Dude, brownies

Most of the time I consider baked goods gender-neutral.  I’d like to think that as a product of post-modern feminism, I’m above the cliched sugar, spice and everything nice for girls or squirrels, snails and puppy-dog-tails for boys.  Most of the time, dessert is just dessert.  But.  Every once in a while I come across a recipe that for me, resonates either yin or yang (yeah, yeah, we all know I was just in China and am not fooling anyone).

This recipe for peanut butter and fudge brownies with salted peanuts (Bon Apetit, January 2007) screams: DUDE (though girls will like it too)!

We start with the obligatory macro shot of chopped chocolate.

One of the cool things about this recipe is that the brownie prep occurs entirely in a single sauce-pan.  Unlike my favorite brownie recipe which uses multiple bowls, spatulas and whisks, this one dirties just a single vessel.  Nice.  Butter and chocolates are melted together.

Then, sugar and eggs are added off-the-heat.

Flour is folded in.

And finally, salted peanuts.  How long has it been since you’ve had salted peanuts? While scouring the grocery store aisles for this retro-delicacy, I had a first grade flash-back (luckily this doesn’t happen often).  During reading group, my first-grade teacher Mrs Wilder would give-out salted peanuts as rewards for excellence in diction.  Pulling a stunt like that now would probably land her in jail for child endangerment.  Ah, the good old days, free of nut allergies and litigious parental units.

Once the batter comes together, into a pan it goes.  The included recipe uses a foil-liner.  I used parchment.

Just out of the oven, these look like pretty normal brownies.  But wait.

There is chunky peanut butter frosting in their near future.


And, just when you think it couldn’t get any better, the frosting is topped by a thick layer of chocolate ganache.

Even nicer.

And here my friends, is where I’ve failed you. You see, I uploaded these photos about a month ago and I swear, the upload originally included several scrumptious shots of the finished product.  Alas, they must have been lost in the transfer.  And because I am working off of a six-year-old iBook G4, I am forced to immediately delete all photos once uploaded lest a dialog box once again pop-up telling my that my start-up disk is full.  Which means, no finished photos.

Trust me, these were some good looking bars.  Boys will like them.  So will girls.

Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

Dorie Greenspan, Bon Appetit, January 2007


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Frosting and ganache

  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter (do not use natural or old-fashioned)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

For brownies:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving long overhang; butter foil.

Place 3/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan. Add both chocolates; stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt, then eggs, 1 at a time. Fold in flour, then nuts. Spread in prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Place pan on rack; cool.

For frosting and ganache:
Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and 1/4 cup butter in medium bowl to blend. Beat in powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, then milk and vanilla. Spread frosting over brownies.

Stir chocolate and 1/4 cup butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Drop ganache all over frosting; spread to cover. Chill until set, about 1 1/2 hours. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Using foil as aid, transfer brownie cake to work surface; cut into squares. Bring to room temperature; serve.

Why does she carry on about cake so?

Greetings from Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in China!  Can you believe I’m posting from an IPhone in Southwest China??? Hazzah!

I realize I still haven’t shared photos from my Hong Kong/Shenzen trip in March.  Perhaps there is a mid-summer China post in my future.

Anyhow, shall we continue with the cake theme? Yellow cake.  Milk chocolate frosting.  Lots of colorful sprinkles.  Can you get any more “birthday” than that?  I have to admit up front, that this cake didn’t come together as I would have liked.  It turned-out fine…just not what I was going for.  The issue was the frosting and for this reason, I’m just going to give you the cake recipe as I continue my quest for the perfect milk chocolate frosting.  Life is tough.

This cake recipe comes from Epicurious via the Well Decorated Cake and is unassumingly called, “Moist Yellow Cake.”  Three words I like to see together.  The recipe starts with five eggs.  Yes five. And quite a bit of buttermilk.  We love buttermilk in cake recipes!

The batter will be quite thick.  If you have controls issues like I do, you’ll weigh your batter, figure out the half-way point and distribute to your pans accordingly.

