Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

(Sung to the tune of the Beatles “Let It Be”)
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Candy bars are there for me
Easing all the stress
De–li–cious–ly”

A series of flight delays and other airport hassles on a Sunday night led me to treat myself to a See’s Candies Nut & Chew Bar from an airport See’s kiosk.  And you know what?  It made my travel experience a little sweeter and inspired me to make nougat from scratch.  Most people barely know what nougat is, and you don’t really need to know much more than that it’s the chewy stuff that holds together a Snickers bar.  My experimentation with nougat was in the form of Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites- a mini twist pretzel covered in a mound of chewy, fluffy nougat with two roasted almonds on top, smothered by dark chocolate.  It turns out the nougat wasn’t as difficult to make as I thought it would be, but it still requires proficient use of a candy thermometer and coordination skills that allow you to slowly and carefully pour boiling hot sugar into a rapidly turning mixing bowl.  So, it’s definitely not a process for the candying making novice.  That said, the results are pretty ridiculously delicious.  Note, the nougat doesn’t take too long to make (under an hour), but it takes quite a bit of time to individually assemble each of the candies.  Plus chilling time is needed, so this recipe can be quite a time intensive project.

The nougat in all its beauty and glory.  You can see the candies to the left before they’ve been covered with chocolate.
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Hours later, the Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites are ready to eat.
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Chocolate Almond Nougat Bites

Makes approximately 100 pieces
(From Hand-Crafted Candy Bars)

Ingredients

Mini twist pretzels (buy a big bag to make sure you have enough.  The number of pretzels you use will depend on how much nougat you pile on top of each pretzel)

Nougat

3 egg whites
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) corn syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Whole roasted almonds, approximately 1 pound (16 ounces)

1 pound of melted dark chocolate (I used a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate bar)

Directions

  1. Line at least two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the pretzels on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Nougat

  1. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, and continue to boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer (about 6 minutes).
  4. When the sugar mixture has reached 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites on low speed, just until they are a bit bubbly.
  5. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 245°F.  Take it off the heat.
  6. With the mixer on low, pour a splash of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the space between the rim of the bowl and the whisk attachment.  Make sure not to add too much sugar syrup at a time because it could cook the egg whites.
  7. Continue whisking, and slowly add the rest of the hot sugar syrup.
  8. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix until the nougat reaches a full, frothy foam (about 4 minutes).
  9. Add the vanilla and salt to the nougat.
  10. Keep whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-6 minutes.
  11. Allow the nougat to cool in the bowl, and once it has reached room temperature, you’re ready to assemble the candy.

Assembling the Candy

  1.  Using two spoons or a small cookie scoop, put a mound of nougat on each pretzel.
  2. Lightly press 2-3 whole almonds on top of the nougat.  Repeat with all the pretzels.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl set over a boiling pot of water.
  4. Spoon the melted chocolate over the almond/nougat, and spread lightly over the sides if desired.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

Note: These can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.  I prefer to keep them in the fridge.

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).

Homemade Oreos

The grocery store cookie aisle is no longer the only place where you can find delicious Oreos, because this recipe for Homemade Oreos is one of those rare instances when a knockoff is a surprising improvement over the real thing.  These “Faux-re-os” taste just like Oreos, with a creamy vanilla filling sandwiched between two intensely dark, chocolately cookies.  The homemade version has a slightly softer texture and a more condensed, rich flavor. But just like store-bought Oreos, these cookies will transport you into a cookie eating twilight zone where you start off with eating one, and suddenly a whole row of them have disappeared.

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Homemade Oreos

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size
(from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer – All the Good Cookies)

Ingredients

Cookies

1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Black Cocoa but the orginal recipe also recommends Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Filling

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, and mix well.
  5. Add the egg yolk, and mix well.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
  6. Add the vanilla, and mix well.
  7. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until well mixed.
  8. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  10. Using a level small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  11. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.
  12. Transfer to the oven, and bake until the edges begin to firm up, about 9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
  13. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes.
  14. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.
  15. Repeat with the remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.

Filling

  1. Place the butter and shortening in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk and beat until creamy.
  2. On low speed, add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  3. Increase the spped of the mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Assembling the Cookies

  1. Spread a scant teaspoonful of filling onto the bottom of half of a cookie, and top with another cookie.
  2. Gently squeeze the cookies together so the filling spreads to the edge.

