Age is Just a Number

“14 (fourteen) is a natural number following 13 and succeeded by 15,” as the dictionary so helpfully explains. That’s one earth-shaking headline for you there, right? Try as I might to find something witty to say about the figure, some pop culture reference to connect it with, there’s just nothing particularly exciting about the figure. So here we are, the day of BitterSweet‘s fourteenth blogoversary, which is little more than a blip on the radar at this point.

Growing older isn’t easy, but as they say, it sure beats the alternative. Merely surviving for so many years in a world that’s constantly evolving, rewriting the rules of the game at every stage of play, definitely calls for some sort of celebration. Rather than writing at length about my navel-gazing and self-congratulatory blogging victories over the years, I’m raising a glass to you, my dear reader, for really keeping this crazy dream alive.

Tempting as it was to just keep on writing without proper acknowledgement of the milestone, that would be like forgetting your birthday, and I just wouldn’t be so cruel. Even if it’s an unremarkable age, a relatively unimportant number, you still deserve cake.

Little cakes for a little festivity; seems to fit the bill, don’t you think? Mini bundt cakes condense all the show-stopping beauty of a full, gargantuan baked good down into manageable single serving portions. Make a batch for a party, freeze extras for later, and never worry about either running out or over-serving. We can make this revelry even more low-key by fashioning the batter into standard muffins, for those seeking that everyday sort of sweet gratification instead.

Suitably unconventional for such a quirky little blog, gluten-free sorghum flour and maca powder work in concert to create a uniquely malty, nutty, toasted cereal flavor that plain malted milk powder could never replicate. Chocolate is a natural pairing with that nostalgic scoop shop taste, which is why I doubled down, employing both rich chocolate chips and crisp, crunchy cacao nibs. Decadent enough that there’s no need to gild the lily with frosting, you get the complete package in every bite. If you had to add a bit of extra sparkle, I suppose a gentle dusting of confectioner’s sugar wouldn’t hurt, though.

Should I have something more profound to share on this 1900th post on the 14th year of BitterSweet? Perhaps. Then again, I’d like to think that it’s just one of many more birthdays to come. We’ll have plenty of other opportunities to trade wisdom on aging gracefully, and sweetly.

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Seeds of Revolution

Ben & Jerry’s is making headlines so fast, you could get whiplash trying to keep up with these two men. No sooner than I hit “publish” on what I thought would be the ice cream review of the of the year, or at least of the season, did a brand new press release come flying through my inbox. Thrown in there as if it was a second thought, a little note to just slip under the door while no one was home, turned out to be a bombshell.

Beyond announcing another flavor, this was a brand new base entirely, never before seen in commercial ice cream production.

Sunflower butter.

No nuts, no dairy, pure indulgence.

If you were a fan of the original almond milk line from Ben & Jerry’s, you’re going to be disappointed… Because you’ll be deeply displeased that the entire range of flavors can’t be upgraded to this new base instead.

Almonds have enjoyed mainstream success for their established identity as wholesome, fairly neutral carriers of good fats and creamy textures. Sunflower seeds are the underdogs, with all those positive qualities, but none of the recognition. Masterfully blended with decadent flavors and extravagant mix-ins, I personally would have never guessed the seedy underbelly supporting it all. Not a hint of nuttiness, no matter how carefully I tasted, came though above the intended indulgences.

Coming this summer, keep an eye out for these three sensations that will rock your local freezer aisle and scoop shops:

“Milk” & Cookies (vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls):

Delightful doughy bites swimming in a frozen pool of non-dairy milk, slowly returning to a more liquid state, coating each morsel in a luscious cloak of thickened cream. Huge chunks of sandwich cookies jut out of every other spoonful, as if they hadn’t even been chopped before being loaded into the pint. The end effect is neither vanilla nor chocolate, but somehow, all the best components of the two all at once.

Crème Brûlée Cookie (burnt caramel with brown sugar cookies and salted caramel swirls):

Dirty blonde with a dark, mysterious edge, this complex little vixen is my new obsession. Though it sounds like a straight shot of sugar in a waffle cup, it manages an impressive level of balance with subtly bitter, lightly salted caramel, toasted and nutty, perfectly complimenting the seeded base. The interplay between gooey swirl and soft, fudgy molasses-flecked cookies makes every bite exciting, right down to the bottom of the carton.

Mint Chocolate Cookie (mint with chocolate sandwich cookies):

Fresh, bright, sweet peppermint cradles a fine mist of crumbled wafer cookies, interspersed by enormous cookie boulders. Treading the fine line between rich and refreshing, the overall experience is solidly one of indulgence.

These seeded pints are being added to the current dairy-free offerings, making 17 flavors in all for the truly lactose intolerant to raise a spoon to.

