sugar britches

one day in international, i made curried shrimp. it was delicious and there is not photographic evidence of it.  there was, however, evidence all over my pants. I managed to get curry powder….everywhere. Including my hind quarters, and it wasn’t long before the nickname Curry A$$ was born.

after advanced dining room, we went to advanced patisserie (because i’m soooo advanced now), where on day 1 we made all kinds of fruit coulis. I made a delightful cherry coulis. and got it on my pants. enter Coulis A$$.  not nearly as catchy.  BUT i actually have pictures of what my hard work and soiled britches produced (props to our chef who required pictures of every plate in our final project).

our chef was awesome. cool, calm, and collected (as most pastry chefs are) and not afraid to beat into the teenagers’ heads the importance of taking care of your body in this industry–with both food and exercise.  only healthy snacks were allowed during lecture (i’m continually shocked by the amount of soda, cookies, and fast food consumed for breakfast here) and we all had to tell her what we do to keep ourselves fit.  Ironic in a lab full of cream, butter, and sugar, but that made it all the more necessary.

So–the treats! We worked in groups the first few days, with one person directing the plate design, then the last days we worked together for production, but plated our own desserts.  All these (well, the decent looking ones) went to the Advanced Dining Room for lunch service.

chocolate mousse with a tuile cookie, chocolate piping, and assorted fruit coulis

almond financier with red-wine poached pineapple, chocolate straw, lace spiral, and piping/sauces. (my plate design–chef said best of the day!)

lemon basil bavarian cream on a phyllo nest

fresh fruit tart with coconut cream

pear tatin with lace cookie (that awkward open space on the right side of the cookie is for ice cream). first dessert plated totally on my own!

lemon-scented cheesecake on a chocolate cookie with fresh raspberries and a sugar spire (sugar work is now my sworn enemy).

hand-pulled apple strudel with a cookie cup for ice cream and demerits for the fresh fruit because it didn’t go with the fall flavors of the strudel. whoops!

and my final! chocolate lava cake with (now tremendously melted) raspberry swirl ice cream. also imagine a beautiful piece of chocolate placed right through those delicately cut holes in the lace cookie. rough day, but i still made an A!



U-G-L-Y You ain’t go no alibi. You’re ugly. Yea. Yea, you’re ugly.

These little guys are not winning any beauty pageants. But MAN are they tasty.  Last weekend I went on an autumnal baking extravaganza. Manfriend’s only request was “like a brownie or a blondie or something.” Blondies* have never been my favorite thing–I associate them with kinda bland, dry cakey bars full of  nuts (which i detest in baked goods). But, I wanted to do something with pumpkin and I knew the flavor would get lost in regular chocolate brownies.  I whipped these guys up then realized: they had to bake for “35-40 minutes” which means “45-50” minutes in my oven.  It was 10:10am. I had a yoga class at 11:00. Dilemma.

Looking back, I could have just waited to bake them until I got back. But they were already in the oven and didnt think gently heating raw batter then letting it sit at room temperature would be the…safest thing in the world. So I let them continue baking and around 10:50, I turned the oven off. And left.  I returned to a cold oven and…this

Victory, right? Looks like its baked all the way through….feels like it’s baked all the way through. I let them cool and tried to slice them up. That’s where it all went wrong. Chef’s knife, serrated knife, nothing would give me a clean cut.

And, what I had originally feared had come true: the very center of the pan wasn’t raw…but I wouldn’t call it done. So, I tossed the middle 4 bars, tasted some crumbs (to make sure it doesn’t taste like soap or something), packaged away the survivors, and moved on.

Manfriend returned Monday night from his romp in Manhattan, so Tuesday morning I packed up some treats for both of us to take to work. I promptly got distracted by an absolutely incredible mocha milkshake from these guys and forgot about the treats.  Well yesterday I broke them out and HOLY HELL were they delicious.  All the spices definitely blended and enhanced the pumpkin so much more from the original bits I tasted.  Thanks to my brilliant yoga/oven maneuver, they were really moist and decadent.  Really, really freaking tasty. My fear of blondies has been conquered AND we’ve found a fantastic fall treat.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

My Baking Addiction


  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Grease with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree. If the mixture looks curdled, do not fret.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
  6. Storage: Store the pumpkin blondies in a single layer inside an airtight container for up to three days.

*the irony has not been lost on me that I am, in fact, a blonde. i hope you have a good giggle over this.

Technology: 1/2 DTMS: 1/2 (you know I don’t like to lose)

So wordpress makes a super cool blackberry app. It looks cool, its easy to use, and for the life of me I cannot get it to post to the blog! We’re going mid-tech (not low, not high) and posting via email.

