RSS Feed

Category Archives: Brownies/Bars

O Beautiful, For Spacious Pies

Posted on

Blueberry pie, click image for recipe

Oh what I meant skies, not pies. But yes, it’s almost the 4th of July y’all! And in honor of that I feel the need to help you out a little bit. Trust me, I know the frenzy you feel. Grill recipes, pie recipes, treat recipes, snack recipes, goodness gracious how many times must I visit the Martha Stewart website before I can finish my menu!

But, wait, I’ve been baking for more than 2 years now, I should have some things…

What about some Mixed Berry Boy Bait?

Mixed Berry Boy Bait

I’m a pretty big fan of  blueberries. How great that it’s such a 4th of July classic, eh?

But that doesn’t mean blueberries are all! Check out Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts. A delicious food to bring for a picnic if you’re one of those people heading out to parks to check out the fireworks this year.

Lemon Basil Shortbread Hearts

What if you’re going to a park and need picnic food? Well besides shortbread, look at peach crumb bars!

Peach Crumb Bars

Oh and drinks are on me too in the form of virgin mojitos.

Virgin mojitos

Maybe you’re looking for a summery cake that is just as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as it is to your taste buds? Try a ridiculously simple Summery Fruit Cake.

Summery Fruit Cake

I feel like I’ve covered most of my summer favorites for baking that you could surely incorporate into your own 4th of July menu. And just some last few options that might interest you:

Peanut Butter Blondies

Blame it On the B-b-b-b-blondie

You know that little weight scare you get when you weigh yourself and you weigh 3 pounds more than the last time you weighed yourself and you start accusing your bag of Cheetos and that huge brownie you just ate? That’s what happened to me on Tuesday night. Then I went upstairs and changed into running shorts and ha-HA! It was all my yoga pants’ fault.

So dear bag of Cheetos and humongous brownie, I’m sorry for calling you two nasty names. In honor of you two, I made peanut butter blondies with peanut butter frosting so in case I weigh myself and I actually  gain 3 pounds, the peanut butter blondies will take the blame and not you two.

That’s right. Blame it on the peanut butter blondies.

Oh brother. That has got to be one of the worst excuses for baking ever. “So Natalie, why’d you make peanut butter blondies?” “Oh, well, you see I just didn’t want my Cheetos to feel like they were the only things making me fat.”

Right. Totally.

But why do I even have an extra large bag of Cheetos in my pantry? Three words for you, my friends. Studying. For. Midterms.

When you see your friend at a grocery store buying tubs of assorted nuts and several bags of pretzel sticks and you ask “Why are you buying all that?” and he/she responds, “I’m studying for midterms”, you must immediately back away, nod sympathetically, and let your friend be.

Midterms studying is that period of time where you divide up your 24 hours between frantic memorization and problem-doing, sleeping, and exercising. Eating goes in between those. And that is your life. Your hair tends to look like a bird’s nest and you forget that you actually have nice-looking clothes in that closet which you have also forgotten about in the process of learning IUPAC names and meiosis stages.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do yourself a favor and gorge on Cheetos and peanut butter blondies.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Blondies with Peanut Butter Frosting (Recipe from Evil Shenanigans)

  • FOR THE BLONDIES:
  • 1-⅛ cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt
  • ⅓ cups Butter, At Room Temperature
  • ¾ cups Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • ½ cups Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Golden Syrup (Or Corn Syrup)
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • _____
  • FOR THE FROSTING:
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk

Heat the oven to 350 F and spray an 8×8 square cake pan with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, and golden syrup. Add the egg and vanilla, and whisk until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until no flour remains. Pour into the prepared pan and spread to the edges. (The batter is very thick.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

While the blondies cool, prepare the frosting. In a small bowl combine the butter and peanut butter until smooth and well blended. Add the powdered sugar and the milk, one tablespoon at a time as needed, and whisk until smooth.

Turn the blondies out of the pan and frost.

Enjoy!


All photos in this post taken by Kristian Randall.

Peach Crumb Bars

Today was one of those days when everything just clicked together like magic.

First, my local grocery had Challenge butter (my favorite) for only $1.75. I obviously had a baker spasm and grabbed 3 whole pounds of butter right off the shelf. I’m considering going back for more. You might want to stop me.

Then my pug and our neighbors’ dog finally managed to stop growling at each other without human interference. Instead, they touched noses through a little hole under our fence. I gave my dog a hug for being a good sport.

Oh and I turned a fabulous shortbread recipe into, possibly, my favorite crumb bar recipe of all time by adding less butter. (You would think that after buying 3 pounds of butter, I would hardly have reason to add less butter. But impulse is often fruitful in baking.)

