Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

Apricot-Orange Shortbread Bars

March 7, 2011

Apricot Orange Shortbread Bars

If I could only have one cookie for the rest of my life this might be the one. Statements like that are so melodramatic but it manages to convey how much I love these bars. Prior to eating one of these I might have told you I don’t like apricots. Ha! That’s obviously not true! I would have said yes, I like shortbread, and I adore anything almond. What I’ve learned is that the three together are a heavenly combination.

I used to use only Hero brand apricot preserves for these, but I’ve discovered that there is something different about those preserves and they aren’t as good as they used to be. My recommendation for preserves is to choose a brand with the least number of ingredients on the label, and more fruit than sugar if possible. These bars were made with Bonne Maman French preserves. Next fall when the apricots are plentiful I’m hoping I can find the time to make my own. The Bonne Maman preserves are wonderful, but as much as I like them I’d like to figure out a less expensive alternative.

This recipe can be found at Epicurious.

Frosted Fudge Brownies

January 9, 2011

Frosted Fudge Brownies

Here at Basically Baked there is a lot of monkey see monkey do going on. Since the New Year I’ve baked three recipes from Cookie Madness. I’ll post photos and reviews of all of them eventually, but I’m starting out with these frosted brownies. I was wanting brownies, and I knew my husband would go for them since brownies are one of his favorite things. They really hit the spot!

The brownie is moist and not super dense, but not cakey either. The frosting reminded me of the icing used on Texas Sheet Cake but the method is a little different. My frosting was very pourable. Anna mentioned that hers was more spreadable than pourable. I put mine on right after mixing it together and the brownies were still hot out of the oven.

I made two changes from Anna’s recipe. I used walnuts because I have some to use up, and I only had enough Hershey’s cocoa for the brownie, so I used Penzey’s Dutch cocoa for the frosting. These are super easy to mix together. The only hard part is waiting for the frosting to set up so you can cut into them for your first taste.

Click here for the recipe.

Basically Blissful

December 31, 2010

Basically Blissful Cranberry Bars

A few years ago Cranberry Bliss bars were being discussed on various blogs. I was intrigued, but not enough to make a special trip to try one at my local Starbucks. Since I don’t drink coffee I rarely go to Starbucks. When I meet friends for “coffee” they usually prefer our local coffee shop and so here we are several years later and I still haven’t had one. Recently I found myself at a Starbucks and I was pleasantly surprised to find out they still make these bars and I had to have one. I can certainly understand why people wait all year long for these seasonal treats to make an appearance! I ate mine very slowly and thoughtfully hoping I’d be able to make them myself.

Mine are a little thicker than Starbucks’ but that’s okay with me. If I make them again I will put some oil or shortening in with the white chocolate chips so that when I cut the bars the white chocolate won’t shatter. We loved these bars. My husband thinks they’re “awesome”. I can’t remember the adjectives my daughter used, but she made it clear she liked them a lot.

Basically Blissful Cranberry Bars

1 1/2 cups ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
1 bag white chocolate chips (divided use)
1 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries (divided use)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined.

Fold in the diced ginger, half of the white chocolate chips, and 1/2 c. dried cranberries, and turn the batter into a 9 x 13 inch pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and feels firm to the touch, for 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely. Frost with the frosting, sprinkle with more chopped cranberries and drizzle with melted white chocolate as indicated below.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese softened
2.5 T. butter softened
1 1/2 t. orange juice
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar

Beat together the first three ingredients until very smooth. Stir in the zest and powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Spread on top of the bars. Sprinkle the remaining cranberries evenly on top of the bars.

Using 50% power melt the remaining chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave at 1 minute intervals. Stir after every minute until completely melted and then drizzle over the cranberries

Cut the bars into large squares, and then cut once diagonally to make triangles.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

October 3, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake BrowniesYesterday I visited some friends who always enjoy the homemade things I bring them. I wanted to make something with the taste of autumn. I was tempted to make our favorite pumpkin bars since I’ve never posted them on the blog, but when Anna at Cookie Madness blogged about her Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies I couldn’t get them out of my head and had to make them.

