Brownies & Bars

nutella & cream cheese swirled blondies [cookin’ canuck]

(Originally posted: August 28, 2014)

Somehow, despite the fact that it is already the end of August, it feels as though summer has only shown its face in the past week or so.

Chicago suddenly went from a series of balmy, springy days to BAM–85 degrees, muggy, humid, thunderstorms, and basically everything that one would actually expect from a Chicago summer.

As a result, I’ve been flip-flopping all summer between wanting peach iced tea-strawberry ice cream-blueberry lemon pie bar days, and hot noodle soup-steaming tea and biscuits-hearty tomato sauce and pasta days.

My stomach is terribly confused.

So today, you all get a throwback to these blondies from Cookin’ Canuck, which are absolutely irresistible in any weather.

IMG_9747

I’ve made them in the midst of February for World Nutella Day, I’ve shipped a box of them to my best friend over spring break, and most recently, I whipped them up as finals wound down in the beginning of June–a time when nearly everyone on campus could do with a little Nutella-white chocolate-cheesecake swirl in their lives.

IMG_9742

If you’re feeling crazy, you can sub out 1/2 a cup of Nutella for 1/2 a cup of peanut butter–like the really great honey roasted kind–and you’ll get an even more rich cheesecake swirl in there. Mmmmm.

Not gonna lie: I’m drooling a little bit looking at these photos.

IMG_9760

I really want one now. Dammit. They’re great when they’re hot and gooey, but they really shine when you let them cool and absorb the flavors. Thick, buttery, soft blondies, broken up by mouthfuls of Nutella cheesecake and the gentle crunch of white chocolate chips. Grab a glass of milk with these, because you’ll need one after you realize you’ve accidentally eaten three in a row.

IMG_9743

Sorry not sorry.

Enjoy the blondies, and keep your eyes open for more summery posts as I make the most of what’s left of the best fruit season of the year!

slutty cupcakes: a story

Picture it if you can:

Wednesday night of 10th week. Classes are done for the year, finals are still far enough that the panic hasn’t set in, and the ladies of PBT are rocking out to Taylor Swift in a dorm basement kitchen.

IMG_3853

Note how excited Emma and Estelle are. As they should be.

Their mission for the night has been long awaited, but what better way to welcome reading period than with stress baking? Yes, the night was simply perfect for slutty cupcakes.

IMG_3842

You’ve never heard of slutty cupcakes? Victoria is skeptical.

Now don’t ask me why they’re slutty. I can’t answer that question in any remotely satisfactory fashion. What I can tell you is that they’re so rich, so deeply indulgent, and so damn easy to make that they should be illegal(Except not actually, because then what would we do without them?!) These classic but slightly terrifying muffin-cupcake-brownies–because one name is not enough to capture what they are–consist of a soft cookie dough base, one full Reese’s Cup, and one full Oreo layered over it, all topped with a healthy serving of gooey, moist brownie batter.

Warning: more than one of these may kill you.

So we assembled the trays. Readymade cookie dough, Reese’s Cups, Double Stuf Oreos, and Betty Crocker brownie mix. They looked like those adorable chocolate-covered marshmallow and graham cracker cookies, whose name completely evades me.

 IMG_3831

IMG_3849

So cute already!

The baking time was an educated guess, so I set the timer for 20 minutes, and we went off to find a way to amuse ourselves.

Victoria remained skeptical.

IMG_3861

I was domestic.

IMG_3869

Emma vandalized Sheena’s whiteboard.

IMG_3909

And we took incredibly cheesy photos in our matching dresses.

 IMG_3887

Somewhere in between all of this, Victoria ended up with a busted ankle. No worries–she’s fine now–but the valiant sacrifice of her body will not be forgotten.

Finally, out came the slutty brownies, hot and baked to perfection, crisp with melting insides. We probably should’ve let them cool longer, but we couldn’t help it. We dug in.

IMG_3913

Estelle is super excited…

IMG_3920

…and super cute when caught off-guard. Sorrynotsorry, girl.

IMG_3914

Nina’s allergies deprive her of slutty cupcakes and make her sad. (It’s okay; she got real cupcakes after this.)

IMG_3912

Emma shows off those beautiful layers.

IMG_3918

And Sheena is simply pleased.

Satisfied, we split up the remaining cupcakes and called it a night. Almost zero effort for a small treat that goes a long way–and makes a great gift for physics TAs, as we found out.

Seriously, make these. You won’t regret it in the slightest.

IMG_3917

On to baking logistics things! One package of brownie mix and one roll of ready to bake cookie dough yielded 24 cupcakes, with leftover brownie batter. Our cupcakes stuck to the paper liners pretty badly, especially once they’d cooled. If you don’t want to deal with that, I’d suggest forgoing the liners and simply spraying the pan. That should solve the problem.

20 minutes at 350F was enough to bake these really thoroughly. As you can see in the photo above, the brownie batter formed a light, flaky skin over the Oreo just as it normally would, and the surrounding edges were crisp like the edges of a pan of brownies. I would actually start checking the cupcakes around 16 minutes to make sure they don’t overcook. The cookie dough will definitely be cooked–you’ll just want to test the brownies, which you can do with a toothpick as normal, cooking until a toothpick inserted into the batter (away from the Oreo!!) comes out clean/with a few moist crumbs.

IN OTHER NEWS…

I’m back! In case that wasn’t obvious. After a week at home to settle in, I’m getting back into the baking swing of things, and updates will become regular again (every weekend!). Unfortunately, being back home means the UChicago cupcake orders have been put on hold for the summer. That being said, if enough people around here want custom cupcakes, I’ll consider making this a second location. Just drop me a comment/message! 🙂

And speaking of UChicago–shameless self-promotion! HUGE thanks to Hannah at Spoon, a UChicago food magazine/blog for writing about tlc baking this month! Spoon is growing quickly, and is definitely worth keeping an eye on even if you don’t go to UChicago. Check out their site here, and read the article about tlc here!

Aaaaand that’s it for my very, very long post. Sorry, guys! Making up for lost time here. 😉

See y’all next weekend!

mom’s old world raspberry bars [neighborfood blog]

Throughout my childhood, a good friend’s mom used to make one specific dessert for parties: jam tarts. They were her specialty, and truly, nobody could make a jam tart like her. (Still can’t!) Jam tarts–or just jam bars or raspberry bars, as I eventually realized most people refer to them–are one of the most comforting desserts I’ve come across. In fact, they probably top chocolate chip cookies in my mental list of perfect childhood-reminiscent baked goods.

Oh yeah. I went there.

In a wave of midterm sadness and Relay excitement, the thought of jam bars came popped into my head–and then refused to leave. So I scoured the interwebz and decided that this recipe for raspberry bars from Neighborfood Blog had the perfect proportions and the most convenient ingredients for my purposes.

Plus, the recipe describes them as “happy, homey, springtime comfort food”. Too perfect to pass up!

With limited time and no desire to overspend on ingredients, though, I had some tweaking to do.

IMG_3119

Thanks to my mom (who is frequently horrified by the dining hall food I eat daily), I had a stash of walnuts and almonds on hand, so I used those instead of the pecans.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t try to finely chop almonds by hand. (Unless, of course, you’re good at it, which I clearly am not.) If you want something quick and easy, stick to softer nuts like walnuts and pecans, or pulse the nuts in a food processor a couple times.

I did eventually get the almonds down to a reasonable size, though, thankfully, and tossed them into the bowl of a stand mixer. I halved the recipe–there’s a scary amount of butter in here, guys, 2 sticks even when it’s halved, but so worth it–and replaced half of the white sugar with more brown sugar. Because why not have more wonderful molasses flavor in your life? I also left out the oats and coconut and instead added half a cup of crushed graham crackers.

I coincidentally didn’t have anything but a muffin pan handy, so I decided to make individual jam tarts. The halved dough and a 10-oz jar of raspberry jam made 15 full-sized tarts.

IMG_3124

The raspberry jam slathered over the nutty dough and peeking through the crumbled top made me so happy. ^_^

Into the oven for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, and out came fifteen bubbling, golden, flaky and crunchy raspberry jam tarts!

 IMG_3125

I usually prefer a lower crust-to-jam ratio so that the raspberry flavor really comes out, but I could honestly eat this dough on its own–especially fresh out the oven.

If I were to make them again, though, I would definitely add the oats, and a dash of cinnamon. Taste testing by my friends showed that yes, these tarts were just begging for a hint of cinnamon in the dough.

IMG_3129

These tarts are also definitely best fresh out of the oven. They’ll store in an airtight container, but they won’t have quite the same flavor the next day.

UofC friends: I know you’ve got finals coming up. I know you want some cupcakes. I am somehow magically free for a lot of finals week, which means you should all order cupcakes! I’ll happily deliver them to make your finals week a little bit brighter. 🙂 Get that last order in before the quarter is up!

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Saturday night! Happy June 🙂