Some things are just meant to click together, like baking and cinnamon. I can never tolerate how timid some recipes are when they ask for cinnamon and only let me put in 1/4 teaspoon. I sprinkle cinnamon on as lavishly as I sprinkle it into my Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

And some nasty little things like the People magazine and Seventeen magazine are also meant to be together…on the way to my recycling bin. Because, frankly, I don’t need to go “Inside Sandra Bullock’s Heartbreak” and Seventeen‘s “Guy-Approved Kissing Tips” make me want to puke. I really don’t want to let all those good crumb bars go to waste.

And I, my friends, am meant to be with summer fruit. I should live in a world where blueberries, peaches, and mangoes can grow year-round in my backyard. And, everyday, I can wake up and run outside barefoot to pluck the ripe peaches, buxom blueberries, and blushing mangoes from my yard into my kitchen (and into my tummy).

That is the world I should live in. Not the world where I stuff my face with apples and oranges during the winter because that’s all there is.

Hey peaches, you two look quite dashing. Get in my tummy. Pronto.

Peach Crumb Bars (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup (7 ounces or 200 grams) white sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
2 3/4 cups cups all-purpose flour (or you can measure 3 cups and remove 2 tablespoons flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 large white peach, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Using an electric mixer, blend the butter chunks and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

These crumb bars are good stuff.
They’re good for breakfast and eating with coffee.
They’re good for your dog because you’re going to drop a lot of crumbs and he/she will love it.
They’re good for stuffing yourself with if you feel like you can’t get enough of sweet, juicy peaches.
They’re also good for a schoolkid who comes home stomach growling and eats this stuff, saying with his/her mouthful, “MMMM..zish ish good!”

Peach slices. Yum.

Brown Butter M&M Brownies (AKA Celebration Brownies)

If I sound extraordinarily happy, do not be surprised. I am.

I have my first student job!

Where? My college’s Commuter Services. To put it in short, I’m going to be the girl giving parking directions at sporting events. You can read that in Natalie language as: my debut in the American working world, flexible weekend hours, and free football tickets!

Promise you won’t laugh at me if I tell you that I’ve never been to a football game even though I’ve already finished my freshman year in college. Yeah I told you already, I’m a college nerd (points to the little chant on my blog header).

So bring out those conic party hats and your biggest smile and celebrate with me. I have this mental pie of college life. At the start of freshman year, it was an empty pie tin. Then I took classes and another slice was added, then I did research and another slice was added, then I made friends and another slice was added, and so on. The most recent slice has been my student job. I hope that by the end of my college years I will have a full pie to eat all by myself. (Why would people use “puzzle pieces” as metaphors when you can use “slices of pie”?)

I think I’ll bake a cake (or a pie) when I get my first paycheck. And then I’ll start saving for things like medical school, housing, and a Vespa.

Funny that you should ask, but I really do want a Vespa. If you’ve ever heard  Helmut Fritz’s French song “Ca m’enerve”, you would probably want a Vespa too. In short, he rides around on his little Vespa and rants about French society.

You don’t have to be a Frenchie to appreciate his sarcasm francais.

Okay, well my first employment was only one of the things I wanted to celebrate with you.

I’m also done with summer classes!! It’s a party, uh-huh. It’s like I had summer break for most of June and most of July, pressed the pause button, and now I’m back on summer break until September 29. Fabulous.

Isn’t that just bomb? (I love using the word “bomb” now. “Bomb” trumps “awesome” or “cool” in my colloquial dictionary.)

Today I just celebrate life. I went to a retirement home and wheeled the loveliest ladies around on their wheelchairs into the garden and pulled them closer to flowers so they could smell them. I was so full of happiness, I was afraid I would bubble over with smiles.

And then I got home and found a bag of M&Ms and my sister’s iPod. So I turned on my Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and all of that mainstream upbeat music and started baking like there was no tomorrow.

Brown Butter M&M Brownies (Inspired by Sugar Plum)

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1.3 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 9×9-inch baking dish with foil; coat foil with cooking spray or butter.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until butter browns and starts to foam. Remove pan from heat. (It’s brown butter, yo! More about that later.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar for 3 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in brown butter and vanilla for 1 additional minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until well combined – about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and 1/3 cup M&M’s until combined. Spread batter evenly into prepared dish.

Bake 15-16 minutes or until well risen and set. Remove dish from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Makes 18 brownies

If you read the recipe above, you would have noticed that I did something peculiar with my butter. I browned it. Ohhhh!

Well I was first inspired to brown butter by 17 and Baking’s Sugar High Friday challenge. And then I looked it up and couldn’t find many recipes with brown butter that seemed particularly, umm, tasteful. So I just went along my way until I saw Sugar Plum’s brownie recipe that called for melted butter.

