Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

We laid on the couch, bodies intertwined and covered with a heavy knit blanket that was a foot too short for our long bodies. The house was dark, but dimly lit from the glowing city just outside our window. A city that was alive and bustling with noisy people amidst the rain; they were honking their horns at bus drivers and shouting at the valet from the entrance of Kimbal Musk’s fancy eatery. It’s called The Kitchen and, although I dig their philosophy, I don’t subscribe to their version of fine dining because I don’t think a small bowl of bland ass quinoa served with a few roasted vegetables should cost $18. Let alone be considered a meal. But that’s not the point, the point is that there were noisy people outside my house and all I wanted to do was open the window and tell them to quiet down because I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve been home to witness the sound of hundreds of millions of water molecules hitting the roof over my head. And you know what? I think that’s kind of unfortunate.

So the rain. It lightly spattered the tin roof and we listened intently, trying hard to block out the chatter from the masses of noisy people below. At one point, an obnoxious group of what was probably a bachelorette party spent five minutes too long standing at the intersection of 16th and Wazee. It wouldn’t have been an issue except one of the attendees had one of the loudest, most unpleasant laughs I’ve heard in the entirety of my life. I leapt from the couch with every intention of heckling her (it’s actually one of my favorite things to do, heckle people from our fourth story loft) (sometimes I’m an ass), but just as the window cracked open I caught the faintest scent of petrichor as it drifted through the humid night air. And then I forgot about the lady with the obnoxious laugh because I love that smell, but not as much as I love laying on his chest and listening to his heart as it pounds beneath his ribcage. Have you ever done that? Laid on your lover’s chest and just listened to the sound of the one thing that’s keeping their blood flowing and organs working and, essentially, making their entire world go ’round? So I went back over to the couch and placed my head over his perfectly rhythmic chest instrument. And I listened.

Buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum buh-bum

Cake liners
Brownie cake batter
Chocolate coconut frosting

Tell me a story, I said.
No, you tell me a story, he replied. I always tell you stories.
Tell me about Europe, I begged.

And so, without a moment of hesitation, he started rambling on about Europe. About climbing to the top of Ben Nevis, riding bikes around Amsterdam, and visiting all of our favorite places in Paris. Taking the lovers walk on the Italian Riviera and drinking hefeweizen from enormous steins at Oktoberfest in Munich. Hiking through the Šumava and spending long afternoons on the sandy beaches of Croatia, where Roman emperors used to retire. He went on and on, telling me about the history of each of the countries we’re visiting this summer. 19 of them total. Nineteen different countries and cultures and a dozen different languages over the course of four months, from July to November.

His infinite wisdom eventually put me to sleep. Not because I was disinterested, but because it’s so soothing to listen to someone pour the intellectual contents of their brain onto you. Like the rain on the tin roof, only better. Better than the petrichor or Matt Berninger’s voice or finding my favorite chocolate in the pocket of my jeans. Ok, maybe not better than finding chocolates hidden in my clothes, but you get the point. Right? So this summer, we’re heading to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime, and if you live there or have plans on being there, too, we’d love to get together. Seriously, let’s get together.

Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting
Brownie cakes with chocolate coconut frosting

Also, I’ve got a little bonus for you before we get to the recipe. Our sweet new friend, Kathryn, came to photograph our place last weekend and the final shots are now up on her site. Please no remarks about my stringy hair, mom jeans, or the fact I spelled je t’aime all sorts of wrong. In my defense, I was in a hurry to write something on the jar before Kathryn snapped a photo. And. Well. French is not my first language. In hindsight, I should have just drawn a big heart. Or maybe boobs because that would be funny.

Notes: These cakes are dense – they’re literally a cross between a brownie and a cupcake; not as dense as a brownie, not as light as a cupcake. If you don’t have cacao powder, natural cocoa powder will work. They’re essentially the same thing as far as baking is concerned. Same goes for the spelt flour; unbleached flour or a gluten free flour blend substitute well. I do not recommend making a substitute for the coconut oil, as it gives the cakes a mild coconut flavor and pairs well with the frosting. Speaking of frosting, you can use any liquid sweetener you want – maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc. I’ve been finishing off a bottle of coconut nectar, or else I’d have probably used brown rice syrup. You’ll have to adjust the amount depending on how sweet your like your frosting.

