Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes with Ganache Topping

What I’ve made for this post is nothing extraordinary — nothing, in fact, that I haven’t already made before. But after the disappointment of last time, stepping out of my comfort zone wasn’t really something I was prepared to do. Perhaps another day I’ll attempt a full-blown layer cake, but today is not that day.

I really wanted to make something for Valentine’s Day. This is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve been in possession of a boyfriend, and while I know it isn’t really that big of a deal, it was nice to finally feel smug after all those years of glaring at the girls in high school who carried balloons around with them all day and received dozens of chocolate roses from boyfriends and secret admirers. Finally, I’m one of them! IN. YO. FACE.

Of course, the day itself was pretty much just like any other day, except with more chocolate and cookies. And also these cupcakes I managed to whip together.

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(this isn’t the chocolate I used; I just like the picture)

For the cake itself, I used the same one I used for the Cupcake Cones I made a while back, but instead of using a spoon or a mixer, I used a whisk. Why? I don’t know. I just felt like it. This, however, served to make the cake very light and fluffy, due to the air molecules and blah blah blah science.

I forgot, however, to account for the fluffiness when I filled my cute, pink paper baking cups.

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Ahahaha. Oops.

All was well, though. I didn’t have a breakdown. I didn’t start crying. Instead I pulled the excess off and was left with mildly soggy baking cups and yummy chocolate cupcakes.

I’d wanted to make a coffee buttercream for these, but Rob was going to come over soon at this point, so instead I just topped it with the ganache I was going to use to fill it with. It looked kind of boring, though — just a thin layer of chocolate on top of more chocolate — so I took some Lindt truffles my mom got me and placed them on top as decoration.

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There, much better!

Rob seemed to like them, although the baking cups were difficult to tear away from the cake. It kept seeming like we were gonna have to wind up eating the paper as well, but thankfully we did not.

I only had five baking cups, so I had lots of batter and ganache left over. I stuck them both in the fridge to worry about some other time, and after several days of meaning to, I finally got around to using them today. I didn’t want to make more cupcakes for fear the Volcano Cupcake Disaster would happen again.

So I took a deep breath and poured the remaining batter in a 9-inch cake pan.

And waited.

And worried.

And then…

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IT’S PERFECT. LOOK AT IT. A PERFECT CAKE.

I was so damn happy I didn’t fuck it up and blow up the oven in an explosion of cake batter that I immediately shoved the cake in the fridge after dumping it on a plate and began merrily melting the leftover ganache in the microwave. Again, I made no buttercream, becaaaaaause I’m lazy. And also I had enough ganache to cover the whole cake anyway, so what would the point be?

Well, I did just that, and decided that, again, the cake looked boring. I had no more truffles, but we had some mini-chocolate chips in the fridge, so I did a little decorating with those.

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Overall, not too bad! It’s not a perfectly smooth coating, and there are still chunks of ganache that didn’t totally melt, but I don’t really care at this point. I only wish I could add a splash of color to this, but other than that it looks good enough to me.

And pretty tasty, too! You can’t go wrong with having EVERYTHING EVER BE CHOCOLATE.

Here are links to the cake and ganache recipes I used.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake
Joy of Baking’s Ganache

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In Which I Feel Sorry For Myself

I’ve wasted so many quality ingredients today in my quest to make Devil’s Food Cake that I kind of want to cry. I mean, there are other reasons I want to cry right now — the fact that said cake came out tasting and looking like poop, how I spent a whole afternoon making this and while I wasn’t totally expecting it to come out looking pretty, I was at least expecting it to taste good — but mostly because I’ve wasted four sticks of butter and 6 oz. of expensive chocolate when I am super poor. Flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, powdered sugar, vanilla extract… all of this shit together ain’t cheap. I can barely afford it all as is, and when the end result is a festering turd of a cake that I’m forced to throw out? Well, it takes an emotional toll.

