Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

Basic Blondies

Basic BlondiesI almost feel silly posting this recipe—how many variations on blondies does one blog need?

But here I am, doing it anyway, because blondies are easy to make, require limited ingredients, and damn near everyone likes them—perfect for this time when all of us are staying at home.Basic BlondiesThis isn’t so much a variation on blondies as it is a back-to-basics. There are no wild flavors or mix-ins, just pure butterscotch flavor and chocolate chips.Basic BlondiesI’ve essentially used the same blondie recipe since 2010, but recently started cutting the flour in an effort to make them denser and chewier. At Christmas, I reduced the usual 1 cup by 2 tablespoons. Now I’ve taken it 2 tablespoons further, so the recipe requires just 3/4 cup flour. Not bad for a whole pan full of blondies!Basic Blondies
As promised last week, this recipe has a bevy of options for substitutions so you can make them with whatever you have in your kitchen. No brown sugar? Mix 1 cup of granulated with a tablespoon of molasses to make your own. In a pinch, you can sub the molasses with maple syrup, honey, agave, golden syrup or dark corn syrup. And if you don’t have any of those, just use your granulated sugar as-is and call them “platinum” blondies.Basic BlondiesBasic BlondiesUse whatever salt you have and are comfortable with. If you only have 1/2-1 teaspoon of vanilla to spare, that’s fine. You could probably get away with nixing it altogether. No parchment for pan-lining? Use foil, or grease & flour the pan.Basic BlondiesRegarding mix-ins, the sky’s the limit! Add whatever you want into your blondies—busted pretzels, chopped nuts, candy bar pieces, swirls of Nutella, a layer of cheesecake—or leave them completely plain. Whatever you want to use is the right thing to use.

As I’ve said many times before, take my recipe and make it yours.Basic Blondies

Basic Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 blondies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish and line it with parchment (or foil), leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Grease again. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla, followed by flour and salt. Check to make sure the batter isn’t too warm to the touch before stirring in chocolate chips (you don’t want them to melt).

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let blondies cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan, then use parchment to lift them onto a cutting board. Slice with a large, sharp chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.Basic BlondiesBasic BlondiesBasic Blondies

Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Oh, hello. Are you social distancing? Good—me too!

I have tons of baking supplies at the moment; I scooped up 20 extra pounds of flour when everything started to go to hell about three weeks ago. Before anyone scoffs, I’m not taking from others, baking is literally my job. I understand, however, that you may not have had a 10 pound bag of chocolate chips from Costco on your list, and even if you did, the likelihood that you actually got it is not great. But. But! You don’t need 20 pounds of flour or a gazillion chocolate chips or even to sacrifice eggs in the name of baking during this pandemic.

Real talk—if there ever were a time to bake, this is it. We’re all going to be home a lot; we are going to need things to do to pass the time. For better or worse, baking is entertainment, a way to redirect your mind, and it results in something delicious for you and your family/significant other/roommate(s). You’re going to need something to do between your Zoom meetings and burning through Love is Blind.

These are some of my favorite bare-bones recipes, meaning that maybe they don’t require eggs or can be made with different fats or use only the smallest quantities of everyday ingredients that are hard to find right now. These are the things you can make when you don’t have much in your pantry. I want you to get the most bang for your baking buck, you know? And in that spirit, all the recipes I post (and I will continue to post) for the foreseeable future will fit into these categories or come with substitutions.

We’re all in this together.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Oatmeal Blender Pancakes

These excellent pancakes just happen to be vegan and gluten-free, so you won’t need hot-ticket items like flour, butter or eggs to make ‘em. As long as you have oats, oil and some form of milk (plant or dairy)—oh, and a blender—you can make a shortstack in record time. Heads up that these freeze well and can be microwaved for pancakes on-demand.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Buttermilk Biscuits

I am happy to eat a biscuit any time of day. They take just a few minutes to whip together and can be on your table in about half an hour. Don’t want to sacrifice a whole stick of butter? Swap half for shortening, or try coconut oil biscuits. Cream Biscuits & Cornmeal Biscuits are also great options right now.

One great thing? Biscuits don’t require any eggs. They sure are delicious with them though.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Sour Cream Waffles

I have half a container of sour cream that needs a purpose, so I’m going to make some waffles this weekend. If you’re not in the same position, you can swap in some plain yogurt, or use buttermilk in place of both the milk and sour cream. I won’t be able to eat all the waffles at once, which is wonderful for future me. They can be frozen and reheated in the toaster when the mood strikes. Trust me, the mood will strike.

