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How to Throw a Fall Picnic & Dulce de Leche Brownies

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We were sitting at cocktails at 2 Birds 1 Stone in mid October, and I said “Hey! does anyone want to get outta town next weekend?” Miraculously, we all had vacancies on our calendars and were able to plan an impromptu girls trip to Airlie, a resort in Warrenton, Virginia. (Bitches on Vacay review forthcoming).

Between the fall funtivities at the resort, we headed to the Shenandoah for a hike. Everything I did that week had been uncharacteristically last minute, from the trip, to the packing, to the planning. I had a week that was more stressful than the usual levels of stress. To pack, I merely threw some plaid, denim and blazers in my weekender and managed to remember to bring my curling iron and always-at-the-ready toiletry bags.

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As I was leaving, I realized we should pack a picnic. I had been working at Compass Coffee, my favorite spot, where 7th Street Baking also resides. Laura of 7th Street makes the most phenomenal biscuits in butter, chocolate, and rosemary garlic variations.  Thus, I snagged some biscuits, a latte to go, and scuttled home to whip up a picnic in 10 minutes to spare.

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A quick jaunt to Whole Foods resulted in a variety of snacks for our picnic basket. Fortunately, Allison arrived with home-made trail mix in mason jars for picnicng and ziplocs fro hiking, she also made brownies. We threw it all in my picnic basket, I snagged a blanket I picked up in Peru, and brought along a beautiful fall bouquet from Urban Stems. (With sunflowers, rich red Gerber daisies, and cat tails, this fall bouquet is absolutely stunning).

We had a little bit of Southern, a little bit of Italy, and a little bit of France to pair with our biscuits. Because, if it’s good, why not? We served up Pimiento cheese, Proscuitto and the most amazing honey I picked up in a farmer’s market in Southern France. Airlie, our hotel, had left us with gift baskets filled with delicious lavender raspberry preserves and Virginia honey, which also paired nicely. It was a much-deserved carb fest.

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As biscuits simply weren’t enough indulgence, we dug into home-made Dulce de Leche brownies made by my lovely friend Allison. These babies were sinfully rich, dense, and moist—you certainly can’t eat more than one. Here’s her recipe for the sinfully delicious dessert.

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Dulce de Leche Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter + more for greasing the pan
  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 7 ounces prepared Dulce de Leche

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Over very low heat, melt the butter with the chocolate, whisking occasionally until smooth and melted.  Sprinkle in the cocoa powder, sugar, and instant espresso and whisk to combine.  Allow to cool for ~10 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. Gently fold in the flour until just combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it will be thick!) and smooth over until even.  Drop large dollops of dulce de leche on the surface and swirl through the batter with the smooth side of a knife.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  If still gooey, return to the oven for 5 minute increments until done.
  8. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Notes:  For thinner brownies or to avoid buying another pan, use a 9×13 inch baking pan and check for doneness around 30 minutes.

 

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