TRIED AND TRUE RECIPES featured in my books.
If you like extra-chocolaty brownies with just the right mix of chewy edges, ooey-gooey middles, and a thin flaky top layer, then look no further, you’ve found the Ultimate Brownie Recipe. So easy you’ll never go back to a mix. Seriously. I’ve actually never made brownies from a mix, but friends who’ve asked for this recipe very often tell me they’ll never make mix brownies again. Whip up a batch and let me know what you think!
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s unsweetened) ¾ cup unsalted butter 2 cups white sugar 3 eggs 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (go a little over rather than a little under) 1 cup all-purpose flour (I use Gold Medal) 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 9×13 inch metal baking pan. (Note: If you only have a glass pan that will work too, but lower the oven temp to 325 degrees.)
Place butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes. Stir butter/chocolate mixture until all the chocolate is completely melted. (Note: If you don’t have a microwave you can do this in a pot on top of the stove, just make sure to do it over low enough heat that you don’t brown/scald the butter.)
When all the chocolate is melted, stir in 2 cups of sugar. Mix until completely blended.
Add three eggs and the hearty teaspoon of vanilla. Stir until completely blended.
Stir in 1 cup of flour.
Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spread evenly in buttered pan.
Place pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 33 minutes.
Remove brownies from the oven and insert a toothpick in the center to test them. If the toothpick still has wet batter on it, put them back in for a minute or two. If it has fudgy crumbs stuck to it or comes out clean, you’re done. (You’re aiming for fudgy crumbs, but honestly it depends what you hit when you stick the toothpick in—if it looks like you stabbed a chocolate chip and the toothpick has melted chocolate on it, take a fresh toothpick and try again.) DO NOT OVERBAKE THESE BROWNIES—a few extra minutes in the oven will turn them from a delightfully soft chewy/gooey treat into chocolate flavored bricks. Better underdone than overdone.
Let the pan cool on a rack for at least an hour or so (if you can wait a few hours that’s even better).
Once the pan is completely cool you can cut the brownies into squares (or rectangles, or whatever other shapes you please). Use a very sharp knife, or a pizza cutter, or a sharp-edged spatula. Store any brownies you’re not planning on eating immediately in an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Air is not their friend and they will dry up if left uncovered.
Individually wrapped brownies travel well and are great for bake sales, packed lunches, or kept in a purse or briefcase for potentially stressful moments.
For an extra-special treat these can be topped with a swirl of your favorite chocolate frosting and a pretty M&M, but really, they don’t need it.
They’re pretty tasty under ice cream and hot fudge as well.
Whatever you choose to do with them, enjoy!
I’m a big fan of caramel. I like all kinds—chewy, soft, liquid—it’s all good! There is, however, one caramel recipe that is my absolute favorite. Straight out of the fridge it’s ever-so-slightly chewy, at room temperature it’s soft and melty, and warm it’s pourable liquid heaven. In addition to being my favorite caramel recipe, it makes an appearance very early in my novel when Marienne brings it for dessert to the first dinner the two couples in Meant to Be share together. It’s a big hit with the guests and I’m sure it will be a big hit with you. Everyone loves this caramel.
It’s fantastic poured over ice cream, or brownies, or brownies and ice cream….it makes a wonderfully amazing dip for fruit (I recommend pineapple chunks and apple wedges)…and it’s to-die-for with chocolate. My most decadent use of this recipe is to make caramel truffle cups—I use a candy mold shaped like a peanut butter cup, coat it with chocolate, fill it with ganache and this caramel, then seal it closed with more chocolate. There are no words to describe how good it is. A simple chocolate/caramel combo is to just spread some caramel (fridge temperature) on a chocolate bar. Yum.
Warning: Although this is a most awesome recipe, it’s not without challenge. I’ve been making it for years and it still has probably a 10% failure rate—it’s a very temperamental chemical reaction and sometimes chemistry isn’t working in our favor! Be patient. Pay attention. If it doesn’t come out right, try again. Seriously. It’s worth the effort. And sometimes the “mistakes” are pretty tasty too. In any case, I’ll give the most detailed directions I can in hopes of teaching you how to prepare this buttery-rich, golden delight.
Insanely Good Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Put the cream in a glass measuring up and microwave it until it’s warm but not boiling. The length of time will vary by microwave, so just base it on the power of your machine. 30-40 seconds will probably do it. Watch it closely—if you see bubbles in the cream, hit stop.
Put the cup of sugar into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and turn the heat onto medium-high. Using a fork, stir the sugar. STIR CONSTANTLY. At first it will seem like nothing is happening. Keep stirring. The heat will melt the sugar. You want to make sure no big clumps form in the melting sugar, so keep stirring.
It will likely start to liquefy on the edges first, so make sure to stir those in. The whole thing will start taking on the texture of cornmeal and then will start to become more liquidy. KEEP STIRRING.
