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Forget Winter With This Bright and Citrusy Chicory Salad

Forget Winter With This Bright and Citrusy Chicory Salad

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Whenever people tell me they hate winter, I think of the argument about having a dark side from the opening scene of When Harry Met Sally. Most people dislike winter in a casual Sally Albright way. Then there are those of us […]

Trevisano Radicchio Salad With Satsumas, Pistachios, and Calabrian Chili Vinaigrette Recipe

Trevisano Radicchio Salad With Satsumas, Pistachios, and Calabrian Chili Vinaigrette Recipe

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] Winter is generally a bleak period for produce, but there are a couple of seasonal outliers that aren’t root vegetables and are worth celebrating: citrus and Italian chicories. This salad balances the bitterness of Trevisano radicchio with sweet satsuma mandarins, ricotta salata, […]

Vicky and Stella: A Serious (Eats) Love Story

Vicky and Stella: A Serious (Eats) Love Story


[Videos: The Serious Eats Team, Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

At the Serious Eats office, there’s one thing we all know: Vicky and Stella are platonic soulmates. Can it feel a little exclusive? Sure. Are they the office cool girls? Pretty much. Do some of us wish we were part of their club? Yes, yes we do. But do we hold it against them? Never. Their friendship is inspiring, and seems about as rock-solid as their respective skill sets are impressive. But it would be an understatement to say that wasn’t always the case. Three years into working together, our visual director and pastry wizard rehash the birth of their love story.

[Graphic: Tim Aikens and Vicky Wasik]

Stella Parks, Pastry Wizard:

I refused to work at Serious Eats for three years.

I’d started with a weekly column back in the olden days, circa 2011, but gave it up after about six months because the demands of my actual job (full-time pastry chef) were already at odds with the demands of my future-job (cookbook author), interfering with the pursuit of my dream job (pajama-clad work-from-home internet columnist).

Periodically, Kenji or Ed would call me up to try and wrangle me back into the fold, but I found it easy to decline—especially as the years spent writing my cookbook stretched on (and on (and on)).

I didn’t have the bandwidth, technically or creatively, to put out the volume of content Serious Eats wanted from me, particularly on a subject as complicated as baking! And besides, I lived in Kentucky, which made the logistics a nightmare.

Even if I could take the job, they’d either have to hire a skilled baker to execute my recipes for step-by-step photos at the Serious Eats test kitchen in New York, or hire a local photographer to capture the process at my kitchen in Kentucky. Either way, hiring me meant hiring someone else, creating a cascade of expensive redundancies.

We all knew it wouldn’t work, however much we wished it could, and so that recurring job offer became the sort of toothless invitation bandied about by tipsy acquaintances at a dinner party.

“So fun to meet you, we should do it again sometime!”

Vicky Wasik, Visual Director:

I hated the idea of her.

I’d been working at Serious Eats for about a year and a half when the culinary team decided to expand by adding a pastry expert to our staff. A job listing went up, feelers were put out, but one name kept popping up: BraveTart.

I had questions. “Who is this BraveTart person,” for one. And, ”Why doesn’t she have a real name?”

I wasn’t familiar with her earlier column on Serious Eats since it ran before my time at the company, but Kenji and Ed wouldn’t stop ranting about how perfect she’d be for the job. The hitch? She lived in Kentucky and had no plans or desire to move to New York. But they were persistent, and continued to engage in “what if” discussions.

How would this work? Sure, Kenji had set a precedent of working remotely from the Bay Area and doing all of his own photography, but that wasn’t the case with Stella. Our site relies on pretty rigorous testing and step-by-step photography, so hiring Stella would be a huge headache, particularly since we didn’t have the budget to hire a full-time photographer to work with her down in Kentucky, either.

The next thing I knew, I was being asked, hypothetically of course, if it was possible to have someone come in to the test kitchen for one week a month to shoot the full month’s worth of recipes.

Sure, it was possible, but the idea of having to completely change my workflow and dedicate a full week to one person’s photo needs seemed crazy to me. (Mind you, I was, and still am, the only full-time photographer on staff.) I hemmed and hawed, but made my opinion clear: we needed to find someone based in New York! I didn’t know what a BraveTart was, nor did I care to find out. It wasn’t personal—I just didn’t want to deal with the added hassle.