Hold it! I could totally use brown butter instead of melted butter! So I browned my butter. Here’s a not-so-lovely pic of the butter in the midst of browning.

Well isn’t that just something? Believe me. It smells better than it looks (that’s something you don’t hear everyday), but it does. A nutty, warm aroma. Mm-mm! With M&Ms? Oh yeah.

So celebrate, my friends. Because I’m celebrating and I would feel bad if I were celebrating alone.

Back to the Basics Brownies

Posted on

Sometimes it really doesn’t hurt to go back to the basics. After 2 months of this blog, I have exceeded my boundaries as a baker. I have baked more recipes than I thought I would ever be able to bake in my college years. To tell you the truth, up until that random day in spring break that I decided to start this blog, I never ever liked making things to eat. I loved to be the fat kid who sits at the table with a fork in my right hand and a knife in the other, my tongue lolling out and a napkin tucked like a bib into my shirt. I loved to see my mother carry the steaming plates of Chinese dishes and I loved to eat like there was no tomorrow.

Then I started baking. And everything changed. I now carried out the steaming pans of sweets with my family waiting anxiously and my father always wanting to sneak extra bites. My sister would stand by the cookies fresh out of the oven, poke the biggest one and call it “hers”. She would then stand there and keep poking it until it slightly hardened but was still hard to the touch. Then she picked it up and plopped it into her mouth in a giant gulp.

I can easily say that I bake to see my sister devour it and ask for seconds, to see my father slyly stealing another cookie on his way out of the kitchen, and to see my mother through mouthfuls of pastries say, “This is too good! It’s ruining my diet!”

Yes, all three of them. And my pug, who has now learned to recognize those gray baking sheets/pans and as soon as he hears our oven creak open, he jumps out of bed and stares at the hot trays of goodies with a glare so intense, I fear he would be able to outmatch Shrek’s little Puss in the Boots.

And because I was feeling a bit blue on Thursday, I baked one of the easiest things that bakers have ever created: brownies. A no-hassle-just-dump-stuff-in-a-bowl-or-two kind of recipe…ah, perfect for pre-final stress.

Hershey’s Brownies (Adapted from Hershey’s)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.

By the ways, wanna hear another secret? Secretly, all printable recipes end up like this (post-mortum)

What a perfect place to set all my spoons and the cocoa powder I spill! Genius, isn't it?

Bake: Almond Jam Bars

Posted on

I didn’t realize that it was possible for something to be as stuck-in-my-head as the Beverly Hills 90210 theme song. Even though I’ve hardly watched the show, something about the theme makes it so…me and nostalgic. Yes that means that even Lady Gaga and Jay-Z are not capable of putting their music on replay in my head for as long as the 90210 theme song does. Weird, isn’t it?

That’s not the only weird thing that’s happened to me. When I tried to bake almond jam bars, I failed miserably. My second baking failure. And it just has to happen when I bake something with one of my favorite flavors of anything: almond. My mom told me that I shouldn’t put this on my blog, but not everyone’s perfect, so why not?

I tried to bake something I saw on 17 and Baking: Blackberry Jam Almond Bars. Hers looked so beautiful and the recipe seemed awfully simple too. I guess I must have made a mistake. The worst part about failing is not knowing why you failed. That’s what I’m going through right now.

Almond Jam Bars (Adapted from 17 and Baking)
Recipe barely adapted from Sophistimom
Makes a half sheet of bars

Bars
1 cup (2 sticks or 224g) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
4 eggs
3 cups (300g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup  jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a half sheet (13″x18″ rimmed sheet) with butter or nonstick spray.

Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add in vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add flour and salt, and mix until just incorporated.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. It’s okay if you can’t quite get the corners, since it will spread during baking. Drop teaspoonfuls of jam evenly over the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown.

Allow to cool, then cut into squares.

Why Natalie is unhappy:


  • The original recipe told me to put jam by the teaspoons. I did. EPIC FAIL. Big bubbly blobs of boiling jam. Gross, icky, ugh!
  • The original recipe also told me to put my dough in a 13″x18″ pan since “it would spread”. Wrong, wrong, wrong! It hardly spread. There was no baking soda/powder involved, either.

How Natalie Managed to Salvage Her Bars:

I cut off the unnecessary edges and put them on another plate. I proceeded to cut the jam bars into small rectangles. They turned out really pretty! When I showed them to my dad and sister, they thought they were delicious!

So tastewise, I guess it was cool. Visually, not so much, that is until I salvaged the situation with some not-so-quick thinking on my part. 😉

Would you like a bite too? Don't worry, they still taste fine!

You seriously don’t believe that it tastes good? Think about it my friends. Sugar+butter+eggs+flour+vanilla+almonds=how bad can it get? Oh, and don’t forget the jam I so cleverly lathered on top.