So, just to fill you in, dc had the worst freaking winter imaginable. We’re now enjoying almost a month of straight 90-100 degree days. This kind of smite makes me think god is a Republican.

For the most recent office birthday, I thought everyone could use a little help beating the heat: ice cream sandwiches!

Rumor had it the birthday girl enjoyed both coffee and chocolate ice cream. I had starred this post a while ago and the cookie choices looked like they would go perrrfectly with her favorite ice creams. Peanut butter cookies with chocolate ice cream, and chocolate cookies with coffee ice cream. Oh yes and rolled in m&m’s and toffee bits.

The sandwiches were a huge hit, but the untold story is that both of these cookie recipes are amazing on their own. The PB cookies are insanely easy and peanutty, abd the chocolate cookies are simple, clean, fantastic chocolate wafer-esque cookies.

Stay cool!

we got a thing….goin’ on

The Joneses, present and future, had our whole motley crew down by the bay (Chesapeake style) for Memorial Day weekend.  It was a fantastic trip–full of dancing on the dock, water sports (failed, in my case), ICE, good friends, and good food.

I volunteered, in one of the many logistical spreadsheets organizing the weekend (par for the course when you hang out with engineers), to take on the sweets.  Then we calculated 20 people attending.  This quickly became my Iron Chef challenge: “Can you, a young inexperienced food blogger, turn out 3 days of treats for 20 people, with one afternoon and a mini-oven?”

Do you accept this challenge?

(2) Strawberry Polenta Cake (recipe is actually rhubarb, but Safeway was out)

Yogurt Coffee Cake

Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares

Halfway Cookies

Lime Meltaways

and, what every good outdoor event should have, Rice Krispie Treats


BAM. Take that Morimoto.

chocolate and fear.

in yet another display of my lack-luster blogging skills, i made KILLER brownies for the birthday of a man named Bubba, and apparently took 5 of the strangest pictures ever:

yep that’s it. chocolate, some butter and sugar, brownie batter, and frosting. brilliant.

But let me tell you–these things are out of this world.  Dense, chewy brownies and a mocha buttercream that may actually bring peace to the middle east (Shoeless Brit, tell H-dog I can whip some up for her next trip.)  “The best brownie i’ve ever had in my life,” said one of my interns.  it was also her first week, so whether she actually liked them or was still afraid of me, i’ll leave up to you.

These come from the mother of all things decadent and amazing, The Pioneer Woman.  Actually, they’re featured in her new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which is eternally on my Borders Wish List.  I originally stumbled across them on another favorite foodie blog, Macheesemo.  He did the proper thing and took pictures of, you know, the end product.

photo credit:

Mocha Brownies (click here for printable version)

As adapted by Macheesemo from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Makes one 9×13 pan of amazingness.

– 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
– 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
– 2 Cups sugar
– 4 large eggs
– 3 Teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour

Mocha Icing:
– 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
– 1 (about 4 cups) pound powdered sugar
– 1/4 Cups cocoa powder
– 1/4 Teaspoon salt
– 3 Teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1/2 Cup brewed coffee, cooled to room temp

  • To get started, add your butter and sugar to a bowl and beat it on medium speed to cream the butter and sugar together.  You can use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this.  After a few minutes, you should have a very light and fluffy mixture.
  • Next, slowly melt your chocolate in the microwave.
    • What I mean by slowly is that you shouldn’t zap it all at once for like 4 minutes.  That would completely burn your chocolate.  Instead, zap it in 30 second increments and stir it in between. Once the chocolate is about 75% melted you can take it out and the rest of the chocolate should melt with residual heat.
  • Back to your mixing bowl, add your eggs one at a time and then your vanilla and chocolate.  Mix this all together until it’s well incorporated.
  • Then slowly add your flour in a few batches.  Be sure to turn your mixer down to low for the flour part or you will just dust your entire kitchen in flour.
  • Mix it until your flour is incorporated but don’t over-mix it or you’ll have tough brownies!  When you can’t see any flour, you’re done.
  • Add your brownie mix to a 9×13 inch baking pan that’s either been sprayed with non-stick spray or lightly buttered.  Bake the brownies at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the center is set.  A toothpick should come out clean.
    • Don’t worry if the brownies do what mine did which is inflate slightly around the edges and then crack.  Remember we are adding an inch of frosting to the top so whatever.
  • The most important part of this recipe is to make sure you let your brownies cool completely to room temperature before frosting them or your frosting will just melt.  This will probably take at least an hour so plan accordingly.
  • Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder to a mixing bowl with the salt, vanilla, and butter and start mixing on medium-low until everything is starting to come together.  Then add your coffee slowly and once it’s all added, increase the speed to medium and beat it for a few minutes until it’s very light and fluffy.
  • Drop this huge amount of frosting onto your brownies and spread it out as evenly as you can.
  • Once the brownies are frosted, you could eat them right away, but I recommend sticking them in the fridge for at least a few hours so the frosting hardens a bit.  That’ll make them easier to cut.

there must be a god.

Another office birthday, another excuse for a ridiculous cake.  While Mommala has already claimed the brownie escapade for her next birthday, I’m going to go on record and say this may be better.  No–not “may be”–HANDS DOWN TIMES ONE MILLION THIS IS THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE I HAVE EVER TASTED.  The frosting, I could do without. It’s pretty bitter, which balances the moist, transcendent cake nicely, but if you have more than just a thin veil, it’s a little distracting of the AMAZING CHOCOLATE EXTRAVAGANZA currently in your mouth.  That was a lot of capital letters, I realize.  I don’t use them lightly.  This cake is worth it.  Its light and not overwhelmingly sweet. It’s moist for DAYS (literally and figuratively) and just sweet enough–not dense or decadent, but rather quite…refreshing.  Make this as soon as humanly possible.

The original recipe is 3 9-inch rounds, stacked and completely frosted.  I’m not insane and wasn’t about to walk a 3-tier cake 10 snowy city blocks, so I opted for a sheet cake and lots of cupcakes.  Worked like a charm.  Yea, the cooking times are different, but just pay attention and you’re fine. I did 10-minute intervals and flipped the cupcakes/sheet cake front-to-back and top-to-bottom  to ensure even baking.  Quite an aerobic task, but worth it.  Oh man. Is it worth it.

Chocolate Stout Cake
by Bon Appetit
my inspiration: The Bitten Word



  • 2 cups stout (such as Guinness)
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream


  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper.
  • Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.

welcome to the exclusive club of beer and butter. your life will never be the same.

  • Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend.

big bertha has returned.

  • Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.

  • Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.

mm so maybe i added those in reverse order. worked juuust fine.

  • Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

obviously this guy took longer..more like 55 I think. Just keep an eye on him.

these kids took about 18. I did 10 minute intervals and flipped them and the sheet cake around.

  • Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:

  • Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
  • Add chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.

we're whisking, we're whisking

smooooth as silk

full disclosure: i made this before i started the cake so it had time to chill in the fridge. rebel without a cause, i know.

  • Refrigerate until icing is spreadable, stirring frequently, about 2 hours.
  • Place 1 cake layer on plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with second cake layer. Spread 2/3 cup icing over. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

glory to god and guinness.

smoke, mirrors, and frosting!

This is cake was…epic.  Make a brownie in a cake pan, slice it in half, fill it with a mocha filling, cover the whole thing with caramel frosting.  Do I have your attention now?  It was damn good and weighed a good 20 lbs.

However, my cosmic stars were not completely aligned on this one.  First impediment: whole foods was selling 8 ounces of mascarpone for $10! REALLY. We’re in a recession, people. The internets told me I could use cream cheese and butter as a substitute.  Ok, lets give it a whirl.  While it tasted great, it in no way resembled mascarpone.  But, as it set in the cake, it got all gooey and yummy, which was an unanticipated plus. The other impediments offer no other culinary wisdom and I’ll let you watch the comedy of errors unfold in the photos below.

Since this is a behemoth of a recipe, I’ve included the text for you all together up front.  (one day i’ll learn how to make those cool little ‘printable versions’ but lets just work on me mastering getting a cake out of a pan first).  This was a compilation of a few different recipes, so that gives me license to come up with my own name for my specific creation. I dub thee…

Brownie Birthday Extravaganza!

Brownie and Filling Recipes by Dinner & Dessert

Frosting by Paula Deen (inspired by Spork or Foon)



  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract


  • 2 (8-ounce) tubs mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons boiling water
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frosting
  • 2 cups chopped toffee bars (I omitted these at the birthday girl’s request)


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more as necessary
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (16-ounce) box confectioners’ sugar

Method (to the sheer madness)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease three 9-inch cake pans with butter and dust lightly with flour.  Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water.  Stir until the chocolate has melted.  Remove the bowl from over the saucepan.  Add the sugar and eggs to the chocolate; whisk about 1 minute, until the mixture is glossy and smooth.  Stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla.  Do not overmix the batter.
  • Pour one-third of the batter into each pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the brownies are just firm to the touch.  Cool the brownies in their pans for 30 minutes, then invert them onto racks to cool completely, about 30 minutes longer.


  • Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, espresso liquid, sugar, vanilla, and salt on medium speed just until combined.  Using a large spatula, fold in the 1 cup of reserved frosting.


  • Meanwhile, prepare frosting. Melt butter in small saucepan. Add brown sugar and 1/3 cup cream. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in confectioners’ sugar a little at a time until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream at a time until consistency is right.

