Tag Archives: 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

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

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 grapefruit reduction, 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

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsOne of these days, I’m going to get some sleep. I’ve been up before the sun for the last three days to do volunteer work, and in addition to my work schedule and attempt to have a social life, it’s made me into a little bit of a zombie (the good kind, who can’t put sentences together but has cookies).

They say that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. In my experience, this is absolutely true. I do well when I have an extensive to-do list, but once I get on a roll, I have a hard time saying “no.” When you work 12-16 hours everyday, what’s the harm in adding an extra cake order or volunteering to do service at 6:30am, even though you haven’t gotten a full eight hours of sleep in a month? The days and weeks run together, and suddenly you can’t remember the last time you took a full day off.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsI have reached this point, and with nothing that I have to do this weekend (yet), I am really hoping to spend Saturday and Sunday eating takeout and watching Netflix. Will this actually happen? Who knows. But it’s giving me something to dream about while I skitter around Brooklyn checking things off my to-do list.

When I am super busy, I have to find ways to keep my energy up without consuming too much caffeine. I stick to two large coffees per day–if I have more than that, it will be impossible for me to sleep at night. Instead, I try to eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Lately, it’s been a lot of huge green smoothies and small, high-protein meals. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking and eating treats–it’s my job, after all.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip BarsThese Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars are my new favorite thing. They’re soft and chewy, like a combination between a blondie and a muffin, with a pronounced banana flavor and chocolate in every bite! And they’re just the slightest bit healthier than your average cookie. These bars are made with white whole wheat flour and old-fashioned oats, so they’re completely whole grain. I also cut the sugar in this recipe, but rest assured that they still taste like dessert!

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars are a wonderful way to end the day (I highly recommend having one warm with vanilla ice cream), but they’re also great for tucking into school lunches or carrying with you for a snack while you’re on the go. Just because you’re super busy doesn’t mean you can’t take two minutes to treat yourself, right?!

Looking for more whole grain recipes? Check out these Whole Grain Cranberry-Orange Snack Bars and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Bars
makes one 9-inch pan, about 16 bars

1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 very ripe medium banana, mashed
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square pan, line it with parchment, and butter it again. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in dark brown sugar, followed by banana, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture until completely combined. Beat in oats followed by chocolate chips.
Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Place the full pan on a rack and let cool completely. Chill bars for 30-60 minutes before slicing.

Bars will keep covered at room temperature for up to five days.

Pineapple Bars

Pineapple BarsThis has been the best summer I’ve had in years. I turned 31, spent a week on a sparsely-populated island off the coast of Maine with close friends (is it too early to start planning next year’s trip?), ended a four year stint as a nanny, and got to help my sister move much closer to me. I’m not ready for this incredible season to end. When I was having a rough time earlier this year, a wise friend of mine said “Remember, summer is coming. Magic happens in the summer.” I’m not sure that this is exactly what he meant, but for me, this summer has indeed been magical. Thank goodness there are technically three weeks left.

But it’s September, and that means fall is coming and bringing pumpkin everything with it. Pumpkin is already all over my social media, on the blogs I read, and popping up at coffee shops in my neighborhood. It seems everyone in America is ready for everything they eat and drink to be burnt orange and cinnamon-scented. Except for me, apparently.

Pineapple BarsDon’t get me wrong, I am all about pumpkin, but I’m not exactly craving all the flavors of fall right this minute. It’s 80 degrees out. All of my sweaters are in a box under my bed. I don’t need a scarf or a pair of boots, nor do I want any warm beverages. Not yet. I’m still firmly in summer-mode…at least for another week or so.

So today, I’m leaving my cans of pumpkin in the cabinet and enjoying the unofficial last weekend of summer with these Pineapple Bars: a dreamy pineapple filling baked over a shortbread crust, sliced into bars and dusted with confectioner’s sugar!

Pineapple BarsThis recipe is a tropical adaptation of the Lemon Bars I posted while on vacation a few weeks ago. Instead of the usual citrus, they’re made with unsweetened pineapple juice and crushed pineapple. These bars quicker to make than those that inspired them. Once the four-ingredient shortbread crust goes into the oven to set, the filling comes together in just a few minutes. Where Lemon Bars (and citrus desserts in general) involve lots of tedious zesting and juicing, the filling for these Pineapple Bars just involves whisking ingredients together. Pour the filling over the crust and bake it for 40 minutes, until it’s no longer jiggly. Then pop them into the fridge for a few hours before slicing them up. All that’s left to do is sift some confectioner’s sugar over the tops!

Pineapple Bars are cold, sweet, and tangy–the perfect treat to salute the end of this fantastic summer! Make a batch this Labor Day weekend.

Pineapple BarsAre you ready for fall?

Pineapple Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons half-and-half (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup no-sugar-added pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup canned crushed pineapple, drained

For Topping:
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving overhang at the edges. Grease foil with butter. 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 dry and crumbly. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use clean fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

Place sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Whisk in melted butter, followed by half-and-half (or heavy cream), pineapple juice, and vanilla. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt, followed by crushed pineapple. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes, tenting with foil at the 10 minute mark. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.

Set a cooling rack over a piece of wax paper. 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. Set bars on prepared rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars.

Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.