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These cookies are awesome.  They are chewy.  They are chocolatey.  They are a little bit nutty.  And they have a nice tinge of saltiness to complement the chocolate.

What they aren’t are cookies that you can make at 9:00 at night when your kid says “Oh, by the way, I need to take something to the bake sale tomorrow.”

No, these are cookies that strategic planning and timing.  Seriously – I’m talking, there are STEPS that have to be taken.  But, when you taste the end result, you’ll realize that they’re just so darned worth it!  And, yes, this is another recipe that, when I say to use a rimless baking sheet lined with parchment paper, you really should – the cookies are so gooey and soft when you pull them out of the oven that they’d fall completely apart if you had to spatula them onto a baking rack.

The way I make them, the recipe makes three dozen yummy, scrummy cookies.  And, even with the time needed to prep, they’ll be gone before you know it.

Not Your Mama’s Bake Sale Cookies

  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1/4 lb hazelnuts
  • 8 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 bars Green and Black dark chocolate (70%), chopped
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Okay.  So.  Here we go.  First things first – you’re going to roast the hazelnuts and brown the butter.  So, heat the oven to 450 and pour the hazelnuts into a wide-enough pan that they’re not too crowded (I used a square 8×8″ cake pan and that was fine), and roast the nuts for about 15 minutes until fragrant.  When they’re done, let them cool for about 5 minutes, then tip them out onto half of a dish towel, folding the other half over the top, and rub them firmly against the counter to get rid of the husks.  It’s a bit time consuming, but worth it.  Once they’ve been de-husked and cooled, put them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer to get chunks.  You might be tempted to use your food processor – don’t.  You’ll wind up with ground hazelnuts, not roughly chopped.

Next up, brown the butter.  Put all the butter into a saucepan over medium-high heat and melt, then let it bubble away.  It’ll start foamy, then the foam will disappear, then, as the milk solids start to brown, it’ll begin bubbling again.  If you whisk gently, you’ll be able to see as it starts to brown – when you see the solids turn light brown and the butter smells nice and nutty, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.  Let cool a little bit, then put into the fridge to firm up.  It sounds strange, but you’ll want it to firm, then get soft again to beat with the sugar.  So, my recommendation is that you do the butter and the nuts the night before you want to bake the cookies.  And, when you put the butter in the fridge, throw the jar of Nutella in there, too.

Next day – pull out the butter to come up to room temp and pull out the jar of Nutella.  Get a mellon ball scoop (small – about 1/2 tsp) and scoop out 36 Nutella balls, putting them on a plate, then throw them in the freezer.

When the butter is soft and you’re ready to make the dough, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and yolk, yogurt and vanilla, beating well to combine.  Add the flour, nuts and chocolate chips, mixing thoroughly, but not over-beating.  Wrap in plastic (or just pop it into a large zippy bag) and pop into the fridge for 2 hours to rest.

See???  Now do you understand why I say that these are NOT bake sale cookies???!!!

NOW … preheat the oven to 350 and line rimless baking sheets with parchment.

Once the dough has rested, we’re finally (finally!) ready to make the cookies.  Use a teaspoon to scoop out a ping-pong-ball sized bit of dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten.  Get your frozen Nutella ball and put it in the middle, then form the cookie around it, making sure the Nutella is completely covered, so it won’t seep out during baking.  When you lay them out on the lined sheet, flatten slightly and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Bake for 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.  As mentioned above, don’t try to use a spatula on them when they’re hot, you’ll just moosh them up – pull the entire sheet of paper onto a baking rack to cool, then store in an air-tight container.

Not Your Mamas Bake Sale


There are certain flavor combinations that are amazing together – where the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts.  Tomatoes and basil.  Peas and mint.  Garlic and almost anything.

The one combination that I simply can’t abide with is chocolate and orange.  It seems to be a “Marmite” kind of thing.  For those of you who don’t live in the UK, Marmite is a spread for toast.  It’s not like jam, it’s not like peanut butter – it’s a gooey, sticky yeast extract.  Yes, you read that right – it’s a yeast extract that they developed from the crud left over after brewing beer.

I know, right?  Sounds oh-so-yummy.  Yet my husband loves it on his toast.  In fact, it’s so polarizing that they actually use that in their advertising campaign – “Love it or hate it.”  Now, that takes guts.