Needless to say, I lost this particular fight. I was now promised to someone I’d never met for five days a month for the foreseeable future.

Stella:

“This is not going to work.”

It was February, 2016, and I’d ostensibly just started the first day of my new job. But instead of working, I’d walked a safe distance away from the Serious Eats office so I could rant to my husband on the phone.

I had five days to knock out photos for 15 recipes, but whatever day-one momentum I’d found came grinding to a halt when the whole office decided to waltz out for lunch, taking their photographer with them.

I’d already mise-d out my recipes for the day, so there wasn’t a thing I could do ‘til she got back.

At that point in my life, I was so indoctrinated by restaurant culture that the idea of a lunch break was neither expected nor welcome. It felt like being grounded, and besides, lunch hadn’t been a daily feature of my life since high school.

Who had the time?

The company-wide, lunchtime ground-stop notwithstanding, the day was off to a rough start. While I was baking, the photographer kept wandering off and it felt like I had to constantly corral her to finish the task at hand.

When she managed to stick around, she was chatting me up with the most ridiculous questions and, more importantly, it seemed like her attention would always drift to the wrong thing. Developing skill as a baker is all about learning to recognize the right visual cues, like the golden brown ring at the edge of a lemon meltaway, not the powdered sugar falling from the sieve.

The purpose of food photography is to showcase good technique, and I didn’t see the point in getting distracted by the pretty-but-meaningless moments along the way.

Vicky:

My first impression of Stella was, in a word, focused.

She mostly kept to herself while she got the lay of the land, but I did my best to be welcoming—inviting her to go out for lunch with me and some other team members, asking a lot of questions about what she was baking, and engaging in small talk between shots. But she was determined to bake like a fiend—she wanted to get 15 recipes shot that week!

For context, prior to this, my schedule usually had me on set doing photoshoots two to three days per week, with the remaining days dedicated to the rest of my responsibilities: editing all of the photos for the site, assigning projects to freelance photographers, researching stock images, and planning future photoshoots.

I needed any moment of downtime between shots to resume my computer work—I couldn’t afford to fall a full week behind on all my other duties. There was no way I was going to stand by her side the whole time to be at her beck and call. Since my desk was within eyeshot of the kitchen (read: IN the kitchen), it seemed pretty safe to walk away, especially considering that everything she made needed at least 20 minutes in an oven and then 30 minutes of cooling time.

Man, I thought, baking is boring.

I told her to let me know when she needed me, but I found myself constantly waiting and checking in with her only to realize she’d gone on to the next step without me. Speak up, lady!

It was pretty, though. By the end of the week, my general grumpiness about this whole situation was being replaced by appreciation and (gasp!) even excitement about photographing sweets. Colorful candied pistachios, bright lemon bars, and cascading powdered sugar?! A photographer’s dream!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to shoot a big old sizzling steak as much as the next gal, but this was a whole new world to explore since we’d never had a dessert person on staff. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Stella:

“What if we did a herringbone pattern?”

From where I sat on the floor of the Serious Eats test kitchen at 6pm, it seemed clear that Vicky Wasik was the sort of photographer who hated food in general, and me in particular.

All we had to do was make and photograph a simple, lattice-topped pie. This was a complicated recipe in and of itself; all pies are two recipes in one, with a crust and filling doubling the opportunities for something to go wrong.

The problem wasn’t making the pie, the problem was capturing step-by-step photography of the process without compromising the results. A lattice pie is essentially a sculpture made from buttery clay, a dough that softens to mush if it sits too long in the glare of camera lights while the “artiste” searches for the right angle. The act of weaving dough needs to move at a natural pace; if the process is drawn out, the dough may crease or break along the folds.

And even when everything else is perfect, once a pie goes into the oven some things are given up to chance. There’s no recipe that can guarantee some juices won’t bubble through the crust at an inopportune spot, or that it will brown evenly from edge to center.

It’s a tall order on its own, and food stylists are famed for making dozens of fruit pies just to get a shot of one perfect slice. A pie can look great in real life, yet not measure up on camera, much less look inviting enough to inspire readers to jump up and bake one at home.

But given the demands of my weird, cross-country commute, we only had time for one pie. That meant one shot to get it right, no mistakes.