And the culprit was, mostly, cold butter. How, even though I let it sit out for a long time and microwaved it slightly, the butter was still cold and the cake batter was filled with chunks of cold butter, and the frosting was also filled with pale yellow pieces of butter that just would not incorporate no matter what I did. But in addition to that, the cake layers were too thin, I didn’t have a cake board and had to use a plate that got in my way when I was trying to frost the sides, and also the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing and just suck at everything I try, anyway.

I almost want to say I should just stick to cupcakes and cookies, but I don’t want to make the same things over and over just because they are the only things I can make without them coming out like an utter moron slapped them together with their eyes crossed.  I don’t want this blog to be just various boring and safe cookie and cupcake recipes. I keep trying to remember that I was even worse at baking when I first started, but I’m one of those people who needs to be absolutely brilliant at something the first time they attempt it, or there’s just no point.

Last week I got a second job working at a sandwich shop, and was let go after three days because I wasn’t picking it up fast enough for the owner’s liking. Never mind that I don’t eat or make sandwiches ever and so I was starting from scratch, or that nine hours isn’t a long enough time to really get the hang of anything, or that the reason the boss was so impatient was because the regular girl was leaving soon and he needed someone who was super-competent right away — it still made me feel like a loser, a failure, a dumbass. Especially since I’ve never been let go from a job based on my performance before. I just have this crippling fear of failure and rejection, because if I’m not perfect at something immediately, then I’m just wasting my time, everyone else’s time, and I’m a horrible and slow human being who should just keep to herself and stick to what she knows and never take any risks because looking like a fool is the worst thing that can happen ever.

It’s something I’m working on. Hopefully this won’t set me back too much.

Sugar Cookies

I would like to write this entry but all I want to do is play with my Christmas presents! Some of which included baking supplies (a cookie press, a mini-cupcake pan, and two 9-inch round cake pans!). I hope to get a lot of use out of those, especially the cake pans. It’s time I made a layered cake!

Anyway, yes, sugar cookies. I got a rolling pin for Christmas last year and still hadn’t used it until now, which was just sad. I decided to make my friends some rolled sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. But, uh. It didn’t quite work out.

It’s been kind of a bad week for me — travel-wise, baking-wise, and work-wise. I tried making chocolate crinkle cookies for the people at work, but that was a total bust. They all melted and blew up, probably because there wasn’t enough flour. Except I added more flour and the dough was still too sticky, so I threw it away out of annoyance. Then I tried to make these and asdfbgntbo4pbn4rnv ARRRRGH.

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I’ve never made rolled cookies before. I don’t really know how to measure the dough thickness etc etc etc. I mean, the cookies turned out okay I guess, but not awesome.

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Because I was pressed for time I was going to use just a Christmas tree cookie cutter, even though I have a whole bucket of Christmas cookie cutters that are now useless until next year. I was going to decorate them with green and red royal icing.

Except LOL NOPE DIDN’T HAPPEN.

I woke up early but it still took me so long to make the damn cookies that I didn’t have time to make icing, pipe the edges, wait for it to cool, flood more icing, wait for that to cool, then add little red “ornaments” (aka small dots). So they had to be boring-looking, alright-tasting sugar cookies.

Then this happened.

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Normally losing a couple cookies isn’t a big deal, but I had made so few cookies as it was since I don’t know how to properly utilize the dough to get the most out of them, and so my friends would be stuck with only three cookies each… that is, they would have if I had managed to actually get to see them when I wanted to. My boyfriend and I were driving over to my hometown when my one friend called and said she was going to be staying at her college. We tried to head over there but it was extremely dark and his GPS died and I didn’t know the way and we got incredibly lost. I was hungry and annoyed and miserable so I canceled and we headed to the diner where I scarfed down a burger in sadness.

But, for now it’s okay, because we’ll be having a get-together on New Year’s Eve. I plan to bake something for that, too. Let’s hope those plans don’t go to shit too.

Or I’ll give up and NEVER SEE MY FRIENDS EVER AGAIN.

