Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies

Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesSeeing all my friends’ kids’ back-to-school photos these last few weeks, I’ve been reminiscing about my own school days. I don’t know that we took First Day photos (my parents rarely remembered a camera), but that’s okay because all my first days were pretty similar. I mean, I went to the same school K-12 and wore the same uniform for all but one semester of that time.

(Like many recovering private school kids, I have spent the last 15 years working through an aversion to plaid. I’m glad to say I’m making progress 😀 )Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesOne of my childhood chores was to pack my own lunch. I was/am skeeved out by lunch meat and was not yet allowed to cook with any regularity, so I packed a peanut butter & jelly sandwich damn near every single day.Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesYou don’t need me to explain the magic of a PB & J to you. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, salty, gooey, and satisfying. After thirteen years of eating them five days a week, I don’t eat many peanut butter & jelly sandwiches these days, but when I do, I fall in love all over again.Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesToday’s recipe, Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies, is a sweet little ode to that school lunch classic ❤ These fabulous layered bars begin with my tried-and-true peanut butter blondie base before being topped with a layer of jelly (or jam) and crispy, crunchy peanut crumble. They’re a texture-lover’s dream!Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesPeanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesPeanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesThe blondies are baked for 35-40 minutes before being cooled and sliced. I like mine a little on the underdone side, but you can bake them a few minutes longer if that’s not your thing. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with a pan of rich, dense, peanut butter & jelly deliciousness.Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesI find that chilling these bars in the fridge (or even the freezer) makes them easier to slice. The jelly layer will never be completely firm, but it shouldn’t be too messy to work with. And even if it is, who cares? It’s peanut butter & jelly—getting a little on your fingers is all part of the fun.Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies

Peanut Butter & Jelly Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 blondies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 cup jelly, jam, or preserves (I used strawberry)

Peanut Crumble:
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang on two sides. Grease with butter. Dust lightly with flour and discard any excess. Set aside.

Place butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Melt together in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Transfer to a medium-large mixing bowl. Stir in light brown and granulated sugars, followed by egg and yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt.

Spread the blondie batter in prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of jelly over the top of the batter. Use an offset knife (or the back of a spoon) to spread it to the edges of the pan. Layer may not be perfectly even—this is okay. Set aside.

Make the peanut crumble. In a small-medium mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together oats, flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and chopped peanuts. Pour in butter and stir until everything is moistened and clumps begin to form. Scatter mixture over the jelly layer, covering as much as possible.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until golden at the edges. Jelly will still be jiggly. Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack. Refrigerate until cold (I froze mine for an hour).

Use foil to lift blondies out of pan. Peel off foil and transfer blondies to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.Peanut Butter & Jelly BlondiesPeanut Butter & Jelly Blondies

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Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread WedgesIt’s never fun to come home from vacation, but I think I did it right this time. Returning over the holiday weekend left me ample time to relax, grocery shop, meal prep, put up all the new things I bought in Swan’s Island and Portland, and watch all of The Good Place season 2. I’m calling it a success.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Getting back into the groove yesterday wasn’t too terrible, but a piece of my heart is definitely still in Maine. You know, where it’s not 95 degrees.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Two days before I packed up to go home, my sister and I walked a good stretch of the North Road at a snail’s pace, picking upwards of a quart of tiny wild blackberries in about two hours. It might sound dull, but I can assure you that Eliot and I were anything but bored.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

The vast majority of the berries we found were the blackberries we expected, but we also spotted a blueberry patch and two teeny raspberries. All the apple trees were starting to turn, too. Maybe one day I’ll vacation a little later so I can enjoy them.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve written before about how I consider baking (and cooking) to be a form of active meditation; I feel the same way about foraging for berries. It’s easy to get lost in the simple process of plucking them from bushes and interacting with nature in a very tactile way. Berry-picking is probably the only time in my life where I am able to peacefully, fearlessly coexist with bees and that I’m not mad about a few good scratches from thorns. If anything, they’re little badges of honor.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

I’ve made pies with my foraged berries the last three years I’ve been on Swan’s Island, but decided to keep it easy this year, opting instead for these Blackberry Shortbread Wedges.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

They’re a slight adaptation of my Sweet Cherry Shortbread Bars (and their apple counterpart), this time baked in an 8-inch round pan. The resulting wedges (or bars or whatever you want to call them) are served up almost like pie, and have a thick, buttery shortbread crust that is difficult to stop eating. You could certainly serve these at room temperature, but my fellow vacationers and I preferred them straight from the fridge. There’s just something about the combination of cold, tangy blackberry filling and rich shortbread.Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

You’ll notice in the photos that I didn’t line the pan with foil or parchment—that’s only because I didn’t have any at our house. Instead, I greased and floured the pan and then sliced and served them directly from the pan. You may follow my lead here, or line the pan with foil and lift them onto a cutting board before slicing. I’ve written instructions for both methods in the recipe.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

However you choose to go about making these, I urge you to do so in these last weeks of summer. We saw pumpkins for sale as we drove out of Maine on September 1st, and while I am all for pumpkin after September 20th, I’m going to enjoy these end-of-season berries while I can.Blackberry Shortbread WedgesBlackberry Shortbread Wedges

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges
makes one 8-inch pan, 8-12 wedges

Filling:
3 cups fresh blackberries
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
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. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or line with aluminum foil, leaving overhang, and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make blackberry filling. In a medium mixing bowl, combine blackberries, lime juice, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, 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. Pour blackberry filling over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid. Spread berries into an even layer.

