Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars

I’ve had this recipe in my to-do pile for quite awhile and finally decided to give it a whirl.  Dennis said he wanted something with chocolate (doesn’t he always?) and I love the salty-sweet combo.  Hmm, sweet and salty has me thinking of Chubby Hubby ice cream….

But back to the bars!  They gave me yet another chance to use the mallet when I broke up the pretzels.  If you don’t have a mallet you can just put them in a Ziploc and crush them by hand.  But you really should get a mallet – it makes baking much more fun.

The consensus on the bars – home run!  Dennis said he’d move them into the regular rotation and my co-workers gobbled them up.  They’re really pretty easy to put together and anyone you give them to will be so thankful. 

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars (from Food & Wine)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 12-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups thin pretzels, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, allowing overhang on the 2 long ends.  (I always have a problem getting the parchment paper to stay put so I came up with the idea of greasing the pan with the butter wrappers then putting the parchment paper on.  It worked great – I’ll definitely do that in the future).

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chips and pretzels.

Spread the batter in the pan and top with the sprinkles. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden; the center will still be a little gooey. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

Run the tip of a knife around the side of the pan and lift the bar out using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

I think I’m in the midst of summer doldrums. I came into this week with no idea about what to bake. After opening and closing a good number of my cookbooks I perused the Web to see if anything struck my fancy. Success! Chocolate cookies with a gooey caramel filling, courtesy of a Rolo? Sounds like a winner to me.

A co-worker said these resemble flying saucers. They did look a bit funny coming out of the oven but they taste great. Apparently it’s hard to go wrong when you stuff cookies full of treats, whether it’s Oreos or Rolo’s. Hmm, now I just have to think about what else I can throw inside a cookie…

Rolo Stuffed Chocolate Cookies (
makes about 30 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter; room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar; packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dutch-process cocoa
2 TB sugar (I used turbinado but granulated sugar would be fine too)
Unwrapped Rolo’s

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.

Place in the fridge covered for at least 2 hours to chill until firm. I just realized that I didn’t cover mine. Ah well, it came out fine.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough and push a flat spot in the middle where the Rolo will be placed. Press the dough around the around the Rolo and roll the dough into a ball.

Rolls the balls in the granulated sugar and place onto a parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Place dough back into fridge to keep cold. Bake for 8 minutes. Then let the cookie sit on the baking sheet for 3-4 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place onto wired rack to finish cooling.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brownie Bites

I was lacking inspiration this week. Call it the summer doldrums, I guess. I went to my favorite cooking blog and searched specifically for a treat that would allow me to use my new mini-cupcake pan. Instead of cupcakes, though, I came across a recipe for brownie bites. Bringing brownies into work in August seemed like a better bet than cupcakes anyway.

So onto the brownies. My favorite thing about these is that you can customize them as you like. I rummaged through our pantry and came out with some M&M’s, chocolate chips and crushed Heath bar. The recipe originally called for mini M&M’s but I didn’t have those. I did, however, have a mallet. Who says baking isn’t therapeutic?

Brownie Bites (from Culinary in the Desert)

12 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup dutch-proccess cocoa
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup M&M’s, chocolate chips, Heath bar…basically whatever you desire

Preheat oven to 325.

In a medium saucepan, add butter and cocoa powder - melt while stirring frequently over low heat. When smooth, set aside and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and espresso powder. Whisk into the melted butter and cocoa. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir into the wet mixture just until combined. Portion out into 36 mini muffin cups lightly coated with nonstick spray. Place M&M’s, chocolate chips, etc. on top.

Bake for 8-12 minutes - when you test for doneness with a toothpick, you want it to be still a little wet in the center of each cup. Remove and let cool completely in the pan.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peach Blueberry-Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler

There’s a reason New Jersey is called the Garden State. Though growing up in north Jersey I never really saw much farmland or fresh produce (except for my Pappou’s garden which grew everything from string beans to tomatoes to baseball-sized zucchini). But over the past few years farmer’s markets have been popping up all over the state which makes it so much easier to get fresh produce without having to travel far. We’re lucky enough to have the Westfield Farmer’s Market only a short drive away and go there every Saturday. Last week I made the peach muffins but this week I wanted to make something we could have for dessert.

Deb at Smitten Kitchen always has such wonderful recipes so when I came across her recipe for cobbler I knew I had to try it. I made ours with a mix of peaches, blueberries and raspberries. I think it’s a very forgiving recipe – you can throw in whatever you have on hand. We kept it for a few days and just left it in the fridge. Then you can just heat it up in the microwave and put a scoop of ice cream on top. That isn’t optional.

Peach Blueberry-Raspberry Cornmeal Cobbler (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the fruit
1 (about 3 cups) pound peaches, pitted and cut into slices
1 cup blueberries/raspberries, rinsed and dried
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the biscuit topping
3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used ½ cup of milk and ½ T. lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 425. Toss fruit with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart ovenproof dish.

Make the biscuit dough: Stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture with your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender. Stir in buttermilk with a rubber spatula until a wet, tacky dough comes together.

Place spoonfuls of the biscuit dough over the filling. Bake until the syrup is bubbly and the biscuit tops are browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.