I subscribe to several cooking magazines, and one of the best for dessert recipes is Cooking Light. Leafing through this magazine, which purports in its very title to focus on light foods, is an adventure in irony.
Often the cover photo is of some dish a person wouldn't eat if staying slim were the objective. Take, for example, the cover of the September issue, which features a chicken pot pie. This is not what I think of as diet food.
This is not to say that the magazine's editors are pulling a fast one, at least not a very fast one. At the end of every recipe is fine print containing the nutritional info, including calories and fat and carb grams. But even if I don't look at the numbers, knowing they are there makes preparing a comfort food seem noble.
In developing recipes, the editors substitute ingredients that have less fat, or they reduce the amount of sugar and so forth. In the pot pie example, the dish does not have a full crust. It does, however, use puff pastry, and the editors note that the vegetables in the recipe balance out the "indulgent" pastry to hold the fat content in the recipe to 30 percent.
So while the recipes appear to be better for you in some respects, no one who cooks from this magazine is feeling hunger pangs.
I am often drawn to the dessert recipes because they are straightforward and reliable, not because they are light. When I think of dessert, I'm looking for something sweet and gooey, not health food.
One of the magazine's frequent light maneuvers is to call for the use of cooking spray to prepare a pan for a baked good - even though cooking sprays generally come in unrecyclable aerosol cans. When I encounter this recipe instruction, I usually grease the pan for good measure.
A Cooking Light brownie recipe I made recently suggests that each little square packs 145 calories (with the cooking spray). That's 145 light calories. Yum-yum.
This recipe calls for toffee chips, which I was unable to find in my supermarket. So I tossed two Heath bars into the food processor and made my own. That move probably blew the calorie info off the charts.
Oh, well. These brownies are easy and tasty. The coffee and toffee flavors give the finished product a bit of an edge that makes the brownies irresistible. So much for lightness.
Fudgy Mocha-Toffee Brownies
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup toffee chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine coffee granules and 1/4 cup hot water, stirring until the granules dissolve.
Combine butter and semisweet chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, or until butter melts; stir until chocolate is smooth.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; stirring with a whisk.
Combine coffee mixture, butter mixture, vanilla extract and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Add coffee mixture to flour mixture; stir just until combined. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with toffee chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 20 servings.