“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Let’s start this cookbook off with a bang. I mean, come on! Look at this picture! If you’re not salivating over this, please check yourself for a pulse. Even the penguins seem envious.

The genius idea behind this recipe is to find a new use for your waffle maker. In this case, rather than making bog standard breakfast waffles– which frankly are always delicious– you can kick it up to 11 by making brownie waffles. It’s such a genius idea I’m sorry I didn’t think of it first.

When I made this as an afternoon snack on a recent wintery afternoon, both sons were making very appreciative noises as they hoovered it down. I turned to Andrew, who will be leaving for university in September, and said, “Please remember this after-school snack of deliciousness when you’re digging into your pot noodle after a hard day of classes. Then, I want you to pick up the phone, call me and say, ‘I miss you, Mom.’ ”

{He promised he would. We’ll see.}

While delicious, the thing to bear in mind about this particular snack is it is very, very rich. The recipe includes instructions on how to make not only the brownie waffles, which would be good just on their own, but also the chocolate sauce that you pour over both the ice cream and the whipped cream. It’s a lot of yumminess, so be prepared. But it is so, so good.

The eagle-eyed among you may also notice the inclusion of brightly coloured sprinkles, which are unavailable over here in Europe and the United Kingdom due to the massive amount of E numbers required to make the fun colours. Readers, I have friends and family bring me large tubs of these whenever they’re visiting from the U.S. so we always will have sufficient amounts of fun sprinkles. Life is too short to be eating dull sprinkles.

Will we be eating this again? Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe next time I’ll make some for the penguins too.

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Salted Caramel Brownies” from “The Little Book of Lunch”

Intellectually, I know that salted caramel brownies can’t be classified lunch. But my heart says otherwise, given that I myself have done so on several occasions. In this case, the recipe comes from the aptly described section, “Bribing Colleagues with Sweet Treats.”

I fully endorse this message. Although I work from home on my own (other than the supervision from Buddy the dog), I do occasionally have to go to meetings or meet ups, and I can categorically say that every meeting is improved enormously when baked goods are included.

Unfortunately, this recipe didn’t quite deliver. Now that the boys are on their summer break, I thought this would be a nice thing to have kicking around the house when they inevitably get hungry. Nicholas and I made them together and we thought, based on tasting the batter, this would be a fantastic brownie experience. It didn’t work out that way.

What you do is you make salted caramel (which always makes me nervous) but then also brownie batter. Once everything is made, you take a third of the caramel and mix it into the brownie batter, then you spread half of the batter in the pan, put another third of the caramel on top of that layer, top that off with the rest of the brownie mix, and finish it all off with the remaining third of the caramel topping off the brownie.

The problem was that the top layer of caramel puffed up during baking, which made the resulting brownie pan a big gooey mess of chocolate and caramel. As Nicholas noted, “This looks NOTHING like the picture in the book.” We then had a long discussion about food styling, so at least it was a teachable moment.

The picture above was taken after things had calmed down and I put the brownies in the refrigerator for 24 hours to set. Don’t get me wrong– there’s no such thing as a brownie disaster if they didn’t burn. They tasted delicious, but it just didn’t work.

The boys suggested that the brownie part of the recipe worked fine, so maybe if I made them again, I should just make that part of it and skip the salted caramel. It’s not a terrible suggestion, since the brownie part was very, very good.

Regardless, the takeaway from this is: always bring in baked goods to the office or a meeting if you can. It definitely makes things sweeter.

“Salted Caramel Brownies” from “The Little Book of Lunch”

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”


We’ve been doing a lot of comfort eating in this house in November. That’s the beautiful thing about food, isn’t it? You could be in the worst possible mood or you might even think the world is coming to an end, but after sharing a delicious meal (preferably one that everyone loves) things definitely improve.

Consequently, November has been full of our family’s Food Greatest Hits: Pizza. Sausage sauce. Chicken parm. Chocolate chip cookies. Cake. Macaroni and cheese. Spaghetti and Meatballs. These are the foods that we love, so these are the foods we’ve been eating.

And brownies.

Lucky for us, the “Bread Street Kitchen” cookbook has a recipe for the “World’s Best Brownies.” That’s a fairly bold claim, but we thought it best to give them a test before we thought that title could be used.

So is it the world’s best brownie? I’m not sure about that, but it’s pretty damn good.

In the interest of full disclosure, the first time I made it, I forgot to put in about half of the flour. Consequently, those brownies were THE MOST DELICIOUS I’VE EVER HAD. I’ll be damned, though, if I can figure out how much flour, exactly, I left out so I could replicate that wondrous experience again.

The second time I made them, I did remember to include all of the flour, but as a result, the brownies were more cake-like. They were good, to be sure, but I did not reach the brownie nirvana I experienced the time before.

Would I make it again? Yes. If nothing else, so I could figure out just exactly how much flour to add in order to reach brownie nirvana again.

“World’s Best Brownies” from “Bread Street Kitchen”

“Rye Chocolate Brownies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”

IMG_8215When I look through a new cookbook, there are some recipes I know I will never try. Usually it has to do with procuring obscure ingredients, which is a real bugbear of mine. But oftentimes it is because I know I already have a fantastic recipe that cannot be improved upon. Why mess with success?

A short list of foods that I feel that way about include chocolate chip cookies, pizza, meatballs, tomato sauce, apple pie and brownies. The brownie recipe, in particular, has the most interesting name: The Best and Only Thing I Ever Received From My Ex-Sister-In-Law.

