Milky Swirl Brownies

If you’re going to break your New Year’s diet resolution, it might as well be with these Milky Swirl Brownies because you won’t regret it…not one bit.   The combined super powers of chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder  result in an intensely chocolatey and rich brownie, and swirls of sweetened condensed milk amplify the already moist and fudgey center.  Fire up that oven because making these brownies has turned into your new New Year’s resolution.

P.S. Using a high quality cocoa powder makes a big difference in taste and texture.  My baking fairies (MG and SB) gifted me with  Rodelle baking cocoa, and my world has been extra chocolately ever since.

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Milky Swirl Brownies

Makes one 9×13 inch pan of brownies (that’s a lot!)
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

12 ounces (24 tablespoons) unsalted butter; more for the pan, softened (Yep, that’s A LOT of butter, but that’s why these brownies are so good)
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1-1/3 cups) Dutch-process cocoa (use the best quality possible.  I used Rodelle baking cocoa)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
16 ounces (2-1/4 cups) granulated sugar
2 ounces (1/4 packed cup) light brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs, cold
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional, but not really since it’s part of the chocolate trifecta)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment (make sure it goes up the sides of the pan and overhangs on the longer sides) or aluminum foil (butter lightly to ensure the brownies don’t stick too much.  Buttering the parchment is not needed).
  3. In a small bowl, mix the flour and cocoa powder until well combined, and set aside.
  4. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring while the butter hisses and pops. Continue cooking, scraping up any brown bits that form at the bottom of the pan, until the butter is golden yellow.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the chocolate until it has melted, and the butter and chocolate are well combined.  Set aside.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder (if using.)  Whisk on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy (about 7 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed.
  7. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and pour in the warm chocolate mixture in a slow steady stream.  Mix until well incorporated.
  8. Turn off the mixer, and fold in the flour mixture in thirds with a spatula, and fold until well combined.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth with an offset spatula.
  10. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, drop one-tablespoon scoops of condensed milk on top of the brownie batter in a configuration of five rows (vertically) of four (horizontally).  Drag a butter knife through the milk and batter, and very lightly swirl.  Do not mix too much or the swirls will disappear.
  11. Bake until the brownies are glossy and just barely firm, 25 to 30 minutes.  If you insert a cake tester or toothpick into the center, a few crumbs will cling to it.
  12. Cool to room temperature. Use the parchment or foil overhang to lift the brownies from the pan, then cut into 24 pieces. Do not cut the brownies while they are warm as they won’t hold their shape well.  Also, you may need to clean off your knife between cuts, as things can get a bit gooey.
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to one week at room temperature.

Lemon Bread

Recently I went into a huge lemon curd making frenzy after a neighbor gave me loads of Meyer lemons from her tree.  Afterwards, I realized that my options for consuming thus lemon curd were fairly limited.  Yes, eating it directly off a spoon is a totally reasonable option, but with the amount of lemon curd I made, I needed additional options.  What’s the perfect accompaniment for lemon curd?  My answer was more lemon… specifically Lemon Bread (cake).  On its own, this lemon bread probably won’t garner “oh my god this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever eaten” praise, but it’s a perfect partner to lemon curd.  It’s a tender and moist cake, yet dense enough to stand up to a heavy slather of lemon curd on top.  Plus, it’s easy to whip together.  I left the lemon glaze off  to make room for every little bit of lemon curd (and to make sure things wouldn’t get too sweet).

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Lemon Bread

Makes one 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf
(from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

Bread

1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk (I used reconstituted dried buttermilk powder) or yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs

Glaze

(I didn’t make this because I topped my bread with lemon curd)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar

Directions

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.  I used baking spray with flour and my cake came out of the pan easily.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk (or yogurt), lemon juice, and lemon rind, and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
  5. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until well combined.  It will look a bit crumbly.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture.
  8. Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. [NOTE: since I didn’t make the glaze, I stopped at this step.]
  9. While the bread is baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients (1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar) to dissolve the sugar.
  10. Remove the bread from the oven, and poke it all over with a cake tester, skewer, ice pick, or other long, thin tool.
  11. While the loaf is hot, drizzle it gradually with the glaze, stopping periodically to allow it to soak in. Set it aside, and let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the bread from the pan, and allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Note: The bread can be stored in an air tight container on the counter for up to 5  or frozen for up to 3 months.