Everything was ready, including the overhead camera that necessitated my position on the floor, and suddenly she was suggesting we reinvent the wheel.

This was summer 2016, well before Instagram rockstars like Lauren Ko would turn the baking world upside down with mind-bending lattices and weaves. At the time, a herringbone crust had never been done before.

There was no tutorial; I was armed with nothing more than her outrageous idea and my refusal to walk away. I figured any lattice is a pattern, and all patterns are predictable. Herringbone could be done, it could be predicted, it just needed some thought.

In the end, it took both of us to crack the code, but we did it; first with numbered strips of parchment paper woven on the floor, and then, very carefully, with real dough on a real pie.

It took an unbelievable amount of time and patience, and required a lot of clear communication, and still more patience. But looking back, it was the first time I saw Vicky as equally committed to a project, as my partner. Not only that, but it was her ambition and curiosity that drove us, challenging me to take a risk and try something new.

During the hours it took for the pie to bake cool, we ran out for a pizza and a bottle of wine. It felt like a date; we talked about our past and our families and our work, our favorite TV shows and music. And by the end, I’ll admit that I had decided she was pretty cool.

It didn’t hurt that the pie looked amazing, and that no one had done anything like it before.

Vicky:

I consider myself a pretty pragmatic photographer. Even though I strive to make every photo beautiful, I truly believe that the food comes first. That means no unnecessary props, and no manipulation of the food in order to make it more “camera-friendly.”

I’ve shot enough time-sensitive dishes—the kind that have mere moments before they completely deflate or lose a vital texture—to know that efficiency and speed are key. That said, I’m not a cook, so I rely solely on the food stylist or recipe developer to make sure I know what to look out for. I ask a lot of questions, which I know can sometimes come off as rude. “Is it supposed to look like this?” or, “Is there any way to make this…less beige?”

There are times, however, when I just can’t help myself, and the herringbone lattice was one of them. I knew she’d hate me for suggesting it. We’d been shooting pie all week and if there’s one thing I’d learned about pie dough, it’s that it is very unforgiving and time-sensitive.

But if she was going to own me for five days a month, I was damn sure going to insist we make some baller photos, even if that meant spending two hours on YouTube watching a guy weave some reeds together to understand the pattern.

I highly suggest this activity to anyone trying to lead a team building workshop, or even, as in Stella’s and my case, those going on a first date.

chocolate dipped biscotti

Stella:

I may be the one explaining the step-by-step process of every recipe, but the truth is Vicky has explained a lot to me about how people learn. She’s the one who notices the steps I gloss over, asking, “Wait, what was that?” or, “Is that important, or are you just being a snob?”

Often, it’s the questions she asks during our shoots that become the basis for the whole post; points I thought self-evident, or too boring to even unpack (“So, can you freeze raw scones?” or, “What is that stand mixer thingie you keep adjusting?“).

And, real talk, her demands cravings have all too frequently led to new recipes being developed for the site (here’s looking at you, gingerbread ice cream and pear galette). The kid’s got good taste*!

*Except for the time Vicky forced me to dip innocent almond biscotti in chocolate. It was gross. But I did it for her.

All is lost if I can’t explain to her why I need a certain shot and what exactly I want said shot to capture. That’s forced me to get over a lot of my own shyness and introversion. I’ve learned how to explain when the camera’s focused on the wrong thing, and that it’s my job—not hers—to provide that direction.

Other times, she’s there to remind me that baking is more than a fixed set of steps leading to a predetermined destination, but rather an experience filled with all sorts of lovely moments worthy of celebration, moments that make baking fun: the undeniable satisfaction of showering powdered sugar over a fresh batch of Mexican wedding cookies, drowning a coconut cake in glossy caramelized white chocolate ganache, or swirling cherry whipped cream over a chocolate cherry cake (a video we shot, in our pajamas, at my Airbnb just because it was too pretty to ignore).

Vicky:

Once Stella and I opened up to each other, the rest was, as they say, a piece of cake. We both finally admitted that neither of us were particularly thrilled about our arrangement, and the beauty of our relationship is that we both completely understood the other’s reasoning.

We could communicate and understand our own and each other’s limitations and frustrations, and it was never adversarial. We just knew that, in the end, this was a partnership, and for better or worse, we needed to make it work.