If it’s turning golden too fast, lower your temperature a little. If any clumps form, try to break them up with the fork (a few clumps are okay, lots of clumps, not great).
If it starts to smoke on the edges, don’t panic, lower your heat and keep stirring. (If you have an area where the side of the pan is blackening you can carefully give it a quick wipe with a damp paper towel, but be very careful not to burn yourself!)
Once it is all melted continue stirring until it turns a deep golden color—the color of honey or dark maple syrup is about right. As soon as the proper color is attained, REMOVE THE POT FROM THE HEAT.
Take the hot cream and, wearing an oven mitt so you don’t scald your hand, pour the cream into the liquid sugar. BE CAREFUL—this mixture will boil up like a witches cauldron and tons of steam will rise—stand back so you don’t get burned!!
Place the bubbling pot back onto the stove burner at medium heat and STIR CONSTANTLY until you have a uniform liquid. Sometimes this is almost instantaneous. Other times you have a big ball of caramel goo stuck on the fork and tons of creamy liquid in the pot. If it’s all liquidy caramel, congratulations, you’re done—pour it into a bowl and let it cool. If it’s a ball of goo, KEEP STIRRING.
Most times, with enough stirring, you can incorporate the ball of goo into the liquid and attain the desired liquidy caramel. It can take a while. Be patient. Keep going until you can’t stand it anymore. If there’s still a clump on the fork or lumps in the caramel all is not lost, you may just have less liquidy caramel sauce than you planned.
IF you have lumps but you’ve stirred to the point where you can stir no more, pour the caramel through a strainer when you pour it into the bowl—-it will take out the lumps and the caramel you are left with in the bowl will be smooth and perfect.
IF there’s a big clump on the fork, let it cool and see what consistency it is. It’s possible you’ll be able to cut/chip off pieces and eat them as hard candy.
In any case, let the caramel sauce cool to room temperature, then cover and store in the fridge.
I wish everyone good luck making this, because when it turns out well (which is most of the time, after you get the hang of it) it’s truly worth it. Let me know how it goes. Enjoy!
Since we had an ultimate dessert recipe last week, this week I thought I’d offer up a super savory treat. This Cheesy Stuffed Pizza Bread Recipe is a take-off on my friend Joan’s famous Pepperoni Bread Recipe. I’ll give that as a variation as well. This recipe is absolutely delicious as a snack, an appetizer, or a meal. Serve it with a bowl of your favorite soup on a cold night. Bring a tray to your next pot luck party. Or make a bunch of them for your Super Bowl party. The awesome thing is you can vary the filling to taste and even make a vegetarian version. No matter how you slice it (ha) this bread is simple and delicious. Bake up a few batches and try to sneak one into the freezer before it gets eaten—it’s a great treat to have on hand for unexpected guests or a quick meal.
Cheesy Stuffed Pizza Bread (makes two loaves)
2 balls of pizza dough (most pizzeria’s will sell you a ball of raw dough, and many supermarkets sell bags of raw dough, usually by the prepared pizza section)
3 eight-ounce packages of Kraft Italian Five Cheese Blend shredded cheese (if you can’t find this you can grate your own blend of mozzarella, provolone, asiago, parmesan and romano cheese to duplicate it, or you can use another similar cheese blend. I recommend something mozzarella-based rather than cheddar-based because of overall better meltability)
1/4 – 1/3 pound of thinly sliced genoa salami
1/2 pound sliced deli ham
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly flour your kitchen counter and your hands. Using a light touch, stretch the pizza dough into an oval shape about 9×14 inches. The dough is naturally springy and will shrink back against your efforts. Once you start getting it stretched you can use a lightly floured rolling pin to try to get it as close to size as possible. Don’t worry too much, it’s not a precise science, you just want it to be thin but with NO HOLES and as few air bubbles in the dough as you can manage. Don’t overwork the dough too much, just do your best to get it into a flat oval.
Once your dough is spread out, start with a layer of salami, like this:
Sprinkle on about ¾ of a package of shredded cheese, making as even a layer of cheese as possible. Layer on a thin layer of ham. Sprinkle on another ¾ of a package of cheese.
Now you’re ready to roll. Think of it as a jelly roll. Roll, long ways, until you get near the end, then stretch the dough up and over to make sure you have a good amount of overlap. Press the dough along the seam to try to seal it as best you can. Be careful not to poke any holes in it! Fold the short ends over, again pulling the dough to make sure it is well sealed on both sides. Once it’s all sealed, lay your forearm down on the long seam and transfer the whole log of dough onto your arm, then place it on a rimmed cookie sheet.
Take your egg yolk and, using your fingers, give the top of the loaf a generous glaze.
Place the loaf in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. It may take a little longer to bake, depending on the size of the dough you used. When it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap on it, it is most likely done.
While this one is baking, go to work on your second one.
Don’t be concerned if it springs a leak while it’s baking and a bunch of cheesy goodness pours out—this happens more often than not—the cheesy puddle can be cooled and diced up as an additional snack treat. I’ve had guests beg for the spilled-out part!
