Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter CarmelitasSometimes you—and by “you,” I mean “I”—want a dessert that is purely about peanut butter. No chocolate or candy or jelly or Oreos—just peanut butter in all its glory. You could, of course, remedy this by going directly to the pantry and dipping into the jar with a spoon, or you could make a batch of these Peanut Butter Carmelitas. Peanut Butter CarmelitasYou should make these, period. They’re a peanut butter lover’s paradise! Two layers of crispy peanut butter cookie are sandwiched together with a thick layer of peanut butter caramel and then sliced into crumbly, chewy bars. It’s like someone—and by “someone,” I mean “I”— took my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and turned it up to 11. Oh my word, these are good.Peanut Butter CarmelitasThey’re easy to make, too! Start by mixing up a crumbly peanut butter and oat dough, tossing in some chopped roasted peanuts for good measure. Pack half of it down, and then drizzle on a bunch of caramel candy that you’ve melted with peanut butter and heavy cream. Mmhmm.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasFinish it all off with the remaining dough and then bake until the edges are golden and the caramel bubbles up in a few spots and then—and this is very important—let them cool completely.Peanut Butter CarmelitasI’m serious! Don’t be tempted to slice these (or any carmelitas) while they’re still warm. I know gooey peanut butter caramel is extremely tempting, but the mess isn’t worth it. I promise you that the middles of these carmelitas are just as enticing at room temperature. We’re talking soft, stretchy peanut butter candy magic, y’all.Peanut Butter CarmelitasYes, the caramel is the star of this show, but don’t sleep on those cookie layers. Crispy, crunchy, buttery, salty-sweet, crumbly cookie held together by caramel? Sign me up! These bars will crumble at bit when you bite in, but it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing.

Very good.Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 squares

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
1 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), roughly chopped

Caramel Layer:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
1/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1/4 cup 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 chopped peanuts. Set aside.

Combine caramels, peanut butter 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.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter Carmelitas

S’mores Magic Bars

S’mores Magic BarsThis summer is going to be a little different, but one thing remains the same: its unofficial kick-off, Memorial Day, is coming up next week. While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll find myself around a campfire or even on a rooftop anytime soon, I will not let this year go by without a s’mores-centric treat.S’mores Magic BarsIs there anything that says “summer” quite like a s’more? I mean, what’s not to love about crisp graham cracker, milk chocolate (or lemon curd!) and toasted marshmallow stacked together while everything’s still gooey?S’mores Magic BarsThese S’mores Magic Bars aren’t your traditional summertime fare, but they have plenty of graham crackers (in the form of crust and crispy shards), chopped milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows. It straight-up doesn’t count as a s’mores dessert if the marshmallows aren’t toasted, am I right?!S’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic BarsAs with all magic bars, these are held together with a can of sweetened condensed milk. It serves as the structural backbone of this whole operation (along with the graham crust), and caramelizes in the oven for a toffee undertone.

S’mores + toffee = basically everything I’ve ever wanted.S’mores Magic BarsThe sweetened condensed milk also gives these bars a slightly gooey finish, which is a good thing because while the marshmallows do get nice and golden brown, they also have to cool completely before you slice the bars. Like I said, we’re not going for tradition, we’re going for the most efficient way to get toasted marshmallow, graham cracker and milk chocolate into our faces in a less than ideal summer situation!S’mores Magic BarsAlso, unlike traditional s’mores, these sweet squares will stay good for days after baking. Days! That’s a very good thing, because I have a feeling I’m going to need a few batches between now and Labor Day.S’mores Magic Bars

S’mores Magic Bars
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan

Crust:
9 sheets graham crackers
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 cups mini marshmallows, divided
2 sheets graham crackers, broken into small pieces
4 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped

Place an oven rack in the center position. 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.

Make the crust. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add light brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to prepared pan and use the bottom of a measuring cup (or clean hands) to press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool it on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

Pour 1/2 cup of the sweetened condensed milk into a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside.

Drizzle remaining sweetened condensed milk onto crust. Top with 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows, followed by graham pieces and chopped milkchocolate.

Drizzle on reserved sweetened condensed milk and scatter on remaining mini marshmallows. Bake 30-32 minutes, until everything is golden brown and the center of the pan just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use parchment overhang to remove them to a cutting board before slicing with a large, sharp chef’s knife. For clean edges, carefully wipe the knife blade clean with a damp towel between cuts.