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling.  Take a moment to savor those words and let them fully sink in.  These Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling may just be everything you have ever dreamt of … and more.  Imagine breakfast all rolled up into one decadent, handheld sandwich of oatmeal, smokey bacon, and maple syrup.  It’s as epic as it sounds, and you totally need this in your life.

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Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Bacon Filling

Makes about 24 two-inch whoopie pies
(from Whoopie Pies: Dozens of Mix ’em, Match ’em, Eat ’em Up Recipes)

Ingredients

Oatmeal Whoopies

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not fast-cooking), separated into 3/4 cup and 3/4 cup
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Maple Bacon Buttercream Filling

4 thick strips bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-3 cups confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Oatmeal Whoopie

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy and smooth.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  5. Add the vanilla, and beat until light and creamy.  Set aside.
  6. In a food processor or blender, process 3/4 cup of oatmeal until it resembles whole grain flour.
  7. Transfer the ground oatmeal to a medium bowl and add the remaining 3/4 cup of oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir well to combine.
  8. Add the oatmeal mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined.  Do not overmix.
  9. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure to leave at least 2 inches between each scoop of batter.
  10. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-11 minutes or until the cakes begin to brown.
  11.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Maple-Bacon Filling

  1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and powdered sugar on low until combined.
  4. Add the heavy cream, sour cream, vanilla extract, maple syrup, maple flavoring, and salt, and beat on low until smooth.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the bacon bits until just combined.

Assembling the whoopie pies

  1. Spread the filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes using an offset spatula, knife, or spoon.
  2. Top it with another cake, flat side down.  Very lightly press down.
  3. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.

Note:  I store these in the refrigerator so that they stay as fresh as possible.

Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

While making a big batch of peach jam, I discovered that one of my jars of jam did not process correctly and had to be used within a week.  Instead of eating almond butter and peach jam sandwiches for a week, I opted to bake a Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with peach jam swirled through the center of the cake and spread as a glaze on top.  Turns out peach jam is a perfect accompaniment for this light and tender, buttery cake.

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Brown Sugar Sour Cream Cake with Peach Jam Swirl

Makes one bundt cake
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

16 tablespoons (1 cup; 8 ounces) butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 8-ounce jar of jam (I used peach jam)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-cup Bundt pan.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugars at medium speed for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be light and airy, and will have lightened in color.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two between additions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat briefly to recombine any residue.
  5. Add the baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then gently beat in half the flour.
  6. Gently mix in the sour cream and vanilla,
  7. Add the remaining flour, mixing just until blended.  Don’t over mix to ensure the cake will be tender.
  8. Scoop the half of the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Evenly dollop approximately 2/3 of the jam on top of the batter (set aside the remaining 1/3 or jam for use after the cake has finished baking).  Use a knife to lightly swirl the jam into the batter.  Then pour the remaining half of the batter on top.  Make sure that the jam is covered by the cake batter, otherwise the jam will burn.
  10. Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to finish cooling.
  12. When the cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, spread the remaining jam on top of the cake.  Cool completely before slicing.

Fresh Peach Cake

One of the most delicious things I’ve eaten so far this year are the juicy, sweet peaches from my tree.  And if that weren’t enough, my peach tree pumped out peaches at such a plentiful rate that I had to find other creative ways to eat peaches.  Enter the Fresh Peach Cake.  This thick, tender, fluffy, vanilla cake is layered and topped with fresh, ripe peaches, and the cinnamon sugar sprinkle adds a sweet crunch to the crust on top.

I was rich is peaches this year.
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Peaches abound on top of the cake, but they’re also layered within the cake too.
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Even people who claimed not to like peaches liked this Peach Cake.
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Fresh Peach Cake

Makes one 9-inch square cake
(from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?)

Ingredients

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced (if you don’t fully peel the peaches, the skill will create an unappetizing greyish hue after baking.  Also if the slices are too thick, they’ll sink too far into the cake batter.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add the sour cream and mix well.
  6. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  7. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  8. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined,
  9. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon.
  10. Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter all the way to the edge of the pan.
  11. Top with half of the peaches, laying in single layer, evenly distributed.
  12. Sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar mixture on top.
  13. Spread the remaining batter on top.
  14. Arrange the remaining peaches on top.
  15. Sprinkle remaining sugar mixture.
  16. Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Two years ago, I lived in downtown Los Angeles among the hustle bustle of high-rise buildings and endless construction and traffic.  My valiant efforts at growing herbs on my rooftop patio were constantly thwarted by the sooty layer of city grime that always covered my plants.  So, when we moved to a house in the suburbs with a yard, high on my wish list was a garden of edibles including fruit trees.  Fast forward to the present, and those fruit trees have produced their first crop.  After eating more white nectarines in a month than I’ve previously eaten in a year, I decided to bake with them too.  This Nectarine Upside-Down Cake takes everything good about nectarines and amps it up 100% with a caramelized layer of nectarines resting on top of a tender, vanilla-almond cake.