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

If your pan is on the shallow side, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to collect any light overflow. Bake 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 barely golden. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes, or until cold.

If pan was buttered and floured, slice and serve wedges directly from the pan. If it was lined with foil, use overhang to remove to a cutting board. Peel off foil before slicing and serving.

Leftover Blackberry Shortbread Wedges will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. They will soften over time.

Blackberry Shortbread Wedges

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Salty Pretzel CarmelitasI’m on the first of two back-to-back trips to Maine, but I’m popping in to tell you something important:Salty Pretzel CarmelitasYou should make these Salty Pretzel Carmelitas ASAP. Like tomorrow. Or tonight. Or right now. Call in sick, go get yourself some pretzels and a bag of caramels, and get ready to fall in love.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasOkay, maybe don’t skip work, but definitely do make some time for these. Salty Pretzel CarmelitasSalty Pretzel Carmelitas are everything. I’m not exaggerating. They’re sweet and salty…Salty Pretzel Carmelitascrispy, crunchy…Salty Pretzel Carmelitaschewy, gooey…Salty Pretzel Carmelitaseasy peasy bites of magic. Magic, I tell you.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasSalty Pretzel CarmelitasI really feel like I could just leave it at that, but perhaps you need a more convincing argument as to why you absolutely should make these this weekend.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasBut if two layers of salted, brown sugary, pretzel- and chocolate chip-studded cookie…Salty Pretzel Carmelitasand stretchy, glossy caramel don’t have you running to the kitchen, I don’t know what will.Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch square pan, about 9-16 bars

3 cups salted pretzels
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for sprinkling (optional)
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream

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

Place pretzels in a large zip-top bag. Seal bag and place on a counter or other hard, durable surface. Use a rolling pin or heavy pan to crush pretzels until the largest pieces are no more than 1/2-inch in length. This should yield about 1-1 1/3 cups crushed pretzels.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and crushed pretzels. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in melted butter—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in 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 half the dough (about 2 cups) 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 (you can speed this up in the refrigerator).

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. If you cooled them in the refrigerator, let them return to room temperature before slicing.

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.

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Cheesecake Blondies

Cheesecake BlondiesI have been debating for three days whether or not I should post these Cheesecake Blondies or use Independence Day as a “free pass” to take a rare blog day off.Cheesecake BlondiesCheesecake Blondies won out though, because they are the perfect treat to sink your teeth into while you watch the fireworks. Creamy cheesecake and chewy brown butter blondie in near-equal layers? Sign. me. up.Cheesecake BlondiesAnother great thing about these blondies? They are super easy to make and bake up in just 25 minutes!Cheesecake BlondiesThe most difficult part of making Cheesecake Blondies is waiting for them to chill. Those three hours can seem eternal, but they are completely necessary—nobody likes warm cheesecake.Cheesecake BlondiesOnce the chill time is up, slice up the blondies and revel in their cuteness. Chocolate chips have a way of making things more adorable, don’t they?Cheesecake BlondiesMake a batch of Cheesecake Blondies for your holiday cookout or pack a box into a cooler and take them on the go! You and your friends and family will love the combination of tangy cheesecake and sweet, brown buttery blondie ❤ Cheesecake BlondiesHappy Fourth of July!Cheesecake Blondies

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

Blondie Batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for scattering

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with foil and grease lightly. Set aside.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar to the brown butter and stir to combine. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula to stir in flour and salt, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Pour on top of blondie batter and smooth to the edges of the pan. Scatter additional chocolate chips over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, tenting with foil at the 15 minute mark or if anything begins browning too quickly. Blondies are ready when the cheesecake just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled. Let cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until completely cold.

Use foil overhang to lift blondies out of the pan. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Leftover Cheesecake Blondies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. For best storage, separate layers with wax paper.Cheesecake Blondies

Nutella Swirl Brownies

Nutella Swirl BrowniesHey y’all! I’m writing from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my baby sister (who is not a baby—she’s 30) is graduating from Harvard.

Yes, that Harvard. She’s wicked smart.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
I’m so proud of her and could write all about how incredible she is, but I’ve already done that twice. While she and her accomplishments are wonderful, I’m pretty sure you’re here for some Nutella Swirl Brownies.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
I don’t blame you. I’m pretty excited about Nutella Swirl Brownies, too.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
They’re exactly what they sound like: rich, chewy, fudgy brownies swirled with everyone’s favorite chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Nutella Swirl BrowniesNutella Swirl Brownies
The base is my very favorite recipe for Cocoa Brownies. It’s a foolproof no-mixer recipe that bakes up perfectly every time. The resulting brownies have just the right amount of squidge, and they’re only made better by swirling 1/2 cup of creamy Nutella right into the batter.
Nutella Swirl Brownies
Mmhmm.

So, in conclusion, sisters are great, Harvard’s great, graduate degrees are great, but Nutella Swirl Brownies are what’s really important…on this website, anyway.

Nutella Swirl Brownies
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 brownies

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

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the inside of an 8-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment 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.

Transfer batter into prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of Nutella over the top of the batter and use a butter knife to gently swirl it into the batter. 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. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan before inverting to release. Slice into 16 squares.

Store leftover brownies in an airtight container, placing wax paper between layers. They will keep for a few days at room temperature or up to a week in the refrigerator.

Nutella Swirl Brownies