Cocoa Brownies

In December Louise Miller posted her favorite cookie recipes on Twitter including this fudgey brownie recipe from Bon Appetite. It’s part of BA’s best recipes. This recipe makes just the perfect amount of brownies in an 8 X 8 pan. She fancied them up by adding Andes mints to the batter and a chocolate glaze with peppermint extract.

Let’s bake some brownies!


Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 X 8 X 2 glass baking dish with foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray; set baking dish aside.

Melt butter is a small sauce pan over medium heat. Let cool slightly. Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Pour butter in a steady stream into dry ingredients, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until just combined, (do not overman). I added a cup of chopped up Andes mints and mixed them into the batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 25-30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan. Using foil overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

Louise recommended a delicious glaze for the brownies. It’s super simple and fancies them up. I added sugar pearls on the top. Crushed candy canes are a festive touch.

Chocolate Glaze

4 ounces of butter

8 ounces chopped up semi sweet chocolate or chocolate chips

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until melted.

Add the light syrup and extract. Mix until combined.

I leave the brownies uncut and in the pan, in the foil wrap and then add the glaze. Smooth the glaze over the brownies making sure to cover every corner! Add any toppings while the glaze is still warm. Once the brownies are cool and the glaze is set, you can take them out of the pan and foil, then cut the brownies.

Store at room temperature. You can bake these ahead of time, and freeze them unfrosted. I leave them in the foil and then defrosted them in the foil and pan. After they were defrosted, I made the glaze.


Meltaway Thumbprint Cookies

Cookies do not bring Christmas cheer. Lies! Fake news! But these cookies are guaranteed to bring you happiness. It’s a King Arthur Flour (KAF) recipe that was brought to my attention on Twitter by a pastry chef/author Louise Miller. This recipe is easy, delicious and stays fresh for several days. The cookies are tender and delicate. After I baked them, I froze half a batch and they were still wonderful.

The original recipe calls for Fiori di Sicilia, a citrus and vanilla flavoring. It’s out of stock at KAF and I successfully used vanilla extract and orange extract instead. The grated orange zest stands out as well. The orange skins were not thick enough for me to use my box grater, so I changed to a zester with better results. I love jams and jellies. I used raspberry preserves. Next time I will use apricot and blueberry preserves. Specific to (KAF) are thumbprint cookie cutters. They make a beautiful cookie but are not necessary. You can roll the chilled dough into a ball and with a wet finger, make an indentation prior to baking. Simple!

The recipe also calls for extra-virgin olive oil and butter. I don’t usually like baked goods with olive oil. These cookies are the exception. You wouldn’t know it was an ingredient. The cookies are very tender. It seems like a lot of fats in the recipe but it works! Don’t let them dissuade you from trying the recipe. Use good olive oil and butter. It’s important to use quality ingredients when you bake.

Let’s bake some happiness!


2 1/2 cups (300g) KAF unbleached Cake Flour

1 cup (113g) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 tsp salt

8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, softened

6 tablespoons (76g) extra-virgin olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons grated orange zest, to taste

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp orange extract, to taste

2 large egg yolks

jam or preserves

Sift together the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt over a medium bowl. I use a mesh strainer instead of a sifter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter an olive oil until it is fully combined. It’s very important that the butter be very soft, in order to have the fats mix together thoroughly. Mix in the zest, vanilla, and yolks. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Scrape the bowl and mix briefly once more to be sure no dry flour remains. I do use my stand mixer and use a low speed to add the flour.

If your are going to use cookie cutters, shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for a least an hour. The dough can be made up to 2 or 3 days in advance. If you are not using cutters, after chilling the dough, make a ball of about 1 tablespoon of dough and make the indentation. If the dough is too crumbly and difficult to form into a disk, you can add a small splash of milk. Measuring the dry ingredients correctly helps prevent this problem. I prefer to weigh my ingredients.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the over to 325 degrees and place parchment paper on two baking sheets.

If you are using thumbprint cutters, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4″ thick. Dip cutters into flour and cut out shapes. Press the plunger several times to make the indentation and emboss the pattern. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the baking sheets. Reroll dough as needed to use remaining dough.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and leave cookies on baking sheets. Fill the indentation with the preserves while to cookies are hot. This will help the jam melt and give it a smooth finish. Cool cookies completely before removing from the pan.

Store cookies at room temperature for several days in an airtight container. If you need to stack the cookies, place parchment paper between the layers. You can freeze these, even with the jelly, for a longer storage period.

You can sift more confectioner’s sugar over the cookies prior to serving. Fancy them up a bit.

It all started with one book…

A few months ago, I popped into my hometown. When I drive through, I revisit all my happy places and think about what they meant to me.

Driving past my old high school and the town library, I was reminded how one book helped me change my life. It brought me knowledge, which gave me confidence, which helped me be the best at something. Because of this book, I made many friends and memories, and grew up. One book helped me change.

Picture it, Sicily 1972, a young girl wandering far from home…just kidding. But it was 1972 and the start of Title IX. I may have wandered a bit. It was the first year of alleged equality in sports. It was the first year of a girl’s high school track team in my hometown. You know the song, big girls can’t run, so they throw. I had a natural affinity for throwing the discus. Try to find a sexier sport.

There was an abundance of resentment and toxic masculinity among the male species in the field events.  We were given the bare minimum that the law legislated. I went to the library and found a book on how to throw the discus. I found one oversized paperback book that became my bible. I don’t recall the title but it was unlikely as catchy as “Discus for Dummies.” I practiced seven days a week. By my senior year I sported a snazzy metal back brace. I still competed. No one told me not to. I taught myself how to spin when I threw the discus and improved every week. It was unusual for girls to master the spin. I kept looking at the black and white photos trying to capture the technique I needed. I practiced. I watched. I was determined. It was the foreshadowing of my future, being an individual contributor within a team. This book held the key to my accomplishing something. I became the best in my school, in my league and one of the top 20 in the state every year. It was measurable in yards, feet, and inches. It was indisputable. How often are you the best at something? As of a couple of years ago, I still held the record for my high school set in 1975. It’s a disgrace that female runners have set new records, but not in field events. The coaching is crucial.

This success gave me the opportunity to be recognized by a coach from another town and other high school track elites in my league. He believed in me enough to want to coach me on his free time. He wrote me a letter and called our Athletic Director. Unfortunately, I turned down his offer. One of my many mistakes in life. My friends and I became friends with these other athletes. It was great to fit in with people I admired. There were flirty friendships. There were some shenanigans. We went to their team dinners and parties. We went cruising in cars. I brought them to Boston and Cambridge for the culture. They brought me to bars. They got me fired from a great babysitting job. Note to self: boys, beer and babysitting do not go together.

Over the four years, I began to realize the impact of Title IX. I learned a lot about having to work at getting what I wanted. It wasn’t all victories and tooting rainbows. Life slapped me in the face more than once. I learned to endure. I was a constant in the Athletic Director’s office. We needed time in the weight room. We needed real uniforms. We needed better coaches. I was naive enough not to be intimidated. I was just a girl who had goals. I learned I had to rely on myself and my friends. We accomplished so much, and many life lessons were learned.

I had no idea how all these experiences would shape me, or how they would shape the future of women’s athletics. I just did what I had to. It was an exciting time of opportunities. It all started with a book.