Even though the tree was small, the fruit was plentiful.
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Tree-ripened, just picked, super sweet and juicy nectarines are a little slice of heaven.IMG_9095[1]

Upside down cakes look so demure and unassuming in the pan…
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But when you flip the pan over, the nectarine party is in full swing.IMG_9107[1]

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 9-inch round cake
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

7 1/2 ounces (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter (3 tablespoons melted, 12 tablespoons softened; more for the pan)
3 tablespoons demerara or other raw sugar
4 to 5 nectarines, cut into wedges (you can keep the skin on)
6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven,  and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Pour the 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the pan, and tilt so that the butter covers the bottom.
  4. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the bottom.
  5. Lay the nectarine wedges over the bottom in snug concentric circles, starting from the edge. Set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  7. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 12 tablespoons of softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  8. Beat in the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.
  9. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  10. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined; the batter will be very thick.
  11. Use a silicone spatula to spread the batter over the nectarines, being careful not to move them. Smooth the top.
  12. Bake until the cake is dark brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  13. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cake plate. Remove the cake pan and parchment, and let the cake cool completely before serving.

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

It’s never a good day in my kitchen when baked goods come out of the oven ugly.  But I’ve found an exception to that rule.  These Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies) are the most addictively delicious ugly cookies ever.  They’re crispy on the edges like a delicate thin sheet of caramelized sugar and chewy in the center with crunchy pockets of flavor speckled throughout from the Fruity Pebbles clusters.  From start to finish, these cookies take extra time, effort, and patience, but the enjoyment from eating them is endless.  IMG_9041[1]

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

Makes approximately 15-20 large cookies or about 3 dozen smaller cookies
(from Milk Momofuku Milk Bar)

Ingredients

Fruity Pebble Crunch

1/4  (17-ounce) box (2 1/2 cups; 120g) Fruity Pebbles cereal
1/4 cup (20g) milk powder
1 tablespoon (12g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, melted

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 225g) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup tightly packed (150g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240g) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons (5g) kosher salt
1 recipe Fruity Pebbles Crunch
1 1/4 cups (65g) mini marshmallows (I used fruity marshmallows but regular mini’s work too. Make sure the marshmallows are not stuck together.)

Directions

Fruity Pebble Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the Fruity Pebbles, milk powder, sugar, and salt until well combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix until the cereal is fully covered.
  4. Spread the cereal mixture on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until the cereal mixture looks toasted, smells buttery, and is crunchy when cooled slightly and chewed.
  6. Cool the Fruity Pebble crunch fully before storing or using in a recipe (this took about 15 minutes for me). (Note: the Fruity Pebble Crunch can  be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about a week or in the fridge or freezer for about a month).

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until the dough comes together (no more than 1 minute).  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula,
  5. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the Fruity Pebble crunch until evenly distributed through the dough (30-45 seconds).
  6. Stir in the mini-marshmallows until incorporated.
  7. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Flatten the dough balls slightly.
  8. Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.  Or put the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  (Important note: do not bake the cookies using room temperature dough.  They will spread too much and become a big mess.).
  9. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  10. Place the chilled dough disks at least 4 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan (I usually only bake 6 cookies per sheet pan.)
  11. Bake the cookies (1 cookie sheet at a time, and rotate half way through baking time to ensure even baking) until the edges are slightly browned, and the center is no longer doughy (You will have to experiment with bake times.  If you refrigerated your cookie dought, the approximate bake time for 2 3/4 ounces dough discs is 18 minutes; bake time for a tablespoon cookie scoop is about 7 minutes.  If your cookie dough is frozen, add about 1 minute extra to the bake time.).
  12. Cool the cookies on the sheet pan.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Almond Flour Brownies (Gluten-Free)

I’ve been having some unusually good brownie karma lately.  After making an especially delicious batch of candied bacon brownies, I was emboldened to bake a batch of gluten-free brownies using almond flour.  In a word, these brownies are perfect.  They have a crispy, shiny top crust and an uber fudgey center.  The almond flour adds a “je ne sais quoi” overall richness to the chocolately flavor while keeping everything moist and tender.  If you don’t have almond flour in your pantry, it’s worth buying just to make this recipe.