Update: I recommend using a bar that’s at least 70% cacao. I’ve used bars from Lake Champlain, Chocolove, and Ikea. Although I’m not sure Ikea is considered good quality, it produced a damn good brownie cake.

BROWNIE CAKES WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FROSTING

Brownie cakes
1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp unrefined coconut oil
3 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 flax eggs
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Chocolate coconut frosting
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
4-6 tbsp coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp cacao powder
Pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and chocolate, then stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the chocolate mixture, flax eggs, and boiling water; whisk vigorously to combine. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin liner, then bake at 350˚F for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to rest in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cakes will keep in an air tight container for up to three days.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting by adding the shredded coconut and coconut milk to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Blend until mostly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Once smooth, add 4 tablespoons of the coconut nectar and vanilla extract; pulse to combine. Sift in the cacao powder and sea salt then pulse until incorporated. Taste the frosting; if it needs to be a bit sweeter, add more nectar. If you want it to be thinner, add a bit more coconut milk (1-2 tablespoons). Once the cakes have cooled, generously frost them and serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen cakes

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Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Two waffle recipes over the course of one month might seem excessive – ok, it is excessive – but this recipe is not like the other. Because this recipe is for one waffle. Just one. And I wanted so badly to call this the single lady waffle then realized it might be offensive to Thom considering this is my go-to waffle recipe and I am not a single lady. I am, however, a single lady at breakfast time because I can’t remember the last morning we ate first breakfast together. Which is a shame because I really enjoy first breakfast. A lot more than second breakfast, which is usually a mug of stale coffee and a few scoops of peanut butter drizzled over an apple or banana.

Are you following along? So far: first breakfast > second breakfast and, if you’re single, this recipe is for you. But if you’re not single, this recipe might still be for you. Like, maybe you have a significant other who sleeps in two hours past breakfast time? Yep, this waffle’s for you. And if he tries telling you that this recipe technically makes enough waffles for two breakfasts, just remind him who wakes up at 6AM to go to the gym. Who spends an hour running and competing over the only good set of 35 pound dumbbells with a bunch of meatheads. Remind him who walks all the way home in the cold (COMMITMENT) with a bottomless pit for a stomach, while he’s still sleeping like a baby. So he wouldn’t know the first thing about eating a proper breakfast because babies don’t eat that much.

I digress. If you’re on Team Thom, go ahead and share the other half of this waffle with your favorite person. If you are your favorite person, go ahead and save it for later. Or you could halve the recipe to make one waffle (except everyone on Team Ashlae knows it’s actually just half of one waffle). If you’re a big kid and like starting off your day with a solid 500 calories, don’t change a thing and down the entire waffle for breakfast. With a protein shake on the side. And maybe a banana smeared with peanut butter and rolled in chocolate chips. And now this is just getting ridiculous, but see what happens when I try to make a point?
Blueberry maple syrup + buckwheat waffle
Buckwheat waffle with blueberry maple syrup, for one

Notes: Feel free to use any flour you want. I’ve successfully made this waffle with all purpose flour, spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and a gluten free flour blend. You can also use any starch you want (or flax meal – that works, too), but if you don’t have starch or flax meal hanging around, add an extra 2 tablespoons of flour to the batter. If you don’t have a 2 slice Belgian waffle maker, you can probably get away with making this recipe in your normal waffle maker (but it might make more than one waffle).

BUCKWHEAT WAFFLE WITH BLUEBERRY MAPLE SYRUP, FOR ONE

Buckwheat waffle
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbsp potato starch
1 1/2 tsp cane sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup frozen blueberries, optional

Blueberry maple syrup
1/2 cup frozen blueberries, divided
2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat a 2 slice Belgian waffle maker. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, starch, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk, oil and vanilla extract; whisk just until combined. Let the mixture stand to thicken for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the blueberries using a spatula. Spray the waffle maker with oil then cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

For the blueberry maple syrup, bring 1/4 cup of the blueberries and maple syrup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes then strain the cooked blueberries from the syrup. Add the remaining blueberries to the syrup and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the berries to thaw. Once ready, drizzle over waffle then top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

Yield: 1 waffle

Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves
Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Thom and I don’t get into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. Not by my choosing, but because he thinks it’s silly to have a holiday where you’re expected to do something nice for your significant other. Shouldn’t that be every day? Why can’t I bring home flowers or chocolates, just because? he’ll argue. And so I support him because Yeah, ok, Valentine’s Day is straight up superficial and I don’t like roses anyway. But that’s not going to stop me from squeezing (literally) into a sexy black dress, putting on red lipstick, and taking my handsome man out on the town. Because that aspect of Valentine’s Day I can totally get behind. An extra day to channel my inner Beyonce? Count me in.