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Happy Holidays, everyone! And have a happy New Year!

Brownie Pops

I’ve been doing so many recipes from that Golden Book of Chocolate recently I almost feel like I’m doing a challenge wherein I’m trying to do all of the recipes in there, a la Julie & Julia. But I was flipping through its pages, and came across these absolutely delicious-looking brownies, and knew I had to try them.

Everything was going pretty well, at first. I chopped up the chocolate, melted it with the butter, mixed all of the ingredients together… eagerly looking forward to having what the book termed “Rich Chocolate Brownies”.

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I poured the finished mixture in the pan, popped it in the oven, and then remembered, half-way through baking, that I had forgotten to spray the pan. AGAIN.

This exact same thing had happened a few months ago when I was making brownies from a mix for my mom, and instead of learning from my mistakes I promptly made the exact same mistake again.

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AAARGH.

I was really, really pissed off. All of that work, and for fucking nothing. Just a crumbly, albeit tasty, mess. I couldn’t bring this to work. I couldn’t give anyone this garbage. Who would eat it? No one. Why can’t I ever make anything that looks pretty? Why does everything I bake have to look like it was slapped together by a drooling two-year-old? I should just give up.

But my usual defeatist attitude wasn’t going to win that day. I tried to think of something I could make with scraps of brownies.

And then I thought of cake pops.

I’ve had a bad relationship with cake balls and pops in the past. Mine just… never come out looking good. The last time I attempted cake pops was Halloween a year ago, when the melted orange candy kept burning and the cake balls kept falling off the sticks and it was all just so annoying and frustrating that I vowed to never make the goddamn things ever again.

What else to do with the brownie scraps, though? I bought some chocolate frosting, mushed it all together, and threw it in the fridge, where it sat for several days because work and Skyrim have eaten up a lot of my time recently. But I finally got around to melting some chocolate, rolling the brownies into balls, poking a stick in them, dipping them, rolling them in festive sprinkles, aaaaand —

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Wow! Not too bad! They don’t look super amazing and pretty, but they don’t look like a falling-apart mess, either. Maybe I can do this cake pop stuff after all. Probably not like Bakerella does, but still, it’s nice to know I can do the basics if I stop whining. And also if I refrigerate everything for ages. That’s probably the trick.

People loved these when I brought them to work, including my boyfriend, who had three. I still have a lot of brownies left over so I will probably make more for everyone for the holidays (that is, if they haven’t gone bad by now). This wound up being more interesting than just plain old brownies, anyway, so I guess it’s good I forgot to spray the pan after all.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Ah, Nutella. My old friend. Nutella is the sensation that is sweeping the nation/world/Internet/universe, and while I do enjoy its chocolate-y hazelnut-ness, I’m not as big of a fan of it as everyone else seems to be. I can never have more than a spoonful of it at a time, and I don’t like it spread on my toast or on anything else.

Which brought me to a dilemma. I had purchased a can of Nutella a few months ago, and after eating small amounts for about a week, I lost interest, and it sat in the cupboard, alone, unwanted, and suffering ever since. I know. It’s practically a war crime, you say. So I had to come up with something to use it for.

As it happened, my friend Beth’s birthday was coming up, and I usually bake her something for such occasions. After asking her if she enjoys Nutella (she does), I decided to bake her a thing with Nutella in it, so I could hopefully use up the rest of the can and finally get rid of it.

Flipping through the chocolate recipes book Sophie got me, I came across a cupcake recipe that required no special frosting to be made — you would just frost it with Nutella. And I knew I’d found The One.

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And best of all, I wouldn’t need to buy any ingredients except sour cream.

For those of you not familiar with making cakes, you might be wondering what the hell sour cream is doing in a cupcake recipe. Believe me, I thought that myself the first time I came across a cake recipe that included sour cream. I mean, you wouldn’t smell and look at sour cream and immediately think, “Oh boy, I should put this in some pastry!” But the fact of the matter is, a little sour cream will make your cake nice and moist and delicious. It adds a special kind of flavor as well.