At any rate, that’s my experience with the chocolate and orange combo – the people who love it really love it – then, there’s the rest of us who think it’s vile.  There doesn’t seem to be many in-betweeners.

Unfortunately, I work with two of the former.  So, when I mentioned that I was in the mood to bake over the recent bank holiday weekend, a request was made.  Not so much a “request” as lots of begging, pleading and, when that didn’t work, wheedling.

I decided that, if I was going to make chocolate and orange brownies, I was going to go the extra mile and make them truly diabolical.  So, these take a little extra time and effort, but I hear they’re well worth it.  In this particular case, I’m happy to take their word for it.

Diabolical Orange-y Brownies

Candied orange peel*

  • 2 large oranges with thick peel
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar


  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 lb dark chocolate (I like Green & Blacks)
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare a 9×13 pan by buttering and lining with parchment paper.

First, make your candied peel.  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar and water.  While that’s doing it’s thing, trim the tops and bottoms of your oranges and score them into the pith but not into the flesh, along their longitude, about 1/4″ apart.  Use a very sharp paring knife to peel the zest strips, getting as little of the pith as possible.  I like to lay the zest flat, white side up and do a final trim, getting as close to the orange zest as possible, then drop them into the syrup as you go.  Once you’ve done both oranges and gotten as much of the zest with as little of the pith into the syrup, raise the heat until it’s just simmering and cook them at least 45 minutes until they’re nearly translucent.  Lay them out on a wire rack to cool and dry as much as possible.

While the zest is drying, you can get on with your brownies.

Using a fairly large double boiler over medium heat, melt your butter and chocolate together.  Then set aside to cool a bit.  Put your brown sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add the grated zest and mix on a low setting until the orange zest is thoroughly rubbed into the brown sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time then the vanilla extract and salt, then and raise the speed to medium-high until the mixture has lightened in color.

Take your cooled and dried peel and chop it into a fine dice.  Toss the candied peel with the flour to coat well.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently mix in the chocolate mixture and zest/flour without losing too much of the air.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake about 25-30 minutes.  These are fudgy brownies, so a tester doesn’t have to come out completely dry, but it should be fairly clean.

*If you don’t want to make your own candied peel, see if you can find chocolate covered peel and just chop that finely – you’ll need around 1/2-1/3 of a cup.

Back when the mister and I lived in Connecticut, he had to travel one week out of every six or so.  When he was away, I took advantage of the break to play around in the kitchen and try out new recipes.  My work colleagues loved those weeks – and, as time went on, in addition to the new treats I would test drive, there were a few recipes that were requested again and again. 

This is one of them.

In fact, this one is SO well-loved, it became known as the “Stacy Specials,” named after one of the women in my group who could happily munch her way through a batch.

So, I’ll be honest.  I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal cookies – the chewy, raisin-filled, heavily cinnamoned cookies are usually just … too … much.  This version is crisp and, because it uses dark chocolate rather than raisins, the sweetness is tempered a bit.  Lastly, the hint of cinnamon is just that – a hint – not a wallop upside the head.  And it’s just enough to add a nice note to the chocolate.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz. butter, room temp
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz dark chocolate, bashed to bits

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and toss lightly to combine.  In a separate large bowl (preferably of a standing mixer), cream the butter with the two sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat, scraping down the sides.  Add half the oat mixture and incorporate, then add the chocolate bits and mix.  Finish with the last half of the oat mixture and beat until combined.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet, allowing three to four inches between each to give room to spread.  Bake 12-15 minutes until thoroughly cooked.

I’m sad.  One of my favorite TV series just finished for the season.  No, not Downton Abbey (although we’re mid-way through the season and I’m already dreading when it’s done).  This year, I succumbed to the allure of The Great British Bake-Off .  GBBO is a contest where everyday people – grandmas, students, professionals, stay-at-home-parents – compete against each other in the kitchen making pretty much any kind of baked good you can imagine, from bread to pies to tarts to cakes to cookies … the whole schmear.  The prize?  Basically, the world’s ugliest trophy and bragging rights to the title Britain’s Best Amateur Baker.  No guaranteed book deal, money, recording contract, TV deal – to be honest, it’s nice to see people try to win for winning’s sake for a change.

