How to Make Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (Recipe)

When it comes to food in New York City, I feel like I’ve done a pretty well for myself as a tourist over the years.  I’ve eaten bagels (hold the cream cheese… yuck) at Murray’s, waited in hours-long lines for brick oven pizza at Grimaldi’s, and slurped down frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity.  I’ve eaten my fair share of Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, Shake Shack frozen custard, and sidewalk pretzels (Sigmund’s are 3498x better though!).  But for whatever reason, trip after trip to New York, I had never made it to Levain Bakery, a bakery on Manhattan’s upper west side, which is known to bake some of the best (if not the best) cookies in the city.

Last weekend, while enjoying a great weekend with friends in the big apple, my friend mentioned she wanted a really good chocolate chip cookie.  While she started to Google best chocolate chip cookies in New York, I mentioned Levain Bakery, and as fate would have it her Google search led her to Levain Bakery. :)  In no time at all we found ourselves outside the teeny tiny bakery on the upper west side, eating cookies the size of a frisbee.   As soon as I took my first bite I knew I had to try to recreate the cookies at home!

 

Some quick Internet searching led me to a variety of “copy cat” recipes for Levain Bakery’s famous cookies, and after some adaptations, I had myself a chocolate chip walnut cookie that tastes very close to the real deal!

If you can’t tell, these cookies are monstrous in size.  I laughed when an entire batch of cookie dough yielded just a dozen cookies!  But it’s all worth it when you’re enjoying bite after bite of crispy edges and gooey centers.  Just make sure you sit down for a bit afterward… sugar. coma.

In comparing the cookies to Levain Bakery’s, the flavors are definitely close.  Texture wise, I think the Levain Bakery cookie is a bit more crispy than mine, but that also might have to do with the fact that the humidity in upstate New York has been about 99% for the past 72 hours.

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How to Make Vanilla Greek Yogurt Cupcakes and Frosting (Recipe)

Cupcakes.  With sprinkles.  And… Greek yogurt!  Would you expect much else from me?

I’m sharing these cupcakes today because it’s my mom’s birthday.  Happy birthday, mom!  🙂  I’m a thousand or so miles from my mom, so I figured we can just share a virtual cupcake today.

In fact, let’s all share a virtual cupcake, OK?

If you were wondering whether substituting Greek yogurt for part of the “normal” fat called for in cupcakes (like butter or oil) can still yield a tasty little cupcake, the answer is a big yes.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that these little cakes made with Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt are even more moist.

In addition to Greek yogurt, I used coconut oil in these cupcakes, which I personally believe is the secret to a delicious made-from-scratch vanilla cake.  Coconut oil was once pretty hard to find, but I see it popping up in stores all over the place these days.  Try it if you see it! (but if you don’t have it, just replace the coconut oil called for in this recipe with softened butter).

As for the frosting, it’s packed with Greek yogurt as well.  The trick with the frosting is to strain the yogurt overnight before making the frosting, so that you’ve got a super thick yogurt to work with.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a really runny frosting that falls right off the cupcake.  The horror!

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How to Make Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes (Recipe)

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: cupcakes make Monday a better day.  But before we get to these little gems, I’ve got something very important to discuss…

I think we’ve got another canned pumpkin shortage on our hands here in Central New York.  I noticed the dwindling supply a few weeks ago, but didn’t think much of it since it was barely September.  Now – almost October – it’s gotten worse.  Pumpkin isn’t on the shelves at all, not even at Wegmans.  And they have everything!

As horrific thoughts of a pumpkin-less fall started going through my mind Saturday evening, I decided to take last-ditch trip to WalMart.  By the grace of (the pumpkin) God, I was relieved to find it there and promptly put twelve hefty cans in my basket.  By the time I got to the checkout, my arms were about to fall off and a few people in line were looking at me strange.  Ha, they’ll think of me when they’re not eating pumpkin pie on the fourth Thursday in November!  Then, I noticed the guy in front of me was buying three cases of beer and couldn’t help but think to myself—gosh Liz, you’ve gotten pretty wild, hoarding pumpkin at WalMart on a Saturday night!  I should really tone things down and take it easy.  Anyway…

Let me know if you’re noticing the same problem in your area.  I hope you’re not, because you need to make these pumpkin apple cupcakes!

