Category Archives: Blondies, Brownies, & Bars

Grapefruit Bars

Grapefruit BarsTexans love a ruby red grapefruit, and while I have not been a resident of my home state for more than a decade, my mid-winter citrus needs are still very real. Unfortunately, the window for finding spectacular grapefruit in NYC is alarmingly short—just a few weeks!—and so I am compelled to take advantage. It’s my duty as a displaced Texan. Or something.Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit Scones, Curd and Kolaches have all made appearances on this blog, and today I’m adding another recipe to my favorite winter citrus arsenal: Grapefruit Bars!Grapefruit BarsThese beauts are a seasonal spin on their more traditional lemony counterparts, but with all the sweet-tartness and vivid color of ruby red grapefruit.Grapefruit BarsNow, if you’ve ever cooked with grapefruit, you might have noticed that it tends to lose its natural color and tartness as it is heated. I learned to mitigate this last year while testing Grapefruit Curd, and bring some of the same techniques to making the filling for these bars.Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit BarsGrapefruit BarsHere, grapefruit flavor is added in two ways: first, by reducing a cup of fresh grapefruit juice by half, and then by rubbing zest into granulated sugar to release the citrusy oils. I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to ensure that the bars have a tart finish. The idea of omitting the lemon in favor of a “pure” grapefruit flavor is tempting, but I promise that leaving it out will leave you missing the acidic sharpness that makes these bars so singularly great.Grapefruit BarsThe sweet-tart ruby red grapefruit flavor pairs perfectly with the lightly-squidgy texture of the filling—it’s the sort of thing I daydream about sinking my teeth into. Really. I have caught myself thinking about the feeling of taking the first bite into a Grapefruit Bar more than a few times since I finished testing these a couple of weeks ago. Is that not normal?Grapefruit BarsIf not, I don’t want to be normal. Life’s too short not to daydream about the feeling of soft-set grapefruit filling and crisp, buttery shortbread between your teeth. It’s that sort of wholesomeness that makes this whole being a professional homebaker thing worthwhile.Grapefruit Bars

Grapefruit Bars
makes 16 bars

Grapefruit Filling:
2 large ruby red (or pink) grapefruits
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes

Topping:
3-4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

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

Zest and juice grapefruits. Set aside 1 tablespoon of zest. Pour 1 cup* of the juice into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Mixture will be very crumbly and dry. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine grapefruit zest and sugar. Use your fingertips to rub zest into sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice, followed by eggs and egg yolk, and melted butter. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt. Add food coloring, if using. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.

Use the foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel foil from the edges. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars before serving.

Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days. Confectioner’s sugar will degrade over time—this can be remedied by sifting more over the tops.

Note:

If you have slightly more or less juice, that’s okay. Just reduce it to 1/2 cup, as indicated in the recipe.

Grapefruit BarsGrapefruit Bars

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Monster Carmelitas

Monster CarmelitasWell, there goes one more January full of savory recipes (well, mostly savory). Loads of good weeknight meals, my favorite no-slow-cooker pulled pork, Cornmeal Biscuits, and fancied up pigs in blankets—all good things ❤ Monster CarmelitasI’ve gotta be real with you though: I’m glad to be back to making desserts. The annual sugar break was good for my mind and body, but I really missed serving up sweets! I’ve got some great new Valentine’s Day-appropriate recipes coming your way next week and there may be a couple more weeknight meals in the near future, but first…Monster Carmelitas.Monster CarmelitasY’all, these are a Super Bowl dessert, if I’ve ever seen one! Delicious and festive enough to celebrate a win, and just decadent enough for eating your feelings during a loss. Also, they’re handheld and don’t require anything more than a small plate or a napkin, so they’re perfect for snacking on in front of the TV 🙂 Monster CarmelitasThese simple-to-make bars are flavored with the popular “monster” combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, and oats. Oh, and they’re jazzed up with a layer of soft caramel in the middle. YUM.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas are a texture lover’s dream! The egg-free (!) cookie layers are buttery and a little crumbly with melty chocolate and crispy, crackly M&Ms candy coating, while the caramel layer tows the line between sliceable and pleasantly gooey.Monster CarmelitasI mean, does dessert get better than this?!Monster CarmelitasMonster CarmelitasNo. No, it does not.Monster Carmelitas

