Monthly Archives: October 2017

Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread BarsEvery year, I get so concentrated on making pumpkin treats that I nearly forget the other flavors of fall! That’s really a shame–what’s fall without maple, pear, sweet potato, and even grape?! I have recipes highlighting each of those flavors (and even more pumpkin things!) on the docket between now and Thanksgiving, but today, I’m all about apples.

Specifically, these Apple Shortbread Bars 🍎🍎🍎

Apple Shortbread BarsThese bars are an autumnal twist on a sweet cherry treat I made this past summer. They’re basically apple pie for people who don’t have the time and energy to make apple pie…like me right now.

Apple Shortbread BarsWhile I love the process of making pie (and eating pie, duh), I rarely have the time to do so. Between making and chilling the dough, preparing the filling, baking, and cooling, pie can easily be a 4+ hour commitment. Unless it’s a holiday, or I’ve somehow curbed my procrastination 😬😬, that simply isn’t going to happen.

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Bars are very mid-week-pie-craving-friendly. From peeling and dicing the apples…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto stirring them into a perfectly-spiced filling…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto making an easy four-ingredient brown sugar shortbread…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto assembling and baking…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto cooling, and slicing…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsthese bars take just a couple of hours.

Apple Shortbread BarsYep, that’s how you get your homemade apple pie fix on a Wednesday.Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 bars

Filling:
2 large baking apples,* peeled and 1/2-inch diced (about 3 cups of apple chunks)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make apple filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced apples and apple cider vinegar. Fold in light brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, light brown sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Spoon apples over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the apple layer.

Bake bars on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until browned. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let bars cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into squares. Serve.

Leftover Apple Shortbread Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to four. They will soften over time.

Note:

I like to use two different varieties of apple for a more complex flavor. For these bars, I used a tart Granny Smith and a sweet Honeycrisp.

Apple Shortbread Bars

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesWhile I am all about the Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake I posted on Wednesday, I’ll be the first to admit that it might be intimidating. I sort of live for complex recipes, but I totally get that a recipe involving making your own toasted hazelnut meal and relying on whipped egg whites for structure might not be for everyone 😬

Today, let’s keep things simple. Really, really, really simple. Let’s make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesY’all, this recipe is about as simple as it gets. To make these seasonal sweets, you’ll only need a bowl, a whisk and a silicone spatula. No mixer required!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesThis recipe is just a pumpkined-up (<–let me have that one 🙏🏻 ) version of my regular blondie recipe. Adding pumpkin pie spice is a no-brainer, but how do I get pumpkin into these cute little bars?! Easy–just omit the egg white (but keep the yolk!) and add 1/4 cup of pumpkin purée in its place! This keeps our blondies chewy rather than cakey, as pumpkin baked goods are prone to be. If you want cake, make my Pumpkin Bundt Cake–yes, I’m still obsessed with it.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesThe batter for these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies comes together in about ten minutes and bakes up in twenty. By far the most time consuming part of this process is waiting for the blondies to cool…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies…but it only takes an hour and it’s totally worth it. I mean, look at these clean edges 😍

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BlondiesYou’re going to love these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies! They’ve got all the chewy texture you expect from a great blondie, all the pumpkin flavor you want, and chocolate. Plus, you can practically make ‘em with your eyes closed!

But don’t, okay? 👀 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 blondies 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1 large egg yolk, room temperature 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease the foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Whisk in pumpkin purée and egg yolk, followed by vanilla. Add flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt, and whisk to combine. Fold in 2/3 cup of the semisweet chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Dot the top with remaining 2 tablespoons of semisweet chocolate chips. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.

Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use the foil overhang to remove them to a cutting board. Remove foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice blondies. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeI spent this past weekend celebrating my little sister, Eliot’s 30th birthday. We ate breakfast tacos and went to our first game at Fenway Park and laughed til we cried at least once. We also put on one hell of a birthday party in her Cambridge, MA, apartment, complete with lots of friends, a batch of salsa, and two of these Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cakes.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeEliot didn’t specifically ask for this cake. When we started talking about her birthday a few weeks ago, she said she’d be perfectly happy with Fluffernutter Sandwich Cookies or the Winning Hearts & Minds Cake we both love so much. After her summer in India, she’s discovered that maybe wheat isn’t for her, so her main request was that whatever I made be gluten-free. That was easy enough–I am all about flourless cakes. And chocolate and hazelnut is her favorite sweet flavor combination, so here we are.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeY’all, this Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is like a combination between a fudgy brownie and a jar of Nutella. Chocolate hazelnut overload! It’s very simple to put together and only has six ingredients: bittersweet chocolate, hazelnuts, eggs, butter, sugar, and salt. Yep, that’s all it takes to make this cake, but as with most recipes that have minimal ingredients, each one must be handled with care.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe chocolate has to be melted and cooled to room temperature.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe hazelnuts have to be toasted before having their skins removed and being blitzed into a fine meal.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThe eggs need to be separated and the whites have to be whipped to stiff peaks.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeYes, all of that must be done before the batter can be put together. None of those steps are difficult or time-consuming, but they are completely necessary–no shortcuts here!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeTo make the batter, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg yolks and hazelnut meal before adding the chocolate. Stir 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the batter before carefully folding in the rest 1/4 at a time. Pour it all into a buttered, parchment-lined cake pan and bake it just until a tester comes out clean.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeInvert it onto a foil-lined plate.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeRevert it onto a serving dish (or your favorite cake stand).

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeEliot wanted her cake served with a dusting of confectioners sugar, but I prefer it with a puddle of ganache and some more toasted, skinned hazelnuts.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeFlourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeSlice it up and try not to eat the whole thing.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeThis Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake is truly phenomenal. Chocolaty, hazelnutty (it’s a word today, okay?!), rich, but not too heavy–basically everything you want in a decadent dessert! Between testing, partying, and blogging, I’ve made five of these in the past week, and I am still having a hard time not sneaking bites and evening out edges.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeBasically, what I’m saying is make this, and/or come take cake #5 away from me 🙂🙃

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut CakeHappy birthday, Smel!

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
makes one 9-inch cake

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate)
6 ounces (1 heaping cup) whole raw hazelnuts 
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 
1 cup granulated sugar

Garnish:
3 ounces (heaping 1/2 cup) whole raw hazelnuts
7 tablespoons heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt bittersweet chocolate. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment and butter again. Set aside.

Place hazelnuts on a dry, rimmed sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Immediately transfer hazelnuts to a clean, dry, textured hand towel. Fold towel around the hazelnuts and then rub the towel with the palm of your hand. This will allow the hazelnut skins to loosen. This step does not have to be done perfectly.

Transfer hazelnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms. Set aside.

Place egg whites and salt in a very clean, dry large mixing bowl. Use a very clean, dry electric mixer on medium-high speed to beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until combined. Add egg yolks three at a time, mixing to combine. Add hazelnut meal in two installments, followed by room-temperature melted chocolate.

Use a silicone spatula to add 1/4 of the whipped egg whites to the batter, stirring as much as necessary to get them to incorporate.

Continue adding the whipped egg whites in 1/4 increments, gently folding them into the batter.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake 23-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Top may still be a bit jiggly, but it will set as the cake cools. Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Release the cake. Line a dinner plate with foil. Dip a small knife in warm water and slowly run it around the edge of the pan, dipping again as necessary, to loosen the cake. Place the dinner plate, foil-side down, on top of the cake pan. Holding on to both the pan and the plate, quickly flip them over. Remove the pan and the parchment. Gently place a serving plate, top-side down, onto the bottom of the cake. Holding tightly to both plates (but not so much as to crush the cake), quickly revert. Remove the foil-lined dinner plate.

Prepare the garnish. Place hazelnuts on a dry, rimmed sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Immediately transfer hazelnuts to a clean, dry, textured hand towel. Fold towel around the hazelnuts and then rub the towel with the palm of your hand. This will allow the hazelnut skins to loosen. Set aside to cool completely.

Warm cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, just until it simmers. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed until chocolate looks soft. Stir with a fork until smooth. Spread or drizzle ganache over the cake. Dot with toasted hazelnuts, as desired.

Chocolate will set a bit after 20 minutes. Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to three.

Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake