Monday, February 14, 2011

Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies

Just in time for Valentine's Day: Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies
I got the idea for these from the new Sunset cookbook, but I didn't make their recipe exactly. (Their recipe looks wonderful, but I wanted to adapt it. This is the charm of sewing or cooking your own things - you can change things to suit yourself.)

First I made the streusel topping. This involved sending Mr. Hunting Creek to his favorite ethnic grocery to get the Ibarra Mexican chocolate. (He also bought some shrimp ceviche and tomatoes and tortilla chips, but those aren't required for the brownies.)
Take one circle of the chocolate, and break it and then chop it into smaller pieces. I used a large knife to help this along, taking care to NOT chop my fingers. The chocolate is hard, so warming it slightly helped in the chopping - only slightly - don't melt it. Add that to the Cuisinart or mixing bowl. Chop until small - like chopped nuts.
In the food processor or bowl,add to the chopped chocolate, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar(it makes no difference whether it is light or dark) and 5 tablespoons butter.
Mix some more, until it looks crumbly. About 30 seconds or several pulses. Set aside - this goes on top of your brownies.

Then I made my brownies.

I adapted this recipe to my interpretation:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x 13" pan.
In a saucepan, melt the butter, then add the sugar and make sure it is all dissolved and melted. Turn off the heat. In a bowl mix the eggs, cocoa, salt, cinnamon baking powder, almond extract and vanilla. Blend that with the melted butter and sugar. Blend in the flour. I mix all of this right in the saucepan. Scrape into the prepared 9x13" pan. Sprinkle the Streusel evenly on top. I baked mine for 30 minutes. Your oven may be hotter or cooler - check after 28 minutes. They will be cooked and not goopy. Every one likes their brownies a certain way.
These received high marks from Mr. Hunting Creek, our 20 year old son and a visiting friend. They were great served with ice cream. They were also good with my coffee this morning, renamed into Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownie Coffee Cake. Hey, it's Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


When Mr. Hunting Creek brings in the mail, there is a giant pile of catalogs. Every day, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, J. Crew and others try to tempt me to buy their stuff. Mr. Hunting Creek says, "Hey, here's the perfect desk for your sewing room!" I look. It says: Inspired by streamlined World War II fighter planes, our desk is a shining swoop of metal, its shape mimicking the bent wing of a plane. Poised as if for take-off, it features a polished aluminum patchwork exterior accented with steel screws, built around a solid hardwood frame. Three canvas-lined shelves offer ample storage.
"It's not a real airplane wing", I tell Mr, Hunting Creek. "It's just inspired by one." Intrigued against my will, I read the rest of the catalog. As a furniture catalog it's not that exciting, but as a work of fiction it is pretty compelling. It's like a romance novel, but for furniture! Everything is inspired by French Church clock towers, or aviator jackets from WWII, or sun swept beaches at Normandy...any minute I expected Diane Lane and Richard Gere to show up and give each other meaningful glances.
Question: does this stuff sell furniture? If yes, can we expect to see this technique in other areas of retail? When I go to Safeway to get groceries, is my hot chocolate going to remind me of the heroine of Like Water For Chocolate? Will the jam have signs saying, "Inspired by English Teatime"?
We'll know the world is in the End Times when they start marketing patterns like this. Inspired by Mr Darcy's riding jacket the pattern will say. It will sell millions. You read it here first.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I need a new purse like I need a hole in my head, but these are sure cute and totally doable.
Looking at RTW is also fun, because I see where someone could replicate and dare I say, improve some current offerings.
For example this dress from Nordstrom:

Is pretty close to this McCall's pattern:

It would be fun to see how close you could get. Just a few minor tweaks, and you can brag to your sweetie that you "saved" $118.00.
It wouldn't take too much work to make an homage to this one for summer:

With this Vogue pattern:

I think I'd use this silk from Gorgeous Fabrics for my Tory Burch homage.
Or maybe this one. Mine would be nowhere near $350, so I'd have money "saved" for some cute sandals. "Saved?", I hear you saying. "Mrs. Hunting Creek, just because you didn't buy a Tory Burch dress, but made one instead, doesn't mean you saved money."
Foolish person. You seem to be unaware of the Law of Compensatory Cashflow. as explained by Calvin Trillin in his books.
Essentially, it works like this: I briefly consider buying a Tory Burch dress. It costs $350.00. I decide to make one instead. I have therefore "saved" $350.00, and I can use money to buy the pattern, fabric and shoes, and maybe get a mani-pedi with some cash left over. See how that works? Try it yourself. It's fun! It also works for cars and vacations. I admit Mr. Hunting Creek was slow to appreciate the law of Compensatory Cashflow at first, but now he's "saving" money everywhere himself with the same rationale. You can play too! Just look at the dresses online, make one instead, and we'll all be rich with "saved" money.