Have you ever had a time in the kitchen when you thought you should just give up!? Friday evening was one of those times. I failed to look at the recipe before I went to the store on Friday afternoon and tried to shop for the recipe from memory. I didn’t do so well, but fortunately my husband remembered a half package of cream cheese in the refrigerator that I had forgotten about so the fact that I didn’t buy enough cream cheese didn’t end up being an issue. I started out thinking I had also blown it by not buying more chocolate and after fussing over how to make do with what I had Anna graciously pointed out via email that the recipe actually calls for chocolate chips not regular chocolate so I was fine there too. So, mies en place (or so I thought) I whipped these brownies together. The recipe isn’t difficult unless you make it that way as I did late Friday evening. Once the brownies were in the oven I realized that I put in the entire package of chocolate chips instead of the 9 ounces it calls for. I banged my head against the wall and decided, ‘whatever!’.  If they were a disaster I’d keep it to myself and move on.

The good news is that they weren’t a disaster! I can’t compare them to the original recipe, but I can say that the extra 3 ounces of chocolate didn’t seem to hurt them a bit. The  brownie and pumpkin cheesecake are a nice combo. The cheesecake is smooth, creamy and lightly spiced. The brownie part is rich and chocolaty with a slightly flaky top.

My friends and husband all seem to love these. I was tempted to put in some cayenne or chipotle powder to ramp them up a bit but the way things were going it’s good I didn’t.

You’ll find the recipe at Cookie Madness.

Cheesecake Brownies

September 24, 2010

It’s time to clear the cobwebs, and post something on this much neglected blog. I have a good excuse for the neglect. This summer I fell in love again with bicycling. I used to bike a lot but got away from it and haven’t biked much  in at least 15 years. I fell hard, bought a new bike and get out whenever the weather and my schedule cooperate. That leaves less time for baking and even less time for blogging, but the biking is really good for me and I love it.

Yesterday Anna at Cookie Madness got my attention with some cheesecake brownies. It occurred to me as I was reading her post that I’ve never made cheesecake brownies. Say what!? How can that be? Brownies, yes! Cheesecake, yes! Why haven’t I put them together?

There are a lot of recipes out there for cheesecake brownies. After some surfing around the web, and leafing through some cookbooks from my shelves I decided to give David Lebovitz’s Cheesecake Brownies a go. I think this combination is a culinary marriage made in heaven.

The real hoot is I that I didn’t use high end chocolate for these. I used Baker’s Semi Sweet chocolate, Penzey’s Dutch Process Cocoa, regular butter, and Nestle’s Chocolate Chips. I haven’t purchased Nestle’s chips in years but they were dirt cheap last week and I figured what the heck. They’d be convenient to have on hand and to save a few bucks I could use them for awhile instead of my favorite Guittard chocolate chips. Since I used salted butter I omitted the salt all together.

I thought for sure I had a 9×9 inch baking pan, but it turns out that all of my square pans are 8×8 inches. By the time I dolloped the cream cheese on top of the brownie mixture it was completely covered in my too small pan so swirling became almost impossible. You’ll notice that mine look more like cheesecake topped brownies. Do not let this stop you from making these. The texture of the cheesecake is smooth and satisfying and the perfect foil to the rich, sweet, dense brownie. Next time I will be sure I’ve added a 9×9 inch pan to my bakeware arsenal, but if all I had was the smaller 8×8 pan, I wouldn’t let it stop me from making these.

Cheesecake Brownies

Cheesecake Brownies

The photo above was taken out on my porch in the waning light of the day. I hope to get a chance tomorrow to take better photos.

If you’re looking for a great cheesecake brownie recipe, look no further than page 195  in David Lebovitz’s book, Ready for Dessert. You can also find the recipe on his blog.  This is the third recipe I’ve made from Ready for Dessert and each of the recipes has been absolutely excellent. The caramel ice cream redefined caramel ice cream at our house, and the chocolate chip cookies are one of the most excellent chocolate and pecan delivery systems I’ve had the pleasure to eat.

