Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Dopamine and Sweet Treats

I read an interesting article about high-fat foods and addiction. A recent study with rats has shown that the dopamine receptors in the brains of these rats were affected by high fat food in the same way their brains were affected by cocaine and heroin. Apparently foods like cheesecake and french-fries would cause these junk-food-junkie rats to walk over an electrified cage just to stuff their little rat faces full of pie. Of course then my mind wandered off to how these rats would behave if set free. Surely mouse with machine gunthey would go get tiny semi-automatic guns, hold up liquor stores and then alienate their rat friends and families in order to score some delicious chocolate cake or a McDonald’s happy meal. Then they would get busted and locked up in rat-prison or if they were lucky, rat-rehab. A tiny, fuzzy, high-fat dopamine induced tragedy just waiting to happen.

Then I got a little sad.

Then remembered that I promised I would lighten up a little this week with my AI.

So I decided to make some cookies and score a little dopamine rush of my own. And then I thought I would fill you in on a little known fact: Skepchick Jill hasn’t been seen much around Skepchick headquarters because she is busy blissfully baking cookies and has started a super-sweet cookie club complete with a blog! I recommend you check it out! And Jill, I recommend you get some tiny security cams because it’s just a matter of time before some tiny paws will be knocking on your cookie jars!

What is your favorite cookie or sweet treat? Recipes get bonus points!

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Chocolate Chantilly. Like a little chocolate love bomb for your mouth.

    Take 5 parts bittersweet chocolate (by weight) and 4 parts of any “water-type” liquid.

    Melt together over a double boiler while stirring. Once melted move whatever container you melted the chocolate in to an ice bath. Whip with a hand mixer until it sets up to a mousse-like consistency. This takes about 10 minutes. Pour into serving-containers like martini glasses and chill. As this stuff is remarkably intense 1/3 cup is a good serving size to start with.

    The key to this is the “water-type liquid”. I have tried:

    Water: good
    Brandy: better
    Imperial stout: yummy
    Orange vodka: Woah!

    The awesome thing about this is there is no milk to get in the way of the chocolate flavor and especially with the high-alcohol varieties each spoonful disintegrates almost as soon as you bite down like that water tentacle in The Abyss leaving nothing but flavor and goodness behind.

    More details here:

    The extra cool thing about this from a skeptical point of view is that this recipe came from Science News.

  2. Chocolate peanut butter pie. It’s about the one dessert that is both delicious, and easy enough for me to make:

    1 prepared chocolate cookie pie crust
    1 cup creamy peanut butter…… (about 6 heaping scoops using a tablespoon)
    8 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature)
    ½ cup sugar
    12 oz. container of Cool Whip, divided
    1 – 11.75 oz jar Smucker’s Hot Fudge Ice Cream Topping

    In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar. Gently fold in 3 cups whipped topping. Spoon mixture into the pie shell. Using a spatula, smooth mixture to edges of pie.

    Place hot fudge into microwave safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Microwave for about 20 seconds. Stir. Spread hot fudge over pie to cover the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until serving time.

    Just before serving, spread the remaining whipped topping over hot fudge layer, being careful not to mix the two layers.

  3. The most brilliant Valhrona chocolate cake ever. But if I gave you the recipe, I’d have to kill each and every one of you and then we’d be left with the idiots.

  4. Oh, so many to choose from. Here’s one of my favorite recipes. I haven’t made one in a long time, though.

    Chocolate Almond Marble Cheesecake
    2 envelopes graham crackers, crumbled, or 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs, or 3 cups of Oreo crumbs
    ½ c. butter or margarine, melted
    ¼ c. sugar
    ½ c. minced almonds

    Run crumbs through blender, adding almonds and sugar. Transfer to a bowl and fold in melted butter. Grease 10″ springform pan. Press crust evenly on bottom and halfway up the sides.

    2-8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
    1 c. sugar
    3 eggs
    1 tsp. amaretto
    16 oz. (1 pint) sour cream, room temperature
    6-1 oz. squares bittersweet chocolate

    Beat cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold in amaretto and sour cream. Pour ¼ of the filling into a smaller bowl. To this, stir in the melted chocolate. Then loosely fold chocolate mixture into remaining filling. Pour filling into crust. Draw a knife through the batter to marbleize.

    Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes, then turn oven off. Leave cake in oven 1 hour, do not open the oven door. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

  5. Chocolate chip cookie dough.

    So y’all keep talkin’ up yore fancy fluffy-whipped-caramel-fudge-cream-cheese-dark-chocolate pies with cinnamon-strawberry-toffee pudding-frosting, and I’ll sit over here with my $2 tube o’ friggin’ dough.

    Exception: booze. Advantage: @davew.

  6. …and this is the cowboy cookie recipe I mentioned on Jill’s site:

    Grandma Hill’s Cowboy Cookies
    ½ c. butter
    ½ c. shortening
    1 c. sugar
    1 c. brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2 c. rolled oats
    2 c. self-rising flour
    8 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or can do 16 oz. for extra-chocolately)

    Beat butter, shortening, and sugars; add eggs and vanilla. Blend well. Stir in flour, then oats, then chips (you may have to use your hands). Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 350°F for 10 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet.

  7. Easily my favorite:

    Ginger Rum Cake

    2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup molasses
    3/4 rum (Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum works best)
    1/2 cup butter, room temperature
    1 large egg
    1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan or spray with a baking spray with flour. Heat oven to 325°.

    Combine all ingredients.

    Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

    Cut into squares. Serve warm with whipped cream.

  8. Scotch-A-Roos: Fun peanut butter/chocolate/butterscotch combo with depth in flavor and feel that rice crispy treats lack .


    1 cup Karo Syrup
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup brown sugar
    7 cups Rice Crispies
    1-1/2 cup peanut butter

    In saucepan, mix Karo and brown sugar. Heat and stir until dissolved and just begins to boil. Take off heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir in Rice Crispies. Press mixture into lightly greased or nonstick 15 x 10-1/2 x 1” pan


    11 oz bag butterscotch chips
    11 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Melt chips for topping in double boiler and spread over Scotch-a-Roo mixture. Refrigerate and cut when firm.

  9. Am I weird for vastly preferring salty treats to sweet? If given the choice between a box of chocolates and a bowl of pretzels, I’m all over the pretzels. I like chocolate covered pretzels though, for what that’s worth.

  10. Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

    6 pints strawberry
    1 cup sugar

    Combine in a heatproof bowl, seal, and place above simmering water as in a double boiler. Cook for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid. The strawberries can be used for ice cream or whatever you like.

    1 lb. rhubarb, strings removed, cut about 1/2 inch thick
    2 cups of the above liquid
    1/4 cup sugar

    Combine in a freezer bag, seal, and place in simmering water until the rhubarb is tender, about 20 minutes. Cool in refrigerator.

    Serve with some strawberries, ice cream if you made it, and whipped cream.

  11. Ummm…don’t have a snappy name for it, or a precise recipe but it’s basically a baked apple.
    Starts with an apple, green or red depending on mood.
    Core it.
    Fill the core with butter, honey (or sugar or brown sugar), and some type of nut pieces (I like pecans, but have used peanuts, walnuts, and almonds – they all work)
    Toss it in the oven at 350 until it smells yummy.

    Whipped cream is optional.

  12. @Nicole: Alton Brown’s Paradise Macaroon recipe on is good too–dipped in chocolate and topped with macadamia nut.

    I go on a cookie-making binge every fall. My favorites: Cinnamon Spiced Ginger Cookies (like gingersnaps but chewy, recipe is at home, I am at work) and Garam Masala Oatmeal Cookies–add some garam masala to your oatmeal cookie recipe (also good with golden raisins tossed in). And buy the good stuff from an Indian market, not that McCormick’s sawdust from the grocery store.

    Way yummier than it sounds: Tofu Chocolate Mousse. Melt a bag of chocolate chips, throw it in the blender with a package of silken tofu, put in bowls and refrigerate.

  13. I make Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies. They’re pretty easy really. Just get a basic cookie dough recipe (as I understand it you can buy pre-made cookie dough in the US, which I am totally envious about) and squeeze a bit through a garlic press to make the ‘spaghetti’. Just like when you were little and played with playdo. Make sure you have separate garlic presses for cookies and garlic or your cookies won’t taste very nice.

    Shape the spaghetti dough into a cookie shape on your tray. Roll little balls of chocolate cookie dough (add some cocoa to your regular cookie dough), and press them on to your spaghetti.

    For the eyes, I usually just stick on some m&m’s but you could ice them on or make eyes with candy depending on your level on enthusiasm.

    As long as you don’t make the meatballs too big, the recommended baking time should be about right. Then you can eat them.

    Right now, I’m working on how to make cookies shaped like babies for our group’s Anti-Easter party. ‘Cause you know, Atheists eat babies.