Sexy black dress aside, the real reason I don’t fight him on Valentine’s Day is because he’s the guy who planned a faux vacation to Canada, just so that I’d have a reason to finally get my passport. And then, as we were coming up on customs at the Montreal airport – as I’m jogging twenty paces ahead of him and shouting Seriously dude! Hurry up before the line gets outta control! – he stops and starts rooting through his bag. I give him my best ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? face and he yells Stop! We’ve got to go the other way. To which I call him a moron and ask if he can read BECAUSE IT SAYS VISITORS TO CANADA THIS WAY. The way I’m going. And then he pulls out his phone and says We’re not actually staying in Montreal; we’ve got a connecting flight. We’re going to Paris for two weeks. And then I gasp and start bawling my eyes out, while he captures my reaction on camera

Almond meal + Creaming
Flour prints
Almond linzer cookie dough
Dough rolling

But that’s not all. He’s the man who waits for me at the bus stop with an umbrella, because it’s pouring rain and he doesn’t want me to get wet during the ten second walk to our building’s entrance. The man who hides my favorite candies in the pockets of my pants and cardigans, just so that one day I’ll find them and be reminded of how much he loves me. He’s the man who tolerates our perpetually messy kitchen because I’m a complete slob (for real) (Slobby McSlobberson) who can’t be bothered to clean it when I know it’s just going to get messy in the morning.

And so he’s the man who washes the dishes and cleans the countertops every night before he goes to bed, just so that I can wake up to an immaculate kitchen. The man who refuses to let me carry the groceries, and holds the door even when his arms are full. In fact, I can probably count on one hand (ok, two) the number of times I’ve had to open a door while in his presence. He’s the man who offers to go get me fries at midnight because I can’t sleep and Goddamn it, I’m craving something greasy. And salty. Always something salty. The man who would literally give his life – his existence on this planet – if it meant I’d never feel another ounce of pain as long as I live. He’s the man who chose to share his life with me and, despite his blatant refusal to celebrate Valentine’s Day, sometimes I can’t help but feel like the luckiest lady on the planet.

Maybe I am. And maybe you are, too.

We be cuttin'
Almond linzer cookies6
Almond linzer cookies with cherry preserves

Notes: I use mostly powdered sugar in this recipe because it helps to keep the cookies softer than they would be if made with granulated sugar. Feel free to use your favorite nut meal and/or jam – I chose almond and cherry because the two together are pretty delicious. But I’ve got pecan meal and apricot preserves on the mind for the summer. If you don’t have almond extract, substitute additional vanilla extract. And for the love of Buddha, make sure you freeze the dough before you put it in the oven – this ensures the cookies keep their shape. If you don’t do it they’ll be puffy and mishapen. And you don’t want that.

ALMOND LINZER COOKIES WITH CHERRY PRESERVES
1/2 cup vegan butter
2 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 cup powdered cane sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup morello cherry preserves

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the butter, sugars, and extracts. Whip on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed, until light and fluffy. Add the salt, baking soda, and almond meal; mix just until combined. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Divide the dough in two and pat into discs. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to two days.
Line two large baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Remove one ball of dough from the fridge and roll it out until it’s about 1/4-1/8″ thick. Slide the dough, on the parchment paper, onto a cutting board or other flat surface that will fit in your freezer. Cut dough with a round 2″ cutter, then use a 1.5″ heart cookie cutter to cut the centers of half of the cookies (you will need a total of 12 cookies with centers removed), but don’t remove the center pieces just yet. Remove dough scraps from around the cookies and place tray in the freezer for 10 minutes. Transfer the frozen cookies to one of the prepared baking sheets, removing the center pieces from the cut cookies (you can bake those too, if you want). Repeat process with scraps and remaining disc of dough. Freeze cookies for another 10 minutes prior to baking. Bake at 350˚F for 7-8 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air tighter container until ready to spread with jam; will keep for up to five days.
When you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches, use a fine mesh sieve to sprinkle the cookies with the cutout centers with powdered sugar. Spread the uncut cookies with about 1 teaspoon of cherry preserves and sandwich with powdered cutouts. Serve immideately.