This recipe was simple enough, although it required bittersweet chocolate and all I had on hand was unsweetened. I could’ve just bought some bittersweet chocolate, but I’d been trying to get rid of this unsweetened chocolate for ages, just like the Nutella. So, when I melted the chocolate in the microwave, I added some powdered sugar to make it sweeter. Unfortunately, this made the chocolate thick like a frosting (yeah, I know, obvious), so I tried melting it a little more to make it thinner. It… worked a little.

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Doesn’t that look appetizing? But don’t worry, it’ll look less like an oil spill after it’s been mixed in.

I added my dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream, until —

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Ta-da!

I always seems to have problems with the lighting when taking these photos, though. I keep having to change it in order to make the photos look decent. But I guess that’s what happens when you don’t really know what you’re doing…

Anyway, the dough was very sticky, so it was difficult getting it into the cupcake liners, but it all turned out alright in the end.

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OMNOMNOMNOM. Don’t they look delicious? And they were. I think the unsweetened chocolate gave it more of a kick than the bittersweet chocolate would have, since it wasn’t a lot to begin with anyway.

I was torn between putting the Nutella in a pastry bag and making it all fancy, and just spreading it on with a knife. So I made a compromise and the cupcakes that were for Beth were frosted fancifully, and the leftover ones I just slapped it on. Except, um, I accidentally used a smaller star tip than I’d intended, but it gave it a more interesting look, I think.

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The Nutella doesn’t really overpower these, which is good for people like me who like Nutella but not in excess. And it works pretty perfectly as a frosting, although it’s a fucking pain in the ass to clean. But on the way to Manhattan for Beth’s party, I accidentally flipped the container over and the Nutella stuck to the top and ruined the prettiness of the cupcakes. But I’m sure it still tasted good.

Happy 22nd Birthday, Beth! I hope you liked the cupcakes and the playlist.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Hazelnut Topping (from The Golden Book of Chocolate)

The Cupcakes

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup of butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

The Topping

1 cup of Nutella, or another hazelnut spread (but why would you use anything besides Nutella, what is wrong with you)

Toasted walnuts for decoration, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, then set aside. Melt the chocolate (whether in the microwave or in a double boiler) and let it cool while you beat the butter, sugar, and corn syrup in an electric mixer at high speed. Mix until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition. Beat in the chocolate and vanilla, and with the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Divide the batter into muffins tins with liner, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool, then frost with the Nutella.

 

Meringue Ghosts

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…What.

It is October 31st, Halloween, and there is snow outside.

WHAT IS GOING ON?

In case you hadn’t heard, us in the Northeast of the U.S. got hit with snow a few days ago. It has never, ever snowed in October during my lifetime. It ruined my Halloween plans and makes walking to work a pain in the ass.

At least I can still bake! Though, I almost didn’t because I woke up this morning with my fourth cold sore this month, and was hardly in the mood for making cookies (i.e. a ‘throwing myself around the bed and kicking my legs in rage’ kind of mood). But, around 11, I got bored and decided to just suck it up and do it.

I was originally going to make these pinwheel-esque Halloween cookies, but I didn’t have the time and, after thinking for a minute, decided to make Ghost Meringue cookies instead. I’ve made French Meringue cookies before, but I never got around to posting about it on here.

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Meringue cookies don’t require a lot of ingredients — just four egg whites, a cup of sugar, half a teaspoon of cream of tartar, and some vanilla extract.

And whipping. Lots and lots of whipping. (No, not that kind of whipping, you sick freaks. You should be ashamed of yourself. And your family.)

It was nice to forget about my problems for a while as I separated four eggs, whipped them into a nice foam, added cream of tartar and sugar a little bit at a time, and watched it form into nice, shiny, glossy, stiff peaks. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

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See? Ain’t it purdy?

