Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

Vanilla Malt Magic Bars

Vanilla Malt Magic BarsI must have a thing for sweetened condensed milk right now—this is the third post in a row that requires cracking open a can of the good stuff.Vanilla Malt Magic BarsCan you blame me? It’s just so versatile! If you want something to be smooth, creamy, or structurally sound without a million ingredients, sweetened condensed milk is probably the ingredient you want. See exhibits A, B, and C. And these brownies. And these cookie bars. Oh, and this no-churn ice cream. This one, too.

I told you, I’m a little obsessed.Vanilla Malt Magic BarsVanilla Malt Magic BarsVanilla Malt Magic BarsSweetened Condensed Milk is probably most popular as the key ingredient in Magic Bars (aka 7 Layer Bars, aka Hello Dollies). In those, it acts as a soft, chewy filling and a vehicle for various chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut. I don’t currently have a recipe for traditional Magic Bars—rest assured, you can find a million of them online—but I have taken the basic formula and put it on a blondie and made two chocolate variations, including Chocolate Malt Magic Bars! Today, I’m taking that recipe and giving it a vanilla malt makeover 😍 Vanilla Malt Magic BarsThat’s right—Vanilla Malt Magic Bars, y’all! They’re soft and chewy with a big vanilla malt flavor and a buttery cookie crumb crust. The filling is studded with white chocolate chips and broken pieces of Golden Oreo, and the tops are ever so slightly crackly thanks to the way sweetened condensed milk caramelizes in the oven.Vanilla Malt Magic BarsThese bars require just seven ingredients and come together quickly and easily…again, because sweetened condensed milk makes things a snap.Vanilla Malt Magic BarsOh, and they stay soft and delicious for days on end because…well, you know.Vanilla Malt Magic Bars

Vanilla Malt Magic Bars
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 12-16 bars

30 vanilla sandwich cookies (like Golden Oreos), divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup malted milk powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily grease a 9-inch square pan and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease again. Set aside.

Place 24 vanilla sandwich cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until pulverized. Add 5 tablespoons of melted butter. Pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Press into an even layer. Bake for five minutes, until set. Set crust aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk in malted milk powder and salt. Mixture will be thick and slightly grainy.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk mixture over crust. Use a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon to carefully spread into an even layer.

Break remaining 6 vanilla sandwich cookies into pieces and scatter over sweetened condensed milk mixture, followed by white chocolate chips. Bake for 30-32 minutes, tenting pan with foil at the 10 minute mark. Bars are done when the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Slice with a lightly-greased knife and serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.Vanilla Malt Magic BarsVanilla Malt Magic BarsVanilla Malt Magic Bars

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Coconut Cluster Brownies

Coconut Cluster BrowniesWhen I moved in with my roommate, I thought it would be a short-term deal. We were friendly, but didn’t know each other particularly well, and I honestly didn’t think we’d get along in close quarters—the original plan was that I’d live here for six months or so while I recovered from the end of a relationship.Coconut Cluster BrowniesFlash forward three years and I’m still here, living with the same guy. Turns out that an obsessive baker who mostly wears pajamas and a neat freak can, in fact, live in peace. And make each other laugh really hard.Coconut Cluster BrowniesBefore I get to the point and why this is relevant to Coconut Cluster Brownies, I have to say that this is not some sort of romantic announcement. Hahahahahaha absolutely not.Coconut Cluster BrowniesBut let me confuse you further by telling you that he got me a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a romantic gesture. We get each other things all the time—I sometimes make Super Sprinkle Sugar Cookies just because I know he likes them and I regularly find new jars of peanut butter on my baking bench because he sees them on sale and knows I’ll put them to use. In the case of the Valentine’s candy, we both happen to have a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate. High brow, we are not.Coconut Cluster BrowniesThe small Whitman’s Sampler that I received only had a few pieces in it, and I immediately determined the order in which I would eat them, one at a time, over the next few days. The caramel went first, followed by the buttercream and the ganache. The last one, the candy that I was the least excited about, was the Coconut Cluster. It was shaped like a peanut butter cup, but instead of being a filling enrobed in chocolate, it was a block of milk chocolate speckled with bits of coconut. As I went to eat it so I could toss the heart-shaped box, I didn’t expect much, but then I popped it into my mouth and suddenly became obsessed with putting this rich, simple chocolate-coconut combination on a brownie. And so, a month later, I did.Coconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster BrowniesThese Coconut Cluster Brownies are nothing more than my favorite Cocoa Brownies topped with a layer of milk chocolate coconut candy. The brownie layer is rich and chewy with a touch of salt, while the candy layer is chocolaty, coconutty and slightly soft from the addition of a few tablespoons of butter. They’re great at room temperature, but if you chill the brownies, the candy gets a little on the snappy side. This is heaven for a texture freak like me.Coconut Cluster BrowniesIf you love chocolate, coconut, and brownies like I do, you will want to hoard all of these for yourself…Coconut Cluster Brownies…but maybe set one or two or four aside for your friend who puts up with your late night baking and knows you well enough to know how you feel about sale-priced peanut butter and cheap chocolate. That’s a good sort of person to have around.Coconut Cluster Brownies