But really, we did more than “make it work.” I convinced her that a shot of falling sugar was necessary for the recipe. She trained me to recognize the hallmarks of a perfect crumb, so I could focus on what made a bread or cake or scone successful. While she used to be repulsed at the idea of taking a break from baking even to eat lunch, she now gets as excited as I do to shut down the set for 20 minutes to create a perfectly dark environment for a timelapse of bagels baking in the oven.

Because of extenuating circumstances (a longer story for another time), Stella and I found ourselves working out of rental apartments and kitchens for the better part of a year. Imagine being able to roll out of bed, walk next-door in your pajamas to an Airbnb, have coffee and some freshly baked cake ready for you, and spending the day taking photographs while hanging out with someone called BraveTart, all as part of your job. Jealous, huh? Well, it wasn’t always cupcakes and rainbows (although a lot of the time it literally was cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles), but it certainly forced us to get cozy and comfortable with one another.

These days, we’re more like a happily married couple than annoyed colleagues. I now look forward to every Stella week more than anything else, and not just for the unlimited desserts.

Stella:

At the end of the last day of my first trip to Serious Eats, Vicky gave me a hug goodbye, and, to be honest, I thought it was a trap.

I was raised in the south, so I can be as aw, shucks, let’s hug y’all! as they come—at least in social circumstances. But on the heels of an extraordinarily long and frustrating work week, from the arms of a born and bred New Yorker who kept her cool gaze behind the camera lens, I didn’t understand.

At best, I saw it as a gesture of goodwill, and at worst a calculated social signal so no one at Serious Eats could say she didn’t give our peculiar arrangement her best shot.

Three years later, almost to the day, I can see that suspicion was just my insecurity talking. I was out of my element in every way: hundreds of miles from home, living out of a suitcase, making the transition from restaurants to food media, working in an office building for the first time, and having to do so alongside a stranger in the fairly intimate environment of a kitchen.

For a week every month, we eat at least two (and often three) meals a day together, commute to and from work together, spend 40 hours in the kitchen together, and countless more shopping together (groceries! props! laser cat!).

It’s given me a chance to see that Vicky’s the sort of person who can be professionally skeptical, personally warm, and frank about both. It’s those qualities that have let us develop a friendship beyond the confines of our job; my time with Vicky is extremely structured due to the nature of my commute, but at the end of the day, when we should be sick to death of togetherness, we so often wind up grabbing dinner, or a drink, or midnight gelato, because while we may been working together all day, we still need a bit of time to be friends.

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Stock Up On Your Meats: D’Artagnan Is Having a 40% Off Flash Sale Today

Stock Up On Your Meats: D’Artagnan Is Having a 40% Off Flash Sale Today

Few things make us happier than a fridge (and freezer) full of meat. Several months ago we stumbled across a sale over at D’Artagnan and did some serious stocking up. This particular writer has been feeling a bit stressed that her sausage, steak, and venison […]

Easy, Peasy, Japanese-y: Benihana and the Question of Cultural Appropriation

Easy, Peasy, Japanese-y: Benihana and the Question of Cultural Appropriation

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] I love Benihana. It isn’t the food that does it for me; not the USDA Choice steak and certainly not the chicken (though I’ll admit I’m a sucker for shrimp of any kind, for Benihana’s bad dipping sauces, for the mushrooms that […]

26 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for a Sweet Valentine’s Day

26 Chocolate Dessert Recipes for a Sweet Valentine’s Day


[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

I don’t usually put a lot of time into dessert, but Valentine’s Day is an exception—the holiday just isn’t complete without something sweet. And when it comes to Valentine’s desserts, nothing beats chocolate (some on our staff even claim it has aphrodisiac effects).

There’s no better time to make the chocolate desserts you’ve been dreaming about all year, but have avoided for one reason or another. From meringue cake with raspberry sauce to the most intense dark chocolate ice cream and the ultimate chocolate chip cookies, we have 26 chocolate-heavy recipes to show your special someone how much you care about them.

Cakes and Pies

Devil’s Food Cake

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

There’s nothing quite like a layer cake to celebrate a special occasion, and this towering devil’s food cake is an impressive pick for a Valentine’s Day dessert. The best part is that this cake is a cinch to make: You don’t even need a stand mixer for the cake itself. All you need is one bowl, some good chocolate, and Dutch-process cocoa powder. If you want to really double up on the chocolate, you can frost the cake with chocolate Swiss buttercream, but you could also opt for contrasting layers of cake and tangy cream cheese buttercream. Either way, it’s a showstopper of a dessert.

Devil’s Food Cake Recipe »

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Chocolate Meringue Cake With Whipped Cream and Raspberries

[Photograph: Nila Jones]

This elegant dessert is deceptively easy to make—French meringue is simpler than other varieties and bakes right on top of the layers of chocolate cake. Once the cakes and meringues are baked, all you have to do is assemble them with whipped cream and a fruity raspberry sauce.

Chocolate Meringue Cake With Whipped Cream and Raspberries Recipe »

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Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

A vibrantly pink cherry whipped cream makes this layer cake perfect for Valentine’s Day. The whipped cream is flavored with powdered freeze-dried cherries, which have the added benefit of acting as a stabilizer. As for the cake itself, you can flavor it with either natural or Dutch process cocoa—the former will emphasize the dessert’s fruitiness, while the latter adds a pleasant earthiness.

Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake Recipe »

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Texas Sheet Cake

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

If layer cakes seem a bit too involved for a weeknight meal, this rich chocolate sheet cake is just the ticket (and you’ll still have plenty of leftovers). Slathered with hot fudge and topped with crunchy pecans, it gets added complexity and notes of toffee from the addition of some malted milk powder.

Texas Sheet Cake Recipe »

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One-Bowl Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake (or Cupcakes!)

[Photograph: Elizabeth Barbone]

Just because your valentine has dietary restrictions doesn’t mean you can’t make them an indulgent dessert. This gluten- and dairy-free cake gets a light crumb from a mixture of white rice flour and potato starch, and a rich chocolate flavor from cocoa powder and brewed coffee. The coconut buttercream is ultra-easy—and extremely delicious—because we make it with marshmallow crème.

One-Bowl Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake (or Cupcakes!) Recipe »

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Flourless Chocolate-Chestnut Torte

[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

A little more complex than your average chocolate cake, this flourless torte gets a deep, earthy flavor from chestnut purée and a shot of bourbon. There’s chopped dark chocolate, too, but we don’t use too much because we don’t want to overpower the mild chestnuts. You have two options for serving the torte: at room temperature it is almost as soft as a mousse, and when it’s chilled it turns dense and fudgy.

Flourless Chocolate-Chestnut Torte Recipe »

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No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Making a baked cheesecake is an exercise in patience—not only does it need about an hour in the oven, but it takes a good eight hours to set. No-bake cheesecakes take less time and are just as delicious, if a little denser. This simple chocolate cheesecake features a chocolate cookie crust and a filling of cream cheese, sour cream, and bittersweet chocolate.

No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe »

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Double-Chocolate Cream Pie

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Whipped cream has become something of a default topping for chocolate cream pie, but we don’t think it’s the best choice. Our chocolate cream—made with Dutch process cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate, and espresso powder—is seriously rich, so we prefer to top it with a light, mellow Swiss meringue for contrast. Combined with a flaky homemade crust, it makes for a dessert that feels at once over-the-top and refined.

Double-Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe »

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Chocolate Skillet Cake With Milk Chocolate Frosting

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Baked in a cast iron skillet, this rich, moist chocolate cake is the ultimate quick dessert. It doesn’t require any whipping, creaming, or beating, and the batter comes together in the very skillet you’ll bake the cake in. Finished with a generous layer of milk chocolate frosting, it doesn’t get much more delicious—or simple—than this.

Chocolate Skillet Cake With Milk Chocolate Frosting Recipe »

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Ice Cream

The Darkest Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This ice cream is chocolaty to the extreme—it hits the rich, comforting notes you might associate with chocolate while also playing up its bittersweet, fruity side. The secret is steeping tart, roasty cocoa nibs in the base. This ice cream might be a little more bitter than you’d expect, but hey—sometimes love is, too.

The Darkest Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe »

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Oreo Ice Cream

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

For something a little more approachable, Oreo ice cream is the way to go. The ice cream has a double dose of cookies-and-cream flavor because we make the base with Oreo wafers and mix in crumbled cookies at the end of the churn. You might expect it to just taste like chocolate, but the wafers give the ice cream a toasty, distinctly Oreo-like flavor.

