"The thesis of the book was, how do I make people feel like they're baking something super cool, but make it super easy?" says Jesse Szewczyk, a food stylist, columnist for The Kitchn, and author of your favorite new baking book.
Szewczyk's brilliant new "Cookies: The New Classics" delivers on its title with mind blowing riffs on beloved favorites — that also happen to be entirely approachable to make. His snickerdoodles are made with brown butter and bourbon. His oatmeal cookies have Raisinettes. His cheesecake bars are savory. There are five recipes that you can make in a skillet. Even in the few that call for special ingredients, there are always a few suggested substitutions provided. (Don't want to find malt powder? Try Ovaltine!) And if you do experiment with a novel ingredient, Szewczyk gives you multiple ways to play with it. "A lot of times in the book, when those products are used," he says, "there's notes that say, "And if you have some left over, go to this page or go to this page, and these are great places to use them." In other words, this is a book that will get the people in your life begging for your famous brownies.
Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter.
I knew I would fall deeply in love with "Cookies" the moment I saw the chapter titles, with designations for recipes that are Chocolaty, Boozy, Fruity, Nutty, Tart, Spiced, Smoky and Savory. In other words, all the best flavors.
While my initial reaction to "Cookies" was to want to make every single thing in it, all at once, I restrained myself and started on the page with the words "Salted Absinthe Fudge Squares," because there's not a single word in there that I'm not into.
RELATED: Make this boozy creamsicle-inspired treat to feel like an indulgent kid again
Jesse's recipes are so good, so forgiving already, I almost feel guilty tweaking them a little. By all means, get this book and make everything in it to the letter. But if you want to go a little lower effort here, the microwave does a reasonable job of what melting chocolate over simmering water does. The chocolate turns out a little less glossy, but it also takes all of two minutes to come together. And for my version, the Amaro I had hanging around my kitchen steps in for the harder to find (although wonderful when you can) absinthe.
The result here is a beautifully decadent, truffle-like confection with a mysterious, ever so vaguely vegetal richness. Don't be so shocked — you like mint in your ice cream? Carrot in your cake? Same principle, except this is better because it's alcohol. These would be amazing at a grownup party; they're also exquisite just to have around and nibble whenever.
The chocolate is the main ingredient here so there's nowhere to hide — use a brand you really love.
Boozy No Bake Fudge Squares
Inspired by Jesse Szewczyk's "Cookies: The New Classics"
Makes 36 squares
- 3 1/3 cups (20 ounces) of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 3 tablespoons of absinthe, pastis, herbsaint, or amaro (I suspect sambuca could also be delicious here)
- 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
- Flaky salt (optional)
- Grease an 8" x 8" square baking ban and line with parchment paper with some overhang on all sides for easy removal.
- Add your chocolate, condensed milk, liquor, salt and vanilla (if using) to a microwave safe medium bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Stir.
- Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring thoroughly, until everything is just melted. It will likely only take another minute, so don't overdo it. It should be thick but a well combined.
- Pour into your pan and spread evenly. Top with flaky salt if you like.
- Leave uncovered to set at room temperature about 8 hours or so, then slice into 36 squares. I would not turn these down served with pretzels or potato chips.
More no-bake desserts we love: