Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesHello, it’s me, your completely exhausted food blogger friend!

I’m writing this post on Friday night (wild life I lead, huh?), but by the time you read it on Monday, I’ll be at my parents’ house in Texas assembling a Porchetta (!) and giving their dog as many scritches and snuggles as she’ll allow. I’m looking forward to the break and the family time, and to making holiday food.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesIt’s been determined that our Christmas dinner dessert will be a Winning Hearts & Minds Cake, mostly for deliciousness and ease-of-preparation reasons, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an excuse to make these Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies, too. Thanks to their quick prep time and my mother’s love for any and all dried fruit, I’m sure she won’t object. She may, however, not exactly love me kneading dinner roll dough on her counter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesThe blondie base is so simple to make that I have the recipe committed to memory. Well, almost. I reduced the flour by a couple of tablespoons for an extra dense and chewy result and I don’t regret it one bit!Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesYou could put 1 1/4 cup of any mix-in you like in this blondie batter and it’d bake up beautifully. I went with chocolate chips, dried cranberries and candied ginger because I had a little of all of those in my cookie mix-in cabinet—it’s as simple as that. It helps, of course, that chocolate, cranberries and candies ginger are both beautiful *and* sweet, tangy, delicious holiday fare. I mean, are these calling your name like they are mine?Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesI’ll be taking this Wednesday off posting because it’s Christmas (duh). I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with good food and people you love. I’ll be back Friday with my last recipe of 2019 and probably some dog pictures.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan

1 cup water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup 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 + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup small-diced candied ginger
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

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

Plump the cranberries. Bring water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add cranberries. Let sit about 5 minutes before straining out water.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla, followed by flour and salt. Stir in dried cranberries and candied ginger. 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 25-27 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 three days.Chocolate Cranberry Ginger BlondiesChocolate Cranberry Ginger Blondies

Pecan Pie Brownies

Pecan Pie BrowniesIt’s Christmastime, y’all. I’ve got visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. And by sugarplums, I mostly mean these Pecan Pie Brownies.Pecan Pie BrowniesJust imagine a pan of rich, chocolaty Super Fudgy Brownies with a layer of pecan pie filling on top. That’s literally what these are. Look at those layers 😍Pecan Pie BrowniesDuring testing, I tried three different methods of adhering the pecan filling to the top of the brownies. The best, by far, is giving the filling a quick (3-5 minute) pre-cook on the stovetop to jumpstart the thickening. It’s very easy, but does require a sieve. Please don’t let that stop you though—I loathe sieving things, but this is pretty painless, and it beats the hell out of slicing up your brownies only to find scrambled egg bits or a thin layer of pecanless goo underneath. *shudder*Pecan Pie BrowniesOnce you’ve done the 15 seconds of sieving, you get to stir in toasted pecans and spoon it over some soft-set brownies and bake until…divine. Yes—that’s the only word for these. Chewy, fudgy, nutty and sticky-sweet without being cloying; let’s just say these are difficult to resist. I brought a box on my family vacation to D.C., and we chose them over fancy restaurant dessert for all but one night. That’s really saying something—we love fancy restaurant dessert.Pecan Pie BrowniesAs if these need more endorsement, Pecan Pie Brownies also happen to be gluten-free. There are no unusual flours or gums here—this recipe simply doesn’t require gluten-containing ingredients. Inclusive holiday treats for the win!Pecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie Brownies would be wonderful as part of a cookie tin or holiday party spread, or for enjoying during a cozy Christmas movie night at home. I’m sure they’d work well left as a treat for Santa, too! I will say that, as a childless adult, they really hit the spot when eaten in PJs while watching The Crown and counting down the days until you head home for the holidays. You know, in case you were wondering.Pecan Pie Brownies

Pecan Pie Brownies
makes about 16-25 brownies

Pecan Pie Filling:
1 1/3 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup maple syrup or light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Brownies:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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

Scatter pecans on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

Make the brownie batter. Combine cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl, and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place butter and chocolate in heatproof bowl. When water comes to a simmer, turn heat to low and place heatproof bowl over the top. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir frequently until melted and smooth. Add sugar and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in dry ingredients.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a small mixing bowl. Use a whisk or fork to beat until a bit bubbly, about 1 minute. Whisk into chocolate mixture until smooth.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 15 minutes, until top has begun to set.