Coconut Cluster Brownies
brownie recipe adapted from Alice Medrich
makes about 16 brownies

Cocoa Brownies:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on all sides, and butter again. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Stir butter, sugars, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs one-by-one, mixing until they are completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla extract. Fold in flour and salt just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap the full pan on the counter a couple of times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

In a double boiler (or in 30-second increments in the microwave), melt chocolate and butter together. Fold in coconut. Mixture will be thick and heavily textured. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to spread mixture over brownies. Score chocolate with a knife for easier slicing. Top with additional coconut, if desired. Chill full pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Use parchment overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board and slice along score-lines. Serve, or refrigerate in an airtight container, layering brownies with wax paper to prevent sticking. Brownies will keep well for 4-5 days.Coconut Cluster BrowniesCoconut Cluster Brownies

Grapefruit Bars

Grapefruit BarsTexans love a ruby red grapefruit, and while I have not been a resident of my home state for more than a decade, my mid-winter citrus needs are still very real. Unfortunately, the window for finding spectacular grapefruit in NYC is alarmingly short—just a few weeks!—and so I am compelled to take advantage. It’s my duty as a displaced Texan. Or something.Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit Scones, Curd and Kolaches have all made appearances on this blog, and today I’m adding another recipe to my favorite winter citrus arsenal: Grapefruit Bars!Grapefruit BarsThese beauts are a seasonal spin on their more traditional lemony counterparts, but with all the sweet-tartness and vivid color of ruby red grapefruit.Grapefruit BarsNow, if you’ve ever cooked with grapefruit, you might have noticed that it tends to lose its natural color and tartness as it is heated. I learned to mitigate this last year while testing Grapefruit Curd, and bring some of the same techniques to making the filling for these bars.Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit BarsGrapefruit BarsHere, grapefruit flavor is added in two ways: first, by reducing a cup of fresh grapefruit juice by half, and then by rubbing zest into granulated sugar to release the citrusy oils. I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to ensure that the bars have a tart finish. The idea of omitting the lemon in favor of a “pure” grapefruit flavor is tempting, but I promise that leaving it out will leave you missing the acidic sharpness that makes these bars so singularly great.Grapefruit BarsThe sweet-tart ruby red grapefruit flavor pairs perfectly with the lightly-squidgy texture of the filling—it’s the sort of thing I daydream about sinking my teeth into. Really. I have caught myself thinking about the feeling of taking the first bite into a Grapefruit Bar more than a few times since I finished testing these a couple of weeks ago. Is that not normal?Grapefruit BarsIf not, I don’t want to be normal. Life’s too short not to daydream about the feeling of soft-set grapefruit filling and crisp, buttery shortbread between your teeth. It’s that sort of wholesomeness that makes this whole being a professional homebaker thing worthwhile.Grapefruit Bars

Grapefruit Bars
makes 16 bars

Grapefruit Filling:
2 large ruby red (or pink) grapefruits
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes

Topping:
3-4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides for removal. Grease with butter. Set aside.

