A Mysterious Midnight Bite

Today we had another going away party at the office, this time to send off an attorney leaving for a judicial clerkship in Bangor, Maine. The guest of honor grew up in Florida and has been subject to merciless teasing about how she is going to survive the New England winter. Knowing ahead of time that our parting gifts would include a fleece jacket and a bomber hat with ear flaps, I was very tempted to make coconut cupcakes (a la the classic Hostess Sno Ball) to continue the winter theme. But I quickly thought better of it, as coconut is the most polarizing ingredient I know of in baking. People either love it or won't touch it with a ten foot pole. I recently discovered an amazing coconut cupcake recipe that was published in the LA Times Culinary SOS Column in March, but before that, I hadn't baked anything with coconut since 2002. It's always a risky proposition.

Instead, I decided to make Midnight Chocolate Brownie Bites, a recipe published in a feature on picnic food in last week's LA Times Food Section. (Not to be confused with another brownie in my regular rotation, Lisa Yockelson's Midnight Brownies from The Good Cookie, which are made with Milky Way Midnight Bars.) This recipe includes both orange zest and Grand Marnier, and I personally love the combination of chocolate and citrus.

The brownies baked up with a distinct and persistent orange aroma. I thought that the orange flavor was quite strong, but multiple people at the party couldn't figure it out and had to ask me what was in the brownies.

The brownies were semi-fudgy and cut beautifully. Sometimes people ask me how I manage to cut my bars into such even squares. The answer is that I always use a ruler. Also, I rinse my knife in hot water and wipe it dry between every cut. This is a time consuming procedure, but for someone obsessed with baked good aesthetics like me, I don't know how to do it any other way...