Make pecan pie filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together maple syrup (or corn syrup), brown sugar, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until bubbles are beginning to form at the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Mixture will barely thicken.

Set a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Pour filling mixture through to remove any bits of cooked egg. Fold pecans into filling.

Spoon pecan pie filling over partially-baked brownies. Bake an additional 30-35 minutes, or until the center barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Chill for 1-2 hours for clean slicing.

Use parchment overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board. Slice into 16-25 pieces and serve.

Leftovers will keep an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. These may also be layered with wax paper or parchment and frozen.Pecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie Brownies

Super Fudgy Brownies

Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}The world doesn’t need another brownie recipe, but I do. Sure, I already have two base brownie recipes in my archives and a few variations on them (Brownie Truffles!), but I was disappointed to realize a few weeks ago that neither has the shiny, crackly top that seems to always come with a boxed mix brownie.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}It hadn’t occurred to me that I cared about this until I was talking to a couple of friends about what makes a good brownie. Our notes were similar: fudgy, not cakey at all, not too sweet or light in color. But then they started talking about the paper-thin crinkly top on their favorite boxed mix brownies and I realized I had forgotten about that altogether.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}In my defense, I haven’t made boxed mix brownies in at least seven years—probably more like ten. But I’ve also probably eaten thousands of them, all lovingly mixed together and topped with pecan mosaics by my dad. Every last one of them has had a shiny top, and yet that has never factored into my from-scratch brownie-making. Truly, it’s never even crossed my mind! That is, until this brownie-centric conversation, after which I was consumed with the idea, as evidenced by the 60+ brownies in various states of shiny-crackliness currently taking up space in my freezer, and this pictured super fudgy, crinkled deliciousness.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}So, what produces that perfect top? Cooking/baking science wiz Shirley O. Corriher says it’s a thin layer of meringue migrating to the top during baking. Yes, meringue like in pie…but also not…?

I just confused myself. Let’s try this again.

Basically, meringue is a combination of egg whites and sugar. This combination is whipped to stiff peaks and use as a topper or made into cookies or used to make silky frosting. But that’s not the sort of meringue we’re talking about today.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Here, meringue is more…deconstructed. Essentially, sugar is whisked into butter and chocolate that have been melted together. This suspends the sugar in the flavor/texture base of our brownies. Dry ingredients are whisked in, followed by vanilla and a couple of eggs that have been beaten just until they’re starting to get bubbly. The batter is spread into a pan and baked for nearly half an hour, until just set.

Now, here’s where the magic (ahem, chemistry) happens. The air that’s beaten into those eggs? It’s super important, even though it just looks like a few bubbles. That incorporated air pushes a thin layer of egg whites (protein) upward during baking. That, in turn, lifts some of the sugar that’s been mixed into the fat, producing a thin layer of meringue or, as we think of it, a crackly top!Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Did that make sense? I think it sort of made sense. I am a C+ chemistry student, y’all. If I had known I’d spend so much time thinking about chemical reactions, I may have paid more attention.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}When you look at the recipe, you may notice that I use bittersweet chocolate in these brownies instead of the usual unsweetened chocolate. This is simply because I almost always have bittersweet chocolate (Trader Joe’s PoundPlus Dark Chocolate is my go-to) and almost never have unsweetened. When I want brownies, I want to be able to make them without having to go to the grocery store, you know?! I have reduced the added sugar in this recipe to reflect using sweetened chocolate. If you have (or prefer) unsweetened, just up the sugar to 1 cup.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Did I mention that these brownies just happen to be gluten-free? Where many recipes call for flour, the dry ingredients here are a combination of cocoa powder and cornstarch. The cocoa powder provides a little structure and an extra hit of chocolate flavor—yum. As for the cornstarch, you could definitely use an equal volume of flour in its place, but I like the smooth texture it provides here, the same way it does in cakes and cookies. Plus, it means more friends can enjoy these brownies. Yesssss 😊 Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}One last thing: this recipe is easy and requires just eight ingredients! I felt this warranted a mention because there is a lot of technical jargon in this post. But I promise these are easy. They’re soooo easy. And super dense and fudgy and delicious. And they have that perfect crackly top. And perhaps you too will soon have a freezer full of brownies. It’s a very good problem to have.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}

Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}
makes 1 8-inch pan, 16 brownies

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8″ rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.

