The end of summer is one of the best times to eat seasonally, as plenty of produce are in abundance. While I enjoy sweet juicy summer fruits like peaches and berries on its own, zucchini, a summer squash, needs a little transformation to truly be palatable. My favorite way of consuming zucchini is in the form of a quick bread, like I’ve done before.

Then 19-cent Trader Joe’s bananas beckoned to me and I thought… how about a banana zucchini bread?! Banana bread is awesome. Zucchini bread is awesome. They should be married together in a happy bread combination!

I knew I wanted chocolate in my bread, because sweets don’t spell “dessert” to me unless there’s chocolate in it. I started off by looking at banana zucchini bread recipes, and after comparing a few, I used this Allrecipes recipe as a base and made some tweaks. I halved the recipe because I don’t want to be eating banana zucchini bread for days. I also used less sugar, knowing that the banana and the chocolate will add a bit of sweetness. I used less flour as I wanted the bread to be more chunky from half-mashed banana pieces and chocolate bits, and added more zucchini so the bread would be moister.

And it was perfect. The muffins have a delectably browned muffin top, and the inside is studded with mashed banana, chocolate chunks, and walnut pieces. It’s not quite as sweet as a typical banana bread, yet is still very moist. I love the textural contrast that this moist yet densely packed muffin provides. At 204 calories apiece, I think I’ll allow myself a few more.

Banana Zucchini Bread with Chocolate and Walnuts
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 12 muffins or 1 8×4 loaf pan

1 1/2 (73g) large eggs
6 tbsps vegetable oil
1/3 cup (67g) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (45g) white sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (180g)  sieved all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (34g) dark chocolate (optional, can be swapped out for raisins, cranberries, etc.)
1/4 cup (30g) chopped walnuts (optional, can be swapped out for pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. If making a loaf, grease and flour one 8×4 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light yellow and frothy. Add oil, brown sugar, white sugar, grated zucchini, bananas, and vanilla; blend together until well combined. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the chocolate and nuts. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for muffins, or 50 minutes for a loaf. Allow to cool in the muffin cups or loaf pan on a wire rack before removing and serving.


I am pretty certain that this red velvet cheesecake brownie takes the cake for being an all-star red velvet recipe. If you’re at all familiar with what makes red velvet red velvet, you’ll know that it is a subtle balance of tang and cocoa. It’s chocolatey but not quite (from a scant amount of cocoa powder), sour but not quite (from the buttermilk). Another defining quality of red velvet cake is its cream cheese frosting. Last weekend, I happened to be in Grand Central and I bought a Magnolia red velvet cupcake to satisfy my craving. No dice – the frosting was a weakly flavored meringue frosting, ugh. My palate teased, I had to make some legit red velvet.


This recipe though, was a winner. While it may not be a classic red velvet cake, it’s got the key elements in it – cream cheese and a cocoa-y tang. I love how simple it is to whip up – it didn’t require any finicky preparation method, and I enjoyed that the “frosting” in this brownie is dolloped onto the brownie batter and haphazardly swirled in. It ended up not looking too shabby even though I was supposed to reserve some of the brownie batter to layer on top of the cream cheese dollops so the swirls would be more refined.

The texture of the brownie is more cakey/fudgy than dense, like a traditional brownie. I personally like the brownies chilled since the cream cheese is a little more refreshing there. All those who have tried the brownies like it a lot (although I’ve learned to recalibrate the compliments I receive re: my cooking – very good means good, good means okay, okay means it was terrible.)

This recipe differs from the Food Network recipe it was derived from (which I made 4 years ago) in that there’s more butter in the brownie batter and less egg in the cheesecake filling, so it’s more moist and the cheesecake layer tastes less eggy.


Red Velvet Marble Cheesecake Brownies
Makes 1 8×8 pan
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

This recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction had grams pre-calculated – yess!

Brownie Batter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon liquid or gel red food coloring
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour

8 ounces (224g) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Make the brownie layer first. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs together. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. Mix each of those ingredients into the batter in that order. Whisk in the eggs, then fold in the flour until completely incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the brownie batter into prepared baking pan, leaving about 3-4 Tablespoons for the top.