Yield: 1 dozen 2″ linzer cookies

Cereal milk ice cream

Cereal milk ice cream

We sat curled up on the couch, braving the steady stream of chilly air that snuck through the seams of the industrial windows. I knew those things were going to be trouble the moment I laid eyes on them, but at the time I didn’t care. I was entranced by the immense amount of natural light they let into the main living area. And their ability to open downward, making them perfect for rainy days. Except we hardly ever have rainy days. This, much like the situation with the cold, I didn’t conceive until after we were months deep into our lease. After I had fallen in love with our little home at the top of an old warehouse, ten times over.

That evening, our bodies were wrapped in blankets, our feet in two pairs of socks. It was cold. But not cold enough to squander his insatiable craving for ice cream. A craving I tried so hard to suffocate with copious amounts of chocolate and other sugary things, but I had no luck. As it turns out, you can’t just sweep a man’s ice cream craving (or any craving, for that matter) under the rug because it comes back full force days later. When it’s five below zero. It’s too cold for ice cream, I told him. But he didn’t care. He wanted it. Bad.

I untangled our feet and went to abandon my comfy spot on the couch, hoping he’d drag me back down and make me stay. Because I like to think that the warmth from my body reigns supreme to the satisfaction that comes with eating ice cream. Turns out it doesn’t, because he let me go into the cold. And so I put on an extra pair of striped long johns, his slippers, one of his thermals, a sweater, and a down parka. All of this to make ice cream for the man who complains about not getting warm waffles in the morning, but then sleeps through breakfast when I finally get around to making them (side note: I have waffles every morning, he’s just not up early enough to bask in the deliciousness). Despite not getting waffles on demand, this man is loved. I hope he knows that.

Pure vanilla extract
Churnin'
cereal milk ice cream-2

When the ice cream was ready, I scooped it into pretty bowls and we shivered on the couch and laughed about the fact that our loft was 57˚ and we were shoveling spoonfuls of frozen, milky goodness into our mouths. It was then that I decided to order a space heater. Because eating ice cream next to a surge of heat seemed much more enjoyable than the current situation, which was eating ice cream on our frozen couch, swaddled in so many blankets we could hardly move.

To tide us over until aforementioned heating device arrived, I took a page from the book of a little punk I used to nanny. Let me preface this by saying it was not my proudest moment. I retrieved my hair dryer from the bathroom and used it to heat our blanket cave, to which Thom completely objected up until the moment he realized he could feel his toes again. I’m going to go ahead and say that you should not use a hair dryer as your own personal heater because it absolutely is not safe. Unless your living room is 57˚. Then I’d venture to say that keeping warm takes precedence over any risks or dangers associated with using a hair dryer for anything other than drying your hair.

But really, don’t do it.

Cereal milk ice cream
Cereal milk ice cream

Notes: This recipe calls for more coconut milk than usual because the cereal absorbs a lot of the milk (about one can’s worth). I’ve made this with light coconut milk (and almond milk – holla!), but if you do this you’ll want to soak the cereal overnight. It won’t be nearly as creamy as the full fat coconut milk variety, but it’s pretty damn close. Growing up, I always loved fruity cereal milk so I went with Cascadian Farm Fruitful O’s. But feel free to use any kind of cereal you want – a few favorite cereals are Original PuffinsPeanut Butter Panda Puffs, and Chocolate Koala Crisp.

PS – I’ve got a s’mores version coming at you once the temperatures start to rise. Complete with graham cracker cereal milk, fluffy marshmallows, and chunks of rich dark chocolate.

CEREAL MILK ICE CREAM

5 cups cereal
5 1/4 cups full fat coconut milk (3 cans)
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add the cereal to a large mixing bowl. Cover with coconut milk and stir to combine. Place a large, heavy plate on top to ensure the cereal is sumberged the entire time. Refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Once the cereal has soaked, use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture over a medium saucepan; make sure to firmly press the cereal mush to get out as much coconut milk as possible. After you’ve pressed out as much of milk you can get, scoop the layer of thick cream that formed on the bottom of the strainer into the pot. Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract; bring to a boil and whisk vigorously for 45 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, pour the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream machine and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat ice cream immideately (it will be somewhat soft) or transfer to a container and freeze until ready to consume. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving. Top with crushed cereal, if desired.

Yield: about 1 quart