Maple Apple Blondies

maple apple blondiesI have a very cool and fulfilling job, but if Better Homes & Gardens ever wants me to work in their test kitchen, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’d love to bake all day, coming up with new and interesting recipes. And for me, BH&G recipes are always reliable – I’ve never had them go awry, and that’s something I really value as a baker. Nobody likes kitchen disasters, right?

Adapted from the original BH&G recipe in their 2017 Fall Baking magazine, these blondies take full advantage of seasonal flavors, using pure maple syrup and apples. I chose to enhance the recipe by adding 1/2 teaspoon of apple pie spice to the batter, and as I expected, they turned out incredibly well. 

Ingredients

For the blondies

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 Fuji apples, peeled and diced (or your favorite baking apple)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice*
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

*No apple pie spice? Make your own! For 1 teaspoon, combine 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon allspice with a dash of cloves.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil, extending over the sides, and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, apple pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add apples and cook on medium heat for about 10-12 minutes, until apples are tender but not mushy. Pour apples into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt remaining butter. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar, sugar, and maple syrup, until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until smooth, then stir in apples. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before icing.

To make icing, stir together powdered sugar, maple syrup, and melted butter; add enough milk to make an easily spreadable icing (I added 1 tablespoon). Pour over bars and spread evenly; allow to set before cutting. Cut into 24 squares; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Peanut Butter Bars with M&Ms

pbbarswithmmsHalloween season means baking for my nieces and nephews, and these peanut butter bars with M&Ms Ghoul Mix candies traveled to North Carolina for my nephew Roman, who is 14. I remember when he was a tiny little person, dressed up as a lion for his day care Halloween parade. Last year (at least I think it was last year), he went as a legionnaire…or a Roman, if you will. Ha! This kid seems to have my sense of humor.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and the end result is beyond delicious. The first time I made this, with Reese’s Pieces instead of M&Ms, Mike and I ate the entire pan ourselves. Granted, that wasn’t the smartest decision, but they were just so tasty we couldn’t resist.

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
  • 10-ounce bag M&Ms Ghoul Mix, divided

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 about 1 cup M&Ms, then spread batter into the baking pan, flattening as best you can to create an even layer. Sprinkle remaining M&Ms 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; if shipping, back well in an airtight container with layers of waxed paper to prevent breakage.

Dutch Apple Pie Squares

dutchappleconcoctionThere’s a pretty big difference between sliced apples and diced apples. Slicing means to cut, while dicing means to cut into small, uniform pieces. And if I’d read the King Arthur Flour Dutch Apple Pie Bar recipe correctly, I would have diced, rather than sliced, my Granny Smiths. Eh, live and learn.

The funny thing is that I thought I’d done something wrong when I poured my filling into my baking pan, but I went with it anyway. The good news is that Mike thinks this concoction is absolutely delicious, though the bad news is that it’s definitely not something I can slice into squares and send to work with him. Not that he’s upset about this; apple pie is one of Mike’s favorite things ever, and this is essentially a rectangular apple pie. Next time, I’ll dice my apples and see how it goes.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, sliced*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the topping

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13 baking tin with baking spray and set aside.

To make the crust, whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into pieces and rub (or cut in with a pastry blender) into the flour mixture until the mix looks like coarse crumbs. Drizzle beaten egg over the top and toss with a fork to combine. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine until the dough starts to clump together. If you take a handful and it sticks together, you’ve added enough water.

Roll out your dough to a rectangle, large enough to fit in your baking tin; I roll my crust between two sheets of parchment to make it easier to handle. Prick all over with a fork, then bake crust for 10-12 minutes, until just set.

In another large bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add apples and toss to coat, then add vanilla extract and heavy cream, stirring to combine. To make the topping, combine flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir in melted butter, then vanilla and almond extract. Stir until fairly even crumbs form.

Pour filling over crust, then sprinkle with topping. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool in the tin; if you actually dice your apples you could slice this into squares for individual servings, but I’m just leaving mine in one rectangular slab and Mike will cut slices in whatever size he likes. I suspect this would be delicious when served warm, with some vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Chambord Brownies

chambord browniesAmy Bakes in the ‘Burgh will be on hiatus for a few weeks while Amy’s Kitchen Gets Remodeled. Friends, this has been years in the making. Thirteen years, to be exact, when we first bought this house and I said “someday we’re going to redo this kitchen.” At last, someday has arrived.