Oreo Ice Cream Recipe »

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Soft and Rich Chocolate Frozen Custard

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Creamier than gelato and denser than ice cream, frozen custard is my personal choice for the ultimate frozen treat. Frozen custard is typically made with a professional machine called a continuous freezer, but at home you can get a similar texture by adding a little corn syrup to the cream- and egg-rich base. Frozen custard loses its unique texture within a couple hours, giving you and your valentine an excuse to eat the whole pint.

Soft and Rich Chocolate Frozen Custard Recipe »

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Cookies

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

You might not think cookies are fancy enough for Valentine’s Day dessert, but that’s only because you don’t know how incredibly delicious these cookies are. It took 100 tests for us to develop the perfect chocolate chip cookie, which uses chopped chocolate, browned butter, and an overnight rest. Can’t start dessert a day ahead of time? Our quick and easy chocolate chip cookies skip the resting step but are still sure to please.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe »

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Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

We don’t like to brag, but our resident pastry wizard created a true culinary masterpiece with these vegan chocolate chip cookies. Dry malt extract and nutmeg create some of the toasty, nutty flavors that traditional butter cookies develop as they brown. Fresh out of the oven, these cookies are crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. They’re vegan, but none of your dairy-eating friends will know—or care.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe »

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Homemade Oreo Cookies

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

We’re big Oreo fans here at Serious Eats, so this recipe is a sure way to our hearts. A dusting of Dutch process cocoa gives the wafers their signature dark color and, for reasons we can’t quite explain, 1/4 teaspoon of coconut extract make them taste more authentic. If you’re not sold on Oreos being Valentine’s-appropriate, make them into heart shapes to seal the deal.

Homemade Oreo Cookies Recipe »

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Dark Chocolate Easter Cookies

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

We first made these cookies to use up leftover Easter candy, but you can also make them by raiding a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. We use an extra dark, bitter dough to balance out the sweet chocolates—Cacao Barry Extra Brute is one of our favorites. We like to mix most of the candy into the dough, but then top each cookie with a piece or two before baking.

Dark Chocolate Easter Cookies Recipe »

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No-Bake Cookies With Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Chewy Oats

[Video: The Serious Eats Team]

You don’t even need to turn on the oven for this quick dessert—all you have to do is whip up a simple fudge on the stove, stir in rolled oats, spoon it all onto a pan, and let it chill. These will keep for a month in the fridge, so you can keep eating them long after Valentine’s Day has passed.

No-Bake Cookies With Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Chewy Oats Recipe »

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[Photograph: Emily Dryden]

Sometimes, size really does matter. To make this enormous, impressive, and utterly delicious skillet cookie, we bake classic chocolate chip cookie dough into a cast iron pan. A lower proportion of white sugar than our regular chocolate chip cookie gives this skillet rendition some extra chewiness, while a few teaspoons of malted milk powder take an already-fantastic dessert to the next level.

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Recipe »

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Other Desserts

Chocolate Ganache Truffles

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Few desserts say Valentine’s Day like chocolate truffles. To make them, we start with a ganache—melted chocolate and cream mixed into an emulsion. Once the ganache is set, all you have to do is scoop it into balls and coat them—rolling in cocoa powder works, but you could also use nuts or even melted tempered chocolate. However you choose to finish these treats, consider making an extra batch. They go fast.

Chocolate Ganache Truffles Recipe »

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Marbled Ganache for Easy Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Making truffles isn’t the only thing you can do with a ganache—an equally romantic option is to dip strawberries into it. This impressive marbled ganache is made by swirling dark and white chocolate ganaches together.

Marbled Ganache for Easy Chocolate-Covered Strawberries Recipe »

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Eggless Chocolate Mousse

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

We didn’t set out to make an eggless chocolate mousse, but when a condensed milk experiment went awry we were pleasantly surprised by the results—without the eggs, the bold flavor of dark chocolate can really shine. The recipe has two components—a chocolate base and whipped cream to fold in—and the base can be made ahead of time.