  14. FUDGE!

    In a sauce pan heat:
    1 can of evaporated milk
    3 cups of granulated sugar
    3 tablespoons of butter

    Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.

    Pour over:
    1 1/2 large Hershey Bars or whatever translates to 10.5 oz. of Hershey Bars
    2 12 ounce packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 small jar Marshmallow Fluff (currently 7 oz.)
    1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

    Mix until it’s all melted and pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

  15. Pie! I make a mean apple pie. The secrets to orgasmic apple pie are: use both tart and sweet apples, do NOT macerate, use only a little sugar, and do NOT use butter in the filling- it muddies the appleyness of the apples.

    @Zapski: I have much more of a salt-tooth than a sweet-tooth, too. Salty-sweet foods like chocolate covered pretzels never last long with me around.

  16. Very chocolate biscuits:

    I make these in large batches, then freeze most of them uncooked so I can later have freshly cooked ones for minimal trouble. For a more normal sized batch, halve the quantities.

    500g butter
    200g sugar (best is soft brown, else castor.)
    2 eggs
    1 cup cocoa
    400-450g flour
    1/2 to 1 cup of chocolate bits (chocolate buttons cut in quarters or something of similar size.) (optional)
    Makes about 30 biscuits.

    Soften the butter, cream it with the sugar. Beat in eggs. Scoop your finger in for a taste. Mix in the cocoa. Taste another fingerful. And another. And another – quality testing is very important in this recipe. Perhaps once more, just for luck. Mix in the flour and chocolate bits. (Add flour until you have a dough rather than a sticky mess.) Roll into balls 2-3 cm diameter. Bake at 180C (350F?) for 10-15 minutes. (Cracks will appear late in the cooking, when they’re a few mm wide, they’re done.)

    Best eaten while the chocolate chunks inside are still semi-liquid.

    The result is rather like a dense very rich chocolate cake but in biscuit form factor.

    (This is based on a recipe for Afgans. Basically I’ve removed the cornflakes, added the egg and chocolate chunks, doubled the cocoa, then doubled the entire recipe.)

  17. Over the Xmas period here in the UK, they had a variety of Oreo cookies that were coated in white chocolate. They were so delicious and completely ruined my attempts to not put weight on over Xmas. Now they’ve stopped selling them, I may try and make them myself.

  18. Blueberry muffins. They’re a rare treat cause I can never get around to making them myself, and I don’t trust the individually wrapped, 2012 sell-by-date, monstrosities in the store. So I only buy them every other month.

  19. My favorite recipe is for Fudgy Moist Brownies

    4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
    2 sticks unsalted butter
    4 large eggs
    2 cups granulated sugar
    1 cup flour
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    melt butter and chocolate in microwave proof bowl 30 seconds at a time, stirring after until all chocolate is melted, (it helps if you break up or shave the chocolate first)
    let it cool a bit
    add the 2 cups sugar and mix with an electric mixer
    then add the 4 eggs, one at a time and mix until each is thoroughly blended
    add the vanilla extract
    add the 1 cup of flour
    mix until smooth
    pour batter into a greased and floured 8″ by 13″ pan
    bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes

    you can frost this if you like, but that seems overkill on these brownies

    One more thing, you can remove all the cholesterol, fat, calories, etc…from this recipe by being naked when you bake it, it worked for me so it should work for you.

    These brownies also make a better bribe then fresh donuts.

  20. I had to go through notes today and I came across this:

    Molasses-Ginger Cookies

    2 1/2 cups AP flour
    1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    Pinch mace
    Pinch ground nutmeg

    Combine the above in a bowl

    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
    1 cup dark brown sugar

    Cream the above in a separate bowl, then add 1/2 cup molasses and combine. Then add 2 eggs one at a time and combine. Add the following:

    1/4 cup buttermilk
    2 tbsp fresh OJ
    1 tbsp orange zest

    and combine. Then gradually add the dry ingredients from above until just combined. Add 1 cup raisins and combine.

    Spoon the dough 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4 for 12 to 15 minutes.

  21. Cookie dough cupcakes!

    1 recipe your fave cookie dough
    1 recipe your face cupcake batter

    make dough into 1/2 inch balls, freeze
    pour batter into cupcake pan, filling 2/3 of each cup
    place one frozen cookie ball in the center of each cupcake
    bake 375 for 18 minutes (not longer or you’ll get cookies instead of cookie dough in the middle)

    I frost them with cream cheese frosting.


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