Monday, February 2, 2015

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies (For the Big Game)

Not counting tomorrow’s game, there have been 48 Super Bowls. That means 48 Super Bowl parties…and A LOT of chili! With each year, the menus at the parties I’ve attended have gotten more and more elaborate and over the top. This year, I say, “Enough with the fancy schmancy party food!” Back to the “basics” for me tomorrow—good, easy to manage food—with a little bit of a twist. 

“Enough with the fancy schmancy party food!” 

These brownies from Alice Medrich are just what I’m talking about. There’s no dark, 72% chocolate called for in this recipe—no melting, no fuss. They are the quintessential brownie—rich, fudgy—perfect for any game day. Toss in a handful of coarsely chopped nuts of chocolate chips if you must. A touch of cayenne and paprika adds a bit of heat that you won’t notice until you’ve finished your first bite, because on a cold day in February, everyone could use a little bit of heat.

Makes 16 to 25 brownies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet via Sassy Radish

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (105 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (start with less to see if you like the amount of heat)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3c. walnuts or pecan, coarsely broken into pieces
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper so that there is an overhang on two sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, paprika, cayenne, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. 

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla, Once the batter looks shiny and well-blended, stir in the flour until no streaks remain. Vigorously beat the batter for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts if using. Spread the batter evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the sea salt lightly over the top.

Bake until a toothpick in the middle comes out slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes Remove and let cool completely before lifting out of the pan and transferring to a cutting surface. Cut to your desired size.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Can Winter Clothing Be Functional AND Fashionable Too?

Winter is a rather impersonal season. (At least in the colder climates, it is.) When the temperatures plummet, so too do our spirits. And our high hopes that by some miracle this year will be warmer than the last are broken like icicles falling from the eaves. We find ourselves running from place to place swathed from head to toe in whatever bulky item we can dig out of our closets. The primary goal on days such as those is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, with no distractions. There is little desire to stop and smell the metaphoric roses or chat with a friend we meet on the street by happenstance. The fact is, everyone is so bundled up that we would be hard-pressed to even recognize a friend on the street.

Unless the cruel winds of winter are blowing uncontrollably and/or are accompanied by a barrage of sleety pellets, I don’t mind the cold temps. (As all my friends from California where I lived for twenty-five years roll their eyes.) My philosophy mirrors the old Scandinavian axiom that advises there is no such thing as “bad weather,” just “the wrong clothing.”  Alas, the right clothing will keep you feeling warm, but you won’t necessarily feel, dare we say, “fashion forward.” So one I wonder, can one’s clothing be functional and fashionable too?

Thankfully the answer is “yes.” Winter wear, across the board, used to be clunky, shapeless, and heavy—especially the footwear. But many clothing designers are now combining form with fashion, and with a little ingenuity and a good sense of humor, women no longer have to look as though they shop at the sporting goods store for their frosty finery.

When the weather is unbearably cold, one of my best friends is Mr. Sorel. These waterproof Cate the Great boots have seen me through a number of winters. They are funkier than most and they keep my tootsies toasty way down into the minus numbers.
Sorel Caate the Great $175
Sorel Cate the Great $175
And these wedge booties will keep you warm in a stylish way.
Reneeze Janice Wedge Bootie
Reneeze Janice Wedge Bootie
If one is splurging, these shearling-lined boots from No 6 Store are both warm and even a bit dressy.
No 6 Store $390
No 6 Store $390
Doreen Dove recently schooled us on how to shop for coats, and there are plenty of lovely ones out there, and they’re on sale!
This one from Ralph Lauren is warm and packable, which means it’s not bulky. So you won’t look like you borrowed it from Nanook of the North.
Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren
Layer a thick sweater under this Military Parka with quilted sleeves and you’re golden.
A great way to beat the winter doldrums, and still stay warm is with a fun-patterned coat. There’s no rule that says only summer clothing can be whimsical.
For more whimsy, a trapper hat or a woolly fleece-lined Himalayan knit can be added. You’ll have to stop worrying about your hair once  you head inside, but you’ll be warm and adorable outside.
J . Crew Trapper Hat
J . Crew Trapper Hat
Himalayan Knit Hat – Etsy
Wrap a cozy fleece infinity scarf around your neck or a show-stopping shawl over your coat, and Old Man Winter will be helpless when he attacks.
Fleece Infinity Scarf - Etsy
Fleece Infinity Scarf – Etsy

Pendelton Wool Shawl
Pendelton Wool Shawl