Make the cheesecake swirl. With a hand-held mixer on medium speed (or a stand mixer, which is what I used), beat the softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl until completely smooth – about 1 minute. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the prepared brownie batter. Cover with the last few tablespoons of brownie batter. Glide a knife through the layers, creating a swirl pattern.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares. Cover brownies and store at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. Brownies will freeze well, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.


These are the second oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookie recipe on this blog, the first being a Cooks’ Illustrated version I posted five years ago. Wow, has it really been that long? Anyhow, the cranberry-white chocolate flavor combination is very fall/winter, but it finally feels legitimately like spring in New York – I think my cookies must have chased the cold away. These cookies weren’t quite what I was hoping them to be. They turned out a little flat, but they did have crisp edges and a chewy centre as promised by the recipe. It’ll serve to please both crisp and chewy cookie-lovers alike. The caramelized flavor is strong on the edges, but tempers out when you encounter wholesome rolled oats and tart cranberries in the middle.


Chewy-Crispy Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 40 cookies
From Serious Eats


2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cups (about 6 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips

In a small bowl, combine oats and water; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt; set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. As soon as it’s melted, remove from heat and stir in sugar and brown sugar. Add egg, stirring quickly until incorporated. Add flour mixture to the pan and stir to combine. Stir in oats, cranberries, and white chocolate. Cover dough with plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least 2 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lower and upper middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Drop cookies by the rounded tablespoon (I did 20-22 grams) onto prepared cookie sheets and bake until brown on top, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before moving.

IMG_4283This brownie recipe is the strongest I’ve seen in a while, and will likely go in the hall of fame for being a delicious combination of flavors and textures that are irresistible to me. When I was making the recipe, I was at first a little suspicious. Why is there more chocolate than there is butter? There’s just as much sugar as butter! And one whole TABLESPOON of vanilla? That’s crazy!


But I persevered and made the recipe as it is and I did not regret it. Firstly, the smell of this is intoxicating. It has the woodsy fragrance of bourbon and vanilla, without an alcoholic bite. It also smells a little comforting like a cup of coffee, even though there’s no coffee in it and I don’t even drink coffee. (But I can appreciate the scent memory it holds for most people.) Be sure not to overbake the brownie, but you don’t have to worry about the brownie not holding together because when the chopped chocolate solidifies, it’ll hold everything together. It’s less a cakey brownie than a chewy, dense one with crunch from the chopped chocolate and, so keep that in mind depending on what you’re looking to make. The sprinkling of fleur de sel on the brownies isn’t necessary, but it does heighten the sweet, earthy, caramelly and woody flavor profile.


Melty chocolate when warmed up, crunchy chocolate bits when cooled


Since the ingredients in this recipe are so simple, I highly recommend using good quality vanilla extract and chocolate. I used Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla, and their Pound Plus Semi-Sweet Chocolate. You do NOT want to use chocolate chips in this once, since it’ll throw off the texture. Take the effort to chop the chocolate, and you’ll be rewarded with craggy, crunchy chocolate bits with a chocolate-flavored batter.

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
From The Vanilla Bean Blog
Makes one 9×9 pan

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla (use genuine vanilla extract, since this is quite a lot of it)
2 tablespoons bourbon
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse salt [to taste]
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9 inch square pan, and line pan with a parchment sling.

Heat the brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan until the sugar is melted into a gooey mass with the butter, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Whisk flour and baking powder together, and set aside. Add egg, vanilla, salt, and bourbon to the cooled butter mixture, and beat together. Stir in the flour, and then the chocolate, until just combined. Spread batter in the pan, and bake 18-22 minutes, until light golden brown, and a tooth pick comes out clean, being very careful not to over bake. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let cool in the pan, then carefully lift sling from the pan and cut into squares.


After having a red velvet cupcake from Two Little Red Hens, my hankering for red velvet cupcakes was insatiable. It’s unfortunate how far away Two Little Red Hens is from my apartment, so it’s a rare treat that I have maybe a couple of times a year. I was desiring a red velvet cupcake up till a week after I had my first bite and had to quell the thirst immediately. For some inane reason there are no decent red velvet cupcakes within a ten block radius of my apartment.


Making these cupcakes was also a bit of a triumph for me. My left hand had been bit by a dog in the last month, and the fracture I sustained with the inflexibility rendered by the deep scars meant I was still struggling to hold onto things with my hand, or carry heavy things.

