Baked’s Blondies

So, I know that the cookbook Baked (by Lewis and Poliafito) got quite a lot of attention for its brownies, but I just tried it’s blondies, and I think this is the recipe that really deserves the attention. It’s exactly what I wanted a blondie to be–very perfect.

Baked’s Blondies

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 T. malted milk powder
14 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 t.vanilla extract
3/4 c. malted milk balls, coarsely chopped (didn’t use)
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. toasted walnuts, chopped (also didn’t use–substituted with white chocolate chips instead)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 13×9 baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the blondies out afterward. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and malted milk powder together in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating just until incorporated. Mix in the malted milk balls, chocolate chips and walnuts briefly until distributed throughout the batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the blondies cool for at least 20 minutes before lifting them out and cutting into squares. Store at room temperature tightly wrapped with plastic wrap.


Amy’s Zucchini Brownies

This recipe is from my great friend and baker Amy. I always love to hear what she’s up to in her kitchen! Since her husband is an amazing gardener, she gets a fair amount of produce all summer and fall, and this is one way she loves to use her zucchini.  I have to say it helped us get through quite a bit of zucchini this week, too!

Incidentally, I added two eggs on accident the first time I made these, and really liked the results. The eggs gave the brownies a bit more of a lift, which also made them easier to eat. I served them with whipped cream. Great.
Amy’s Zucchini Brownies
 2 c. flour
 1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
 1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs (optional)
 1 1/2 c. sugar
 2 t. vanilla
2 c. shredded zucchini
 1/2 c. chocolate chips  or nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan (or line with aluminum foil and spray with Pam).
In a large bowl, mix oil, sugar, eggs (if using) and vanilla until well blended. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture (the mixture will be quite dry). Fold in the zucchini and mix well–if the batter is still dry, wait a few minutes for the moisture in the zucchini to moisten the batter. Stir in walnuts or chocolate chips and spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated oven until brownies spring back when touched. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Caramel Pecan Brownies

This is the most decadent dessert I know how to make. It is divine. I’ve seen that ATK reprints it every now and again as a “best of the best” recipe, and it is. I got it from the 2007 Best of America’s Test Kitchen Annual, where it’s called “Ultimate Turtle Brownies.” I should note that the caramel is a little tricky. With my electric stove (and because I live at high altitude), I start with the stove at medium until the sugar is melted, I then turn the stove to high, until it gets amber-colored, and then turn it down to medium-high, until it reaches 360 degrees (well, 351 for 4500 feet, where I live). But, once you got it right, it works really well. Enjoy this one!
Caramel Pecan Brownies
For the caramel topping
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I prefer more like 1/2 t.)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the brownies

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 25 pecan halves, toasted*, for garnish

To make the caramel: Combine the cream and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine the water and corn syrup. Add the sugar to the center of the saucepan and gently mix to thoroughly moisten the sugar, taking care not to let sugar crystals adhere to the sides of the pan. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, without stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Uncover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the liquid is a pale golden color. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel is a light amber color and registers about 360 degrees on a candy or instant-read thermometer [On my electric stove, this process is quite different and takes longer. See note above. Also, a candy thermometer is pretty critical here]. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream-salt mixture to the center of the pot, making sure that your hand isn’t directly over the pot (the mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Stir with a whisk or spatula until the bubbling subsides. Add the butter and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Transfer to a medium microwavable measuring cup or bowl and set aside.

To make the brownies: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the extra foil to hang over the edges of the pan. Lightly grease the foil-lined pan with nonstick spray oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter and the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely bubbling water, stirring occasionally until smooth; set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, salt and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Add the flour mixture and stir until almost combined. Add the chopped pecans and chocolate morsels, and combine.

To assemble: Spread half of the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the caramel over the brownie batter. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer; spread evenly into the corners of the pan. Drizzle an additional 1/4 cup caramel over the top. Using the tip of a knife, swirl the caramel and batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, 1 to 2 hours.

If necessary, heat the remaining caramel (you should have about 3/4 cup) in the microwave on high for 45 to 60 seconds until it is hot and pourable but still thick, stirring once or twice. Pour the caramel over the brownies and use a spatula to spread the caramel evenly. Refrigerate the brownies, uncovered, until they are fully chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove from the baking pan by lifting the foil extensions. Cut into 25 evenly sized squares. Press a pecan half onto the surface of each brownie. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

The Flour Bakery’s Granola Bars

I got a new cookbook with this recipe, and since I’ve been in granola-bar mode, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m totally impressed with the result. The 
ingredients sound like a health food shop on their own, but incredibly, their sum is so, so delicious, and no one flavor overwhelms the taste at all. In fact, my kids inhaled these like any other cookie/bar I’ve made, so I am really happy. I thought for sure they’d turn their noses up at the seeds, but they didn’t. It’s a treat, but has lots of good stuff, too; a happy medium, and perfect for a lunch box.