If you need your waffles to be gluten-free or vegan, try these Cornmeal Waffles.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Chocolate Chip Cookies

No dessert is quite as comforting as a chocolate chip cookie, and chances are that you have some chocolate chips or a bar that can be bashed up, thrown into some cookie dough, and baked. Don’t have cornstarch? Nothing terrible will happen if you leave it out. Same with vanilla. You can also swap all the sugar for brown sugar. I haven’t tried using all granulated sugar in this recipe, but if that’s all you have, you can use this cookie base, minus the sprinkles.

Heads up that cookie dough can be rolled into balls, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet and frozen. Once they’re frozen-through, put the dough balls in a freezer bag. You can bake the cookies from frozen at a later date, adding a minute or so to the baking time.

Don’t want to make a whole batch of cookie dough? You can make just enough to make one cookie!

Need your cookies to be vegan or gluten-free? Try these—you can swap in peanut butter in a pinch.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Vanilla Wafers

This was the recipe that got me into this whole baking racket. The ingredient list is short and sweet, but the recipe makes a ton of cookies and they keep forever.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}

This was almost a list without a cake—most require a lot of ingredients, including several suddenly-precious eggs. Boterkoek, however, requires just one lone egg and the remaining ingredients are almost all pantry staples, which is a win. Oh, and nothing terrible will happen if you leave out the almond extract and ginger.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Blondies

These are super easy and require just six ingredients (in small amounts!) at their most basic. Throw in whatever mix-ins you have or try one of the options in my archives.

My peanut butter blondies are super popular and can be made with regular chocolate chips and without the Oreos. Oh, and if you’re looking for the recipe that’s pictured, it’s not on the site quite yet—next week.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Brownies

Everyone loves brownies! Make ‘em with a gorgeous, glossy, and gluten-free, or swap out the dry ingredients for flour if you’re in a pinch. No chocolate for melting? Make cocoa brownies—feel free to simplify them by using all granulated or brown sugar. Heads up that brownies freeze incredibly well and are super delicious when ice cold.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Easy Raspberry Jam Squares

These squares require minimal ingredients (no eggs!) and you can make them any flavor you want. They’re somewhere between a blondie, an oatmeal cookie, and a linzer—a great recipe to have in your back pocket.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Magic Bars

I love a magic bar. They’re incredibly easy to make and can be made with damn near anything you have in your pantry, permitting that one of those things is sweetened condensed milk.

Don’t have cookies to crumble? Use crackers and a few tablespoons of brown sugar or try a blondie base. Only have one sort of topping? This is not a problem—just go with it! Magic bars are sort of…magical…that way.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Cornbread

Cornbread goes with everything. My recipe is naturally gluten-free, as it contains no flour, but if you’re running low on cornmeal, feel free to swap flour in for half the dry ingredients. Want to jazz it up? Add chorizo or jalapeños and/or cheese or herbs or bacon or…you get the point.

Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Pizza Dough

Pizza dough requires minimal ingredients and can be used for way more than just pizza. Brush it with oil and sprinkle with za’atar for za’atar bread. Top it with everything bagel seasoning for something to snack on or use with a dip or spread or under runny eggs. Brush it with butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar for dessert pizza. As for pizza, use what you have. Barbecue sauce and cheddar? Throw some chicken on it. Pesto and mozzarella? YUM. Really, your only limitation is your imagination.Friday Favorites: Bare-Bones Baking

Got any bare-bones baking questions? Hit me up on here or social media! I’ll be keeping it simple around here for the duration of this thing. I hope you and your loved ones are all okay.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake BarsAfter declaring that I was going to tackle my fear of cheesecakes (more accurately, the water bath/bain marie) last summer…well, I didn’t do that. I made you a bunch of other stuff though, so I’m not that sorry about it.

Perhaps this will be the year I make a real, mile-high, baked in a water bath, dreamy, creamy, wonderful cheesecake. But perhaps not. I’m going get my cheesecake fix either way though with these Oreo Cheesecake Bars.Oreo Cheesecake BarsNot only are they freaking delicious—Oreos + cheesecake, duh—but they are waaaaay easier to make than a traditional cheesecake. They bake in just 30 minutes and cool in 3 hours (seems like nothing when you remember that most cheesecakes require 8-24!) and require exactly seven ingredients. That’s right, all you need to make a batch of these of these bars are Oreos, melted butter, cream cheese, sugar, an egg, sour cream, and vanilla. And time. And a functioning oven. And a refrigerator.

But like, ten things isn’t much to ask when cheesecake is involved.Oreo Cheesecake BarsThese are incredibly simple to make and they’re the perfect treat to have in the fridge all weekend. Crumbly Oreo crust and a thin layer of tangy cheesecake studded with more Oreos and you didn’t have to use a water bath? Is this real life?!