Once the batter is in the pans, smooth-out the top with a knife and then whack the pans a couple of times of the counter to purge air bubbles.

The cakes won’t rise much so no threat of over-flowing pans.  I wanted this cake to look like someone’s grandma made it and so skipped cutting layers and just went for two, big fat slabs of cake separated by an equally thick slab of chocolate frosting.

I gave the whole thing a crumb layer and then a nice even layer of chocolate frosting.

And got out the sprinkles.  And made a huge mess.  I’ve seen professional bakers pick up a frosted cake, tilt it and smother-on sprinkles.  I was too chicken to do this and sort of gingerly flung the sprinkles in the direction of the cake.  My results looked about as mediocre as my efforts.

But, everything together, this birthday cake was not-too-shabby.

That is, if you like sprinkles.

Moist Yellow Cake

Epicurious, August 2004, The Well-Decorated Cake


  • 3 C cake flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C unsalted butter, room temp and cut into pieces
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 buttermilk

To make

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter, flour and line line with parchment, 2 8″ pans.

  1. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In a standing mixer, beat butter for 3 minutes until light and creamy.  Scrape bowl and then cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar, 1/4 C at a time beating 60 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down sides of bowl occasionally.  Add in eggs one-at-a-time.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed.  Stir vanilla into buttermilk.  Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating turns.  Mix until just incorporated.  Scrape-down bowl and mix one more time.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pans and smooth top with knife.  Life up the pan with the batter and let it drop on the counter top to release any air bubbles in the batter.
  6. Center the pans on the lower-third of the oven and let bake 45-50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and springs away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Remove from oven, let cool for 10 minutes.  Turn out onto wire cooling racks and let cool completely.

Let us eat cake…all month!

May is my birthday month.  So, I thought I’d make cake.  All month. Seems reasonable right?

Let’s start with a love of mine from childhood birthdays passed: the lemon poppy seed bundt cake.  I remember watching my mom make this cake: lemon boxed cake mix+lemon pudding mix=little kid heaven.  It’s been on my mind for some time to see if I can recreate the deliciousness of this boxed pudding cake from scratch.

Well, at least the remembered deliciousness…I have a feeling that boxed cake mix is like my childhood love of pop-tarts, Kraft macaroni and cheese (with ketchup), Bubblicious gum and twinkies.  Nirvana as a kid; pretty disgusting as an adult.  Sometimes nostalgia is best left in its place.

The funny thing is that when I went looking for recipes, the first couple of pages of search hits consisted almost entirely of the  boxed-cake recipe. If anything, the recipe is a classic.  Then again, so is tater-tot casserole.

So, I pulled-out the big guns and went diving into the Cooks Illustrated archive.  And hit pay-dirt. Of course.

If you don’t know about Cooks Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, you should.  Especially if you are just a little but of a food geek or have a thing for guys in bow-ties. The basic idea is that they take recipes, commercial food products and even kitchen gadgets and put them through the paces in search of the ultimate (you fill in the blank).  Think Consumer Reports for food.  Get it?  Okay.

So, lemon bundt cake.  Of course this lemon cake has lemon zest.  And lemon juice.  But with a twist.  In this recipe, you sort of macerate the zest and then add it to the lemon juice and let it soften for 15 minutes.

After assembling the troupes: dry ingredients, buttermilk and our lemon cocktail, butter and sugar are creamed together. Then eggs are added.

After this the buttermilk and lemon juice are combined and added in alternating turns with the dry ingredients.

And finally, the poppy seeds.  Well, at least in my recipe.  The original does not call for poppy seeds but what would lemon cake be without them?  Besides, if I’m going to be true to the nostalgia, I had to add the seeds.  You see, my mother is just a little evil. When I was a kid she told my brother and I that poppy seeds were actually dried spider eggs.  She also told us Cheetos were rusty nails and the beef and vegetable stew she made every Halloween was actually made from the flesh of fresh bodies she’d dug up at the graveyard.  And of course, we believed her.  It’s pretty amazing my brother and I escaped childhood without any significant food aversions  (well, I do fear capers but that’s a whole other story).

This batter is hearty and will fill your pan to the brim.

Out of the oven, the cake is golden and fragrant.

Once the cake was cooled, all that was left to do was ice-it and eat it.

Which is exactly what we did.

One note before I give you the recipe.  I’ll be in China for the next couple of weeks for work.  I’ve set up posts but have had to ask TD to do the actual posting.  I bring this up because I’m fairly certain he will not be able to resist the chance to personalize these posts in some way.  So, if something looks or sounds a little off, you’ll know why.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

adapted only slightly from Cooks Illustrated

  • 3 lemons , zest grated and saved, then juiced for 3 tablespoons juice (see note above)
  • 3cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
  • 1teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2teaspoon baking soda
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4cup low-fat buttermilk (preferably)
  • 3 large eggs , at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk , at room temperature
  • 18tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/4 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2cups sugar (14 ounces)
  • 1-2 TBS poppy seeds

For glaze

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour (alternatively, brush pan with mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon melted butter). Mince lemon zest to fine paste (you should have about 2 tablespoons). Combine zest and lemon juice in small bowl; set aside to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Combine lemon juice mixture, vanilla, and buttermilk in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs and yolk to combine. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add half of eggs, mixing until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining eggs; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until just incorporated after each addition (about 5 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold-in poppy seeds. Scrape into prepared pan.
  3. Bake until top is golden brown and wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into center comes out with no crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes.
  4. Cool cake in pan on wire rack set over baking sheet for 10 minutes, then invert cake directly onto rack.To glaze, mix together juice and sugar until desired consistency is reached, drizzle over cake.

Love child, definitely meant to be

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a raspberry bar was set up with  a lemon bar on a blind date?  What if they hit-it-off and shared a night of passionate abandon?  You know what I mean…made a dessert bar love sandwich.

What?  I’m the only one who has ever thought of this?  Really?

Well, let me tell you, it would definitely be something the Supremes would want to sing about. Or at the very least, something you’d want to eat.

We’ll start with a combination of flour and almond meal.

Then add in a little butter.  You know, for lubrication.

Press the dough (note, this is different from the crust to my raspberry bars but you could use that as well) into a 9X13 pan.

Bake until just golden.

While the base is doing its thing, it’s lemon time.

Lemon juice, flour, eggs, sugar and of course, zest (aren’t you glad I didn’t include a picture of zest…for once) get whisked together.

Then is slow jam time.  I mean, raspberry jam time.

Once the base is cooled a bit, add a nice layer of jam.

Top this with the lemon filling.

Into the oven.  Word of warning here–you want to almost over-bake the bars. Not quite, but, don’t worry if the top begins to turn a goldish-hue.  Let the bars cool, dust with confectioner’s sugar and you have got yourself a lemon and raspberry love child.

Yeah.  Definitely not misunderstood.  Definitely meant to be.

Raspberry Lemon Bars

inspired by Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars


for base

  • 14 TBS (1 stick plus 6 TBS) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C almond flour, almond meal or ground almonds
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

for filling

  • 4-6 ounces raspberry (or other favorite jam)
  • 6 extra large eggs at room temp
  • 3 C granulated sugar (I like superfine)
  • 3 TBS lemon zest (6-8 lemons)
  • 1 C lemon juice
  • 1 C flour
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place rack in middle slot in oven, cut parchment to fit bottom of 9X13 inch pan
  • For the crust, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • With mixer on low, add in flour and salt until just mixed.  Dough will be soft, not crumbly.
  • Press dough into pan building up the sides.  Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes.
  • For the filling, whisk together eggs, sugar, zest, juice and flour.
  • Gently spread thin layer of jam over crust.  Crust will still be quite soft.
  • Pour filling over jam layer.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set.
  • Let cool at room temp, dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut as desired.