Name that bar and win a prize!

Every once in a while I get inspired and come up with a recipe.  The inspiration for this one came while looking at all the odds-and-ends of half-empty bags of chocolate and confections that reside in the bin in our pantry creatively labeled “chocolate.”  Specifically, the nearly eight ounces of crumbled Lindt white chocolate white coconut bits I had from making curls for at least three different cakes.  What to do?  What to do?

Here is what I did.  And here is where you come in.  I think I’ve got a decent little recipe but sadly, it lacks a name.  So, I’ve got a little contest for you.  A batch of these beauties (or if you don’t like coconut and or peanut butter and or butterscotch, a batch of these or these or maybe these) to anyone who can come up with a name.   You’ve got until noon, PST on July 6th.  Just leave your suggestion in the form of a comment (Facebook doesn’t count, entries need to be displayed below) and I’ll take care of the rest.

So, here is your inspiration.

And the secret ingredient if you are so inclined.  If not, eh, don’t worry about it.

Four of these.

Mixed into this.

Combined into this.

Resulting in this.  For those of you who didn’t taste these the first or second time around, we’ve got a base of white chocolate blondie with butterscotch pieces, ground coconut and a peanut butter frosting.  They are dense, moist and even with the frosting will travel well; perfect for summer picnics and whatnot.  The first time I experimented with the recipe, I used the leftover Lindt chocolate.  I’ve also done it with white chocolate chips.  Both work well though if you are using the Lindt with coconut, omit the added ground coconut (well, unless you really, really like coconut in which case, knock yourself out).

Title to be filled in later


For bars

  • 12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces white chocolate chopped or chips
  • 2 C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 2 C flour
  • 2/3-3/4 C ground coconut flakes (or use shredded…your choice)
  • 6 ounces butterscotch chips
  • Pinch of nutmeg if you have it

For Frosting

  • 1/3 C smooth peanut butter
  • 2 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 3-6 TBS hot water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13″ pan with parchment and then butter or oil entire pan.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan on low heat over stove.  Once butter is melted, add-in white chocolate, remove from heat and let sit for two minutes.  Gently stir or whisk until chocolate is combined with butter.
  3. In a separate bowl, add salt to brown sugar.  Whisk-in eggs one-at-a-time.
  4. Using a microplane or rapser, grate-in a pinch of nutmeg (maybe 4-5 passes on the plane).
  5. Give white chocolate mixture one more good whisk (it will try to separate), then whisk into sugar mixture.  Gently fold-in flour until just combined.  Fold-in butter scotch chips and coconut.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until the top is a golden brown (about 40-45 minutes) and when a tester once inserted and removed comes out with crumbs.
  7. Let bars cool completely in pan.  Working a table knife around the edges to loosen the cake, carefully flip the entire thing out onto a pan and then flip is again onto a wire rack.
  8. To frost, melt peanut butter.  In a separate cup, heat water.  Using a hand-mixer or by hand, add melted peanut butter to confectioner’s sugar and then slowly add-in hot water until desired consistency is reached.
  9. Spread onto cake and allow to set up.  Cut as desired.  Will keep well in an air-tight container.

Little tiny partay cakes

We’ve already established the fact that I like parties even when I don’t like the people involved…hence the name of this little blog.  So, as you can imagine, my head nearly explodes with anticipatory excitement when the chance to celebrate is paired with groovy people (think Oprah’s favorite things excited).  This was recently the case when we feted the upcoming nuptials of a favorite colleague.  The hosts indulgently allowed me to to have some fun with it. Though, I think they were just glad there wasn’t some sort of pyrotechnique element to my offering.

I decided on little tiny baby cupcakes.  Not that I have anything against regular-sized cupcakes but, when you’ve got all kinds of other treats, you don’t want to weigh down your options by committing to a full-sized confection.  Or is that just me?  Anyhow, I chose three old favorites and one new recipe.

Continuing with a theme from Cook’s Illustrated, I tried out what they claim to be the ultimate chocolate cupcake.  And while the recipe was a bit of an ultimate pain in the rear-end at the beginning, it could very well be my new go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. Let’s start with the pain and move on to the gain.