Foto Follies

standard double boiler procedure

this bowl is so large it can not be lifted with one hand.

all is still quiet on the western front.

someone told me you could sub very expensive mascarpone with 1 block of cream cheese and some butter. someone was wrong.

another lesson learned: regular ground espresso is not the same as instant espresso.

plop some frosting in the filling, nothing to see here.

one beautiful brownie cake!

aaaaand this naughty little monkey decided to have a total meltdown when inverted.

and i waive my magic wand of improvisation! slice the obedient brownie in half! (very carefully, and with a serated if anyone is still considering attempting this right now.)

line your plate with small squares of parchment to keep it clean during frosting. (also useful in other non-cake wreck situations)

filling! quite tasty, quite attractive.


but aha! my wand of improvisation still works.

attraction! deception! laughs! tears! this cake deserves a broadway show.

musings on mars and venus.

When boys throw a football party, they bring beer. Beer and, well, beer.  When girls throw a football party, there are mimosas, fruit salad, zucchini dippers, taco dip, hummus, and cookies.  These cookies.

When I moved into a new apartment this summer, I had a couple excessively stressful conversations with cable companies and henceforth elected to go a year without cable television.  Alright, clean the water you just spit out off the computer screen.  Truth be told, I don’t really miss it. And I’m happy to  still have the brain cells I would have lost watching every episode of Jersey Shore.  AND I’m happy to have become an avid-bordering-on-obsessive fan of America’s Test Kitchen.  I can identify Christopher Kimball’s voice from 3 words MAX.  So, imagine my absolute delight when I received a bound-and-indexed volume of  all 2009 issues of Cook’s Illustrated.  All the  Equipment Corners, Ingredient notes and meticulously crafted recipes.

Meticulous. And while we all know I often struggle to follow rules and recipes, these are worth it. Even the 4 bowls that got dirty and the specific number of scrapes of the bowl.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
Cooks Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2009


  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar, plus 1/2 c. for coating
  • 1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt (really? how do you measure that?)
  • 1/2 c. dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces


  • Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375.  Line 2 large (18 x 12) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate.  Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.  Whisk corn syrup, egg white, and vanilla together in small bowl.

  • In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and remaining 1/3 c. 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.

hand mixer works juuuust fine.

oh and i may have created "bittersweet chocolate" out of 2 oz. unsweetened and 2 oz. chocolate chips. Yea, the science doesn't compute. It worked. Don't tell Mr. Kimball.

  • With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and chopped chocolate; mix until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl once.  Give dough a final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom.  Chill dough 30 minutes to firm slightly (do not chill longer than 30 minutes).

the perfect cookie dough: tall, dark, and handsome

  • Divide dough into 16 equal portions; roll between hands into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Working in batches, drop 8 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), 10-11 minutes.  Do not overbake.


  • Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes, then use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack; cool cookies to room temperature.


Crispy outside, soft center, deep and chocolatey without being too sweet or dense.  Just freaking delicious. And perfect for football (and 3rd quarter wedding planning 🙂 ) Boys, you have no idea what you’re missing.

runaway food porn.

These are GREAT brownies.  Dense and fudgey without being too rich…and they get nice and crispy on the edges for those of us who like that 😉  Mark Bittman, you’re a good man.

Also, I was feeling rather adventurous and decided to make some caramel sauce to put on top…just 1 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a couple squeezes of light corn syrup (to keep it soft…don’t worry this is not the scary, deadly high fructose corn syrup).  Those pictures follow.

It also appears that my delectable and amazing final pictures have…gone missing. I may have inadvertently deleted them as my memory card got full, or they may just be hiding under the bed. Or something.

And now…without further ado…

by Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything


  • 8 T unsalted butter, plus a little for the pan
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla (optional) [NOT. This is not optional.]


1. Heat oven to 350.  Grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with butter or line with aluminum foil and grease the foil.

2. Combine butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally.  When the chocolate is just about melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.

no double boiler...mark likes to live dangerously.

3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sugar.  Then beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Gently stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla. Pour and scrape into the prepared pan and bake until just barely set in the middle, 20 t0 25 minutes.  It’s better to under-bake brownies than to over-bake them.

how to: make sure you don't get shell in your batter and not soil something else to be washed.

vanilla is not optional! it is the lifeblood of all tasty baked goods!

and DONE. do not over mix. repeat that to yourself now. do not over mix.


WAIT–WHO STOLE MY FINAL PICTURE?! Sorry readers. Life is full of disappointment.

sugar + salt+ low heat= caramel! (or atleast a sugary delicious syrup to put on top of your decadent brownies)

added the corn syrup at the end..because, well, because.