They say stress can trigger cold sore outbreaks, and I’ve certainly been under a lot of stress lately. Baking can either help relieve my stress… or, sometimes, it can stress me out even more. Kind of a crap shoot, really. I got lucky this time, though, and nothing went too terribly wrong. …Except that I ran out of parchment paper. But I sprayed a bunch of Pam on my cookie sheet and hoped that would work.

And it did, mostly. About half of the cookies came off the tray without any problems, and the others… well. They broke. Even when I gently ran my knife under them to loosen, they still fell apart. These things are fragile, man. You gotta be careful with them.

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AWWWW, AIN’T THEY ADORABLE? They taste pretty good, too. This is a very unique type of cookie. Odds are you’ve never really eaten something like it. The texture is dry and thin and cracks in your mouth, but it’s also sugary and chewy and still tastes good, somehow.

But when I was taking photos of these little guys, my camera stopped and said “BLINK DETECTED”, then drew an outline around one of the ghosts in the back. W-what. Are… are these cookies haunted???? SPOOOOOOOKY!

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*insert Twilight Zone music here*

Have a Happy Halloween, everybody! Or, if you don’t celebrate, Happy Monday!

Meringue Ghosts

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup caster sugar (if you don’t have this, just use regular granulated sugar and it should be ok)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Pour your four egg whites into the bowl of your electric mixer that’s fitted with a whisk attachment (I didn’t use a whisk but you probably should, if you have one). Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until glossy, stiff peaks have formed. Put the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip, and pipe 2-inch mounds on a cookie sheet. You can press two candy eyes or mini chocolate chips in each mound right now for eyes, or pipe on eyes later.

Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the cookies are dry and crisp to touch. Turn off the oven and let them cool in there for a while. Then serve and enjoy!

Pumpkin Bar Cookies

I’ve got some bad news, guys.

I’ve developed a flour allergy.

You see, in addition to baking things in my spare time, I also work in a bakery. Not a legits bakery, mind you — you know, where stuff is made from scratch and everything — but still a bakery, nevertheless. Part of my job is setting up the bread dough for the next day. The dough is already pre-shaped, and I lay it out on trays, put it on racks, and stick it in the walk-in refrigerator.  One of the kinds of breads we have – kaiser rolls — has a lot of loose flour particles sitting around in the boxes, and I’ve been breathing this shit in for almost a year. A few months ago I started having intense sneezing and coughing sessions whenever I was setting up this particular dough.

Which is, you know. What a flour allergy is.

Some days are okay, with just a few sneezes and then it’s over. Other days, though — holy shit. Snot’s dribbling out of my nose and I’m sneezing five times a minute and I spend 10 minutes at a time in the back of the bakery, blowing my nose over and over and feeling like a huge pile of mucus-y crap.

I understand that this kind of allergy is common among bakers and people in the food preparation business, but it still sucks. I’ve even been considering getting a dorky medical mask to wear whenever I’m setting this dough up and seeing if that helps. That’s how bad it gets.

Don’t think this means I’m gonna stop baking, though! Fuck that noise, man. But after the fucked-up profiteroles from last time, I thought I should make something simpler again. Something I’ve made before but didn’t really get a chance to post on here — pumpkin cookies.

Some of you might remember last year, when I had that battle with the can of pumpkin while making pumpkin rolls. Happily, the tears and the fruitless hammering didn’t occur this time, and I was able to open the can of pumpkin by myself without having a mental breakdown.

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Amazing! See, I can learn basic tasks like using a can opener. Take that, aluminum cans! Ha ha ha!

(For some reason, I could only find canned pumpkin at Trader Joe’s. None of the other supermarkets in my area had any canned pumpkin, which is just an outrage!)

The story behind these cookies is… well, I tried making them last year, as, y’know, regular cookies, using this recipe from Bakerella. But what I wound up with was a huge goddamn mess and something more like blobs of cookie rather than actual cookies. It tasted amazing and delicious, but I was upset that I couldn’t share it with others. Then, my mom got the idea to put the dough in an 8×8 pan, and it actually worked! And it was amazing and I would’ve eaten them all if I hadn’t brought them to work and everyone else ate them instead.

It seemed only fitting that I make these again, seeing as how it’s fall and EVERYTHING IS PUMPKIN AND NOTHING HURTS.

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However, I modified the recipe for this slightly. Because I don’t have any pumpkin spice, and I didn’t feel like buying any, what I made to substitute is a teaspoon of allspice and 50 metric tons of cinnamon.

Well, all right, not that much cinnamon. But still a lot. And, to be honest, I never even measure it. I just dump a lot in there. A. Lot. Everything tastes better with cinnamon. Bacon probably even tastes better with cinnamon. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But it probably does.

I usually mix cookie dough together with my hands, but this time I changed it up and used my stand mixer. Except, um, it still didn’t cream the butter and sugar together properly. So I still had to do that part with my hands, but not for very long. I dunno, man, no matter what I do my butter never seems to cream with a mixer and I have to do it manually. I’m either doing it wrong or my mixers just suck. Maybe both.

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I should’ve been able to make these a whole lot sooner. But life kept getting in the way. The major hindrance was that my camera appeared to have broken last week, but thankfully it turned out I had just pressed the viewfinder button. Which is great, because I would definitely not have been able to afford to get it repaired! Besides that, though, it was mostly work and my reluctance to get up ridiculously early in the morning to make cookies. I could never be an actual baker, I don’t think, flour allergy aside…

Anyway, it wasn’t that bad making these in a mixer. It doesn’t really provide for a variety of interesting photos, but there’s only so many angles you can get of food anyway. Of course, I’m not exactly a professional or naturally gifted photographer or anything, so.

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It was at this point that the kitchen was filled a completely intoxicating, mouth-watering, delicious smell of cinnamon and pumpkin and autumn. Man, baking in the fall is the greatest. The weather is perfect, the trees with their orange and red leaves swaying the gentle breeze outside. The warm and comforting sweaters that hug your body as you eat apple and pumpkin flavored treats and sip tea. Autumn has a special kind of feeling to it, unlike any other season.

Plus, the bugs starts going away. That’s definitely a plus.

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IT’S SO SHINY!!!!!!!!

I think because I actually attempted to do this recipe mostly correctly, unlike last time when I just used Presto instead of self-rising flour (granted, I had to make the self-rising flour myself using baking powder and salt, but still), the dough actually came out the way it was supposed to. Which is why it took quite some time to bake in the pan, since these cookies are not supposed to be bar cookies. But too bad! I don’t play by the rules, man! I’m not a part of your system!

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And oh God. These cookies are so freaking good. They’re soft, and cinnamon-y, and pumpkin-y, and they have chocolate chips and asdfghjkl JUST MAKE THEM. YOUR TASTEBUDS WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.

I brought these to a showing of the infamous “film” The Room, which is the best worst movie of all time. Me, my hetero life mate Bonner, and her roommates all gathered around and cracked the fuck up at Tommy Wiseau’s undefinable accent and deplorable “acting” skills as we ate these awesome cookies. And everything was great, the end.

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Here is my modified recipe, if you’re interested.

Pumpkin Bar Cookies

2 1/4 cup of self-rising flour

1 tsp allspice

2 tablespoon cinnamon (add more or less to taste)

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar

1 cup  granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together the flour, the allspice, and the cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, then add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Pour in the vanilla extract, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Add the flour/spice in three additions, alternating with the pumpkin and ending with the flour. Dump in all the chocolate chips (yes, a whole goddamn bag, just do it and don’t question it) and stir. Spread the dough evenly in an 8×8 pan that’s either been sprayed with cooking spray or buttered, and store the rest in a covered container in the fridge for later use. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Let cool completely, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and flip the cookies onto a plate. Turn right side up and slice into squares. Serve and enjoy!