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Almond Flour Brownies

Makes 16 brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (5 1/8 ounces) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease or line with parchment an 8″ square pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
  4. In a medium size bowl, stir together the almond flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well mixed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs.  Do not overbake, or the brownies will be dry.
  8. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Note: Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze for longer storage.

Candied Bacon Brownies

THIS is how you make brownies epic-ly delicious – swirl candied bacon throughout the brownie batter and sprinkle even more candied bacon on top.  The result is a fudgey, chewy, rich brownie with a smoky, salty kick.  Never have pork and chocolate tasted so good together.

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Candied Bacon Brownies

Makes one 9×13″ pan of brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Candied Bacon

12 ounces thick cut, uncooked bacon
light brown sugar, to coat

Brownies

1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13″ pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly, or line with parchment paper (I prefer to line with parchment paper because it’s less mess to clean up, and it’s easy to lift the brownies out of the pan).

Candied Bacon

  1. Spread the bacon in a single layer on a wire racked placed over a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Coat the strips of bacon with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar.
  3. Bake the bacon until it’s crisp but not totally browned (about 20 to 25 minutes).
  4. Remove the candied bacon from the oven, and place it on a plate or parchment to cool. Do not cool the bacon on paper towels as it will stick. When the bacon is cool, crumble or chop it coarsely.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, salt, flour, and espresso powder.
  2. Add the eggs, oil, and water, mixing just until smooth.
  3. Stir half of the chopped candied bacon into the brownie batter.
  4. Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining candied bacon on top of the brownie batter.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, with a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

Note: Brownies should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 4-5 days.

Caramel Candy Bars

I’ve reached the point in my baking repertoire where a shortbread cookie layer topped with caramel and finished off with a rich layer of chocolate has become a bit mundane.  It’s delicious, but where’s the fun in so much predictability?  These Caramel Candy Bars provide a refreshing deviation from the norm with the addition of all things almond, including almond extract,  almond flour, and chopped almonds.  In a further unexpected twist, half of the shortbread dough is sprinkled on top of the caramel to create a streusel layer that is then topped off by a generous layer of chocolate and toasted almonds.  While these Caramel Candy Bars require a bit of time and work, the results are anything but ordinary.
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Caramel Candy Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan
(from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/4 ounces) toasted almond flour or finely ground toasted almonds

Filling

2 cups (16 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 ounces) cream (light, heavy, or whipping) or evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting

1 cup (6 ounces) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) light corn syrup
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) chopped toasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan and line the pan with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar until well combined.
  2. Beat in the egg, and scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and mix until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the four, salt, baking powder, and almond flour until well combined.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until well combined.
  6. Divide the dough in half.  Press half the mixture into the prepared pan.  Save the remaining half to use as the streusel topping (Press the dough into a log, and freeze it while making the caramel.)
  7. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned around the edges.  Remove it from the oven, and cool slightly while making the filling.

Filling

  1. In a large (3 1/2 to 4-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and corn syrup.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes without stirring, to wash any sugar crystals off the  insides of the pan.
  2. Uncover the pan, stir in the butter, and continue to boil, stirring often, until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage, 234°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. While the syrup is boiling, gently heat the cream in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop until it’s hot but not boiling.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat, and slowly stir in the hot cream.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up.
  5. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 245°F to 248°F.
  6.  Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Pour the caramel over the baked crust.  Let the filling cool for a few minutes.
  8. Remove the dough log from the freezer and use a coarse grater to grate the crumbs over the top of the hot caramel, or use your hands to crumble the reserved crust mixture over the hot caramel.
  9. Bake the bars for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Remove the bars from the oven and cool them on a rack.

Frosting

  1. In a saucepan set over medium heat, or in the microwave, stir together the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter, until melted.
  2. Spread the frosting over the cooled bars.
  3. Sprinkle the almonds over the warm chocolate, and let the bars rest until the chocolate firms up, several hours or overnight.  You can refrigerate the bars to speed up the firming process.
  4. If you’ve refrigerated the bars, let the bars come to room temperature before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars (if you cut the bars right out of the oven, they may be difficult to cut and break off unevenly).