Binge-Worthy

Curling up on the couch to watch big ticket movies on the small screen is quite arguably America’s favorite pastime. Theaters are hurting as ticket sales plummet and uneaten popcorn goes stale, but it’s hard to compete with the instant gratification of home viewing. “Netflix and chill” is more than a libidinous euphemism, but a genuinely innocent evening activity, as 158 million global subscribers would agree.

Well, I don’t have a couch, nor a TV, but I do have a cozy queen-sized bed and fully charged smart phone. While movie night at Chez Hannah looks a bit different than most, it’s no less glorious of an event. Of course, snacks are a mandatory, essential element, no matter how how late the featured flick drags on. Unlike concession stand limitations, having a full kitchen at my disposal allows for every craving to be satisfied, hot off the stove or fresh from the freezer.

Naturally, as I work on my seventh cookbook, this one all about ice cream, I find myself wrapped around a frosty pint more often than not. Apparently I’m not the only one with such cool inclinations, though.

Connecting the dots, Ben and Jerry’s has just unleashed an exclusive new flavor, Netflix & Chilll’d, upon the world. Showcasing a peanut butter ice cream with pretzel swirls and fudge brownies, the conventional pint has been released alongside a non-dairy, certified vegan variation!

Not gonna lie, Ben & Jerry’s gave me the full hook up.

  • Fluffy slipper socks? Check.
  • Wireless bluetooth speaker? Check.
  • Double-wide stainless steel spoons? Check.
  • Insulated pillow with built in pint holder and phone stand. Oh CHECK yeah!

It should come as no surprise this dynamic duo knows how to chill, no holds barred.

What really matters most, of course, is the scoop itself. Finely ground pretzel pieces combined with the creamy peanut butter base evoke the sensation of biting into a creamy butterfinger candy bar. Notes of malt linger with each lick, compliments of the burnished pretzel’s surface. Soft brownie chunks give way easily into the ice cream, melting like chewy squares of fudge. Nutty, crunchy, gooey, and decadent above all else, I think the critics would give it a standing ovation, even if they had to crawl out from under the covers to do so.

Full of sweet and salty twists and turns, this pint plays out like a good drama with a happy ending.

Doodling in the Margins

When you’re ready to jazz up your sweets this holiday season, there’s more than just cinnamon in the spice rack. Snickerdoodles epitomize the power of this humble seasoning, bringing the full bouquet of warm, woodsy, piquant notes out to the surface, quite literally, by varnishing chewy sugar cookies with a crackled cinnamon coating. Though it’s hard to argue with that elegant simplicity, that tried-and-true method that children of all ages, including children at heart, adore, there’s a lot to be said for embracing the saltier side of the pantry.

No longer a crazy concept, adding just a pinch of salt to sweets is now the norm, embraced by wise bakers seeking to amplify the layers of flavors already in place. By emphasizing those saline crystals, even the most basic tastes take on greater dimension. Case in point: The pretzel. Without their darkly varnished exteriors sparkling with coarse salt, they would merely be dry bread sticks. Take the next step forward, adding crushed pretzels to the tender cookies we all know and love, and an equally startling, yet wholly satisfying transformation can take place.

In stark contrast to the supple cookie dough beneath, crunchy layers of everyone’s favorite bar snack turn this treat up to eleven. It’s the kind of cookie that has real staying power, after the other guests have gone home and the decorations are carefully packed away, after Christmas, New Year’s Day, and beyond.

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All That Glitters

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I find myself irresistibly attracted to all things that sparkle. Once the glint of something reflective hits my eye, all previous tasks go straight out the window. Be it a gemstone or a piece of aluminum foil, it must be examined, admired, possibly even cherished. I’m no magpie, but I do find myself with a conspicuous collection of gleaming metallic platters, shimmery eye shadows, iridescent glasses, and high-gloss nail polishes, just at a glance.

Following suit, I can’t possibly turn down any opportunity to indulge in a pinch of culinary glitter. This one, in the form of organic raw cane sugar, is entirely natural, too.

Coated in sweet crystals that catch the light, the tender bite and gentle, warm spice of soft speculoos cookies will be enough to lure in anyone, with or without a propensity to delight in all that glitters. Spread a thick layer of creamy speculoos frosting on top of that, and sandwich it with a second cookie, doubling down on that earthy golden glow is almost too much brilliance to take… Although, I trust you’ll find some way to manage.

Make space on your holiday cookie platter because these speculoos sparklers are all dressed up and ready to dazzle.

Inspired by the Florida Crystals Blogger Challenge, I’m betting that this recipe will be as good as gold. These sweet sprinkles brighten up countless recipes on their website, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram pages, but nothing quite like this. Making use of standard granulated, brown, and powdered sugars, the cookies radiate an almost effervescent sweetness, inside and out.

Even the word “speculoos” seems to sparkle, but if it doesn’t dance across your tongue in quite the same way, you could just as happily use creamy peanut butter instead. The results will be every bit as dazzling.

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