fudgy brownies with graham cracker crust and peanut butter truffles

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Hey guys, remember when I had a baking blog?

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Me neither.  Life, amiright?  But I’ve gotten a few requests to share this recipe (most of which I made up and did not diligently record, so apologies in advance if your brownies fail), and I thought this old thing would be a good place to do it.  This recipe is a classic example of the Stoner Food by Non-Stoners phenomenon—what can I say, I just like putting all the good things into a bowl and baking them into a pan of delicious.  Stone-cold sober.

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These are also the latest effort in my quest to convert all of my friends who don’t think they’re Sweets People—and thankfully, there are few—into Sweets People.  And if that means whipping out the brown sugar, dark chocolate, and peanut butter-flavored big guns, so be it.

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Fudgy Brownies with Graham Cracker Crust and Peanut Butter Truffles
Brownies adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home To Yours.

Ingredients

For crust:
2 packages graham crackers, pulsed into crumbs (from one box; each box usually has three packages)
1 cup flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 sticks butter, melted
1 egg (optional)

For truffles:
½ jar creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup flour

For brownies:
10 tablespoons butter, cut into 10 pieces
12 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
⅔ cup all-purpose flour

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 13×9″ pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Stir together graham crackers, flour, and sugar.  Drizzle in melted butter and stir well (I find my KitchenAid is best for this, but you can definitely do it by hand).  Crumbs should stick together solidly when pressed.  If they’re not sticking, stir in one egg.

Press crumb mixture into pan.  Bake 15 minutes or until just starting to brown.  Remove to cool for about 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees F.

While crust is baking, make the truffles (I don’t really know what else to call these—they’re basically just nuggets of peanut butter goodness).  Mix together peanut butter, sugar, and flour until it forms a thick dough.  (You should be able to roll it into balls easily.)  Add more flour if it is too thin.  Set aside.

Next, make the brownie batter.  Melt chocolate and butter gently in a double boiler (you can do this in the microwave, too, but be REALLY careful!  I usually put it in for 30 seconds at first, give it a good stir, and then stir at 10-second intervals until it’s just barely melted).  Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing throughly after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla, then gently stir in the salt and flour.

Pinch off ½- to 1-inch bits of the peanut butter “dough” and sprinkle them across the crust (feel free to actually roll them into balls if you want to be fancier than I was).  Pour brownie batter over the crust and peanut butter, then sprinkle with more peanut butter dough.  Bake 30-35 minutes.

Chill completely, then sprinkle (or coat, as I did) with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares.  Receive accolades.

blueberry cornmeal mini-muffins (gluten-free)

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One year, one month, and seven days later — I’m back!

Predictably, work got the better of me last year, and this blog went the way of my social life (into dark and mournful hibernation, that is).  Now, at a new job in a new city — and, importantly, in a new kitchen — I’m back in the saddle.  At least for now.

As a girl of the frugal persuasion, I must applaud Amazon for its kind of obscenely good prices on specialty baking ingredients: Back home in Studio City, I’d pay $8 for a small bag of brown rice flour, but a pack of four bags only set me back $12 (on Prime, no less)!  It’s fantastic in that dangerous, can’t-sleep-so-I’ll-buy-some-stuff kind of way.  I’m certain that my fellow building residents are collaborating to plan a shopping intervention, their concern mounting with each Prime box left at the bottom of the stairs.

But why the specialty flours?  As is usually the impetus for my new culinary forays, the blueberry cornmeal mini-muffins (below, which look suspiciously like the regular blueberry mini-muffins in my header image) were inspired by a colleague with a gluten intolerance.  I can verify that this isn’t the Atkins-by-a-different-name, This is the End kind of gluten-free diet, for which I have little patience, so I was happy to accommodate and learn.

My past gluten-free baking attempts have resulted in tasty but slightly crunchy products: Brown rice flour, which is a common substitute for regular flour and the one I’ve used the most, just doesn’t lose its grainy texture as much as I’d like when cooked.  These muffins had the same hiccup, but I’d definitely rank them among the better gluten-free recipes I’ve made.  They were flavorful, rich, but still light, with a sturdy-but-still-fluffy texture in spite of the stubborn flour.  I think it also helps to bill them as semi-corn muffins, just to manage expectations!  The only change I’d make next time is to use lemon zest instead of the squirt of lemon juice I substituted to brighten them up a bit.

I don’t promise Jamie Lee Curtis regularity, but for now, it’s nice to see you again.  Recipe below.

xo
Alli

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Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins (gluten-free)
Pro tip: Coat your blueberries with flour before adding to the batter — it prevents them from sinking to the bottom.