Combine cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl, and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place butter and chocolate in heatproof bowl. When water comes to a simmer, turn heat to low and place heatproof bowl over the top. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir frequently until melted and smooth. Add sugar and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in dry ingredients.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a small mixing bowl. Use a whisk or fork to beat until a bit bubbly, about 1 minute. Whisk into chocolate mixture until smooth.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 28), until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs (not soupy batter).

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Use parchment overhang to remove to a cutting board. Slice into 16 pieces and serve.

Leftovers will keep an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. These may also be layered with wax paper or parchment and frozen.Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}Super Fudgy Brownies {Gluten-Free}

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsFor a short week, this one has seemed endless. There has been change and growth and letting go and construction and a migraine that began on Tuesday night and continued well into Wednesday afternoon.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsWhat I’m saying is that I could use a treat. Luckily, I have a refrigerator full of these Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars, which are the perfect chewy, gooey, crispy-edged, chocolate-studded sweet to counteract all the negative energy in my immediate vicinity.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsIn addition to being a perfect flavor and textural combination, these bars are super easy to make. The cookie layers are simply a chocolate chip cookie play on the crumb I used in my Sweet Cherry Sugar Cookie Crumble. It comes together in five minutes and only requires one bowl—score!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsA little more than half of the cookie mix gets pressed into the bottom of a 9-inch square pan. Then comes the salted caramel, which is simply a bag of soft caramel candies that are melted with salt and heavy cream.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsThe remaining cookie mix is scattered over the top of the caramel and then everything is baked until the edges are crisp and the caramel is starting to bubble up through the cookie crumble.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsLet your bars cool completely before slicing. If you try to cut them before they’re cool, you won’t get the satisfaction that comes with clean edges and beautiful layers (if not perfect evenness).Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsAnd that’s to say nothing of the buttery chocolate chip cookie layers and the gooey, salty caramel filling, which are a match made in dessert heaven. So, so delicious.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsI logically know that dessert is not going to change the world, but I can’t seem to look at these and see anything but goodness. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars can’t solve my problems, but four bites of salty-sweet caramel sandwiched between layers of crisp cookie can certainly help soften the blow, am I right?!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
makes about 16 bars

Chocolate Chip Dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 reaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Filling:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make the chocolate chip dough. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add vanilla and melted butter and whisk until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in mini chocolate chips. Set aside. Dough may seem crumbly.

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

Firmly press about 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chip dough into a thin, 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. Try not to leave any huge areas of caramel uncovered, lest it burn.

Bake full pan for 23-26 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Caramel will be liquid straight out of the oven, but will set as bars cool. 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.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsLet me take this moment to express gratitude for the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Did we need a remake of the 1961 classic? Probably not, but it’s enjoyable enough, and it introduced little 13 year-old me to one of the great duos—not Lindsay Lohan & Lindsay Lohan—peanut butter & Oreos!

I was already a big fan of peanut butter & chocolate (duh!), but Oreos were a game-changer. I’ve been finding ways to put them together ever since.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsBesides the obvious dipping of Oreos directly into peanut butter, I’ve paired the two in homemade peanut butter, cupcakes and blondies, and now Magic Bars!Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsThey have just four ingredients–Oreos, peanut butter, butter & sweetened condensed milk–and come together in less than 45 minutes. Oh, and they’re ridiculously easy and far more delicious than any baked good with four (!) ingredients should be.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsWe’re talking soft, chewy peanut butter filling and buttery Oreo crust here, people!Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsThose are two of my very favorite things. One of the great duos, if you will.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars

Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 12-16 bars

36 chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos), divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)

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 chocolate sandwich cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until pulverized. Add 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 and peanut butter.

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 or chop remaining 12 chocolate sandwich cookies into pieces and scatter over sweetened condensed milk mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, tenting pan with foil at the 15 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.Oreo-Peanut Butter Magic BarsOreo-Peanut Butter Magic Bars