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Shauna Sever's Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle


Aaaaaand, it's naptime again, which means it's time for another blog post written on the fly! (Cue lots of cartoon dust clouds and "peee-ow" acceleration noises as your heroine's fingers fly on the keyboard.)

I don't know about you, but my pantry is full of all sorts of things that routinely stump me when I open the door (here's looking at you, wasabi powder). Hidden among the cans of beans and glass jars of flours (and the wasabi powder) are various sweeteners that have made their home way home with me over the years, like brown rice syrup, two half-empty (what gives?) bottles of agave nectar, and various shades of brown sugar. I never really know what to do with them and I confess that the "clean eating" brigade actually put me off alternative sweeteners for years.

Enter Shauna Sever's Real Sweet, a cookbook about recipes made with all kinds of natural sugars, from coconut sugar to brown rice syrup, from muscovado sugar to maple syrup, from piloncillo to agave. Sort of like Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain, Shauna's emphasis is on teaching you about the different flavors, textures and properties that these sweeteners impart to cakes, cookies and other confections. It's not a healthy or "clean" baking book, just so that we're very clear from the start. It's a fantastic collection of really delicious treats, impeccably tested, written with humor and geared towards both child-friendly treats and sophisticated desserts. The book is organized around these treat categories, rather than the sweeteners, but there's a good index in the back that allows you to choose a sweetener and then see all the related recipes grouped there.


Shauna, who is my sweet and hilarious friend, has two young children, and clearly knows a thing or two about developing Grade A playground treats. But she doesn't dumb down any of her recipes and the book is filled with neat little fillips that elevate all of the recipes into Truly Special territory. The raspberry yogurt popsicles, for example, require lemon peel and vanilla bean, which make them deeply delicious for big and small alike. Shauna's also such a baking pro that the book is stuffed with all kinds of informational gems about baking that I've applied to other recipes with outstanding results. There are lots of hidden tips that will make you a better baker and a more confident one, too. Shauna even managed to develop two recipes for meringue (one soft, one crisp) and a recipe for confectioner's sugar without processed white sugar. Amazing.


I don't know about you, but it's very rare that I end up making more than a handful of things out of any particular cookbook. With this book, though, I can't seem to stop baking from it. I've made everything from tart blueberry fruit leather (agave syrup) to a soulful orange-vanilla pound cake (made with demerara, the batter beaten so long it resembled a gorgeously tan cloud by the end) to a buttery brittle topped with mixed seeds (brown rice syrup - and a candy thermometer, don't try this without one!) to those aforementioned raspberry yogurt popsicles (again, agave syrup) and I have several more recipes bookmarked to make this month alone. (If you must know: the Banana Butterscotch Cream Pie with evaporated cane juice, the Sunflower Seed Nuggets with coconut sugar and the Cracklin' Maple Popcorn with maple syrup, turbinado sugar, plus some molasses.)

The recipes were easy to follow, worked just as written and produced great results. I especially loved that nothing was too sweet or cloying. Shauna got the balance of flavors just right in everything. Shauna really understands the different flavors that these alternative sweeteners provide, as well as the textural things they can achieve (or not) and the recipes reflect it. She didn't just plug in brown sugar for white in a standard recipe. She really developed a whole slew of new recipes around the flavor of each sweetener.


Though I loved everything I made from Real Sweet, my very favorite is actually worth the price of the book (it's also the only thing I don't have a photo for; apologies!): Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle. This stuff is...well...insane. You make a thin chocolate chip cookie batter, then spread it out all over a baking sheet. Once it has baked and cooled, it hardens into a thin layer that you break apart into rich, buttery shards that taste like a heavenly mashup between the crisp bits of a chocolate chip cookie and a Skor bar (or any chocolate-covered hard toffee). It's delicious. It's ridiculous. You will not be able to stop eating it. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Thanks to Shauna, I no longer have any agave syrup in my pantry at all, but I do plan on never being without turbinado or coconut sugar again. And I love that I now have uses for maple syrup and honey beyond our weekend pancakes or Hugo's breakfast yogurt. Best of all, I'm a better baker because of it. Real Sweet will be on my shelves forever.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Shauna Sever's Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle
Adapted from Real Sweet
Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch pieces

14 tablespoons/200 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup/200 grams turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup/60 grams finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup/130 grams chocolate chips (50-70% cacao)

1. Heat the oven to 350F/180C.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together. Don't let the mixture come to a boil. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk for 1 minute, until the mixture is thickened and smooth and no longer appears separated. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour until well incorporated. Stir in half the nuts, if using.