This recipe starts by heating up some coffee, adding in some chopped bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder and whisking until smooth.  Then into the fridge to cool down.  And while you are at it, you might as well throw together the ganache and put that into the fridge.

Once everything is cooled-down, the real fun begins.  Wet ingredients are whisked into the chocolate mix and dry ingredients get folded in.  Why, yes, we are at the gain part.  No machinery needed.

The batter gets portioned-into cupcake molds.

And before they go into the oven, each one gets a little dollup of that ganache we made at the beginning of this post.  Be sure to center the ganache or it will escape the cupcake wrapper and sort of, well, explode along the side of the pan.

Out of the oven, these little cakes are dark, moist and nice and rich.  For the party, I topped them with peanut butter frosting and chocolate sprinkles.

They were joined by mini red velvet cupcakes.

Baby coconut cupcakes.

And some fancified New York style crumb cakes.

Why yes, that’s quite a few cupcakes.

So, here is how I pulled it off without an all nighter or any stress.

  1. I sat down with a calendar and scouted-out what was going on in the days before the party.  I had a busy week and knew I wouldn’t have time to make all four in the night or two before the event.
  2. So, I picked a couple of recipes I knew could be made in advance and would freeze well.
  3. Then I made a timeline–what got baked when.  Which frostings got made on what night.
  4. Then I figured out how I was going to transport everything. This is an important step.  There is nothing worse than finishing something great and having no way to get it where it needs to go.
  5. Three days before I made the frostings and stuck them in the fridge.  I stuck to easier toppings like cream cheese frosting rather than a complicated buttercream.
  6. Two nights before I made the one recipe (crumb cake) that wouldn’t freeze well.
  7. With the cupcakes and frostings ready to go, all I had to do the night before was assemble.  Everything was decorated and packaged in less than two-hours.

Easy.  I swear. And, while marriage may not always be (easy), many, many happy wishes to Julie and Paul!

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling

Cooks Illustrated, May 2010.  Also appears in The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2011 (American’s Test Kitchen, 2010).

Makes 12 cupcakes

Use a high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe, such as one of the test kitchen’s favorite baking chocolates, Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. Though we highly recommend the ganache filling, you can omit it for a more traditional cupcake. The cupcakes can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored unfrosted in an airtight container.


  • Ganache Filling
  • 2ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
  • 1/4cup heavy cream
  • 1tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 3ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
  • 1/3cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4cup hot coffee
  • 3/4cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
  • 3/4cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2teaspoon baking soda
  • 6tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2large eggs
  • 2teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1recipe Frosting


  1. 1. FOR GANACHE FILLING: Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.
  2. 2. FOR CUPCAKES: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan (cups have ½-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  3. 3. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. 4. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes (about 10 minutes for mini-cupcakes). Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

Persnickety (but good) chewy chocolate cookies

We’ve talked about Cooks Illustrated before and about how great their recipes are.  And they are great.  Spot on.  Always turn out.

However, after having collected the magazine for years, I can say with confidence that Cooks Illustrated could make pouring a glass of lemonade sound complicated.  And I understand this, because as I’ve openly admitted, I’m the same way.  I like to do things right and sometimes this requires multiple steps.   However, complicated seems too derogatory a term for dear, bow tie wearing Christopher Kimball.  So, I like to think of him and his operation as persnikety.

Case in point, this cookie recipe.  I couldn’t resist taking it for a spin precisely because of how exacting the instructions were.

Dark corn syrup (not light) is whisked together with egg white (no yolk.  Really…no yolk–this helps keep the cookie chewy) and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, flour, leavening agents and good cocoa powder also get a good whisk.

In yet a third bowl, either fitted into a standing mixer or with electric beaters, butter, dark (not golden mind you) brown sugar and granulated sugar are creamed.  Then the corn syrup mixture is blended in followed by the dry ingredients.  And then the whole lot gets chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Nore more.  No less (otherwise you’ll turn into a gremlin if you eat the resulting cookies.  It’s true).

Once the half-an-hour is up, the dough gets parceled out into 16 equal portions (the scale was my little add-on).

Then each ball is rolled in sugar and  plopped onto a couple of parchment-lined baking sheets.  It’s okay, I’m thinking of Pete’s Schweedy balls right now too.