It’s interesting how my eating pattern changes when I’m deep into marathon training.  I still have the urge to bake and cook, but I tend to take more shortcuts.  Like last weekend, when I was making these cupcakes for my mom’s friend.  I wanted to do a fall-inspired cupcake, but I didn’t want to put in too much effort…so I didn’t!  And let me tell you, the ease of prep didn’t sacrifice flavor or texture one bit.

These cupcakes use a boxed cake mix, but you don’t even have to bother adding eggs or oil.  Just pumpkin, an apple, spices, and some water.  Before you know it, you’ll be savoring a super-moist spicy cupcake, without all the fuss!

 

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How to Make Mocha Brownie Cups (Recipe)

It’s funny to reflect and think about the fact that just 5 years ago, the thought of drinking coffee was absurd to me. It wasn’t until mid-college that I began drinking coffee occasionally, and soon after I joined millions of fellow Americans in becoming addicted to the beverage. Fast forward to real time, and I now enjoy not only drinking coffee daily, but also finding ways to get that wonderful flavor into non-liquid forms. If you’re an all-things coffee fan as I am, these brownie cups are a must-try for you!
It amazes me how far a packaged mix can sometimes get you. Yep – the base of this recipe is a box of good ol’ Betty Crocker brownie mix! I essentially went by the box instructions, but used only one egg to make the brownies super fudgy. Add in instant coffee and simply pour the batter into cupcake liners. Then…

Yes, those are Rolos in the middle of each brownie cup! Because really… how can chocolate-covered caramels not make a coffee flavored brownie better?!
Whip up some mocha icing, spread it on top, and you’re ready to dig in. 🙂

Mocha Brownie Cups
Makes about 15, depending on size
1 package brownie mix
1/2 cup oil
3 tbsp. water
1 egg
3 1/2 tbsp. instant coffee
15 chocolate-covered caramels (such as Rolos), unwrapped
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Combine brownie mix, oil, water, egg, and instant coffee and stir until mixed.
Pour into cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full. Press one chocolate-covered caramel into the center of each cup. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out nearly clean. Allow brownie cups to cool completely before frosting. Once frosted, store brownies in refrigerator.
Mocha Icing
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. instant coffee
Blend all ingredients with mixer on low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat about 2 minutes. Spread icing onto cooled brownie cups.
Are you a coffee drinker? Do you enjoy all things coffee (desserts, etc.) or are you strictly a liquid coffee fan?

Individual Tres Leches Cakes with Spiced Chocolate Mousse

Whew! After that long-winded title, I better not disappoint with this one! We had a Mexican themed lunch today at work. I wanted to do a dessert that fit the theme, yet still allow my usual creativity. Ever since I ordered this Wilton pan from Sur La Table a few weeks ago, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the perfect opportunity to test it out. More about the pan in a second. First, let me reel you in.
Mmhmm. Little cakes soaked in three milks. Rich, fluffy spiced chocolate mousse pocketed inside. And what’s that on the bottom there? Oh, you know, just a sturdy base of semisweet chocolate. Okay – back to the pan.

I bought this pan for $10.95 and could not be more excited about it. It is perfect for so many creations. Want to make cookies or brownies and top them with a scoop of ice cream? This is your pan. Strawberry shortcake? The pan above is waiting for you. Individual cheesecakes? Give this guy a try. I think you get my point. 🙂
Once the cake batter is ready to go, fill each cup about 2/3 full and baked them ’til light golden brown. Let ‘em cool for about 5-10 minutes, remove, and repeat. If you don’t have this pan (yet), just make cupcakes!
Here’s where the fun really starts. Turn the cakes (or cupcakes) upside down, and spread with melted semisweet chocolate.
Once the chocolate is set, whisk together your three milks, pierce each cake with a fork multiple times, and slowly pour the milk mixture into the cakes. I place the cakes in a cake pan so the excess milk mixture doesn’t dribble all over the counter. 🙂
Then, and this is perhaps my favorite part, whip up your spiced chocolate mousse. Dollop the top of each cake with the mousse.

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