Bourbon Whiskey Fudge Brownies

I have a bottle of bourbon whiskey around, and drinking it straight was kind of torturous. What I like to do with alcohol that’s hard to swallow in its natural state is mix it with lots of sugar. And butter. And these fudge brownies have a lot of sugar and butter. It really is a dense and fudge-y brownie, and the downside to that is that you can’t really get drunk on these brownies because they’re so rich and decadent. Or is that an upside? Regardless, the alcohol flavor is pretty subtle, so no one’s getting drunk on these. Based on all the recipes I’ve seen, it seems like bourbon is a popular match with bacon, pecan, apples, chocolate, and butterscotch. All good stuff.

Regarding the recipe, I cut it down to a third and added a little bit more bourbon into the brownie, because the original recipe said the alcohol taste was subtle and if I’m going to put hard liquor in my dessert I better be feeling it. Having a digital kitchen scale is really, really useful for scaling down recipes. I highly recommend getting one. Kitchen scales are inexpensive and they help make your baking so much better. This Escali Primo one is the one I have, and it’s less than $20. I also baked my brownies in ramekins, and as a result, had to pull it out of the oven when it was a tad underbaked so it could continue cooking through while in the ramekin.

Bourbon Whiskey Fudge Brownies
Makes 4 servings, or 2 3.5 inch diameter ramekins worth
Adapted from Cookie Madness

2 ounces (57g) unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1.16 ounces (33g) good quality unsweetened chocolate, cut up (I used Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate)
1/3 ounce (10g) bittersweet chocolate, cut-up
1/3 cup (64g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (32g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 teaspoon vanilla
1 tbsp bourbon plus 1 tablespoons for brushing top
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup (40g) all purpose flour
12 or so pecan halves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 3.5 inch ramekins with parchment paper, or use 3 muffin tins.

Melt butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. When butter starts to melt and coats pan bottom, add chocolate and reduce heat to low. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Add the granulated sugar to melted chocolate and stir over low heat for about a minute or two. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until very light. Add brown sugar to eggs and continue beating for another two minutes. With mixer going, add melted chocolate mixture to egg mixture. Scrape sides of bowl and beat in vanilla, 1 tablespoon bourbon and salt. Add the flour and stir just until mixed.

Pour into pan the pan and bake for 20 minutes or set. Let cool for about 20 minutes on a wire rack, then brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon. Let the brownies cool to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for a few hours or overnight.

The chilling/sitting time is important. The texture changes as the brownies chill. This also gives the bourbon flavor some time to develop, though it is quite mild.

Crispy Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

This is not the first time I made these cookies, and every single time, they turn out wonderfully. Honestly, white chocolate is probably my favorite chocolate in cookies. Sometimes, regular semi-sweet chocolate has a slight hint of bitterness that I don’t prefer in my sweet indulgence. Also, I love white chocolate with cranberries in my cookies – and this is another fantastic, tried-and-true recipe.

Also, I almost never have the time to bake during the day, seeing how I’m busy with work and school throughout the week and during the weekends I’m busy out and about with some errand or another. Baking for me is very much a therapeutic indulgence: something I do in the middle of the night when I am absolutely sick and tired of studying. And because of the unusual free time I had on my hands, you have a wonderful picture of my cookies basking in natural light. I stood in my pathetic excuse of a balcony to get these pictures.

The original recipe called for 14 tablespoons, but I recommend reducing it by two tablespoons. Based on the original recipe, my cookies spread too much – I quelled my frustration by chewing on the admittedly delicious but ugly cookie scraps. Also, texture-wise, these are a good balance between chewy and crisp – but I’m sure if you played around with baking times you could alter these texturally. I didn’t have sea salt so I didn’t use it, but I’m sure they would only improve the cookies.

Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 24 cookies, about 2.5-3 inches wide, depending

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped

1/2 teapoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel) (for sprinkling on top)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness. (I highly recommend refrigerating the dough for half an hour or so or putting it in the freezer if you’re feeling less patient in order to avoid spreading.)

4. Sprinkle a flake or two of sea salt on each cookie.

5. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Lemon Yogurt Olive Oil Cake

This is a really plain-looking cake, but as far as taste goes, it’s truly outstanding. I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, and was positively enthralled by the idea of adding olive oil into a lemon pound-esque cake. Those flavors sound very Mediterranean to me, and I also had a tub of Greek yogurt sitting in my fridge. Why the heck not?

And I’m exceptionally pleased with how this cake turned out. I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt, and that might have contributed to the slightly coarser texture of the cake but I have absolutely no problems with how it tasted. The olive oil wasn’t exceptionally pronounced, and you wouldn’t be able to discern it if I didn’t tell you there was some. I truly love how this cake is startlingly good in its simplicity, and the technique required is almost idiot-proof too. Highly recommended.

Lemon Yogurt Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Serious Eats
Makes one 9×5 loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup EVO (extra-virgin olive oil)


Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan, place the pan on a lined baking sheet and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep near by.

Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the ingredients together until the sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil. The batter will be thick and shiny. Scrape it into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and starts to come away from the sides of the pan; a knife inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.

Storing: You can keep the cake at room temperature for at least 4 days or freeze it for up to 2 months

Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes

I like putting booze in sweets. There’s something enticingly sacrilegious about it. Cakes and cookies are sweet, innocent treats that are just about the simplest pleasures one could derive from life. But putting booze in a cupcake is like injecting vice into the guileless dessert; it’s naughty – but I like it.

The red wine does not bake off, so you definitely get to taste it. I really like how the cocoa powder and the cinnamon in the recipe sets it off. I think this recipe is ideal if you like red wine – I’m not a huge red wine person but I simply had some around the house that was just itching to be used. I also halved the original recipe and omitted the extra egg yolk, and I don’t think it missed the additional fat.

Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 9-inch round cake

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (I omitted the yolk)
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like*
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder (I used regular cocoa powder, no problems there)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping (I omitted this)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.

Make the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Notes: I halved the recipe and made 7 cupcakes, and baked it for about 20 minutes. But definitely start checking at 15, because oven temperatures vary across the board.