Zest and juice grapefruits. Set aside 1 tablespoon of zest. Pour 1 cup* of the juice into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Mixture will be very crumbly and dry. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine grapefruit zest and sugar. Use your fingertips to rub zest into sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice, followed by eggs and egg yolk, and melted butter. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt. Add food coloring, if using. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.

Use the foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel foil from the edges. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars before serving.

Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days. Confectioner’s sugar will degrade over time—this can be remedied by sifting more over the tops.

Note:

If you have slightly more or less juice, that’s okay. Just reduce it to 1/2 cup, as indicated in the recipe.

Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit Bars

Monster Carmelitas

Monster CarmelitasWell, there goes one more January full of savory recipes (well, mostly savory). Loads of good weeknight meals, my favorite no-slow-cooker pulled pork, Cornmeal Biscuits, and fancied up pigs in blankets—all good things ❤ Monster CarmelitasI’ve gotta be real with you though: I’m glad to be back to making desserts. The annual sugar break was good for my mind and body, but I really missed serving up sweets! I’ve got some great new Valentine’s Day-appropriate recipes coming your way next week and there may be a couple more weeknight meals in the near future, but first…Monster Carmelitas.Monster CarmelitasY’all, these are a Super Bowl dessert, if I’ve ever seen one! Delicious and festive enough to celebrate a win, and just decadent enough for eating your feelings during a loss. Also, they’re handheld and don’t require anything more than a small plate or a napkin, so they’re perfect for snacking on in front of the TV 🙂 Monster CarmelitasThese simple-to-make bars are flavored with the popular “monster” combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, and oats. Oh, and they’re jazzed up with a layer of soft caramel in the middle. YUM.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas are a texture lover’s dream! The egg-free (!) cookie layers are buttery and a little crumbly with melty chocolate and crispy, crackly M&Ms candy coating, while the caramel layer tows the line between sliceable and pleasantly gooey.Monster CarmelitasI mean, does dessert get better than this?!Monster CarmelitasMonster CarmelitasNo. No, it does not.Monster Carmelitas

Looking for more “monster” treats? Check out my Monster Blondies! For more carmelitas, check out this Salty Pretzel variation ❤

Monster Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter
2/3 cup M&Ms candy
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease heavily with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, light brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it into the dry ingredients—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Set aside.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 2 1/2 cups of the dough into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.

Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack,

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas

Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread BlondiesIs anyone else having a hard time concentrating today? I feel like I’m free, but I keep having to remind myself that I still have to

  • make a dinner party tonight
  • frost a cake
  • zip uptown to Zabar’s
  • buy wrapping paper
  • wrap gifts
  • pack those gifts and all my stuff into a suitcase
  • get on a very early flight to Austin

WHEW.Gingerbread BlondiesBut first—Gingerbread Blondies. I promise they’re worth adding to your to-do list.Gingerbread BlondiesI mean, chewy, winter-spiced blondies with fluffy frosting and a jewel-like ginger garnish are basically always worth it.Gingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesLike Wednesday’s Eggnog Cookies, these holiday-perfect blondies don’t require any skills you don’t already have. Just whisk together a quick batter, bake it, cool it, frost, garnish and slice it.Gingerbread BlondiesBoom—all the sweet Christmas cheer your heart desires, ready to go in just a couple of hours.Gingerbread BlondiesThese Gingerbread Blondies are my last recipe post of 2018. I’ll be taking next Wednesday off to spend time with my family, but I’ll be back on Friday for my annual 10 Most Popular Recipes list.Gingerbread BlondiesIf you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a merry one! And no matter which holiday you celebrate (or lack thereof), I wish you all a sweet end to 2018.Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Garnish:
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I use turbinado)

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square pan, line with parchment, and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, and molasses. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt, and whisk until combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or 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.

While the blondies are cooling, make the garnish. In a small bowl, toss together candied ginger and coarse sugar. Set aside.

Make vanilla buttercream. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla and heavy cream.

Use an offset icing knife to frost bars. I like to do this in the pan so that the edges are clean. Scatter candied ginger garnish over the top.

Use overhang to carefully lift bars onto a cutting board. Gently peel back edges of the parchment. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into 16 bars, wiping the knife clean between cuts.

Serve blondies. Store leftovers in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. They will keep at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Gingerbread BlondiesGingerbread Blondies