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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Two Sisters, Serial #16 and Spiderweb Swirl Fudgey Brownies

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Halloween is tomorrow (on a Friday this year–whoopee!). And you want to bake something that’s easy, quick, makes a splash and, most important, tastes good.

Well, Reading and Recipes has just the answer–Spiderweb Swirl Fudgey Brownies!

First of all, bookmark the brownie half of this recipe. It’s so easy and quick and rich you may want to whip up a batch of just the brownie part one night when you’re feeling the need for chocolate (just use a 5 x 7 pan and a shorter cooking time).

But don’t stop there today. Mix the pumpkin cream-cheese swirl and try your hand at piping. Go ahead–it’s not that hard. And if your spiderweb comes out a little lop-sided, who cares? I’ve seen lots of lop-sided spiderwebs, like the one that stuck to my head on the way out to the car this morning!

Then do the draggy knife thing, as few or as many times as you want. Go on–don’t be shy!

Into the oven, and there you have it–dessert for tomorrow night’s dinner or the school Halloween goodies table or the costume-party buffet.

Or turn out the front porch light, close the bedroom door, and curl up with a batch of these brownies and one of our stories. Two Sisters, Serial #16 tells of the climax to Brooke’s debutante ball experience (at least till next week)–give it a read or a listen.

And there are lots of other stories and chapters on this site, just in case you need more. It is a big plate of brownies.


spiderweb swirl brownies

Spiderweb Swirl Fudgey Brownies


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Pumpkin spiderweb swirl:

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg yolk

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

spiderweb swirl fudge brownies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 9 inch cake pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

To make the brownies, add the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt to a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is completely melted. Stir ingredients together until everything is incorporated. Allow this mixture to cool for about 5 minutes. Next, beat in the salt, vanilla, and eggs until well blended and the batter becomes smooth and shiny. Slowly stir in the flour until just mixed, careful not to overmix the batter. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared cake pan.

To make the pumpkin swirl, use a handheld mixer to beat together the cream cheese and egg yolk until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and cinnamon until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Last, mix in the pumpkin puree. The mixture will be thin. Spoon this mixture into a pipping bag or zip-lock bag.* Carefully pipe the pumpkin mixture into circles onto the brownie batter. (You will have some leftover pumpkin batter.) Once you pipe all of the circles onto the brownie batter, drag a knife from the center of the brownie batter through each of the circles, creating a spiderweb effect.

Bake the brownies for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the brownie batter comes out mostly clean. Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting. Cover and store leftovers at room temperature.

Makes 10-14 triangular brownies.

*To pipe the pumpkin batter using a zip-lock bag, simply cut the very tip of one of the corners of the bag. If the hole is too small, cut just a little more. You can keep cutting, but can’t add back. Once the hole is a good size, add the pumpkin batter into the bag, squeeze the batter towards the corner that you cut, and pipe away.

spiderweb swirl pumpkin brownies

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #16 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #16, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #16, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #15 and Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream

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There’s an earthiness to fall. Whether it’s going through a corn maze at the fair or raking leaves in the yard or watching apples pressed into cider at the farmer’s market or carving a pumpkin for Halloween, there’s something about fall that calls us back to the earth, back to nature and elemental origins.

This week’s Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream honors the season’s earthiness. Two of its main ingredients–applesauce and maple syrup–are the undiluted products of trees many of us can see in our yards or on our hikes. And the cake’s dark and dense richness seems to embody all that autumn represents.

But then that earthiness is wonderfully contrasted by the light and flavorful maple buttercream–still “of the earth” with the delicate maple syrup sweetness but tempered with the light richness of the whipped butter (indirectly “of the earth” via the intervention of the good old cow).

And so you have Reading and Recipes’ paean to fall–in a yummy dessert, the best kind of paean we know.

But if you wish to sample another season–as in the late spring of adolescent energy and optimism–listen to or read about Brooke and Leah as they get Brooke ready for her “coming out” at the debutante ball.

applesauce cake and maple buttercream

Applesauce Cake with Maple Buttercream


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg white

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

Buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

applesauce cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray.*

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Mix in the egg white until well incorporated. Blend in the maple syrup and applesauce until all of the ingredients are well mixed. By hand, fold in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until ingredients are just mixed in, careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream by whipping the butter until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat into the creamed butter. Next add maple syrup and beat into the frosting. If the consistency of the frosting seems too thin, add more powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate the frosting for 5-10 minutes before frosting the cooled cake.

Cover and store leftover cake or frosting in the refrigerator.

Serves 3-4.

*You can also make these into cupcakes. Divide the batter between 3 cupcake liners and bake the cupcakes for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting

{Cupcakes adapted from Bakeaholic Mama}

 Click below to listen to or read Serial #15 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #15, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #15, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #14 and Sweet Potato Crumble

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No, we’re not jumping the gun on Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes do exist outside of that casserole with the marshmallows and corn flakes on top.

In fact, I’m going to submit my vote for sweet potatoes as the most under-appreciated vegetable out there. Come on, gals and guys, let’s give this orange tater an ego boost and a sleek makeover.

But in a dessert?

Why not? Southerners–who know a thing or two about cooking–have been making sweet potato pie forever. And pumpkin–in many ways, sweet potato’s kissin’ cousin–is used in all sorts of desserts.

So–how about Sweet Potato Crumble?

