Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & 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

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}