The recipe’s a little on the cumbersome side, in terms of time, but definitely worth trying. You need a couple of hours (not consistent work, of course), and you probably can’t count on them for the same day unless you start cooking early in the day. The author says the bar tastes better after 2-3 days, but at our house, I don’t think they’ll last that long. Incidentally, the Flour Bakery is located in (just outside?) Boston.

Granola Bars with Cranberry Jam and Seeds

1 c. dried apples
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. water

1 c. walnut halves [I prefer pecans]
1 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. old-fashioned (not quick) oats
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
2/3 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
6 T. honey
3 T. flaxseeds
3 T. sunflower seeds
3 T. millet

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cranberries, apricots, granulated sugar, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8-10 times or until a chunky jam forms. (The jam can be made and refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for up to a month.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool, but leave the oven on at 350.

Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine the nuts, flour, oats, sugar, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and butter, and pulse about 15 times or until the mixture is combined. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Work in the honey until the mixture comes together, then spread 2/3 of the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light brown. Work the millet, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds into the remaining 1/3 oat mixture. Cover it with plastic and refrigerate.

After the crust has baked, remove it from the oven and spread the jam evenly on top. Then, crumble the seed/oat mixture on top, breaking it with your fingers. Return the pan to the oven to bake for an additional 50-60 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 2-3 hours before cutting.

The bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a week.

The recipe yield says 12, but those would be huge! We’re going to get about 20 or more out of it.

Homemade Graham Crackers

Every new year, it seems I renew my resolve in general to make more, and consume less, especially when it comes to boxed items at the grocery store. This year, I’m also trying to make my sugar intake meaningful rather than inevitable, so making most of what we eat is a big part of that. Anywhoo, this is a great recipe, whether you think of it as a healthy cookie or a sweet snack; I think the last batch lasted an hour before they disappeared. This recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s 2009 Annual.

One more note: you can make these into cinnamon grahams by adding another 1/4 t. cinnamon to the recipe, and then sprinkling cinnamon (1 t.) and sugar (1/4 c.) on top of the crackers right before baking. Oh, and graham flour can be found at health food stores like Sunflower Market as a Bob’s Red Mill product. You can also use wheat flour, but it’s not exactly the same thing, so it will taste a bit different.

Homemade Graham Crackers

1¾ cup graham flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
5 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons light molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons of the water, the molasses and vanilla and stir until the dough comes together. If the dough seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons water a little at a time. You may need to use your hands to get the dough to meld into a large ball. (Alternatively, process the dry ingredients in a food processor for 3 seconds, then add the butter and process for 15 seconds, until it resembles coarse meal. Add water, molasses, and vanilla and process till the dough comes together, 20 seconds more.)

Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll each piece out between two pieces of parchment paper to a rectangle that is 1/8 inch thick and measures about 16 inches by 8 inches. Remove the top sheet and trim the dough with a knife into a tidy 15 inch-by-7½ inch rectangle, then score it into 18 2½-inch squares. Prick each square several times with a fork. [I find it works better to score them before baking, but then to do it again after they bake. They actually break easily this way.]

Slide each piece of dough and parchment paper onto separate baking sheets. Bake until the crackers are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Let the crackers cool completely on the baking sheets, then break them apart along the scored lines and serve.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Makes 36 graham crackers.


Hot Fudge Pudding Cake


I admit that I made this recipe two nights in a row last week, and it was gone before I could take a picture. This recipe whips together in about 10-15 minutes, and then comes out of the oven quite heavenly–like a brownie, but up a notch. We served it with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, and both went well with it. I love how rich and dark and gooey it is. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll make it again today. This comes from Cook’s Illustrated Fall 2010 Entertaining.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
4 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg yolk
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. boiling water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degree. Spray 8-inch square glass or metal cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk 1/2 c. sugar with 1/2 c. cocoa in a small bowl.

2. Whisk flour, remaining 1/2 c. sugar, remaining 1/4 c. cocoa, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Whisk milk, butter, egg yolk, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips (Batter will be stiff).

3. Using rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and spread into corners. Sprinkle reserved coca mixture evenly over top. Gently pour boiling water over cocoa. Do not stir.

4. Bake until top of cake looks cracked, sauce is bubbling, and toothpick inserted into cakey area comes out with moist crumbs attached,  about 25 minutes (do not overbake or the cake will be dry. Better underdone than over). Cool on rack for a least 10 minutes before serving. To serve, scoop portions of warm cake into individual serving bowls and top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!!

Halloween Caramel Popcorn Balls with Pretzels and Candy Corn

I finally made this great recipe this year. It comes from October 2010’s Everyday Food. I followed the recipe with the exception that I added about 1

Super yummy!

cup of candy corns and I rolled them into balls (which was easier than cutting them). This caramel corn was great–it got a little soggy the day after, but there wasn’t much left to worry about anyway.