A few minutes in the oven with a little dosado halfway through and you’ve got yourself some pretty fine chocolate cookies.

These went as the Normal Cookies’ dates to a party for a friend who does majorly cool research on Alzheimer’s disease and just got a tenure track position at a majorly awesome institution.  At the party I learned about The Bad Project.  Ah, nerd humor.  My people.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Cook’s Illustrated, January 1, 2009

ever so slighted adapted


  • 1/3 C sugar granulated sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces), plus 1/2 cup for coating
  • 1 1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 C Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 C dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 C packed dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces, see note)
  • 4ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped into 1/2-inch pieces


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place ½ cup granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate.
  2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
  3. Whisk corn syrup, egg white, and vanilla together in small bowl.
  4. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, add corn syrup mixture, and beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bowl once with rubber spatula. With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and chopped chocolate; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl once. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom.
  5. Chill dough 30 minutes to firm slightly (do not chill longer than 30 minutes).
  6. Divide dough into 16 equal portions; roll between hands into balls about 11/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, drop 8 dough balls into baking dish with sugar and toss to coat. Set dough balls on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart; repeat with second batch of 8. Bake, reversing position of the baking sheets halfway through baking (from top to bottom and front to back), until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), 10 to 11 minutes. Do not overbake.
  7. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack (just to be a rebel, I used a silicon spatula and not only did it work just fine, I did not turn into a gremlin); cool cookies to room temperature.

The basic base

TD: Can you make me some cookies?  Only, you know, the normal ones.

Me: You mean the kind without any of those villainous pink peppercorns?

TD: Uh huh.  Yeah, those.

And so goes TD’s quarterly request for what he calls, “the normal cookies.”  The “normal cookies” is simply code for chocolate chip cookies.  Whenever I make a batch, they are quickly put into a zip lock bag and appropriated to the “man loft” where they are stored in the “man fridge” to be eaten only by TD and only in quantities of at least half a dozen (I once saw him eat an entire row of Oreos without blinking.  Dude.).

What is a man-fridge you ask?  Well.  In our house, we have not one but three refrigerators.  See, we have a typical Beach Cities straight-up-and-downer.  An expansive (ha!) 1500 square feet stretched across three floors (this doesn’t include the garage…which is yet one more floor down).  This means that our third floor “entertainment” loft and roof deck are located two whole sets of switch-back stairs from the kitchen.  Apparently the survival gene on the “Y” chromosome kicks in after a single set of stairs and when we were furnishing said loft, TD required a mini-fridge for beverages as a precautionary measure.  I guess dehydration and baseball watching are highly related covariates.  So, a top-of-the-line stainless steel mini-fridge we got.  And we keep it well stocked with beer (not because I’m religious about libation stocking but because, well, we don’t drink a ton of beer so it pretty much stays stocked on its own.  BUT it would look impressive if MTV Cribs ever decided to stop by).  And, on occasion, the man-fridge gets stocked with cookies.

Which brings me to my “normal” cookie base.  Many years ago when I was just beginning to cultivate my hostessing skills (let’s face it, I’ve always been misanthropic), I perfected my own version of a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It’s only perfect in-so-far as it is the kind of chocolate chip cookie I like: slightly chewy and not flat.  The thing is, once you master the base, you can put just about anything in it for variety.  M&Ms, nuts, dried fruit…you get the picture.

The recipe is simple and I’ve kept the ratios easy to remember.

Two sticks of butter get creamed-to-death with equal parts white and golden brown sugar.

Then, an egg plus an egg yolk are blended in just until incorporated. This is followed by a little vanilla and then the dry ingredients.  Equal parts salt and baking soda plus enough flour to get to your desired consistency (I like my dough a little on the dry side, so usually, 2 cups plus another couple of tablespoons).

Then comes the fun.  Two cups of whatever you want to add to make your base fancy.  Here we’ve got a combo of peanut butter, white and semi-sweet chips, salted peanuts, raisins and a little dark chocolate.  Note: no peppercorns here.

Another couple of folds to incorporate and you’ve got good dough.

The size of your cookie is up to you.  I usually go somewhere between 1/8 and a 1/4 cup.  The cookies in this recipe joined next week’s post at a party so I made them extra big.