Eggless Chocolate Mousse Recipe »

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Homemade Jell-O Style Chocolate Pudding

[Photograph: Sarah Jane Sanders]

Mousse may be the fancier dessert, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Jell-O pudding. Unlike the original, our pudding is made with gelatin—despite the name, Jell-O actually gets its texture from chemical thickeners. Hershey’s chocolate will give your pudding the most traditional flavor, but I like the depth that comes from high-end cocoa powder.

Homemade Jell-O Style Chocolate Pudding Recipe »

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No-Bake Chocolate-Nutella “Cheesecake” Verrines

[Photograph: Nila Jones]

These verrines (essentially individually portioned cheesecakes) use chocolate three ways—we start with an Oreo crust and layer on both chocolate and Nutella fillings. The verrines are at their best after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, so plan accordingly.

No-Bake Chocolate-Nutella “Cheesecake” Verrines Recipe »

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Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

If there’s anything more romantic (and delicious) than cozying up with your significant other to sip hot chocolate and watch a movie, we haven’t discovered it yet. Instead of buying the cheap stuff at the supermarket, we make a big batch of homemade hot chocolate mix to get us into Valentine’s Day and through the rest of winter. The mixture of toasted sugar, white chocolate, Dutch cocoa, and malted milk powder is at once simple, rich, and sophisticated.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe »

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Glossy Fudge Brownies

[Video: The Serious Eats Team]

These brownies are fudgy, deeply flavorful, just sweet enough, and feature a crinkly, paper-thin crust. We call on dark chocolate, high-fat Dutch cocoa powder, brown butter, and instant espresso powder to give them tons of warm, nutty flavor. They’re the perfect gooey end to a romantic dinner, and you can easily make and store them the night before, so you don’t have to spend any extra time in the kitchen on Valentine’s Day.

Glossy Fudge Brownies Recipe »

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Crispy Chocolate Popcorn

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Planning to spend Valentine’s Day on your couch binging romantic comedies alone or with a significant other? We don’t judge. But we do think you’ll be much happier if you make this crispy chocolate popcorn in advance, and snack as you watch. You probably already have most of the ingredients on hand—butter, sugar, dark chocolate—to turn plain popcorn into a crisp, ridiculously easy candy.

Crispy Chocolate Popcorn Recipe »

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Potatoes Cooked in Brown Butter: So French and So Clean

Potatoes Cooked in Brown Butter: So French and So Clean

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] Almost every Christmas, my fiancée and future in-laws travel to France for a week to visit family friends, eat some good food, and exchange New York’s “I’m walkin’ here” charm for Parisian eye rolls and ennui. This past December I got to […]

French-Style Brown Butter New Potatoes Recipe

French-Style Brown Butter New Potatoes Recipe

1. In medium (3-quart) saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, swirling saucepan and stirring frequently with a heat-resistant spatula while butter hisses and pops. Make sure potatoes remain in a single even layer […]

The Best Extra-Dark Supermarket Chocolate Bars for Baking

The Best Extra-Dark Supermarket Chocolate Bars for Baking


assortment of extra dark chocolate

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Virtually all of my recipes for chocolaty desserts call for chocolate bars in the 70% range. In part, it’s because 70% chocolates are great for both snacking and baking.

But I also gravitate to that percentage because supermarket snack-food aisles typically offer a huge range of chocolates in the 70% range, most of which represent a major step up from the low-end options that are typically quarantined in the baking aisle.

Plus, the variety itself is a major boon: Mixing and matching different chocolate percentages, origins, and styles can produce a greater depth of flavor in dessert compared to those made with only one type. (Which isn’t to say one can’t focus on the profile of a single chocolate within a recipe! But, generally speaking, this works best when the chocolate in question is exceptional.)

I’ve written about my favorite supermarket chocolates in the 70% range, but it’s worth noting that all of those points hold true for chocolates in the 80% range as well. (You can read about my favorite milk chocolates for baking right here.)

chopping dark chocolate

It used to be difficult to find high-quality chocolates this dark without placing a special order, but whether I’m at home in Kentucky or visiting the Serious Eats test kitchen in New York, I’ve noticed my options have improved considerably over the past few years.

The selection will differ from store to store, but broadly speaking, these brands are relatively easy to find in major supermarkets (again: look in the snack, not the baking, aisle!), while ordering in bulk online will often bring their price down considerably. Don’t think of this as a comprehensive guide, but a jumping-off point for exploring chocolates in a darker style.