Caramel Popcorn Balls with Pretzels and Candy Corn

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels (7.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Coarse salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  1. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss together popcorn and pretzels and candy corn. In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium-high. Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter). Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.
  2. Pour caramel mixture over the popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat. Transfer mixture to dish and use a piece of plastic wrap coated with cooking spray to press evenly into dish. Sprinkle with coarse salt if desired. Let cool completely before forming into balls or cutting into bars. Serve on Halloween!

Chewy Brownies (that taste like Ghirardelli box mix, but better)

This is the recipe I referenced under the
Baked Brownie. I was pleased to see that ATK acknowledged that there IS something to a box brownie mix, especially Ghirardelli’s. In order to recreate the chewy texture, Andrea Geary at ATK created this recipe (published in the Best of ATK 2011 Annual), and as I mentioned before, it gets high marks (my oldest son tonight told me that if there was the best brownie restaurant in the whole world, and he was eating there, this brownie would still be better. I would like to go to that best brownie restaurant in the world. Sounds like heaven). You may have the shock I did when I saw how much sugar goes into it, but I guess the sugar is, in part, what makes the brownie so distinctive and so much like a box!

Chewy Brownies (better than Ghirardelli box mix)

1/3 c. dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 t. instant espresso (optional)
1/2 c. plus 2 T. boiling water
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
4 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. plus 2 T. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 t. salt
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with a foil sling, lightly coat with vegetable oil spray, and set aside (I use Reynold’s nonstick aluminum foil and I love it).

2. Whisk the cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add the unsweetened chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the melted butter and oil. (The mixture may look curdled.) Add the eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in the sugar until fully incorporated. Add the flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate pieces.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 1 1/2 hours.

4. Using the foil overhang, lift the brownies from the pan. Return the brownies to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and  serve. (The brownies can be stored in an airtight contained at room temperature for up to 4 days.)

The Baked Brownie

I picked up the most lovely cookbook three years ago at my Lincoln library, checked it out about 5 times, and finally decided to buy it. It’s called Baked, and I’ve now seen it at Williams-Sonoma. It’s from a small bakery in Brooklyn, and it’s cover claims that America’s Test Kitchen rated it’s brownie the best in America. BEST. Don’t you have to buy a book that says that?

So, I’ve made the Baked Brownie, and it is decadent and lovely. But, I had a bake-off, using the exact same chocolate, with the Baked brownie and three others, one from America’s Test Kitchen, a box mix, and a Joy of Cooking recipe that I love. Well, 7 out of 8 votes went to America’s Test Kitchen. So for what it’s worth, I’ll post that recipe as well (when I can get to it!). I should note, though, that it’s essential to use good chocolate. I don’t use Baker’s anymore–I usually buy a bulk amount of Guittard, Ghiradelli, or if I can find it, Caillebaut. Candy stores (J.A.R. in R.I., Funfinity in Provo, Orson Gygi’s in Salt Lake) sell these in large amounts, which makes the price per oz. better than Baker’s, and then you can use it over the course of several months (or split it with a friend). I also try to get my loving relatives to bring me Trader Joe’s 1 lb. bars of dark chocolate, which I think are pretty grand. That’s what I’ve been making these with lately.

The Baked Brownie

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 T. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz. dark chocolate, 60-72% (this is a lot!)
1 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 t. instant espresso powder (I leave this out ’cause I never have any)
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature (which I accomplish by placing the eggs in a warm bowl of water before doing anything else so they can warm while I prepare the rest of the ingredients)
2 t. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. (And if you can resist, they taste better 24 hours after baking.)

Chocolate-Cherry Fudge Bars

I come back to this recipe every February: chocolate, cherries, pink. Nice. And a real winner  if you’re a fan of marachino cherries and fudginess, which I

Quite festive, n'est-ce pas?

certainly am on both accounts.  I’ve tried substituting cocoa powder for the baking chocolate, and the baking chocolate comes out better. It’s also important not to overbake this recipe, or it will come out more cakey than fudgy. I pulled it from a collection of Kraft recipes years ago. I’m leaving out all the branding, but I’m sure if you use all Kraft products, the brownies will taste, umm, Krafty.

Chocolate-Cherry Fudge Bars

4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 c. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 pkg. (small–4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding dry mix (1/2 c.)
3/4 c. maraschino cherries, divided
7 T. maraschino cherry juice, divided
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 13×9″ baking pan with foil, ends extending over the side of the pans. Spray foil with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Heat chocolate and butter in small saucepan (or microwave in a bowl in 30 second increments) until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate has also melted. Add sugar and mix well. Blendin eggs and vanilla. Add flour and dry pudding mix. Combine. Stir in 1/2 c. of the chopped cherries and 5 T. (1/3 c.) of the cherry juice. Spread into the prepared pan.

3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Place pan on a wire rack to cool.

4. Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and remaining cherry juice until well blended. Drizzle over cooled dessert [I find this works best by dipping a fork into the glaze and quickly drizzling across the top of the brownies, moving from left to right; speed’s the key]. Top with remaining 1/4 c. cherries. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan before cutting into bars. Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees.