For 12 weeks this fall, I have spent my Tuesday and Thursday early mornings with eleven 3rd-5th graders as their Girls on the Run coach. Since practice is before school starts, my co-coach and I realized that the girls need a snack at the end of practice to get their schooldays started.
Snack has to meet the following requirements: (1) affordable, (2) healthy (one of the cornerstones of the program), (3) easy to serve to little girls outside at a park, and (4) no nuts. . . no peanut butter, no peanuts, no tree nuts of any kind!
Although all of these requirements have been challenging, honestly, (4) often stumps us. It’s not that there are any nut allergies on our team; it’s just the school’s policy, which we learned about when my co-coach brought granola bars one practice and the girls reacted like we were handing out candy cigarettes. Allegedly, a peanut butter sandwich once caused an evacuation at school?! I cannot imagine elementary school without peanut butter and butter (yes, butter, not jelly; I made my own lunches :)) sandwiches.
Our staples for the season were bagels (not well received when not accompanied with loads of cream cheese) and cereal bars (team’s favorite flavor: apple). But every so often, I tried to switch things up (and save a little money for objective (1)) by baking for the girls. With an eye towards objective (2), I’ve substituted oil with apple sauce and cut sugar in muffin recipes. To comply with objective (4), I made cherry almond bars . . . minus the almonds. In an attempt to make something heartier, I made corn muffins with bacon (similar to but slightly less adventurous than my Thanksgiving experiment).
My snack baking adventures have received mixed reviews from the critics. Thumbs up for the pumpkin muffins. Plus minus on the cherry almond bars depending on receptiveness towards cherries. And a resounding fail on the corn muffins:”Corn makes me puke.” “I don’t like corn in my cornbread.” “Why is there bacon in the muffin?”
All season, I’ve pretended like I can’t hear their demands for chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cupcakes, and, simply, chocolate. But for their last practice, I caved to the will of 11 little girls. Nut-free chocolate chip granola bars? Nah. Why bother with the chocolate at all.
After being introduced to the recipe (as printed in the L.A. Times) by my cousin years ago, and Recchiuti fudge brownies quickly became my staple brownie recipe and the only baked good that I actually crave to the point of making a batch for myself (it’s happened twice!).
This past spring, when I was in San Francisco, I stumbled upon the Recchiuti Confections at the Ferry Building Marketplace. I jumped at the opportunity to taste the original creations, and I must say, mine are strikingly similar (at least to my moderately discerning palate).
The recipe is simple– unsweetened chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, salt, sifted flour, and semisweet chocolate.
For this batch, I used 100% cacoa Girardelli chocolate, Hershey’s Special Dark (an Ipso Fatto baking tip for semisweet chocolate), and some sort of special unsalted Irish butter from Trader Joe’s (but I normally bake with Land O’ Lakes). I used a standing mixer for the eggs and salt but hand-folded the chocolate and flour into the batter with a spatula.
Needless to say, the girls were happy to have brownies for breakfast. I hope their teachers will forgive me for sending them to class with sugar highs at 8:30 A.M.