Although, having said that, today’s recipe comes from a new book out from last year’s winner, Edd Kimber, aka “The Boy Who Bakes.”  Edd is embarassingly young and cute in a dorky-but-totally-charming-in-a-sweet-Opie-ish-sort-of-way.  And boy-howdy, can he throw-down in the kitchen.  Case in point:  his double-chocolate and sour cherry cookies.  Now, I admit, I tinkered with the recipe a very little bit, but not because I think it needed help … it was more because I just can’t help my personal taste when it comes to baking.  At any rate, this was last week’s work treat and it went down a storm.  So, show Edd some love and check out his new book – it’s absolutely lovely and is written with the home baker in mind.  Oh, and hey, he even has a gorgeous recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pie that I can’t wait to make – and he’s not even from the American South!

Double Chocolate and Sour Cherry Cookies  (Red’s version, makes about 4 doz)

  • 6 (yes, 6) bars of Green and Black’s Dark Dark Chocolate
  • 7 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare baking trays by lining them with parchment paper.  Then slowly melt three of the bars of chocolate in a double-boiler, putting the other 3 into a plastic bag and bashing the heck out of them to make shards, dust and chips.  After the chocolate has melted, remove it from the double-boiler so that it will start to cool while you make the cookie dough (me, I like to give it at least 30 minutes, if possible).  Last bit of prep, put the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to sift them together.

Okay.  Now, put the butter and sugars into the bowl of a large standing mixer and use the paddle to beat on medium three or four minutes until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time until smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  Next, beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla until smooth.  Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture – when it’s about half-incorporated remove the bowl from the mixer and add the bashed chocolate and dried cherries, mixing in by hand just until the flour is fully incorporated.  Don’t overbeat the flour – you don’t want tough cookies.

Next, use a teaspoon to drop the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving at least three inches between each and bake about 13 minutes.  When they’re done, slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool that way for at leat 10 minutes before taking them off the paper and letting them finish cooling directly on the rack – this way, they’ll maintain their shape.

You want to know a shocker?  My MIL and I were looking at the calendar on Wednesday, talking about events coming up, who is going where when and so forth when mom pointed out that next weekend is the end-of-summer bank holiday weekend.  How did that happen? 

Meanwhile, my garden hasn’t gotten the news – my tomato vines are only just now starting to produce fruit, so I’m wondering if they’ll have time to ripen before the cool fall weather sets in. 

So, we’re trying to do some end-of-summer hanging out with friends before it’s too dark and too cold to sit outside.  Last night, we went to see some friends who are having work done on their house.  To keep things simple for them, we decided to do take-out for dinner (yummy, yummy curry!), but I still felt like taking over a little home-baked sweet.  So, looking through my Peyton and Byrne cookbook of classic British treats, I came across this fantastic recipe – it’s basically a (slightly tweaked) recipe for shortbread covered with toffee and nuts.  I mean!  There is just nothing wrong with that sentence, is there?  It makes for a lovely “afters” or would make a nice afternoon treat.

So, today, I’m going outside to do a little gardening and give the garden a mow – enjoying the waning summer sun.

Toffee Cashew Bars

Shortbread base

  • 4 1/2 oz butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt


  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cream or whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups roasted, salted nuts (I used cashews, but you can use any nuts you like)

First, make the base so that it has time to cool.  Preheat the oven to 350F and butter an 8″ square pan, then line with parchment paper.

In a standing mixer, beat the softened butter with the sugar and salt, then add the flour and mix until combined – this should be a crumbly mixture that comes together when pressed.  Tip the batter into the square pan, then press across the bottom – I used a juice glass to roll it even.  Place in the oven and bake 15 minutes or so until golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.

Now comes the fun part – making the tofee nut topping!  In a large pot, pour in the sugar and water and place over medium-high heat.  It will dissolve, then bubble, then slowly start to color – the secret to a successful caramel?  DO NOT STIR!  Feel free to swirl the pot around a couple of times, but do not, under any circumstances, stir!  And once the sugar starts to change color, don’t leave it – it will go from beautiful to burned in the blink of an eye.  So, when it turns a deep golden color and it smells of caramel, remove from the heat.  Next, pour in the milk or cream – it’s going to steam and bubble like mad, so be careful not to scorch yourself – whisk it all together then add the butter and whisk again.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes or so then add the nuts and stir well to combine and coat before pouring onto the shorbread base.  Pop it back into the 350 F oven for another 7-10 minutes, then remove and let cool.  Cut into squares and serve!