We’ll start out by mixing the sweet potato with goodies like cream cheese and brown sugar (almost like we’re making that Thanksgiving casserole) but then add some chopped apples and dried cranberries for crunch and texture and a little zing, then top it all off with a brown sugar crumble topping. Pop it in the oven and you’re good to go–a new dessert on some old themes that has “fall” stamped all over it.

And those sweet potatoes will be strutting proud next time you pass them in the produce aisle (long as they don’t put on airs and decide to run for office).

sweet potato crumble

Sweet Potato Crumble

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 pound (about 2 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked, and mashed

5 Tablespoons brown sugar, divided

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1/2 cup chopped apples

1/4 cup craisins

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

sweet potato crumble1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 5×7 baking pan and set aside.

Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined. Evenly spread this mixture in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the chopped apples and craisins over top of the sweet potato batter.

In a separate bowl, make the crumb topping by combining 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and melted butter. Next, slowly stir in the flour until the mixture is thick and crumbly. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the crumb topping turns golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

fall sweet potato crumble

{Adapted from Kroger}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #14 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #14, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #14, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #13 and White Chocolate Fudge Cookies

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Wearied by the news lately? Seems like it’s all bad, with new threats from diseases and groups we hadn’t even heard of a few months ago.

Campaign ads got you down? If I hear one more I think I’ll run outside and throw myself off a thirty-inch cliff (that’ll show them!).

What if we could turn the world upside-down, make all the bad news good–turn new diseases into new cures, war and bloodshed into peaceful cooperation, negative ads into compliments of the opponent? Wouldn’t that be something?

Well, we’re just a little old sweets and stories website. But this quest for a new and better world has to start somewhere. So this week on Reading and Recipes we’re going to invert the normal order of things.  We’re going to take the normal chocolate-chip cookie, with its chocolate chips set in a “white” (or blondie) dough, and invert that order, making a fudge cookie dough with white (chocolate) chips. And for our story segment from Two Sisters, we’re going to see the younger and subordinate sister, Leah, step up and show the older and dominant sister, Brooke, how to be a mature and caring young woman. We’re turning our recipe and our story upside-down.

I know. It’s a small gesture. But we have to start somewhere.

And imagine for a minute if all that money spent on negative ads were spent on food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless, if all the money spent on arming opposing sides were spent on giving justice and stability and hope to those that have never had those basic rights.

I know–just a crazy idea. My brain must be addled from that jump off the thirty-inch cliff.

white chocolate fudge cookies

White Chocolate Fudge Cookies

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

black and white cookies

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Next, beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Slowly mix in half of the dry ingredients with the butter mixture. Add the milk and mix in before adding remaining dry ingredients. Mix until all of the ingredients are well combined; the dough will be very thick. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Cover and chill the dough for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with a Silpat mat. Scoop tablespoon size dough balls onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes. The cookies will look underdone and soft, but that is ok. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the cookie sheet. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 6-7 cookies.

white choc fudge cookies

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #13 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #13, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #13, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #12 and Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

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O.K. So the last five or six weeks we’ve been a little adventurous and had a little fun here on Reading and Recipes. Call it our end-of-summer/start-of-fall fling–you know, like when you had a big end-of-vacation bash that turned into a start-of-school bash and you didn’t even open a book until three weeks into semester. (I’d like to say I remember those week-long parties, but actually I don’t.)

So we’ve been partying here at R&R–dabbling with pumpkin, a new kind of apple pie, peanut butter ice cream (in the middle of the world’s best ice cream sandwich), quick and easy cinnamon rolls, frozen yogurt! If you missed any of these adventurous treats, they’re listed there to the right under Recent Posts or the September and August archives.

But now it’s October, the heart of fall; and it’s time to crack open the books, so to speak.

Here at R&R that means breaking out the oatmeal and the butter and the eggs and, of course, the chocolate (got to have a little fun in our back-to-basics emphasis). See–it’s all right there in the picture below: our R&R survival kit! Mix them all together along with a few other odds and ends then press it into a pan before you eat all the dough and throw it in the oven and voila– Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars!

Now you have some munchies for those long nights of studying or snacks for those afternoons at the park with the kids or sweets to put in that bag lunch for work.

Work! Where’d that come from?

Hey, can’t always be fun and vacation. Sometimes you just got to get back to basics. But we’ve got you covered here at Reading and Recipes, work or play.

Now get back to work.

oatmeal choc chunk cookie bars

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats*

1/2 cup chocolate chunks (I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate)

oatmeal chocolate chunk cookie bar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×7 inch baking pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and beat these ingredients into the creamed butter mixture. Slowly stir in the ground cinnamon, flour, baking soda, and salt, until all of the ingredients just come together. The dough will be very thick. Fold in the quick cooking oats and chocolate chunks until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Spoon the dough into the prepared baking pan and gently press to the sides of the pan to make an even layer of dough. Bake the bars in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until they just begin to turn golden brown. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool until warm to the touch before cutting. (The bars may sink slightly in the center–this is ok.) Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes 4 bars.

*If you only have old-fashioned oats on hand, measure out 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats and place in a food processor. Pulse the oats 4-5 times or until they become about half of their size. This can be substituted for quick-cooking oats.

oatmeal choc chunk cookie bar

{Adapted from Baking Bites}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #12 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #12, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #12, text © Jeffrey Anderson