Trial and Error

Once again I thought I’d try some new recipes from one of my many cookbooks, and I turned to the King Arthur’s Flour All-Purpose Cookbook, despite my less than thrilling results with the chocolate chip cookies. After all, you hear rave reviews of something and, when the first thing that you try that isn’t to your taste, it doesn’t squelch your interest entirely and you have to try something else. I made the ‘Ultra-Butterscotch Brownies’ but used the variation for blondies and omitted the butterscotch chips.

I wish now that I would have tried these in one of my glass dishes, because I think they may have baked better than in my metal 9×13 pan. These were looking quite done — pulling away from the sides of the pan, glossy on top, gooey but not runny in the middle, so I pulled them from the oven and *FOOM* they collapsed like the Stardust but without the fireworks, cheering, or dust. But the part around the edge is sooo yummy. Oh, man, how can you go wrong with that much butter and brown sugar together? I may have to try these again. And on the next page in the cookbook is ‘Raspberry Truffle Brownie Bars’, so I’m not ready to throw in the towel on this cookbook, yet.

Butterscotch Blondies (from The King Arthur’s Flour Baker’s Companion, p. 324)

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) soft butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
2 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl in the microwave, and mix in the sugar, salt, baking powder, and flavoring. Stir in the flour, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in 1 c. of the nuts. Scoop the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the top of the batter.

Bake the blondies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is shiny but the middle is still gooey (though not liquid). Just like a fudge brownie, you don’t want to overbake these; underbake a bit for chewiest texture. Remove them from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

Minty Fresh

I guess I’m just on a brownie kick lately. There are worse things in life. 😉 I have a friend who is fond of Andes’ Candies and I thought I would try to come up with a brownie recipe that used the little bits found in the grocery near the chocolate chips, but that wasn’t so darkly chocolaty that she wouldn’t want to eat them. I took these to our concert of prayer on Sunday.

These have what you might consider a traditional brownie texture. They don’t rise a lot so they won’t be confused as cake; they are dense but not so moist as to be fudgy. I was rather pleased with the final result and would definitely make these again. And minty fresh breath is good for kissing 😀

Mint Brownies

2 c. sugar
4 eggs

1 t. vanilla
1 c. butter, melted

1 c. flour
2/3 c. cocoa
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

1 c. Andes’ Candies bits

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 10×15 inch jelly roll pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs. Add the vanilla and butter and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients; add to batter and mix well. Fold in the candy bits.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. Spread with frosting.

7 Tbsp. cocoa
7 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 c. confectioners’ sugar
5-6 Tbsp. whipping cream

Andes’ Candies bits

Beat together frosting ingredients, adding enough cream to achieve a spreading consistency. Frost brownies; sprinkle with candy bits.

Shortbread Bars

When I have someone over for dinner in the middle of the week, I often pick some quick and easy dessert so I don’t derail schooling in favor of entertaining. I’d much rather bake something fancy than be the taskmaster for school, but I don’t want our schooling to drag on to ‘infinity and beyond’, so I usually force myself to be reasonable. Last night Crystal joined us for a very homey dinner of ham and split pea soup (or split ham & pea soup) with roast beef hash & frozen veggies for those who prefer not to eat soup. You can tell she’s becoming ‘family’ rather than ‘guest’ when I’m serving such plain fare!

For dessert we had shortbread bars. This is a basic recipe that I use over and over. Some of my favorite variations are to leave out the mini chocolate chips and put lemon or orange zest and/or extract in the crust and my all-time favorite filling is raspberry seedless jam, but I also like blackberry, boysenberry, cherry, or huckleberry. Strawberry is what I had in the cabinet yesterday. Sometimes I add nuts (1/2 c. chopped pecans), especially to the top layer. It’s really fast to threw together and it’s usually pretty popular. I frequently double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan when I’m serving a crowd.

Shortbread Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter (or margarine)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

10 oz jar berry preserves

Heat oven to 350 F. In large mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or cut in butter by hand). Stir in chocolate chips. Reserve 1/2 – 3/4 c. crumb mixture.

Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Spread preserves over crumb mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the top and, if desired, 1/2 c. chopped pecans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and preserves are bubbly. Cool completely; cut into bars.

Nanaimo Repeats

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Unlike some people, I like repeats. Or at least I like some repeats. I don’t want to break my leg again or be in another car accident or go through labor and delivery again. For some things once (or four times, in the case of the latter) is enough. But some things can bear repetition. Muffins, cookies, and pies, some things just taste good enough to have again, just like they were, or close to like they were, the first time, the second, the thirty-second. I wouldn’t want to eat them every week, but Nanaimo Bars are a tasty treat that are requested from time to time. I made some for Crystal last week, now that she can have the occasional egg, and The Husband suggested I make some for the student lunch yesterday. So I made three trays — orange, mint, and peanut butter.

Mint Nanaimo Bars with Andes Candies

Now we’ll take a break from Nanaimos and try something else. Like, pie. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you may enjoy these links. First, Cooking Debauchery made Alton Brown’s Browned Butter Chocolate Chip-Cherry Cookies, which I saw on Tastespotting with the label “not your average chocolate chip cookie”. Secondly, you simply must see Megnut’s Mean Chocolate Chip Cookie. Thanks to MN for sending me the link.

Sweet Success

Following on the heels of two gluten-free baking successes, I modified yet another Bob’s Red Mill recipe, this one they credit as coming from Cooking Light Magazine.

pineapple carrot gf bars

Pineapple Carrot Bars

1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. xanthan gum
2/3 c. rice flour
1/3 c. arrowroot powder
2 t. cream of tartar
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. sea salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. finely shredded carrot
1/2 c. raisins (sulfite free)
3 Tbsp. rice milk
8 oz crushed pineapple in natural juice, drained

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or spray a 9″ x 13″ pan; set aside.

Combine honey, oil, and vanilla; stir well. Combine gum, flours, cream of tartar, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir into honey mixture; mix well. Add carrots, raisins, rice milk, and pineapple; stir well.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Makes 24 bars.

gluten free bar cookie

They have a soft, cake like texture and are decent enough. The Husband thought it was edible, too! I’m beginning to get a feel for this gluten free baking and may branch out into creating my own recipes soon, but now I need to bake a few regular things for an upcoming student lunch.