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

Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-Free)

Gluten-free sweets lovers rejoice!  These Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache are perfect in so many ways.  The cake is light, tender, and spongey with just a hit of almond flavor while the chocolate ganache is rich and creamy.  Plus, these cakes are barely palm-sized, so they’re easy to share, which is a good thing because these cakes are best eaten warm or within eight hours of baking.
A few things to know before you bake these:

  • Allow enough time to chill your ganache (30-60 minutes in addition to prep and baking time)
  • Finely chop your chocolate so that it will melt smoothly into the heated cream
  • Don’t overdo it on adding almond extract as the flavor can be quite strong
  • It really cuts down on prep time to use both a food processor and a mixer
  • Whipping egg whites is the key to the spongey, light cake texture so make sure to follow through on this
  • Don’t overbake the cakes on the first round of baking as it will be more difficult to insert the chocolate ganache balls for the second round of baking

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Mini Almond Cakes with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-Free)

Makes 12 cupcakes
(from New York Times Cooking)

Ingredients

Ganache

⅓ cup (80 milliliters) heavy cream
3 ounces (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Almond Cake

6 tablespoons (85 grams) melted unsalted butter, cooled, plus more for muffin tin
¾ cup (85 grams) almond flour or meal
¾ cup (94 grams) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
Few drops almond extract (optional)
3 tablespoons (24 grams) cornstarch
1 ¼ teaspoons (4 grams) baking powder
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar

Directions

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Put the cream in a glass measuring cup (a 1-cup size works well), and heat it in the microwave (approximately 45-60 seconds) until it’s bubbling (or you can heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan).
  2. Add the chocolate to the heated cream, and let it sit for 1 minute.  Then stir the chocolate and cream together until smooth.
  3. Transfer the chocolate ganache to a small container (preferably metal) and freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  4. Scoop the chocolate ganache (a small cookie scoop works well for this), and roll into twelve 3/4-inch balls. Since the ganache is very soft and can be messy to handle, you don’t need to create perfectly round balls.  Place the ganache balls in the refrigerator until needed.  Ganache balls can be prepared up to 1 week ahead.

Almond Cake

  1. Heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Butter a muffin tin or line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Using a food processor or blender, mix the almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until powdery, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the two eggs and almond extract, and process until smooth, 30 seconds longer.
  5. Pulse in the butter, cornstarch, and baking powder.
  6. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and set aside.
  7. Using an electric mixer, whip the two egg whites until very foamy.
  8. Gradually add granulated sugar while beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  9. Using a spatula, gently and carefully fold a third of the egg whites into the almond mixture to lighten it. Then, fold in the rest of the egg whites just until no streaks remain.
  10. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tin, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. Remove the ganache balls from refrigerator, and place one ball in the center of each cake, pushing it down halfway into batter.
  12. Return the cakes to the oven, and bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into cake (and not the chocolate) comes out clean, another 8 to 10 minutes.
  13. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably within 8 hours of baking.

Flourless Fudge Cookies

Typically I don’t have much interest in baking gluten-free sweets.  But recently I reached a threshold number of friends who are gluten sensitive/intolerant, and thus have made a more concerted effort to provide a few gluten-free baked goods options.  These Flourless Fudge Cookies will make any chocolate lover swoon.  When you don’t have flour to work with, you pack a cookie with flavor-rich ingredients like cocoa powder (use a good quality cocoa powder like from Penzey’s) and espresso powder.  This light-as-air cookie has a delicate crispy top and a delightfully chewy center, all while packing an intense chocolate punch.

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Flourless Fudge Cookies

Makes 16 large or 32 small cookies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1 cup (3 ounces) cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process cocoa
3 large (3 3/4 ounces) egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (8-12 ounces) chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and/or chopped dried fruit, optional (I don’t use add ins as the cookies are pretty delicate and thin, and I don’t want them weighed down)

Directions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and grease the parchment.  These cookies will stick, so greasing the parchment is a must.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, salt, espresso powder, and cocoa powder.
  4. Pour the egg-vanilla mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir together to mix well.  Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir until the batter is smooth.  The batter should be the consistency of thick syrup.  It will not look like your typical cookie dough, but do not be alarmed.
  5. Add the chips, nuts, etc. if using.  I prefer not to add these in as the cookies are delicate.
  6. Drop the batter onto the baking sheets in 3″ (for large cookies) or 1 3/4″ to 2″ (for smaller cookies) rounds.  I like using a cookie scoop for this as it gets messy because the dough is so liquidy.  Let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350°F.  Don’t skip the dough resting step as it allows the cookies to bake more evenly.
  7. Bake the cookies for 7 minutes (for small cookies) or 8-9 minutes (for larger cookies).  The cookies will spread slightly while baking, and become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.
  8. Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.  When they’re nearly cool, loosen them from the pan with a spatula.

Shortbread Toffee Bars

One of my favorite things to bake (and other people’s favorite thing to eat) is shortbread caramel bars.  Even though I’ve made countless variations, I can never resist trying a slightly different recipe.  These Shortbread Toffee Bars are very sweet and rich, and a little goes a long way.  The shortbread bottom and chocolate topping are typical of this type of recipe, but the center is less chewy and less caramely and more toffee-like with a slight crumbly texture.  Risk takers who enjoy baking on the edge may especially enjoy cooking the toffee center as the longer you cook it, the more toffee-like and rich-flavored it will be, but you also run a high risk of burning it.