Let the loaf cool on a rack or counter top. When it is warm (but not hot, you don’t want the cheese to pour out!) slice it into 1-inch or ½-inch slices. You can serve warm or at room temperature, or you can lay the slices on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven for a minute to get them a little extra-melty and crisp the edges.
You can serve plain, with mustard, or with marinara sauce, depending on preference.
Pepperoni—prepare as above only use shredded mozzarella cheese and Hormel sliced pepperoni in place of the other cheese and meat. Serve with marinara sauce and it’s like the best pepperoni pizza you’ve ever had.
Spinach—-cook up 2 packages of frozen chopped spinach and squeeze to drain out all the water. Stir some black pepper and garlic powder into the spinach, to taste. Use any blend of cheese you like with spinach. Mozzarella works great, the Five Cheese Italian does too. Slices of provolone or swiss add a nice kick. After you stretch out your dough, brush it lightly with olive oil and sprinkle it with garlic powder, then layer on the cheese and spinach. This is also great either plain or served with marinara sauce.
No matter which version you make, I hope you enjoy it! Write and tell me your success stories and feel free to ask any questions!
I’m a fan of food on a stick, so I generally like anything that can be served on a toothpick. That’s how my quest for a great cocktail meatball started. Years ago I played around with several recipes and couldn’t find one that I really liked, so I made up a recipe instead. It’s similar to Swedish meatballs, but with my own twist. When my kids first asked what it was and I said “it’s kinda like Swedish meatballs” they had no idea what Swedish meatballs were and one of them said “sweet-ish meatballs?” That’s what we’ve called them ever since. It’s fitting because it sounds like Swedish but it’s not…and they’re kinda sweet, but not overly so. Whatever you call them they’re yummy—equally good served over buttered noodles for a winter entrée or on toothpicks for an anytime hors d’oeuvre. They can be kept warm in a crockpot or chafing tray for parties too. Whenever you make them and however you serve them, I hope you like them!
Turkey Meatballs with Apple Butter Gravy (aka Sweet-ish Meatballs)
1 lb ground turkey (I use the 93/7 lean plain ground turkey—NOT seasoned, NOT the all white meat—for some reason the packages are usually 1.25 or 1.33 lbs, that’s fine, don’t adjust the recipe) 1 egg 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce ½ teaspoon garlic powder ½ teaspoon black pepper Dash of nutmeg Pinch of salt 1 ½ cups plain bread crumbs All-purpose flour (for coating) 2 cups chicken stock ½ – 1 cup of apple butter (I always use Musselman’s, but your favorite will work) 2 tablespoon butter (more as needed) 2 tablespoons oil (more as needed)
Place egg, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, pepper, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Mix in the ground turkey (use your hands, it yields a much better texture for the meatballs than stirring with a fork). Add in the bread crumbs (again, hands only). Once combined, form the mixture into meatballs around the size of ping pong balls.
Place a heaping scoop of flour on a plate and season it a little (a few dashes of pepper and salt and a dash of nutmeg will do just fine). Roll each of the meatballs in flour to give them a nice coating. They should look like powdered sugar donut holes when you’re done.
In a large, heavy bottomed frying pan (aim for one that’s the right size to hold all the meatballs in a single layer) melt the butter and oil until they’re bubbly (tilt the pan around to incorporate the butter and oil). Brown the meatballs on all sides. As you do this you’ll notice that the flour is browning on the bottom of the pan—that’s good—you’re making a roux while you brown the meatballs—this will thicken the sauce as they finish cooking. BE CAREFUL not to burn/scorch the flour. If you see things getting too dark, lower your heat and add a pat of butter or a small amount of oil. (Also, if your meatballs aren’t browned on all sides and the bottom of the pan looks too dry/crusty add a little more butter or oil just to keep things going.) As soon as the meatballs are browned all around add your 2 cups of chicken stock right to the pan (I usually heat the stock in the microwave so it’s warm).
Ideally the meatballs should be about 2/3 submerged in liquid. Cover the frying pan and simmer (it should be bubbling but not a full rolling boil). Stir the meatballs every 5 minutes or so, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. You’ll see that the sauce is thickening as this happens. When the sauce gets to a good gravy consistency (fairly thick and coating all the meatballs), you should be done. This should take anywhere from 35-50 minutes, depending on the size of your pan and how high you had the heat.
Remove the meatballs to a serving bowl and tent with foil to keep warm.
Stir ½ – 1 cup of apple butter into the gravy (I like a lot of apple butter flavor, so I use a cup, if you prefer a less-sweet gravy, use ½ cup—taste as you go to determine your preference). Stir the gravy until heated through then pour it over the meatballs and toss gently to coat.
These can be served immediately or kept warm in a chafing tray. They can be made a day or two ahead and reheated, but the gravy will be much thicker upon reheating.