To learn more about baking with chocolate, visit our complete guide »

Madécasse 80%

While the cocoa beans themselves come from Madagascar, this bar is produced in Italy. It has a bright and fruity profile that’s distinctively tart, with enough sugar to keep the chocolate’s bitter, tannic qualities at bay.

It’s a pretty smooth experience overall; this chocolate would work well in any recipe with a citrusy profile or else as a sauce or accompaniment to contrast mellow desserts centered around flavors like almond, banana, or vanilla.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly. It’s easy to find at Whole Foods, but it can otherwise be ordered in bulk from Amazon or straight from the manufacturer online.

Theo 85%

Theo sources most of its cocoa from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo but manufactures its chocolate in Seattle. The bar has a texture that’s more tender than snappy, one that’s quick to melt on the tongue.

It has a woodsy sort of earthiness, with a finish that’s unexpectedly citrusy and bright. It would be right at home as part of a chocolate chip cookie blend or in recipes with plenty of sugar to balance its darker profile, like devil’s food cake.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly, and it’s fairly easy to find in major supermarkets or in bulk online.

Divine 85%

Divine is manufactured in Germany with cocoa beans from Ghana. While on the drier end of the chocolates we tried, it’s still creamy and smooth, with a subtle sweetness on the finish. It has a classic chocolate flavor that’s somewhat mellow, neither excessively bitter nor bracing.

This would be a good option for folks venturing into the eighties for the first time; it’s a solid, multipurpose chocolate that would suit almost any sort of project calling for a cocoa percentage this high. It’s creaminess would be ideal in a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies or smeared across the back of a homemade digestive biscuit.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly.

Lily’s 85%

Without any sugar at all, this stevia-sweetened chocolate is bracing and dry, with an intense chocolate flavor backed by a curiously floral vanilla note. I found Lily’s 85% to be a welcome departure from the typically low-end chocolates resigned to a sugar-free fate, and it would be great in any of my low-sugar baking projects that call for chocolate.

This chocolate is certified kosher and vegan-friendly, but it does contain soy.

Endangered Species 88%

When it comes to supermarket chocolate, Endangered Species is my top pick in almost every category, and its Extra Strong 88% bar is no exception.

Made with beans sourced from West Africa, this chocolate has a sweet and mellow vibe that’s a little nutty with a big vanilla aroma that stands out up front. While not as high in cocoa butter as some other bars, it melts smoothly and manages to feel more velvety than most, keeping its bitterness in check.

This is a great all-around chocolate for baking, especially in recipes where it can temper sweetness while taking centerstage, like my homemade brownie mix or chocolate chip skillet cookie.

Equal Exchange 88%

By working directly with famers in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru, Equal Exchange is producing some exceptionally well-rounded chocolate bars.

Its 88% is astringent and dry, yet rich and creamy as it melts. It has a chocolate-nibby character with some mushroomy depth that gives way to a strong vanilla aroma. It would work well in creamy, dairy-forward desserts, like hot chocolate, while its funky depth would be a treat when flecked through a scoop of homemade stracciatella.

This chocolate is soy-free as well as vegan- and kosher-friendly.

Chocolove 88%

Texturally, this chocolate feels more smooth and rich than many others, almost buttery (some might say waxy) in a way that may not be great for snacking but can impart a welcome smoothness in dessert. Chocolove 88% has a leathery aroma and a surprisingly sweet finish.

Thanks to its creamy texture, this would be a great option for the snappy chocolate shell of a homemade Klondike bar, where its intensity would shift the focus from the ice cream to the chocolate.

This list is by no means comprehensive; most supermarkets carry some unique regional gems, and local demand may make the selection in some shops better than others. Meanwhile, there’s a whole world of luxury and small-batch chocolate to explore. But when it comes to a simple batch of cookies, brownies, or a quick bite for a midnight snack, these supermarket finds won’t let you down.

This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.



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The Soufflé Omelette: Light, Fluffy, and Fun to Eat

The Soufflé Omelette: Light, Fluffy, and Fun to Eat

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] More Eggs Buying tips, techniques, and recipes, no matter how you like them. Answering the age-old question of whether the chicken or egg came first is easy—evolutionary biology tells us it was the egg. But trying to figure out the order of […]