Reese’s Pieces Blondies

These Reese’s Pieces blondies, adapted from a recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction, were so delicious that they never even made it out of our house. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but Mike and I ate them all. That’s right…the whole pan. Granted, this was over the course of about a week, but still, we never do such things.

These blondies are as easy to make as they are delicious, requiring simple ingredients that you probably have in your pantry (except maybe for the Reese’s Pieces) and just one bowl. I lined my baking pan with parchment paper, but you could use foil or grease the pan instead of you like.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled for 3 minutes
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Reese’s Pieces

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and brown sugar together until smooth. Whisk in peanut butter, then eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla until well-combined.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir together using a rubber spatula; batter will be very thick. Stir in 1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces, then spread batter into the baking pan, flattening as best you can to create an even layer. Sprinkle remaining Reese’s Pieces on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, then insert a cake tester in the center; blondies are done if the cake tester comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Be careful not to over-bake these; peanut butter treats tend to dry out if they’re baked too long.

Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan; lift out using parchment paper and cut into 24 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

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Hearty Banana Bread

A few weeks ago, I kept seeing this recipe in my Facebook feed, billed as King Arthur Flour’s Recipe of the Year. That same week I had some very ripe bananas in our fruit basket, so I took it as a sign and gave it a try. I’m pleased to say that while I’ve baked many a loaf of banana bread in the past, I liked this recipe much better than my standard one.

The recipe uses both white and whole wheat flour for a heartier treat, and includes a simple yet brilliant sugar/cinnamon topping. The bread  has a tender texture and slices very easily without crumbling, a balance not easy to achieve. Mike and my co-workers proclaimed it delicious, so I’ll stick with this as my go-to banana bread recipe. Next time, I might toast the walnuts before adding them to the batter, or add some chocolate chips as well.

Ingredients

For the batter

  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5 medium-sized bananas)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

*I used the spoon-and-sweep method of measuring flour for this recipe. Just spoon your flour into your measuring cup, then sweep off the excess with a knife. 

For the topping

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed bananas, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until very well combined.

Mix the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts to the banana mixture until just moistened and no dry streaks remain; be careful not to over-mix. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon topping.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. I checked my bread at 45 minutes of baking time and tented foil over it to prevent over-browning.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the sides with a spatula and turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil; store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

 

Butterscotch Blondies

Last weekend I discovered three bags of butterscotch chips in my pantry cabinet. Even for an avid baker like me, this seems like quite a lot. On the back of the bag, I found this wonderful recipe for what Nestle calls chewy butterscotch brownies. Since I have a hard time calling something that doesn’t involve chocolate a brownie, I’ve decided to call my version butterscotch blondies.

I adapted the original recipe just slightly, using pecans (though they did suggest nuts) and a bit more vanilla. Next time, I’ll toast the pecans before including them; while they gave a nice crunch in the texture, their flavor got a bit lost with the butterscotch. Next time I might also include some toffee pieces as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels, divided
  • 1 cup chopped pecans 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl well.

Add flour mixture in three batches, beating between each to combine. Stir in 1 cup butterscotch chips and pecans; batter will be very thick.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan and sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup butterscotch chips.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until blondies are light golden brown on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan; cut into bars and store, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 36 (or 24 if you cut larger squares).

Sugar Cookie Bars

What do you do when you want sugar cookies, but you don’t have time for all the rolling and cutting? You bake sugar cookie bars, complete with delicious whipped buttercream frosting.

This recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker, another Pittsburgh baking blogger, and yields a delicious and very low-maintenance treat. If you think the frosting is going to be too much, trust me, it’s not. It’s a whipped vanilla buttercream, and it complements the bars perfectly. Fear not: this frosting is not that whipped cream frosting you get on grocery store cakes that nobody likes – it’s made with butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and is whipped for several minutes to a light and fluffy texture while maintaining delicious buttercream flavor. These were a huge hit at our family visit in Maryland this week!

Ingredients

For the bars

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the whipped vanilla buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper (or lightly grease the pan).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add flour mixture until just combined; I used my hands to finish the mixing to ensure there were no pockets of flour.

Press into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is very light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, use the whisk attachment to whip the butter in your mixer for 5-7 minutes, scraping the bowl a few times, until very smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, whipping to combine completely. Add the vanilla extract and continue whipping at medium-high speed for another 2-4 minutes, until frosting is very light and fluffy.

