Deepest Darkest Cocoa Brownies

cocoa brownies

Rating: 5/5 stars. This recipe makes a 13×9 pan of thick, moist, incredibly chocolatey cocoa brownies. Bonus: they’re non-dairy!

I have terrible news. In my attempt to ameliorate #2’s eczema, I have done the unthinkable: I’ve (temporarily) given up dairy. This was not an easy decision for me. I’m not really a big milk-drinker, but cheese, ice cream, and butter are all high on my list of favorite foods. But I’ve now gone ten days without dairy, which is definitely some kind of record for me. #2’s eczema is… perhaps mildly better. Maybe. Which could also be due to the warmer temperatures we’ve been enjoying. But I’ll probably keep up the experiment for a while longer and then reintroduce a bit of dairy to see what happens.

One of the hardest days of this experiment was Wednesday, the day we have advisory groups at school. Advisory at our school is synonymous with snack time. Any actual advising that happens take place over boxes of Dunkin (or if you’re lucky, from the fabulous Chattanooga-based Julie Darling Donuts), bags of apples, Tupperware of homemade cookies, jugs of juice… students take their snack-bringing duties very seriously. And woe be it unto the student who forgets their day to bring advisory snacks. Last Wednesday, one of my advisees brought giant Sams Club containers of both mini-cinnamon rolls and mini-brownies. We also had leftover mini-donuts and Pringles from previous weeks.

Of course I had to check the labels. And of course everything had dairy. And so I spent my day staring at heaps of brownies that I couldn’t eat. It was five periods of pure torture.

That got me thinking–wouldn’t it be pretty simple to make dairy-free brownies? No crazy changes would be needed, especially because I can still eat eggs. So I started doing some investigating, and then some baking, and I wound up with these decadent chocolate treats: Deepest Darkest Cocoa Brownies. They don’t have the delicious papery topping of your typical boxed brownie, but there exists no chocolate craving these fudgy brownies can’t satisfy.

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Time Commitment: The directions here are ridiculously simple. These clock in at 45 minutes to one hour, almost all of which is baking time. I took closer to an hour because of all the “help” I was getting from a certain little someone.

Mess: This whole thing comes together in one good-sized bowl–for me, in the bowl of my stand mixer.

Mom Fails: Pro tip: put your little one’s hair in a ponytail before giving her chocolate-covered beaters to lick.

Deepest Darkest Cocoa BrowniesPhoto Mar 19, 9 11 10 PM

Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s fudge brownie recipe

Makes a 9×13 pan, about 20 brownies

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 c dutch-process cocoa, like this amazing valrhona cocoa from Amazon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 c semisweet chocolate chips, optional (My Guittard semisweet chips are dairy-free, though they’re made on equipment that also makes milk chocolate. That’s good enough for me, but you can also find strictly vegan chocolate chips, if needed.)
  • Sifted powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. Beat together eggs, cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso/coffee, and vanilla until well combined.
  3. Add oil and sugar. Mix again.
  4. Add in flour. Mix again until batter takes on a thick, sludgy consistency. This batter is stiffer than your typical boxed brownie batter. Never fear–they will be tender and moist after baking!
  5. Fold in chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Smooth batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center looks firm but still moist. You can stick a knife into your brownies to check done-ness, but you actually want to take these out before the tester comes out completely clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack, then dust cocoa brownies with powdered sugar. Slice, then serve.

Raspberry Jam Coffee Cake

Rapsberry Jam Coffee Cake

Rating: 4/5 stars. This quick recipe for raspberry jam coffee cake has a tender cake base topped off with crispy cinnamon streusel

I had a moment of panic last night. I had prepared dinner (tortellini minestrone, but that’s a recipe for another day), put the kids to bed, and was just about to settle in to watch an episode of Downton Abbey with Rob when I remembered that I had signed up to bring snacks to our English department meeting the next morning. That realization sent me on a frantic hunt for a brunch recipe that was both quick and delicious–and one for which I had all the ingredients on hand. There was zero chance I was going to brave the cold to get groceries at 8pm.

After spending some time down the rabbit hole of internet food-dom, I still couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. So I decided to cobble together a couple of coffee cake recipes to fit what I had on hand. The result is this raspberry jam coffee cake: moist sour cream cake, swirls of sweet jam, and a crispy cinnamon topping. The marriage of the three components is delightful, just right to perk up droopy English teachers on their first week back from the holidays.

Raspberry Jam Coffee Cake

Time Commitment: About one hour, not including the time needed to cool and slice the cake.

Mess: Given the different components to the cake, this one is a bit on the messy side. I used three bowls plus the baking pan. And of course, the powdered sugar finish made a giant mess everywhere. Just in time for this mysterious mid-winter ant invasion we’re having–perfect.

Mom Fails: I was making this up as I went along, so I half expected that I’d have to make an emergency donut run before the department meeting. Miraculously, everything came together.