Yes. Yes, it is. And it is delicious.Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreo Cheesecake Bars
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 bars

Crust:
24 whole Oreos
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 whole Oreos, cut/broken into shards

This recipe requires a 3 hour chill after baking. Plan accordingly.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil. Grease well. Set aside.

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into in even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes to set. Let cool a few minutes while you prepare the cheesecake.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg, sour cream, and vanilla, until mixture is smooth. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in Oreo pieces, holding back a few for the top, if desired.

Spoon cheesecake mixture over the crust and carefully spread to the edges of the pan. Dot the top with reserved Oreo pieces, if desired. Tap full pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the center just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool to room temperature on a rack. Chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. For cleanest slices, wipe your knife’s blade clean between cuts.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. For best storage, layer bars with sheets of wax paper. They may also be frozen for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Oreo Cheesecake BarsOreo Cheesecake Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares

Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresHappy Valentine’s Day ❤ If you are looking for holiday-appropriate treats, click here and here.Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresIf, however, you are over the heart-shaped baked goods—or, more likely, are looking for something to bake after Valentine’s Day is over—look no further than these very good, anything but boring, extremely square Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares.Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresWe’re talking about a thick, soft layer of cookie studded with miniature chocolate chips, topped with a blanket of chocolate buttercream, and scattered with more miniature chocolate chips. Always more chocolate chips, am I right?!Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresThese sweet squares are perfect for a multitude of occasions. They’re one of those recipes to keep in your back pocket for a game or movie night, class party, office break room pick-me-up, friend who needs a treat, picnic, casual birthday #stickacandleinit, or just…Saturday.Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresAnd while they are not red, strawberry-flavored, rolled into truffles or cut into hearts, I know I’d be hard-pressed to pass one up on this fine, frigid Friday Valentine’s Day.Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares

Chocolate Chip Cookie Squares
makes one 9-inch pan, about 16 squares

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup miniature chocolate chips

Chocolate Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
miniature chocolate chips, if desired

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

Make the cookie layer. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in light brown sugar, followed by egg and yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating just until combined. Add miniature chocolate chips. Dough will be thick.

Press dough into prepared pan with a silicone spatula. Bake 20 minutes, or until no longer wet-looking. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with only a few moist crumbs. Let cookie layer cool completely in the pan on a rack. Do not remove bars from pan.

Make chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Use an offset icing knife to frost bars. I like to do this in the pan so that the edges are clean.

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 squares, wiping the knife clean between cuts.

Serve squares. Store leftovers in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. They will keep at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Chocolate Chip Cookie SquaresChocolate Chip Cookie SquaresChocolate Chip Cookie Squares

Friday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a divisive occasion, but whether you love it or hate it, it’s a week away. I, for one, think any excuse to show people you love them is a good one, and you won’t be surprised to learn that I express love primarily through food (and videos of dogs on Instagram).

Here are some of my favorite treats from Valentine’s Days past. Look out for a new one next Wednesday!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayRed Velvet Cheesecake Bars

I may associate red velvet with Oscar Night, but most bakers like to make it for Valentine’s Day. These bars are much simpler to make than the traditional cake, and bypass the frosting in favor of a thick layer of cheesecake.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayStrawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

I’ll never understand why strawberries are so popular for Valentine’s Day. Who wants to eat a flavorless February strawberry?! That said, freeze-dried strawberries are good year-round, especially when pulverized and mixed into soft sugar cookie squares and buttercream. They provide both flavor and color here—these are food coloring-free!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Speaking of strawberry buttercream, that’s the name and filling of these homemade candies! The frosting is made and chilled before being scooped, rolled, and enrobed in dark chocolate.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayCoconut Cluster Brownies

I have a bit of a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate, which is exactly what inspired the milk chocolate-coconut candy layered on top of these brownies. I’ll take these over a heart-shaped box any day of the week!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

These Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread hearts are one of my favorite recipes on this site. They’re simple to make and the flavors are universally loved, and while you can make them in any shape you like, I think they are particularly adorable as half-dipped hearts.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Cut-Out Cookies

For all the class and restraint embodied in those shortbread, these cookies go in the exact opposite direction. They’re brash and bright and snarky and I l-o-v-e love them. Oh, and while icing is great, the rich chocolate cookies underneath are the real stars of the show.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year, and if you’re anything like me, making a fuss after a long workweek is not my idea of a good time, especially if it means I have to wear real clothes. Skip the fancy dinner and celebrate the morning after with a Chocolate Puff Pancake. It’s super delicious and easy to make and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas to make it.

Have you made any of these or any of my other Valentine’s Day recipes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayFriday Favorites: Valentine’s Day