Twelve or so minutes in the oven with a rotation halfway through and you’ve got nice, normal cookies.

And yes, they would pair excellently with beer.

What?  You want to know where our third fridge is.  It’s in the garage and holds Gatorade.  Because, what garage home-gym would be complete without its own electrolyte enhanced drink cooler?

TMH’s Perfectly Normal (Chocolate Chip) Cookies


  • 16 TBS (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp but not melty)
  • 3/4 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (room temp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 C + 2-3 TBS all purpose flour
  • 2 C your favorite fillings–chocolate chips, nuts etc.

To Make

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line half-sheet pans with partchment.
  • Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  • In standing mixer (or hand mixer, or by hand), cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy (2-4 minutes).
  • With mixer on low, add-in eggs one-at-a-time until well combined.  Do not over beat!
  • With mixer still on low, fold in flour.  Mix until just combined.
  • Fold-in chips etc by hand.
  • Portion-out dough to desired size on to pans.  Bake two sheets at a time for 12 minutes, rotating sheet positions halfway through.
  • Store in sealed container.  They freeze excellently.

Sex and the City and muffins

I was at the gym the other day watching Sex and the City on Closed Caption while toiling away on the rowing machine.  I think it’s funny that I get most of my pop culture via subtitle while at the gym.  Of course this can lead to confusion like the time I was watching VH1 while on the treadmill and spent an entire music video thinking Menudo were the Jonas Brothers (all the while opining, ‘hey, these Jonas Brothers are way cooler than I thought…what with the retro-vibe and all’) only to find out that the subtitles were on a two-minute delay.  In this case Menudo really was Menudo.

Anyhow, as a West Coast girl, my impression of New York City is almost entirely derived from a combination of Sex and the City, the Sopranos,  SNL and old episodes of Felicity.  Oh, and of course, the season finale of Glee.

I loved S.A.T.C.–though will  admit I was a late-comer to the show. In fact, I may have missed it entirely if I hadn’t started dating TD who, on our first Sunday evening together casually said, “hey, don’t you want to watch Sex and the City.”  Which really meant, “I want to watch Sex and the City but as a manly man need to use you as my beard.”  By then, the show was in its third season.  One episode and I understand what the big deal was…even if the 27-year-old in me thought those old-broads were acting a little immature for their age.

Fast forward just over ten years to my recent time on the rowing machine.  They were showing Catch-38–the episode where Carrie realizes that at 38 she should or should-not be making some important decisions about her life.  Wait…I just turned 38…when did I catch up with the S.A.T.C. girls?  You know, those “old broads.”  Oh dear.  Oh crap.

Existential crises aside, that episode motivated me to try a recipe for New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins from Cooks Illustrated (January 1, 2008).  If I can no longer have the fashion S.A.T.C. brought me, at least I could have a vaguely reminiscent baked good (what…I’ve stretched it too far?).

I have a weakness for crumb-topped coffee cake.  But really, who doesn’t?  You start this recipe by making the topping.  And, let’s be honest, this is the most important part.  While tasty, the muffin is just the delivery method for these buttery, sugar-cinnamony crumbles.  Melted butter, sugars and cinnamon (duh) are combined.

Until they form a dough which is then set aside to cool.

Then the muffin dough is pulled together.  Butter is added to the dry ingredients little by little until crumbly sand forms.  Then the eggs and buttermilk are added until the mixture is light and fluffy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it only makes 12 muffins–which is great for a Sunday morning treat.  After portioning-out the dough into lined cupcake molds, the topping gets broken into large pieces and arranged on top of the muffin batter.  You’ll feel like you’ve got too much crumble dough–do not worry, just pack-in-on, the muffins will rise in the oven.

Once out of the oven, you are supposed to wait 20 minutes before removing them from the pan and another 20 before eating.  Good luck with that.

These were fantastic for brunch.  And, even better,  I’m going to “transform” this recipe in a couple of weeks for a bridal shower by adding an icing and calling them cupcakes.

New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Posted verbatim from Cooks Illustrated, January 1, 2008

Makes 12 muffins

Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough muffin. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the muffins, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.


  • Crumb Topping
  • 1/3cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • Muffins
  • 1 1/4cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4teaspoon table salt
  • 6tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  3. 3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. 4. Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.