Raspberry Jam Coffee CakeRaspberry Jam Coffee Cake

(Source: adapted, loosely, from this recipe and this one)

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/4 c butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c raspberry jam

Topping

  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 c flour

To Finish

  • powdered sugar, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Generously grease a 9-inch square or round cake pan.
  2. To make cake, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add sour cream, egg, and vanilla and mix just until incorporated. The batter will be slightly lumpy–don’t worry, and don’t overmix!
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Then dump flour mixture into sour cream mixture. Stir until a thick batter forms.
  4. Pour cake batter into prepared pan. Spoon jam onto the batter and smooth/swirl with a spoon.
  5. To make topping, stir together melted butter, sugars, salt, and cinnamon until fully incorporated. Then slowly stir in flour until lumps of streusel form. Sprinkle streusel onto the top of the cake.
  6. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pan on a rack. After cooling, you can sift a bit of powdered sugar on top of the cake for an elegant touch. Then slice and serve.

 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

 

Rating: 4/5 stars. This recipe is quick and chocolatey–a pleasure for all the senses.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I don’t mean the holidays. I mean… semester grades at a certain high-dollar Southern boarding school have now officially been submitted. If you’ve ever wondered why teachers have a tendency to be a bit grinch-y around the holidays, well, I just want you to imagine that instead of hanging shiny globes on the Christmas tree or buying cute toys (educational of course) for your little ones, you instead spend your waking hours mired in a swamp of bad student writing, irritating grade software, and uncomfortable work pants. It doesn’t exactly make one a paragon of festivity.

But as of Tuesday morning, grades are done! I am now free to spend some time indulging in the Christmas spirit. Well, at least I’m free to do that after 3pm, because said Southern boarding school also has a crazy schedule, and we still have class for four days after semester grades are submitted.

So what’s a teacher to do? Make cookies, of course! I’m giving them to my students to bribe them into continuing to do schoolwork through the end of the week, and to the colleagues in classrooms around me for being a fantastic bunch of folks to find myself in the trenches with every day.

As per usual, I spent a significant amount of time in the Valley of Cookie Indecision this year. Chocolate or fruit? To roll or to drop? Should I break out Grandma’s cookie press? Nuts? Sprinkles? Icing?

In the end, I went with a new-to-me but classically Christmas recipe: chocolate crinkle cookies. And I’m so glad I did. These are the anti-sugar cookies. Cakey and bittersweet, they let the chocolate take center stage.

Next year at this time, you’ll probably find me, yet again, wallowing in the Valley of Cookie Indecision. But for now? I’m definitely planning to make these again.

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Time Commitment: Ok, don’t judge me here. We had just come back from a walk, because we’re the midst of a crazy December warm spell. On said walk, #2 fell asleep in his stroller. I suppose I could have woken him up, but what sort of mom do you think I am, exactly? Am I a glutton for punishment? So I came up with a solution that was a win for everybody: I pulled the stroller up to the door from the garage so I could both see and hear when #2 woke up, put on some Sesame Street for #1 (we’re not judging right now, remember?), and desperately whipped together this cookie dough. It took 20 minutes. And in case you were wondering, I almost finished before the baby woke up. The dough really does need to chill for a couple of hours, too—which was perfect for me, since it gave me just enough time for me to feed the kiddos and put them to bed. In a nutshell, I started this project at 6 and finished at 10, but most of that time was just waiting for the dough to chill.

Mess: This recipe takes two bowls, plus a cutting board if you want to chop chocolate bars rather than use chips. But it’s otherwise just a typical cookie recipe, mess-wise.

Mom Fails: I didn’t use quite enough powdered sugar on the first pan of these that I baked. In order to get the perfect crinkly exterior, you need to really coat them in the stuff.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies 

(Source: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/chocolate-crinkles-recipe)

Makes 3 dozen cookies

I made the following modifications from the original recipe. The recipe below reflects these modifications.

  • Espresso Powder: I substituted two teaspoons of instant coffee for the espresso powder in the original recipe. I worried because I could taste the coffee flavor in the dough, but the finished cookies just taste like deep, dark chocolate.
  • Chill time: The recipe mentions that the dough will firm up quite a bit in the fridge. Yes, it will. Don’t skip this step! Immediately after making this, the dough looks basically like cake batter, but it became reasonably firm after chilling for a couple of hours.
  • Chocolate: I suppose you could make this recipe with chocolate chips, but the better the chocolate, the better the outcome. I used a bittersweet Scharffen Berger bar. Wow! The cookies are intensely chocolate-y and only barely sweet.
  • Salt: I tend to use a bit of extra salt in sweet recipes that only call for a small amount, like this one. A heaping ¼ teaspoon was just enough to intensify the flavor without standing out from the other ingredients.

RecipePhoto Jan 03, 7 51 40 PM

  • 1 1/3 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped fairly small (or chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder (optional, but recommended)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (the recipe recommends King Arthur, for obvious reasons, and I fully endorse this recommendation!)
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar, for coating
  1. Microwave chopped chocolate and butter until butter melts. I used 70% power and took about 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate fully melts.
  2. Cream together butter, eggs, vanilla, and coffee/espresso. Stir in chocolate/butter mixture. (It’s ok if it’s still warm.) Add baking powder and salt, then, slowly, the flour.
  3. Chill dough at least 2 hours (what I did), or overnight. This is vital to help the dough firm up enough to shape!
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees; grease a cookie sheet (or line it with parchment paper).
  5. Roll balls of dough approximately one inch in diameter. Coat thoroughly with powdered sugar. (I put some sugar in a shallow bowl and rolled the dough balls around in it.)
  6. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for about five minutes; then finish cooling on a wire rack.