Three prime reasons to make them on this fateful Tuesday afternoon. These particular cheesecake brownies have a very fudgy chocolate brownie base, and a creamy cheesecake layer that sits on top like a duvet on a mattress. (Yes I’m in bed writing this, SO WHAT?!).

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As much as they’ve been on my mind, I was only able to eat 1 1/2 because they’re so intensely rich and gooey. If you think about it, cheesecake brownies are kind of an epic dessert; essentially the lovechild of two gold medalists at the dessert olympics, brownies and cheesecake.

*If you think it’s gross of me to mention this in a post for a food blog, I don’t know what to tell you.

This recipe is derived from this brownie recipe, and this cheesecake brownie recipe.

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I use Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, which makes the brownie base a little bittersweet

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The shiniest brownie batter in town

INGREDIENTS:

For the brownie layer:

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake layer:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

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This is already looking decadent

DIRECTIONS:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang for easy removal. Spray with non-stick baking spray, or butter lightly.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Be careful not to microwave it on high if you have a powerful microwave (mine is quite strong so I heated it on level 6). Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly and is no longer hot to the touch. It’s okay if it looks a little gritty– this is normal.

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This paper, which truly makes me smile, is from Paper Source

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Dump into the lined pan–I say “dump” because that is essentially the noise it will make when you pour it in–and spread out using a spatula. Wiggle the pan if necessary to flatten the batter more.

Combine the cheesecake sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low until everything is combined and there are no lumps or watery areas. Pour onto the brownie batter. Spread out with a spatula. Using a knife, swirl the batter and cheesecake topping as much as possible. Because the brownie batter is so dense, it will not combine with the cheesecake layer very much.

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It’s not gonna look perfect, and that’s okay!

Bake for 35-40 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after the 25 minute mark. Brownies are done once a toothpick is inserted and comes out with only a little bit of moist residue. It will not crumb like a cakier brownie would, so do not look for crumbs as a sign that it is done! The cheesecake layer never completely hardens, so just because it’s soft doesn’t mean it’s undercooked.

Let cool on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Cut into 16 squares. Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days for optimal freshness.

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Classic Chocolate Cake

During my elementary school years, I could always count on coming home to a snack and a glass of milk in the afternoon. We had a snack drawer, which evolved into a healthier snack drawer over time, then eventually ceased to exist as we got older and more in tune with nutrition. But back in the snack drawer’s glory days, we also kept one Entenmann’s treat on the counter at all times. At the dawn of our family snack habit it was the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or the full blown chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. That gradually morphed into chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting because we wanted to *shake things up*.

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Beautiful, silky frosting

The other day I had a craving for chocolate on chocolate cake with a cold glass of milk. Truth be told, I’ve just been craving milk in general and I think making a cake seemed like the perfect excuse to drink more of it without causing any suspicion. Conveniently, a few days before my mom’s birthday, she asked me to make her cake. “What kind”, I responded, silently hoping that she would tell me to pick. Which she did. Chocolate on chocolate it was.

I found this recipe on a blog called Add a Pinch. I adjusted it slightly; I used instant coffee powder instead of espresso powder, so I diminished the amount in the frosting. If you like your chocolate frosting to err on the side of mocha, feel free to add a touch more.

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

1 cup whole milk

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

5 cups confectioner’s sugar

½ cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and instant coffee powder to a large bowl. Whisk through to combine.

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Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Slice off any uneven tops if you wish. Normally I do, but with this cake the domed top can give it a nice homemade charm.

For the frosting:

Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.

Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.

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Cute baby sticks of butta.

Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.

Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.

If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

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I love how the rainbow sprinkles pop against the milk chocolate!

Assembly:

Frost the cake. Throw some sprinkles on there. Stand back, admire. Eat. Maybe one more slice.

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There’s nothing like decade-old birthday candles

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Imagine that with a cold glass of milk… yes, please.