Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

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

Easy Raspberry Jam Squares

Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresY’all. Y’ALL. Why did I wait so long to make jam squares?Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresI mean, they’re so…easy. Seven ingredients, one bowl, no mixer—my favorite sort of recipe.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresEasy Raspberry Jam SquaresEasy Raspberry Jam SquaresFive minutes for mixing, five more for assembly. Just shy of thirty for them to bake up.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresOnce they’re cool, they slice like a dream.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresYou’ll like the crisp cookie layers, chewy oats, and sweet-tart jam centers on day one, but some magic flavor-melding happens in that first 24 hours and they are eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good on day two. And they just get better from there.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresEasy Raspberry Jam Squares are far more than the sum of their parts. I went into testing thinking these might need cinnamon or nuts, but I was wrong—simplicity is key for optimal jam flavor.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresAnd speaking of jam, I went with raspberry because that’s what I like, but feel free to use any preserves you like. I think blueberry sounds particularly good right now, but that may only be because we just booked our annual trip to Maine. In fact, these are so simple that they’d be perfect for a little late-afternoon vacation baking.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresLike I said, my favorite sort of recipe.Easy Raspberry Jam Squares

Easy Raspberry Jam Squares
makes one 9-inch pan, about 16 squares

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
2/3 cup raspberry jam

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

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and oats. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in melted butter—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched.

Firmly press half the dough (about 2 cups) into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread jam over packed dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.

Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the jam.

Bake full pan for 25-27 minutes, or until golden and set on top. 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.Easy Raspberry Jam SquaresEasy Raspberry Jam SquaresEasy Raspberry Jam Squares

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