This is my 5th 4th in London.  I’ve always loved 4th of July – not out of feelings of patriotism (is that bad?), mostly because it’s always been so fun.  When I was a kid, we all went to the Elks Club, where the kids spent the day in the pool playing sharks and minnows and Marco Polo and the dads threw horseshoes.  The moms would sit around and gossip, taking the occasional dip in the pool to cool off, breaststroking around the shallow end, doing their best not to get their hair wet.  The days were filled with cokes, hotdogs right off the grill and ice-cold watermelon.  At the end of the day, we’d pile into the car to go home, tired, sunburned and happy.

In my 20s, I moved to Washington, DC, and I can honestly say that there is no place on the planet that does the 4th better – as you would expect.  There is always a festival atmostphere on the Mall during the day – no matter how hot and humid it is – followed by fireworks and the National Symphony Orchestra playing John Phillips Sousa.  I’ve lived in a number of different cities and have seen firework displays in some beautiful scenic places, but there is nothing like seeing the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pond lit up by fireworks.

So, now, I’m living in London and, on Monday, I’ll be in the office with my head down, doing my job.  No sunscreen on.  No watermelon.  No hamburgers hot off the grill.  So, this weekend, I’m having friends over for dinner and we’ll look out on the garden, with the beans on their climbing frame and the tomatoes in their bamboo stakes.  Maybe I’ll ask my husband to pick up some sparklers.

At any rate, here is a fantastic – and fantasticly easy – recipe for any picnic, barbecue or day by the pool.

Red, White and Brownies

  • Around 20 cherries, pitted and halved (strawberries and raspberries work well, too, but cherries are my favorite)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (I like Green & Black’s)
  • 12 oz chocolate – I use a combo of dark chocolate and bittersweet – 1 full bar of Green & Black’s baking chocolate and about a bar and a half of their dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 8 oz butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz white chocolate

Prepare a 24-cup minimuffin pan by buttering the sides – even if it’s non-stick – so that these little babies will pop right out easily.  This recipe makes about 30 bite-sized brownies.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place a medium-sized bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.  Put the chocolate and butter into the bowl and sprinkle the espresso powder over it.  Melt it down and whisk thoroughly, then remove the bowl from the heat and add the sugars, whisking to combine – this will help bring the heat down.  When it’s cooled a bit, add the first four eggs and whisk them in, then add the last one and the vanilla.  Mix them in, but don’t beat the heck out of it – you want a fudgy final texture, not cakey.  In a separate, smaller bowl, sift the flour and cocoa together with the salt, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture, using a spoon to stir in (rather than a whisk) until there are only a couple of traces of flour remaining. 

Drop a tablespoon of batter at a time into the mini-muffin holes, then press a half of a cherry into each and pop into the oven for about 16 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then remove the brownies from the tin – if they don’t lift right out, gently lever them out with a butter knife.  Cool completely on a bakers rack, then top with the white chocolate – use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate, then either dip the brownies into the chocolate or dollop on top.

The basic part of the brownie recipe comes from Baked and can be made in a regular square pan, as well.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, you can’t help but think about the people you love – and treating them to their favorite goody.  The mister loves shortbread cookies.  With a cup of tea or coffee.  With a bowl of ice cream.  It doesn’t matter.  I love them, too, not only because they are simple – and it’s that simplicity that makes them so tasty – they’re easy to flavor if you want to make them something special.  That delicate crumbly, buttery texture is perfect for the addition of citrus or even dried fruit (chopped dried cherries – YUM!)

However, one of my favorite things to do is add some almond to it.  It’s one of those subtle flavors that doesn’t knock you out on your first bite – in fact this recipe just adds a slight depth to the cookie, making it a bit richer. 

Almond Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar (superfine, if you can get it)
  • 8-10 drops almond extract
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Using a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then scrape down the side of the bowl.  Add the ground almonds, salt and almond extract and mix thoroughly.  Finally, add the flour and mix until just combined.  Press into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap then chill for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 325 and prepare a couple of cookies sheets by lining them with parchment paper.  Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness and use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out the shapes you’d like.  Place them on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden.  If you would like to decorate with sugar, dust them right after they come out of the oven.

buttery, nutty love for Valentine's Day!

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