Looking for more “monster” treats? Check out my Monster Blondies! For more carmelitas, check out this Salty Pretzel variation ❤

Monster Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

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
2/3 cup M&Ms candy
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
6 tablespoons 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 M&Ms and 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 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.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas

Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread BlondiesIs anyone else having a hard time concentrating today? I feel like I’m free, but I keep having to remind myself that I still have to

  • make a dinner party tonight
  • frost a cake
  • zip uptown to Zabar’s
  • buy wrapping paper
  • wrap gifts
  • pack those gifts and all my stuff into a suitcase
  • get on a very early flight to Austin

WHEW.Gingerbread BlondiesBut first—Gingerbread Blondies. I promise they’re worth adding to your to-do list.Gingerbread BlondiesI mean, chewy, winter-spiced blondies with fluffy frosting and a jewel-like ginger garnish are basically always worth it.Gingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesGingerbread BlondiesLike Wednesday’s Eggnog Cookies, these holiday-perfect blondies don’t require any skills you don’t already have. Just whisk together a quick batter, bake it, cool it, frost, garnish and slice it.Gingerbread BlondiesBoom—all the sweet Christmas cheer your heart desires, ready to go in just a couple of hours.Gingerbread BlondiesThese Gingerbread Blondies are my last recipe post of 2018. I’ll be taking next Wednesday off to spend time with my family, but I’ll be back on Friday for my annual 10 Most Popular Recipes list.Gingerbread BlondiesIf you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a merry one! And no matter which holiday you celebrate (or lack thereof), I wish you all a sweet end to 2018.Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread Blondies
makes one 8-inch pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Garnish:
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I use turbinado)

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square pan, line with parchment, and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, and molasses. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt, and whisk until combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs. Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

While the blondies are cooling, make the garnish. In a small bowl, toss together candied ginger and coarse sugar. Set aside.

Make vanilla buttercream. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla and heavy cream.

Use an offset icing knife to frost bars. I like to do this in the pan so that the edges are clean. Scatter candied ginger garnish over the top.

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 bars, wiping the knife clean between cuts.

Serve blondies. Store leftovers in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. They will keep at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Gingerbread BlondiesGingerbread Blondies

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresThe Autumnal Equinox may not technically be until tomorrow night, but it is now officially Fall in my kitchen and on this blog. Time for apples and warming spices and dark caramel and, of course, pumpkin!Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresI’m starting off my Fall baking with these Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares. They’re made with the seasonal staple, pumpkin purée, along with my favorite pumpkin pie spice blend and a good hit of granulated espresso.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresThose ingredients, together with the usual suspects like all-purpose flour, butter, a touch of baking powder and a hint of vanilla, bake up into a thick, soft bar base.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresThis portion of the process takes all of 35 minutes and smells so. freaking. good. that you might have a hard time letting them cool completely before tearing into them.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresBut you should, because the next step is topping them with a thick layer of fluffy vanilla buttercream.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresI think vanilla buttercream can enhance almost any dessert flavor combination, but it’s especially good here as a foil to the pumpkin spice and coffee flavors. I like to top these squares with sparkling sugar, too, for a little something extra.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresThese bars slice like a dream—I love those clean edges! Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares are very visually appealing, making them perfect for any myriad of Fall occasions. Let’s start by celebrating that it’s Fall at all ❤ Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares
makes one 9-inch pan, about 16 bars

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso granules (I use Medaglia d’Oro)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup pure pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhand at the edges, and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cookie layer. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, espresso granules, 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 granulated sugar and light brown sugar, followed by egg, pumpkin purée, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating just until combined. Dough will be thick.

Spread dough into prepared pan with a silicone spatula. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until no longer wet-looking. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cookie layer cool completely in the pan on a rack. Do not remove bars from pan.

Make vanilla buttercream. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla and heavy cream.

Use an offset icing knife to frost bars. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, if desired. Freeze pan for 10 minutes to make bars easier to slice cleanly.

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 bars, 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.Pumpkin Spice Latte Cookie SquaresPumpkin Spice Latte Cookie Squares

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