3. Scrape the dough out onto an unlined sheet pan and pat it into a very thin, even layer with your hands. It won't look as if you'll be able to fill the entire pan, but you will; just keep patting and spreading the dough all the way to the edges. Use an offset spatula to give the dough a smooth finish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and remaining nuts, if using, over the the dough and press them lightly into with your hands.

4. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until light golden brown and slightly firm to the touch all over. Let cool in the pan for 3 minutes. Line a second sheet pan with parchment paper. Flip the slab of brittle onto the paper and then immediately peel off the parchment and invert it right side up onto a cooling rack. Cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

Jennifer Steinhauer's Field Day Poundcake


It's taken me about a year to want to bake again. After finishing work on Classic German Baking, I didn't want to even be in the same room as a piece of cake for a very long time. I don't know if it's stress baking (thanks, Trump!) or trying to find an ounce of external productivity in a life that is otherwise totally ruled by a sweet little butterball named Bruno, but I am very grateful to be finding pleasure in baking again, because it's about the only thing I seem capable of doing right now.

Last weekend I made Joanie's birthday cake for her picnic (the Kranzkuchen from CGB). We are feverishly planning Hugo's fifth birthday cake production next week (he gets to take one to daycare and there will be another one for his party and they will of course both be chocolate - but different! - because that is what he loves). I made these scones a few days ago and these cookies are on the docket for later today. I've been baking my way through this book and can't wait to tell you more about it. And last night, after the boys were in bed and with Max away on business, after reading James Comey's statement in advance of his Senate testimony and gnashing my teeth down to nubs, I made the Field Day Poundcake from the New York Times, which is every bit as majestic as Jennifer Steinhauer makes it out to be and a very good distraction from the outside world.

(What I don't understand is why the Times calls it Poundcake, as opposed to Pound Cake. Maybe one of you knows?)

It's gloriously simple, of course, just butter and eggs and sugar and flour, with a good splash of vanilla for flavor, some salt and a tiny bit of cream. Nevertheless, I made a few little tweaks that I'd like to pass on to you. First of all, per Jennifer's recommendation, I added a bit more salt than called for, about 1 1/4 teaspoons. I reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup and it was still plenty sweet. In fact, next time, I might even go down to 2 1/4 cups. This reduction didn't mess with the texture of the cake at all. I didn't use cake flour, just regular flour, and I didn't fold the flour in by hand, as she recommends, because my folding spatula was dirty and I was tired. I just switched the machine on low and beat it in gently. Same with the cream. One more thing, since Jennifer doesn't get specific about mixing times: at the start, make sure you beat the butter and sugar together until they're really light and fluffy, which takes about 5 minutes with a stand mixer. Then make sure that you beat each egg in for a minute. All this beating makes for a wondrous pile of cake batter, and, after baking, a gorgeous, even, velvety crumb. (This is just one of the great baking tips I got out of Shauna Sever's Real Sweet, mentioned above.)

I seem to have misplaced my Bundt cake pan so I used a tube cake pan, which I filled to the brim, but I still had a little leftover batter. So I poured that into muffin cups. (These, of course, bake for far less time than the full cake, just keep an eye on them and do the skewer test after about 25 minutes.) The cake was very tender when it first came out of the oven, but after cooling overnight it firmed up nicely. I plan on serving it this afternoon with sugared strawberries, while we watch the Senate hearing.


The world may be smoldering, but we will have cake.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Jennifer Steinhauer's Field Day Poundcake
Makes one Bundt cake or two loaf cakes

453 grams (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pans
600 grams (3 cups) granulated sugar (I only used 2 1/2 cups)
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
453 grams (3 cups) cake flour (I used all-purpose)
ΒΌ cup heavy cream

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously butter and flour one 12-cup Bundt pan or two 8.5-inch-by-4.5-inch loaf pans, and set aside.

2. Using a stand mixer, cream together the remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt.

3. Gently beat in the flour. Add the cream and stir just until thoroughly combined.

4. Pour the batter into the pan or pans and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack to cool completely.