To frost: remove bars from pan and carefully peel off parchment, then return bars to the pan. Spread frosting in an even layer, then add sprinkles. Cut into 24 bars and store at room temperature for up to 3 days (bars will also last in the fridge up to 1 week).

Winter Wonderland Cake

When most people think about Christmas desserts, they probably think of cookies. And while there are some amazing cookie recipes out there, I like to get creative for our Christmas desserts. This year, I wanted to do something peppermint-based, and this little vanilla peppermint cake turned out very well.

I found several recipes for pine tree/winter wonderland cakes online, but decided to make my own from recipes I’ve previously baked. To make the pine trees, I melted some vanilla candy coating (rather than using candy melts, as I don’t really like the way they taste) and tinted them green with candy coloring.  It’s important to use candy coloring, which is oil-based and available at cake shops, rather than liquid or gel-based food coloring. Oil-based coloring will blend into your melted coating very well, while liquid or gel-based coloring will make the coating clumpy.

Ingredients

Candy Pine Trees

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces vanilla candy coating*
  • Green candy coloring
  • 10 lollipop sticks
  • Nonpareils

*I use CandiQuik vanilla candy coating, available at Target.

Preparation

Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; set aside.

Chop candy coating into pieces, then place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to distribute the heat.

Add green candy coloring and stir well.

Dip the top of each lollipop stick into the melted coating, then place several inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Spoon candy coating into a zip-top bag; carefully snip off one corner and pipe coating onto lollipop sticks in tree shapes.

Sprinkle nonpareils on trees while they are still wet; allow to set completely, then carefully peel off waxed paper. Trim stick bottoms, leaving about 1 inch to insert into the cake.

Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Peppermint Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • About 2 tablespoons milk
  • White cupcake pearls, optional

Preparation

Place butter in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 1 minute using a paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated; this will take several minutes. I cover my mixer with a kitchen towel to prevent a powdered sugar storm.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add peppermint extract, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon milk. Beat until well combined, scraping sides of the bowl frequently; beat in additional milk and continue beating for 1-2 minutes for a smooth, even consistency.

To assemble the cake:

Place the bottom layer on your cake stand and frost the top, then top with remaining layer and frost the top and sides. Place remaining frosting in a zip-top bag; snip off one corner and set aside.

Press trees into cake top, starting at the back, and piping additional buttercream around the bottoms as you work toward the front of the cake. Sprinkle with cupcake pearls.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Fudge Bars with Peanut Butter Chips

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the recipes that come on packages. This recipe comes from a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter baking chips, and can be baked either as cookies or bars.

I chose to bake mine as bars, and I have an important caveat for you, my fellow bakers. These definitely baked over the edges of my jelly roll pan, so the next time I make them, I’ll place some parchment beneath the pan to catch the overflow. Mike proclaimed these very fudgy, with a nice hint of peanut butter. They’re coming to work with me tomorrow for a video shoot, and I’m hoping they’ll be a hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 10-ounce package Reese’s Peanut Butter baking chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour mixture in two batches, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in peanut butter chips.

Spread dough in prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, until set. Allow to cool completely before cutting; use a bench knife to cut into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 36.

Peppermint Spiral Cookies

Peppermint is one of my favorite flavors, and this time of year is a great time for peppermint-themed baking. These peppermint spirals, which I found at Taste of Home, are delicious, even if they didn’t quite turn out how I was hoping.

As you can see in this photo, there are cracks and holes in the center of my cookies. How does this happen? Rolling spiral-style cookies is a delicate business; you’re usually working with two thin sheets of dough and trying to roll them together tightly enough without tearing them. My spirals definitely left something to be desired looks-wise, but they have a wonderful peppermint vanilla flavor and great texture. Maybe next time they’ll be pretty!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon red liquid food coloring

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat to combine, then add flour mixture in two batches, beating on low speed, then on medium, until dough comes together.

Divide dough in half and add peppermint extract and red food coloring to one portion. Roll out each portion of dough between two sheets of waxed paper into a rectangle about 16 by 11 inches. Remove top sheet of waxed paper from each rectangle, then carefully flip the red rectangle on top of the plain rectangle and remove the waxed paper from the red. Roll up on the long side making as tight a log as possible; wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.

Remove dough from freezer and unwrap, then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 3-4 dozen, depending on the thickness of your slices.