Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Even though Jetta’s a puppy in training for Guide Dogs of America, she still gets to trade out her “service dog” jacket for a sweet Halloween costume.  Doesn’t she look delicious?

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Rocky Road Bars

If you’re craving something rich and decadent but don’t want to exert too much effort, these Rocky Road Bars are made for you. A buttery shortbread cookie is slathered with dark chocolate ganache, and toasted pecans and marshmallows are piled high on top.

Even with just the shortbread and chocolate ganache, this is looking pretty delicious.
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Toasted pecans and mini marshmallows leave no surface uncovered.IMG_6519[1]

A close up of a Rocky Road Bar because it tastes as good as it looks. IMG_6521[1]

Rocky Road Bars

Makes 2 dozen bars
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (16 tablespoons; 8 ounces; 2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups (9 3/4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour

Topping

3 cups (18 ounces) chopped semisweet or dark chocolate or chocolate chips
3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) toasted diced pecans
3 cups (5 1/4 ounces; half a 10.5-ounce package) mini marshmallows

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or line with parchment and grease the parchment.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Mix in the flour. The dough will seem very dry, and won’t seem to want to become cohesive at first. Just keep mixing it, and it’ll eventually come together.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with your fingers or a mini rolling pin (pastry roller). The dough will feel stiff, but just keep pressing on it until you’ve covered the bottom of the pan.
  4. Prick the dough all over with a fork; this will keep it from bubbling up as it bakes.
  5. Bake the crust for 30 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown around the edges and beginning to brown on the top. Remove it from the oven, and loosen the edges with a heat-resistant plastic knife or a table knife.

Topping

  1. Make the topping while the shortbread begins to cool.
  2. Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave, or over low heat on a burner, until the cream is steaming and barely beginning to form bubbles.  Remove from the heat, and stir. The chocolate will gradually form a lump in the center of the bowl, then will start to expand as it absorbs the cream. Eventually the chocolate and cream will become one; keep stirring until it’s very smooth. If all the chocolate doesn’t seem melted, reheat very briefly, and keep stirring.
  3. Using and offset spatula, spread the warm chocolate on top of the cookie crust.
  4. Sprinkle the marshmallows and then the pecans over the chocolate. Lightly press down so that they stick to the chocolate.
  5. Cover the pan, and place the bars in the refrigerator for about 15 to 20 minutes, to set the chocolate a bit.
  6. Using a sharp knife or baker’s bench knife, cut 2″ bars.

Note: Leftovers can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage; but these bars are tastier fresh than frozen and thawed.

Brownie Cookies

Craving a brownie but also want a cookie?  Don’t despair!  Brownie cookies are the latest trend uniting the cookie and brownie communities.  In less than an hour, you too can solve your brownie-cookie dilemma with this easy recipe for Brownie Cookies.  Crispy edges, a soft and chewy center, slightly gooey right out of the oven, and ultra chocolately, these cookies are irrefutable evidence that you CAN have your cake (or in this case, brownie and cookie) and eat it too.    

In case you needed a closeup…

Brownie Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen cookies
(from All the Good Cookies)

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips (using bittersweet chocolate chips instead of semi sweet chocolate chips keeps these cookies ultra rich and not too sweet)

Directions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on high for about 60 seconds, stirring once or twice halfway though.
  2. Stir until smooth and the butter is completely melted.
  3. Cook the butter-sugar mixture for an additional 20 seconds, until just hot (110°F to 120°F).  Stir the mixture until it’s slightly shiny looking (This heating dissolves more of the sugar which creates a shiny top crush on your cookies).  Cool for 5 minutes (you don’t want your butter-sugar mixture to be too warm because when you add it to the eggs, it might scramble the eggs a little).
  4. Place the eggs in a large mixer bowl, and beat until light yellow and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the butter-sugar mixture and vanilla to the eggs, beating well to combine.
  6. In a separate medium size bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder until well combined.
  7. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat until just combined.
  8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and stir in the chocolate chips.
  9. Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.  This will make it easier to scoop the dough.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  11. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Using a level, small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  13. Bake until the cookies begin to firm around the edges, about 10-13 minutes.  Rotate the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
  14. Cool on cookies sheets for 3 minutes, and then transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Apple Muffins

I love apple pie, but unless it’s an extra special occasion, I’m adverse to chilling and rolling out dough for a pie crust.  Apple Muffins are a quick and easy way to satisfy your apple pie craving with less effort and all of the benefits.  These tender muffins are stuffed with baked apples, cinnamon, and other apple pie spices, and the muffin top is slightly crunchy due to the caramelized brown sugar.  If you split a muffin in half and top it with vanilla bean ice cream (Häagen-Dazs makes a good one), you have your own delicious version of apple pie a la mode.

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A cross section view of the muffin with baked apple chunks bursting out.
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Apple Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
(from King Arthur Flour)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (5 5/8 ounces)brown sugar, divided
1 large egg
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk; or 1 cup plain (not Greek-style) yogurt; or 3/4 cup (6 ounces) Greek-style yogurt + 1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk [I used King Arthur Flour Dried Buttermilk Powder]
2 cup (8 1/2 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon [I used Penzey’s Baking Spice which is a combination of cinnamon, anise, allspice, mace and cardamom]
2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) peeled, cored, and chopped apples; about 2 large apples, about 3/4 pound whole apples

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with papers and lightly grease the insides of the papers.
  3. Mix together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, beating until fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. Gently mix in the buttermilk or yogurt.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Then mix into the wet ingredients until just combined.  Do not overmix to keep the muffins tender.
  7. Fold in the chopped apples.
  8. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar on top.
  9. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  10. Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling completely.