Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spiced Brownies

These brownies were introduced to me by friend Emily a few months ago. I loved them the moment I tasted them then, but kept forgetting to ask Emily for the recipe. Then earlier this week, when deciding what to bring as I tagged along to a Father's Day get together here on the right coast, but wanting to at the same time honor our DaddyBob on the left coast, I remembered Emily's excellent spiced brownies, and finally asked for the recipe.

I chose to  honor DaddyBob with these brownies because they remind me of Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles, which DaddyBob adores.  We call those cookies "Wait For It Cookies" because the heat doesn't kick in right away.  These brownies are like that, too. The heat sneaks up on you, warming the back of your throat only after you swallow each bite.  

If you want to have some bakerly fun, put these brownies out in front of a crowd, watch as people dive at them with shouts of "Oooo! Brownies!" and then sit back and smirk as they realize that what they just ate isn't your typical treat.

Which, by the way, is totally something DaddyBob would do - he's practically a professional smirker. He's also a wonderful teacher, so it's no surprise that Becky and I enjoy keeping people on their toes. Afterall, it takes a slightly mischievous dad to raise slightly mischievous daughters :-)

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, and a big, cross-country hug to ours.


Spiced Brownies
Adapted from 
Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and the Baked Bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn
Makes 24 brownies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and grease foil. 
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Put chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle flour mixture over chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold flour mixture into chocolate until just a bit of flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
7. Set brownies on wire rack to cool completely. Using foil edges, lift entire pan of brownies out onto cutting board and cut into squares. Tightly covered with plastic wrap, brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Growing up, Becky and I used to await the day every June when Mama B came home from Costco with a giant tub of red vines. That tub signaled the official start of summer in our house; it was a symbol of the hours of swimming, koosh ball games, and zip-a-dee-doo-dah singing day trips to come.

Man! I couldn't WAIT for that tub of red vines to appear on our kitchen counter every June!

But you know what? If you put a giant tub of red vines in front of me now, yeah, I'd get all nostalgic and grab one red vine. I might even bite both ends off and use the red vine as a straw in a can of fruit punch soda, just for old times' sake.

But then I'd be done. Because just as our summer activities have evolved from playing catch to enjoying free Shakespeare in the park, so have our palates evolved.

Of course, not everything has changed. We do still sing zip-a-dee-do-dah, and do still feel it's not summer until we've had a special treat. With all the baking we've done in the last few years, a new "it's not summer until..." tradition has emerged: strawberry shortcakes.

We're big fans of good ol' Bisquick shortcakes, and I can whip those babies up in less than 20 minutes. But I'll admit that when I recently carried Bisquick shortcakes, plus strawberries, plus whipped cream to a dinner the the rain...I wished I'd had a more portable version of this fabulous treat.

Well, leave it to Martha to grant my wish. These Strawberry Shortcake Cookies gather all the summery goodness of traditional strawberry shortcakes into one easy-to-bake, easy-to-transport, easy-to-eat cookie. If they had sold these at Costco when we were little, well, I might still actually like red vines today. Not that I'm wishing that was the case - I'm happy to have eaten my life's fill of red vines as a kid; it leaves me with the rest of my life to eat strawberry shortcake, in cookie form or otherwise.

What are your "it's not summer until..." traditions?


Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart, via Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Makes 3 dozen cookies

12 oz strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream
coarse sugar, for topping the cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir together strawberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons sugar, then set aside.  

3. In a large bowl, combine lemon zest and remaining 7 tablespoons sugar. Rub zest into sugar with fingertips until moist and fragrant. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to zest/sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Use a pastry cutter to cut butter into flour mixture until you have coarse crumbs.  Add cream to  bowl and stir until dough starts to come together. Gently stir in strawberry mixture.

4. Use a small cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) to portion dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake about 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer pans to wire racks and let cookies cool.  Cookies are best the day they're made, but can be kept in an airtight container for 1 day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dear Sunday Treats readers,

It's been three weeks since we last posted a recipe. Actually, four, if you look closely and realize that Katie's Mother's Day post didn't include a new recipe, but rather linked to recipes we've posted in the past. Sneaky, Kate, real sneaky.

It's been a busy month in the world of K&B, what with the end of the school year, 3-day weekends, allergy season (yuck), birthday parties, bridal showers, and dance rehearsals and performances. We seem to actually be busy these days. Overall, I like to consider that a good thing.

