New Yorkers have all the luck. The food here is amazing -- great restaurants, a cool food truck/cart scene, authentic specialty markets, and festivals year round. But it's the social events which make me the happiest -- gatherings like Pie Party Live and Brooklyn Swappers -- because they bring people together. It's the community which makes these events so nice, meeting with friends old and new, and sharing in a love of all things "yum." So when I heard about Cookie Swap NY 2011 (being put together by my buddies Maggy Anderson Keet and Jackie Gordon, among others), of course I got excited. It's only the second time they'd held one of these events, but it was my first time attending, so I felt like I had to go the extra mile. I decided to bake three different cookies. First I made the lime-cornmeal cookies from Flour by Joanne Chang, possibly the only recipe left in that book which I hadn't tried yet -- it's another winner, although I might experiment with the coarseness of the cornmeal if I made them again.I also made the double chocolate cookies from Flour, which I've raved about before. Seriously, these cookies are sleepers, meaning that they look kind of normal, but they're astounding in texture and richness. They're for chocolate fiends.Lastly, I made Homesick Texan's chipotle-spiced chocolate-pecan chewies again. I felt like something was different this time about the texture, but they were still great. Add to that, I got to put them on the gluten-free table at the event.Baking just for fun is nice, but the event itself, held at Hill Country BBQ, was put together to help raise money for a charity you might know I feel strongly about, Cookies for Kids Cancer. Wiley donated some cookbooks for a giveaway, along with other sponsors like KitchenAid. The book, by the way, has become a little hard to find this holiday season, but I'd recommend Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Williams-Sonoma, and soon the book will be at all Bed Bath & Beyond stores!I didn't count, but there must have been something like 75 different kinds of cookies there. This round-up is by no means authoritative, and I would have taken more photos, but it was a little dark inside the restaurant for snapping pictures. Some highlights I noticed (and yes, these people are almost all my friends) included Hazel's adorable bacon shortbread, cut in the shape of little piggies!Cookbook royalty was in attendance including Dorie Greenspan (seriously), Pam Anderson (love her), and Abby Dodge, who made these delights.My friend Louisa baked these, perfect for the holiday season.Gluten-free gingersnap candy cane sandwiches from Glow.Oh my god, Anna, how did I not get to actually taste these? Wow.Jess's cool bullseye cookies.Speaking of cool -- Debbie's Nutella raspberry pinwheels -- I love how these look.As if hundreds of cookies weren't exciting enough, there was a BBQ feast too -- Elizabeth Karmel and Hill Country BBQ went all out. The corn pudding and brisket were my favorites, so I went back for seconds of both.Possibly the best thing about Cookie Swap NY 2011 was something I didn't expect -- the secret stash cookies and special deliveries. Cathy started me off when she offered me some bacon rugelach... nice. Then Jackie passed me these mandarin-flavored sandwich cookies (in the photo above). Lillian gave me some insanely good macarons to take home. Ken slipped us some special treats as well. So next time I'll know -- save the really good stuff for handing out on the sly. Maybe next year I can be one of the "cool kids."
I know, I know, "best ever" is a big claim. Food bloggers make it all the time. I make it all the time. But if the Intense Chocolate Brownies recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang isn't the best ever, it comes really close. The texture is amazingly moist, but not ridiculously so. The chocolate flavor is deep. And maybe best of all, you get that cool shiny thing going on the top. It reminds me a little bit of those packaged brownie mixes, not that I make them, but I've seen photos of them in advertisements. Well, that's all there is to say. And the "best ever" thing isn't even my own assessment. I brought a bunch of these to the office, and a few of my coworkers said they were the best thing I've ever baked. I bake a lot, so that's kind of a big deal. If for some crazy reason you haven't bought Flour yet, I urge you to check it out. And if you're lucky enough to live in Boston where you can visit one of the Flour bakeries, save me a sticky bun.
I might have said I was done raving about Flour by Joanne Chang. Oops. These cupcakes from her book are awesome. You might have to back-order the book if you want a copy now, but it's worth it. Now for two pet peeves I have about desserts. First, what's up with those shows about crazy cake decorating? They spend days working on those cakes. Is the cake fresh anymore? Would you really want to eat a cake that someone had been designing for 2 or 3 days? Hmmm... Next, people sometimes ask me what my favorite cupcake places are in New York City. My answer is usually "none." Maybe that makes me a snob, but if you bake cupcakes (or regular cakes), you know what I mean. What beats a really fresh cupcake? Nothing. I don't see how a store-bought cupcake could ever compare to homemade. By the way, I know I have no decorating skills whatsoever. These cupcakes were all about the taste, and the taste rocks. Just look at that frosting. It was almost ridiculous.
I know, I know... what's wrong with me? I can't stop talking about this Flour cookbook by Joanne Chang, and I didn't even work on the book myself. Well, if it's driving you crazy to hear me rave out this book, then why are you reading my blog? Just kidding! But seriously, this might be my last post about it. I wanted to sneak in one more post before the holidays, just in case you still haven't gotten the hint and while there is still time to buy it as a holiday gift. (Apparently it's gotten hard to find, so if you spot a copy, then definitely get your hands on it.) This recipe is called the Chunky Lola Cookie. According to the recipe headnote, the name isn't related to what's in the cookie. So what is in it? Pecans, chocolate, oats, coconut... everything awesome.I made a double batch so I'd have plenty to share with my coworkers, probably for the last time this year before I take a little vacation. If Joanne Chang is reading this, yes, I skimped on the dough cooling time (again), which is probably why mine are a bit on the thin side. And I made mine smaller than the size specified in the recipe so I had to tweak the baking time a bit. But if taste is the most important thing, then these are definite winners.
I don't mean to brag, but I had an awesome weekend. Besides the totally fun Bust Craftacular on Sunday, Joanne Chang was in town promoting her cookbook, Flour, and you probably already know what a huge fan I am of the book. So I stopped by the incredible The Brooklyn Kitchen to see her do a baking demo and say hi. (If I had a shop like this in my neighborhood, I'd be a happy guy.) Then I was reading about about the yummy-looking coconut sugar cookies over on Gluten-Free Girl (I think she's doing non-stop giveaways for her cookbook, by the way), which reminded me about these cookies (not gluten-free) I made from Sally Sampson's Recipe of the Week Cookies. I think they were called German Chocolate Chunk. I'm calling them "marriage proposal cookies" because that was the reaction I got to these babies. Seriously, my co-workers pretty much lost their minds. I've made a lot of cookies over the years but never anything that got quite the reaction these did. So I don't know if the whole marriage proposal thing works both ways, but if a certain someone is taking a little too long to pop the question, you might want to find the recipe and make a batch of these to get the ball rolling.