1 1/4 cups milk (I used almond milk, since it’s what we had, with no adverse effects — though I’d stick to regular milk for your first time)
1 T vinegar
3/4 cups sugar (I used a mix of white and dark brown)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 egg yolk (I used all whites…again, what we had on hand)
1 T lemon zest, optional
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries (if using frozen, do not defrost)
1 tbsp brown or raw sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two 24-cup mini-muffin tins with paper or foil liners.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine milk and vinegar.  Set aside to sour (about 5 minutes).  You could probably use some combination of sour cream or yogurt and milk here, too.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, yolk, soured milk, and lemon zest.  Beat until combined.

Stir in rice flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt until just combined.  Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way up, then sprinkle with brown or raw sugar.  I used dark brown sugar, and I think this really made the muffins — it adds a great, almost caramel-y richness.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool before eating.

Original recipe here.

blue velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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Apparently LA bakeries only offer blue velvet cake that’s flavored with blueberry, which — sorry, lovers of blueberry flavoring — sounds pretty gross to me. I, however, am way cooler than real bakeries and was completely unopposed to using up some of the six packages of blue, yellow, and green food coloring (red previously depleted by red velvet cakes) when a coworker’s sister requested blue (good taste)  for her graduation.

dolloped with cream cheese frosting

I used this recipe, replacing the red food coloring with blue and adding a few drops of yellow to the frosting.  These were jaunty and adorable — particularly bearing in mind my spectacular cupcake strikeouts of years past.

decked out in their little hats — courtesy of my burgeoning Amazon Prime addiction

And just for kicks, here’s a (bad quality iPhone) photo of the blondie Oreo concoction of the weekend — Oreos baked between two layers of blondie batter, another for the books of stoner food this non-stoner can’t seem to stop making.  Also great for breakups, drunk BBQs, hangovers, and late-night foraging.  Happy summer!

chai spice sugar cookies (vegan)

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What?  Oh, hi.  I’m still alive; I just have one too many Serious Grown Up Paying Jobs (not that I’m complaining) and this little blog of mine has drawn the short stick as a result.  But I’m taking advantage of this unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon and the fact that I’m a few clicks away from submitting my latest article to my editor to share these chai spice sugar cookies with you.

These are for a vegan (ahem, mostly vegan) friend who celebrated a birthday on Friday — I couldn’t make it to her shindig, so I offered baked goods in return.  I know people say this all the time, but folks, these DO NOT taste vegan.  I don’t know what vegan cookies are supposed to be like, but these taste just as unhealthy as the buttery, eggy ones that I might decide to make one day anyway.  If you want to go whole hog (no pun intended), I suggest subbing in a cup of real butter in place of the vegan stuff and one egg in place of the flax.

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I’m going to get to the recipe in a moment, but first, shameless promotion:  I’m a real life writer from time to time, and I’m lucky to be employed by one of my favorite websites, HowStuffWorks.com.  Check out my stuff here:

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Most of these also have quizzes that go along with them, so search if you’re feeling smart.

Okay, enough of that.  Let’s talk cookies.  These were actually a little sweet for me (get back on your chair; I’ll wait) so I’m reducing the amount of sugar here a bit.  Feel free to increase if you’d like.  I used vegan margarine, but I’m sure you could do just as well with applesauce; just don’t yell at me if they come out weird.  Also, I know it’s weird and kind of ghetto to use actual tea, but I wasn’t going to spend $17 on spices for one recipe.  I’m sure dry tea is good for you.

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Vegan Chai Spice Sugar Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tbsp baking soda

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt (optional; I omitted — I KNOW, what is going on with me?)

For cookies:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

4 bags’ worth chai spice tea

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tbsp water

1 cup vegan margarine

For rolling mixture:

1/2 cup sugar

2 bags’ worth chai spice tea

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (if using).  Set aside.  In a small bowl, stir together flaxseed and water.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar, spices, and margarine until light and creamy.  Add vanilla and flax mixture; beat until combined.

Slowly stir in flour mixture until dough is just mixed and rolls easily without sticking to your hands.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, tea, and spices.  Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls, then roll in sugar mixture.  Arrange 1 1/2 inches apart in rows on a cookie sheet.  Bake 8 minutes, or until just beginning to crack on top.  Cool completely on cooling rack.

brown sugar Reese’s cookies

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cookies are completely unrelated to ensuing story, but still delicious

I may get stressed easily, but I really try to keep the anger to a minimum.   Tonight, though, I just about took my dad’s old hammer to the washer and dryer he so devotedly worked to install in my apartment (washer’s refusal to effectively enter its spin cycle notwithstanding).