The not-good thing, of course, is that it means we've been neglecting our blogging duties. Please do not take that to mean we've been neglecting you, faithful readers! In fact, part of our busy-ness has sprung from the myriad of picnics and parties and celebrations we've been baking for. It's the post-baking posting that's eluded us.

We sincerely thank you for your patience. And, to some of you, we also express our gratitude for your persistence. It's certainly a lot easier to put your nose back to the grindstone (er, keyboard), when you have friends and coworkers reminding you in gentle yet exasperated tones that "you didn't post a recipe this week, again."

To reward you for your patience, I am about to unveil the recipe that has become a K&B signature. Drumroll please...

Presenting the famous, fantastic, fabulous...Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies! Oh yeah, and they're vegan, too!

The story of these cookies starts in El Salvador - a country known for it's spectacular pupusas and pan dulce, not cookies. However, while studying abroad there in college, our fellow American student and enthusiastically vegan friend Miguel decided to prove to his housemates that a meatless, dairy-less, eggless, etc.-less existence could still be tasty by whipping up a batch of said banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Aspiring bakers that we were at the time, Miguel had to fight Katie and I out of the kitchen while he worked. When the cookies came out of the oven, he had to fight to save a cookie or two for himself. My most prized possessions from those four months abroad include my personal journals, drawings from the children I accompanied in the coffee fields each day, and the recipe for these cookies.


There are many, many reasons I love these cookies. 1) They are simple to throw together, with no mixer required (which was good, because in El Salvador, we didn't have one). 2) They make use of my favorite egg replacer - ripe bananas. 3) Good ol' oatmeal gives them stability, but more importantly allows you to rationalize eating one or five of them for breakfast. 4) They're great for entertaining vegan friends, but hold their own against traditional baked treats - so much so that I sometimes forget they are vegan at all. And 5) My coworkers request them, conversations are started by them (what do you mean they're vegan?!), and friends of friends remember who I am by tasting them. Muchas gracias a Miguel, they've given Kate and me our reputation as superb bakers.

For a while after discovering their power, Katie and I attempted to keep the recipe for these cookies to ourselves. Then, of course, we realized the irony and selfishness in hogging a recipe we'd in fact gotten from a friend in the first place. Now we share the recipe as often as we bake the cookies, which, I'm sure, is what Miguel would want us to do.

So there you have it. Have at 'em, amigos. And when someone asks you for the recipe, be a good friend and pass it on.

-Becky & Katie


Vegan Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe via friend Miguel
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

1½ cups flour, less one tablespoon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup canola oil
1 1/3 cups unrefined (raw) sugar
One to one and a half ripe bananas (when smashed, volume should equal that of approximately two eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla soy milk (plain or banana soy milk are fine, too)
1½ tablespoons vanilla (be generous)
3 cups quick oatmeal
12 oz. dark chocolate chips or chunks (check label to make sure chocolate does not contain milk products)

Non-vegan substitutions: When baking for a non-vegan crowd, I've often substituted regular milk for soy milk and semisweet chocolate chips for the dark chocolate. The result is still quite tasty, but in my opinion, not quite as good as the original.

Note: As quick oats tend to be smaller and less sturdy than other oatmeal varieties, I like to use half quick oats and half quick-cooking "old fashioned" oats. However, any type of quick-cooking oats will do.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In large bowl, stir together oil and sugar until creamy. 
  4. Using a fork, potato masher, or the bottom of a sturdy glass or plastic cup, smash bananas in a flat-bottomed bowl or tupperware until you achieve a consistent texture. There should be no large lumps. Add bananas to the sugar/oil mixture, stirring until well combined.
  5. Add soy milk and vanilla and stir well.
  6. Slowly add in the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
  7. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips.
  8. Place heaping tablespoons of batter onto cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.
  9. Bake approximately 10 minutes. Cookies are done when the inside looks moist, but not too wet, i.e. when they no longer look too "shiny". Because there are no eggs in the batter, they will not brown as much as classic chocolate chip cookies. They will, however, turn a golden tan.
  10. Remove cookies from oven and allow them to sit on the sheet for about two minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will be delicate when hot, but will firm up as they cool.
  11. Cookies are best the day they are baked, or the following day, but can be stored in an airtight container up to five days. You’ll know when they are no longer good because the taste changes. To keep moist, loosely wrap a slice of bread or apple in a paper towel and place in airtight container with cookies.