Caramel Filled Brownies

November 9, 2009
Caramel Filled Brownies 020

Caramel Filled Brownies

These are some of the most decadent brownies I’ve ever made or had the pleasure to eat. They are full of chocolate, caramel and nuts, and it just about doesn’t get any better than that!

I followed the recipe from Cookie Madness pretty closely. I used regular butter instead of unsalted butter and decreased the salt by 1/4 tsp. I had the pleasure of using Abdallah caramel instead of unwrapping individual pieces of caramel. The Abdallah caramel appeared at my local grocery store this fall and I was hoping to get a chance to bake with it before it disappears from the shelves.

Every fall my sister-in-law treats the family to caramel apples from Abdallah Candies. When I saw that they were packaging caramel apple kits, I knew how convenient the caramel would be for baking. Wouldn’t it be great if they market it year-round instead of just in the fall?

My tips for making these brownies in addition to the directions from Cookie Madness are to use a teaspoon to scoop small spoonfuls of brownie dough over the caramel layer and then spread it out.  The other tip is not to panic if you dare to cut into these before they are completely cool. They will seem very gooey if you do that, but if you’re patient and let them cool all the way and then chill them before cutting you’ll see that it all comes together in a wonderful way. It’s interesting to note that the sugar and eggs are beaten for a full three minutes in this recipe before incorporating the remaining ingredients.

I made these late yesterday afternoon, and my husband started sampling them before they were cool all the way. That’s a testament to how good they are. He says they’re even better today than they were yesterday. What I know is that they’re just wonderful today. The brownies take a little time to put together but they are definitely worth it for a special treat.
Enjoy!

Brownies for the Bikers

July 5, 2009
There are brownies at the end of this race!

There are brownies at the end of this race!

My daughter and her bike racing team recently got to race in our city! It was an exciting day for me because it was the first time I had seen her race. She invited her teammates over for a dip in the pool and a picnic in the gazebo after the race, which was an opportunity for me to make my go to brownies, and a big bowl of potato salad to contribute to their outing.

All that was left was the empty pan!

All that was left was the empty pan!

The thing with these brownies is that there are never any left for photo taking which is why I have yet to post them on my blog. They’re super easy to make and clearly loved by all. The recipe originally came to me on the back of a bag of King Arthur Flour. The things I like about them are that they use cocoa instead of melted chocolate. They’re always moist, and they have a shiny crackly top due to the method of incorporating the sugar. The recipe is posted on the King Arthur website where you can also see a photo taken before the brownies from their test kitchen were all consumed. I don’t think they’ll mind if I post the recipe below since they have printed the recipe in so many different places. But do visit their website for all kinds of wonderful recipes, and to shop for an outstanding selection of baking products and tools.

A 'pack' finish!

A 'pack' finish!

Back to the race. My daughter placed 5th in her division, which is a very big deal. She’s brand new to bike racing and this is the first time she’s finished with ‘the pack’. She was absolutely tickled. One of her teammates placed first in the same division, and another teammate placed second in the men’s division. All in all a very good day for the team!

A word on potato salad. Garrison Keillor recently wrote a column in which he mentioned the demise of potato salad in this country, and that if you’re taking potato salad to a gathering, learn how to make it yourself! I’m not the biggest potato salad fan on the globe, but even so I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Keillor. There are countless outstanding potato salads. There is no excuse for buying that horridly colored stuff, much less eating it. (Do they really sell potato salad at the convenience store!?)

My husband is a big fan of the classic Hellman’s recipe so that is what I usually make. I use the light mayo, the one with the bright blue lid, as opposed to the full fat with the navy blue lid. But, I must say it’s also worthwhile to find a potato salad that you like that uses new red potatoes and has a nice light oil based dressing. No doubt anyone reading this blog takes the time to make their own potato salad, and doesn’t touch the funky store bought stuff, but if you’re one of those who does buy it or eat it, try a homemade version. It’s easy to make, cheap, and the difference in taste is unbelievable. (To be truthful I can’t vouch for the taste difference. The funky looking stuff that can be purchased has never made it onto my plate, much less past my lips, but I think you can trust me on this issue.)