There’s a big meeting at work tomorrow, one for which we’re (I’m) providing lunch, so I figured Subway was a quick and easy way to go.  I sent out a menu, and everyone placed their order; the guy at Subway told me they didn’t have an email address, but I could fax in my order.  Great!  I’m ready.  The order is faxed, with a request to call me to confirm receipt.

An hour later, no call, so I call them.  This is what happened next.

The first seven minutes of this call are spent going back and forth on variations of “Hi, I sent in a fax with an order for tomorrow and I wanted to make sure you received it.”  “You what?”  “I sent a fax.”  “Stacks?”  “No, a fax.  Like with a fax machine.”  “You bought a machine?” “I sent a FAX.  F-A-X. Like you have a phone number and a fax number?”  “You want a sax?”

This is starting to sound suspiciously like a comedy sketch.  I sigh.  “Sorry, but are you messing with me here?”  “No!  No, I’m just trying to understand what you want.”  “I sent an order in via fax.  I’d like to pick it up tomorrow at 11 a.m.”  “You already placed an order?”  “No, I’m trying to do that now.”  “Oh, what do you want?”  “I faxed the order.  Fax.  Like with a fax machine”  “You want to buy a stacking machine?”  (A STACKING MACHINE?)

When I finally got him to understand that it was a fax I was referring to, I got:  “Oh, no, we didn’t get a fax.  Let me call my manager at home.”  [minutes go by; I'm not put on hold]   “No, he didn’t get anything.”

Me: “No, I faxed it to the store.  I didn’t fax it to your manager’s house.”  “Oh!  So you’re not an employee?”  (What?  Employee?)  “NO.  I AM TRYING TO BE A CUSTOMER.  I NEED TO PLACE AN ORDER.”  “Oh, you didn’t place an order?”  “I TRIED TO WITH THE FAX.”  [he puts the phone down for a few minutes]

When he returns, I try to calm down.  “Can I place the order with you over the phone right now?  It’s a lot of sandwiches.”  “You want a long sandwich?”  “No, I have a lot of people who want sandwiches and I want to order them.  Can I do that with you?”  “Yeah, sure!  Wait, did a man or a woman place the order?”  “Why does it matter? It was a fax.”  “What?”  “Never mind.”

He gets ready to take my order.  Someone walks in and tells him something.  He hangs up on me.

Originally, this story ended here.  It was honestly like I had walked into the sandwich shop and asked for a used iPhone and a referral for a good car mechanic in the area.  I called my mom and vented, baked some coffee cake, and resigned myself to spending an hour at Subway at 10 a.m. ordering each sandwich individually.  Then my phone rang.

My friend was back!  “Hey, I’m ready to take your order now.  I’ll make your sandwiches right when I get off the phone.”  “Oh!  Um…okay, sure.  Wait, can you not make them now?  I need them at 11 tomorrow morning.  That’s kind of a while away.”  “Oh, sure.”  At least he’s got follow-through.  I start going through the order.  Each sandwich took five minutes to go through, but at least he was accurate.  Then the phone rings.  It’s his manager.  “Ask him if he got my fax!  Did he get my fax?”  “Oh, um…no, but you can email him the order.”  “Great!  What’s his email address?”  He relays it.  It has a V in it.  I repeat it back, adding “as in Victor” for clarity.  Him: “Ha, that’s funny!  My boss said ‘V as in Victor’ too!”  Bless his heart.  “My boss says email it to him twice in case the first one doesn’t go through.”  (In case the…?  Oh, forget it.)

I email, again with instructions to verify receipt.  I hear nothing.  I’m getting ready to call when the phone rings.  “Hey, um, do you know the address?”  “To the Subway you work at?”  “Yeah.”  “It’s the one on the website, right?”  “Yeah but let me give it to you anyway.”  Sure, buddy.  As long as I get my sandwiches.

He calls back with a question about a sandwich.  Apparently he’s making them now.  At this point, it’s been four hours and what seems like 20 years on the phone speaking what must be two completely different forms of English.  If sandwich freshness becomes an issue, I will be pleading the fifth.

(Completely Unrelated but Definitely Delicious) Brown Sugar Reese’s Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

12 ounces butter, softened

4 ounces shortening, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

1 1/2 cups chopped Reese’s Pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, sugars, and vanilla extract until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating unti smooth.  Slowly stir in the dry ingredients, then the peanut butter cups.

Drop dough by neat tablespoonfuls on prepared cookie sheets, then sprinkle with Pieces.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden and centers are just set.  Cool 5 minutes on pan, then finish cooling on a cooling rack.  Throw at a Subway.