Layer leftovers with wax paper (or parchment) in an airtight container. Bars will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.S’mores Magic BarsS’mores Magic Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Blondies

Oatmeal Raisin BlondiesI posted my best-yet Oatmeal Raisin Cookies last fall, but now I have one-upped myself by simplifying them and baking them up in a square pan. Oatmeal Raisin Blondies, y’all!Oatmeal Raisin BlondiesIf you are an Oatmeal Raisin fan, you’ll love these sweet little bars. They’re super chewy thanks to low flour content, a glut of old-fashioned oats, and a high brown sugar-to-dry ingredients ratio. The raisins are plumped in simmering water before mixing for maximum flavor and texture.Oatmeal Raisin BlondiesOatmeal Raisin BlondiesDeep toasty flavor comes courtesy of brown butter and toasted oats. You could, of course, just melt your butter and use your oats straight out of the bag, but spending a few minutes drawing out their nutty richness makes a huge difference in the final outcome. A teaspoon of cinnamon rounds out the batter and makes these blondies pretty irresistible!Oatmeal Raisin BlondiesThese blondies bake up in 25 or so minutes, until the top is puffed and a little glossy. Let them cool until room temperature and then slice into pieces. The tops will crack in the best way and the middles will be dense and…well, they’re *very* good. The perfect low-maintenance sort of thing to make on this quarantine Wednesday.Oatmeal Raisin Blondies

Oatmeal Raisin Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 servings

1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup raisins
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving a little excess on two sides for ease of removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Scatter oats on a dry rimmed baking sheet. Toast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside to cool until you can handle them.

Plump the raisins. Put raisins and water in a small saucepan; if water doesn’t cover the raisins, add more until it does. Put over medium-high heat. When it reaches a simmer, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

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 small-medium mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar to brown butter and whisk to combine. Mix in the egg and vanilla, followed by flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour raisins and water through a fine mesh sieve to discard water. Fold raisins into batter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread in an even layer all the way to the edges. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes back with only a few moist crumbs (not batter).

Let cool completely in the pan on a rack. Use excess parchment to lift blondies onto a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into 16 pieces. Serve.

Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to four days.Oatmeal Raisin Blondies Oatmeal Raisin BlondiesOatmeal Raisin Blondies

Coconut Lime Squares

Coconut Lime SquaresI started fiddling with this recipe pre-social distancing, and have gotten close to posting it twice, but then hesitated at the last second both times. The first attempt was just golden toasted coconut on shortbread. Tasty, but also a little dry. The second involved a can of sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top before baking. The consistency was right, but the results were a little one note—they needed acid.Coconut Lime SquaresThis, the third and final go-round, has the zest and juice of two limes,* an egg yolk and a little salt stirred into that sweetened condensed milk, so that it bakes up reminiscent of Key Lime Pie filling. Yum!

*Yes, you can use lemons. Then they’ll be Coconut Lemon Squares.Coconut Lime SquaresFor those of you concerned about using only an egg yolk in a recipe right now (no food waste allowed in a pandemic!), you’ll be relieved to know that the white gets used in the coconut layer. It’s whisked together with sugar, salt and vanilla, and then used to coat a bunch of flaked coconut before baking.Coconut Lime SquaresI used large-flake unsweetened coconut because that’s what I had on hand, but feel free to swap in a finer flake/shred style. If you’re using sweetened coconut, cut the added sugar in the topping to 1-2 tablespoons. I wouldn’t leave it out completely, as you want it to get really good and toasty and for the coconut below to be vaguely…marshmallowy? Sounds weird, yes, but that’s the word to describe its flavor, if not its texture. Trust me, it’s like a big macaroon and you’re going to love it.Coconut Lime SquaresAs for the crust, it’s just shortbread: flour, sugar, salt, cold butter. It’s crunchy, flaky and buttery—the perfect vehicle for the lime filling and coconut topping. I understand that a lot of people cannot get their hands on flour right now, so please note that you can use a graham cracker, Oreo (or Golden Oreo), or another crumb crust and it will work just fine. It may even be better…maybe I should have done a round four? Should I have bailed on posting at the last second again?

Oh lord. Somebody social distance me from myself.Coconut Lime Squares

Coconut Lime Squares
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 servings

Shortbread Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

Lime Filling:
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
zest of 2 medium limes
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 medium limes)
1 large egg yolk
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Toasted Coconut Topping:
1 large egg white, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut

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

Make the shortbread crust. In a medium 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.

Pour shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using the flat bottom of a measuring cup (or the heel of your hand) to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 10 minutes to set. Wipe out bowl (no need to wash) and set aside for coconut topping.

Make the lime filling. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lime zest & juice, egg yolk, and salt. It may thicken slightly. Set aside.

Make the toasted coconut topping. In a medium mixing bowl (I use the same one I used for the crust), use a fork to whisk together egg white, sugar and vanilla, just until bubbly/a little foamy, about 1 minute. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut.

Spoon lime filling over shortbread crust. Use a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon to carefully spread into an even layer. Scatter coconut filling over the lime filling, making sure to get it all the way to the edges. Press down lightly.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until coconut is deeply toasted on top and center barely jiggles when pan is jostled. If coconut begins to burn during baking, tent with foil.

Let pan cool completely in a pan on a rack. Use foil overhang to transfer to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into squares, wiping clean between cuts as necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Squares will keep covered at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4.Coconut Lime SquaresCoconut Lime SquaresCoconut Lime Squares

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