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Shortbread Toffee Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan of bars
(from the kitchn)
I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe and added more details to the original directions.

Ingredients

Shortbread 

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

Toffee

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Chocolate Topping

1 bag (10 ounces) good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
Sea salt (optional)

Directions

Shortbread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  If you would like really easy removal of your bars from the pan, you can line the pan with parchment paper.  I did not do that, and my bars came out of the pan fairly easily, but next time I’ll probably line with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and beat on low speed until crumbly, making sure not to over-mix the dough.
  4. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and make sure to pack it down well.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool while you’re making the toffee.

Toffee

  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, stir together the butter, sugar, condensed milk, and maple syrup until well combined.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The mixture can burn quickly and easily, so make sure to keep stirring.  Continue to cook the mixture until it is thick and golden brown (but not burnt), about 8-10 minutes.  The deeper brown the toffee is, the more flavorful it will be.  Lighter colored toffee will taste more like sugar.
  3. Pour the toffee on top of the shortbread, and use an offset spatula to  spread the mixture to the edges.
  4. Allow the toffee to set at least an hour or overnight.

Chocolate Topping

  1. Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave.
  2. Pour the chocolate over the cooled toffee layer, and spread to the edges with and offset spatula.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt (if using), and cool completely.  Since these bars are quite sweet, a sprinkle of sea salt would work well.  I forgot to sprinkle mine with sea salt.
  4. Once the mixture has a cooled a little, you can put the bars in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate (this will also make cutting the bars a bit neater).
  5. Once everything has cooled completely, cut into squares (1 1/2 inch squares are a good size since these bars are so sweet and rich).  If you refrigerated your bars, let them sit out at room temperature to soften a little before cutting (if you cut the bars when they’re cold, the layers may separate and crumble).

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.

Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars

I have a 528 page cookbook devoted solely to cookies (and their derivatives).  So, when it comes to choosing one recipe to make on busy a weeknight, the recipe has to meet a few strict criteria including having high impact (i.e., being extremely tasty and looking especially fetching) and being easy to make (no fancy equipment or ingredients needed).  These Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars fit the bill perfectly with their chewy, brown sugary oatmeal bottom topped with semi-sweet chocolate and a sprinkle of pecans.  They taste a little like a candy bar version of a granola bar.

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Chocolate Oatmeal Crunch Bars

Makes about 48 one-and-a-half-inch squares
(from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion- The Essential Cookie Cookbook)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Crust

4 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) rolled oats
1 cup (8 ounces) brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping

2 cups (12 ounces) chocolate chips
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) chopped nuts [I like pecans]

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan or a 14-inch round deep-dish pizza pan. [I didn’t have a pan this size, so I used an 11×17 inch pan, BUT I didn’t spread the crust all the way to the edges of the pan because it would have been too thin.  Instead, I lined the pan with parchment paper (making sure the parchment went up the sides of the pan), spread the crust to approximately 10×15 inches, and used dried beans (that I usually use for pie weights) to fill in the empty space in the pan so that the crust would not spread too much.]

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the oats, sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt.
  2. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, using lightly greased hands (or the greased bottom of a loaf pan).
  3. Bake the crust for 10 to 14 minutes, or until it’s a light golden brown.  The crust will bubble up as it bakes.
  4. Remove from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.

Topping

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan set over low heat, or in a microwave, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together, stirring until smooth.
  2. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the cooled crust, and sprinkle on the nuts.
  3. Cover and loosely chill the bars in the refrigerator, and cut into squares.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This Flourless Chocolate Cake is the overlord of all chocolate cakes.  With a chocolate trifecta of chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in the cake plus a hearty slathering of chocolate ganache on top, this is the richest, most decadent chocolate cake you will ever eat.  There’s no flour in this cake to take up any space from the chocolate, so gluten-free people rejoice!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Makes one 8 inch cake, 8 to 12 servings
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Cake

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa preferred

Glaze

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy cream

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan; cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary. You can also do this over a burner set at very low heat. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.
  4. Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. Espresso enhances chocolate’s flavor much as vanilla does; using 1 teaspoon will simply enhance the flavor, while 2 teaspoons will lend a hint of mocha to the cake.
  5. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth.
  6. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.  Note: The original recipe recommends inserting a thermometer, but I didn’t do that.  Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.
  9. Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate. The top will now be on the bottom; that’s fine. Also, the edges will crumble a bit, which is also fine. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.

Glaze

  1. Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is very hot, but not simmering. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is completely smooth.  Or you can melt the chocolate and cream over a double boiler. 
  2. Spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it to drip over the sides a bit. Allow the glaze to set for several hours before serving the cake.