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July!

Best Ever Fudge Brownies from King Arthur Flour

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan
2) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
3) While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.
7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

One Bowl Cocoa Brownies

May 13, 2009
One Bowl Cocoa Brownies

One Bowl Cocoa Brownies

My husband really likes a brownie every now and then, and who can blame him? It’s good to have a recipe that makes a small batch that will satisfy that craving.  This recipe does that and has two other things going for it. It calls for natural cocoa instead of chocolate which makes it a bit more economical, and it only requires one bowl!

My first taste of these was while they were still warm. They are fine that way, but the texture improves once they’ve cooled completely. I used up the nuts I had on hand and was a little short. You can omit them completely if you prefer. You can also sub Dutch processed cocoa for the natural cocoa. Natural cocoa is much easier to find where I live and it’s much less expensive.

The recipe originally came from here, but since I made some changes to it I’ll type it up the way I made it.

One Bowl Cocoa Brownies

10 T. butter

1 1/4 c. sugar

3/4 c. plus 2 T. natural cocoa powder

1/8 t. salt

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 t. (slightly rounded) espresso powder

2 cold large eggs

1/2 c. all purpose flour

2/3 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven 325 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper leaving ‘handles’ on two sides to facilitate removing the brownies from the pan.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the cocoa, sugar, and salt and reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir the mixture and let it cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla and the espresso powder.

Beat in the eggs one at a time. Thorougly mixing each one. Stir in the flour until it’s completely mixed in and then beat the mixture for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts.

Spread the dough evenly in the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. There should be a few moist battery crumbs on the toothpick. Cool the brownies completely on a wire rack. Transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut into serving size portions.

Cranberry Caramel Bars!

December 11, 2008

cranberry-caramel-bars-007This recipe is from The Gourmet Cookbook. I’ve wanted to make it ever since I first saw it, but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened until now, and am so I sorry I didn’t jump on these sooner.  These were a big hit at the potluck I went to today. Everyone wanted the recipe which is always a good sign. The tart cranberries, the sweet “caramel”, and the crunchy pecans layered on a shortbread crust make for a great combination and a great contribution to a holiday cookie tray. I didn’t bother with the drizzle of chocolate. After tasting them, I felt it simply wasn’t needed, but if you want to dress them up a bit feel free to drizzle with a bit of bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate or both. I will definitely make these again.

cranberry-caramel-bars-008

The recipe is also called Cranberry Turtle Bars and can be found at the following link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cranberry-Turtle-Bars-105743

Almost Pecan Pie

December 6, 2008

 

Welcome to the very first post on Basically Baked! I have a lot to learn about blogging, and look forward to the adventure!

pecan-squares-0052

My Uncle Bob loved Pecan Pie so occasionally it would appear at either the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal when I was growing up. Unfortunately my family looks forward to other kinds of pie so I rarely make Pecan, and even though I’ve been particularly hungry for it this year it seemed more important to make the comfort food that my college freshman and first year grad student were looking forward to when they were here for Thanksgiving. They’re back at the University and I find myself still craving pecan pie.

Fortunately, a few years ago I made the Pecan Square recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I was baking for a holiday gathering of approximately 20 women and this recipe was such a hit. One woman even asked for the leftover Pecan Squares because she knew her husband would really like them.

If you don’t own the Silver Palate Cookbook, the recipe appears here. http://www.wickwoodinn.com/spring07notebook-02/recipes.htm 

The only change I made was to halve the recipe and bake it in a parchment lined 8″x8″ square pan.

I was a little anxious to get them cut and photographed before I ran out of natural light so they’re not as pretty as they might have been had I been more patient, but the corner that I tasted was wonderful, and I do believe they’ll satisfy that craving for Pecan Pie.


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