So when I saw this recipe, I quickly turned the page, thinking of my “The Best and Only Thing I Ever Received From My Ex-Sister-In-Law” brownie recipe. But something about it made me go back and read it again. I was intrigued by the use of the rye flour, which might be a slightly obscure ingredient, but one I could easily source via my local health food store, Waitrose or Ocado.

“Why not live a little and give it a go?” I thought to myself. I bought the wholemeal rye flour, took out my mixing bowls and began the experiment.

The wholemeal rye flour was really the only departure in this recipe. The rest of the method (aside from having to weigh the eggs, which I’ve never done in a brownie recipe before) seemed to be the same way, or thereabouts, that I’ve always made brownies.

I may have been skeptical about the wholemeal rye flour when I started out,  but I certainly didn’t feel that way by the time I bit into the finished product. I thought rye flour would taste odd, but in actual fact, it gave the brownie a slightly nutty taste, without having to chop any nuts.

However, it might have been too far a departure for the boys. The adults loved the brownies, and couldn’t taste a huge departure from the normal ones, but the boys were not so sure. Andrew (age 16) liked them, but didn’t love them. Nicholas (age 12) did not like them at all and didn’t even finish his. Though I’m wondering if I had to failed to mention that I used a different flour, he might not have noticed.

The moral of the story for me, at least, is this: Sometimes it’s good to cast aside your old favourite and try something new. Even if it is the only thing you ever received from your ex-sister-in-law.

If you’d like to try these yourself, the New York Times has the recipe in its Cooking pages. Click through this paragraph to read it yourself. 

“Rye Chocolate Brownies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”

“Nutella Brownies” from “Simply Nigella”


Kirstin: I”m not a big fan of baking. Cooking, sure. But I just don’t have the time to spend whisking eggs and butter to make cakes, and all the more so as I don’t have a particularly good track record with baking in general. So I was intrigued when I saw this recipe. It has just three ingredients; salt, nutella and eggs. How could that even possibly make a brownie? I had to give it a go. I whisked up the eggs to their full fluffiness and then started to feel this might be another disaster as I slowly added the nutella and watched them lose all their air. I have to admit at this point I was desperately thinking what I could serve as an alternative dessert, but stuck them in the oven nevertheless. And wow, was it worth it! They were divine and quickly disappeared!

I know that this recipe will be made over and over. It is perfect for those short of time, ideal for students who want something quick and yummy, perfect for those who come home from work and want something home baked and easy after dinner and most importantly will ensure that this book stays in heavy rotation on the shelf in the kitchen. Give them a go yourself! You will not be disappointed.

Genius, Nigella. You are a bloody genius!

“Nutella Brownies” from “Simply Nigella”

“Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

IMG_7321DISASTER! A delicious disaster, but a disaster just the same.

I don’t want to bury the lede. I wish I could say this recipe worked and it was great, like all the other things I’ve tried in this book so far this month. As I was assembling the ingredients, I kept thinking to myself, “This is going to be fantastic.” As it was baking in the oven, everyone else in the family came into the kitchen and said, “Wow. That smells delicious.” Alas, it was not meant to be.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I did not use any of the healthier options for the ingredients. I went ahead and used unsalted butter rather than coconut oil, soft brown sugar instead of coconut sugar and eggs instead of chia seeds. I very much appreciated the suggestion in the introduction that said, “If coconut sugar is a bridge too far then soft brown sugar will work too.”

Indeed. Coconut sugar is a bridge too far for me when it comes to baking.

When I recounted the experience to Kirstin, she reminded me of the chocolate cake they made last year out of the first cookbook and that didn’t work either. 

I wish I could say this was down to operator error, but I just think the bake time was wrong. Perhaps it only takes 25-30 minutes if you use the alternative ingredients, but slightly longer if you use traditional ingredients.

After 30 minutes, I took them out of the oven, against my better judgment. Good brownies should wobble a bit when you take them out of the oven, then they’ll continue to set while they cool on the counter. In this case, there was quite a bit of wobble [are you enjoying this technical discussion?] but I figured the recipe said to bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, so I figured it would firm up later.

I was wrong. When I went to cut into them, two hours after they came out of the oven, the middle was still a gooey, liquid mess. We ended up eating the brownies that were on the sides, as the middle bit was just a pool of chocolate-raspberry-pistachio liquid.

There is a happy ending to the story, however. I put them into the refrigerator and by the next day, the centre had firmed up enough that I could cut them into squares. From a food safety perspective, I don’t know if the egg had been cooked enough to make the safe, but we like to live dangerously in this family. They were delicious.

Would I make this again? I’m tempted to, if only to see how much longer I really should have baked them (I’m guessing another 10 minutes). But the combination of pistachio and raspberries is highly recommended.

“Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

“BB Brownies” from “The Art of Eating Well”

Anna: When I was first flicking through this book I saw this recipe and thought,”that’s disgusting”. Then I thought about it. And felt it was a bit of a challenge. Why not try them? Just as an experiment. What was there to lose? Lots of money as it happens. These are far and away the most expensive brownies I have ever made. That’s what you get for embracing coconut oil and cacao. They may be shunned, but good old cocoa powder and butter are a lot cheaper. I have to say the flavour is fine. Good even. Over the course of the days I ate them I came to rather like their taste. But it’s the texture that’s not quite right. It screams, “these aren’t real brownies People!”. That’s down to the mystery ingredient. I gave them to several guinea pigs to try. All of them said they were nice. None of them successfully guessed the flour substitute. And no, it’s not hash. Brown beans. Brown. Beans. Give them a try if you dare. If you are gluten-intolerant or suchlike then they are a good substitute. I think I’ll stick to normal brownies though.


“BB Brownies” from “The Art of Eating Well”