These cupcakes are moist, and almost too oily for me. I think I had rather high standards after having a light and fluffy Two Little Red Hens cupcake, but well, I also don’t run a bakery. Other than that, the cupcake had a distinct red velvet taste – a balance between being tangy and cocoa-y. The frosting is creamy and delicious – I would suggest making sure it’s 100% lump-free before applying it onto your cupcake. I’d say these cupcakes aren’t deathly sweet and actually have a decent balance of flavor. I thought the batter was top-notch when I was licking it off the bowl, mmm.


Red Velvet Cupcakes from Throwdown with Bobby Flay
Makes 14 cupcakes
Recipe from Cookie Madness

7 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups minus a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cups vegetable oil
6.5 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (Jin: as a substitute, I used milk and a tablespoon of white vinegar, let it sit for five minutes to curdle and used that)
1 egg plus 2 tablespoons beaten egg
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water

For the cream cheese frosting:
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz butter, room temperature
1/2 pound (1 ¾ cups) powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix by hand until well mixed. Be sure not to overmix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line 14 cupcake cups with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners dividing evenly (a little over halfway full) and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:

Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

Makes 14

IMG_4253This brownie is an elaborate affair. It involves a salted caramel filling and a whole bunch of different ingredients I don’t normally keep (heavy cream, sour cream, corn syrup), but the resoundingly positive response to these have been worth every minute of labor I put into these.

The texture is rich, fudgy, and just a touch gooey with the help of the salted caramel sauce filling and underbaking on my part. The directive on The Vanilla Bean Blog said to be sparse with the caramel, and due to my temporary shock at how much butter and sugar a 12×9 inch pan brownie contains, I was very sparing with it but definitely could have used more. I’m not that experienced in caramelizing sugar and the caramel sauce could have used more heat too.

I generally prefer to convert volume measurements (cups/spoons) into weight (ounces/grams) but this recipe must have been made with the homemaker’s cavalier measurement style in mind – using a 100g = 1/2 cup ratio for sugar meant that this brownie had almost a pound of sugar in a 12×9 pan and I freaked out and hastily retrieved maybe 1/2 cup/100g worth of brown sugar lumps to reduce the caloric content and the brownie still turned out perfect.

The fleur de sel and coarse sugar topping really makes the dish, so be sure to hunt down some turbinado sugar or the like.

Salted Caramel Fudgy Brownies
Link from The Vanilla Bean Blog, Recipe from Baked Explorations
Makes 1 12×9 inch pan

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I used dark brown corn syrup to no ill effect)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

for the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate [60-72%], coarsely chopped
1 cup [2 sticks butter], cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used probably about 1 cup and it was completely fine)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the assembly
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

make the caramel
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

make the brownie

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13-inch pan. Line the bottom and sides with a parchment paper overhang, and butter the parchment that is in the pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture still visible.

assemble the brownies

Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, making sure the caramel doesn’t come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

I wanted to get back into my baking groove, and instead of being paralyzed by the wide variety of recipes at my disposal, I decided to keep it sweet and simple: a bare bones shortbread recipe. It was also easy to shape – all I needed to do was press it flat with my hands and cut it up into little rectangles. Sometimes, even balling cookie globs can be quite tedious when all you want to do is just end up with a finished product.


I’m actually really surprised by how tasty these are for the amount of effort. The texture is light and crumbly, and the cookies truly melt in your mouth. Taking care to actually shave a bar of semi-sweet chocolate down into little flakes adds so much more dimension to an otherwise standard-issue butter shortbread cookie – it fulfills chocolatey cravings but imparts more flavor than cloying richness to the cookie. The cookie is also on the salty side, so you may want to skip the coarse salt topping.

Overall, this would make a great tea-time snack.


Chocolate Speckled Salted Shortbread
From Bake or Break


3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces dark chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon water, if necessary
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, such as fleur de sel


Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Sift flour, add salt to flour, then add to mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate.

Dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched. If dough is not holding together, mix in 1 tablespoon water. Don’t be afraid to dig your hands in to mix it all up if it’s not coming together properly in the mixer.

Form dough into 2 balls and flatten into discs. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disc of dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough into 1″x 2″ strips. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 18-22 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on pans for 10 minutes. Then, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.


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