As a last bit of baking before the Great Demolition Project begins this week (I cannot wait to swing a sledge hammer, let me tell you), I decided to bake these Chambord brownies. If you’re not familiar with Chambord, it’s a raspberry liqueuer that’s been made in France, and its bottle looks a bit like that orb thing kings and queens have to hold along with a scepter when they get crowned. It’s also delicious, though I don’t think the raspberry flavor was quite strong enough in these treats. I’m also not totally convinced about my decorating skills on these, as the chocolate drizzle against the pink looks a bit like animal print…and that is definitely not my jam.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the Chambord icing

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 50 ml Chambord (about 3 1/2 tablespoons)

For the chocolate drizzle

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa
  • 2-3 teaspoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, Chambord, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the Chambord, stirring to combine; you may need to add just a bit more powdered sugar if your mixture is too runny – you want a consistency that’s thicker than honey, but still pourable. Spread over brownies, covering the top completely. For the drizzle, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa, then add enough water to make a drizzling consistency. Place in a piping bag, snip the tip, and drizzle over the icing. Allow icings to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Oatmeal Bars with M&Ms

oatmeal mm barsOur kitchen remodel begins in 15 days. This weekend, in an effort to clear out our cabinets, I baked zucchini bread, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, brownies, and these oatmeal bars with miniature M&Ms.

Fun fact about this recipe: it was originally written for cookies, as a “make it mine” recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book. Wanting to save a bit of time, I decided to bake my adapted recipe, which uses peanut butter as part of the fat content and miniature M&Ms as the stir-in ingredient, as bars. Some cookies convert easily, but if you’re not experienced with this, check out this very useful post from King Arthur Baking for tips on how to figure out the right size pan and baking time.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups M&Ms miniature baking pieces

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Note: next time, I might not spray the foil and see what happens; the bottom of the bars were softer than I expected and I suspect the baking spray is the reason why.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat, then beat in flour and oats. Stir in miniature M&Ms.

Press dough into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until top is light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center  comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 30 minutes, then lift the foil out and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Chocolate Orange Brownies

chocolate orange browniesBrownies are probably one of my favorite things to bake, because they’re so versatile. You can make them plain, add different flavors, put frosting on them…whatever you like. In this case, I chose to mix in some orange zest and a few drops of orange extract, then add a chocolate buttercream frosting. The end result is probably one of the best treats I’ve ever made. Or at least, it’s among my favorites.

Next time, I plan to add a few drops of orange extract into the frosting as well…but these treats were absolutely delicious. The brownie base is more on the fudgy side, which I prefer, and the orange adds a nice kick of flavor to complement the fudginess.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 medium orange
  • About 4-5 drops orange extract

For the frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and lightly grease the foil. I also always sprinkle the bottom of the foil with sugar when I’m baking brownies for a crunchy bottom crust.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in cocoa powder, then salt, flour, vanilla, orange zest, and orange extract until the batter is smooth.

Pour into the baking tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 30-34 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. These brownies are fudgy, but shouldn’t be too gooey in the middle when they’re done; the center will look mostly set on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before frosting; to make frosting, in a mixing bowl, cream butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and cocoa, beating on low speed to fully incorporate into the butter. Add 1 tablespoon milk and vanilla extract; beat to combine, scraping down your bowl a few times, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the second tablespoon of milk and beat for another 1-2 minutes.

Spread frosting over brownies; allow the frosting to set slightly before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Irish Cream Brownies

Full disclosure: until today, I didn’t actually know the ingredients in Bailey’s Irish Cream. I suppose it never occurred to me to investigate the contents of a liqueur that I consume rarely and pretty much only in baked goods, despite its deliciousness. But it’s St. Patrick’s Day week, and some Irish cream brownies seemed like a good idea. They were, indeed.

Bailey’s Irish Cream, as you may know, is a mixture of Irish whiskey, cream, and cocoa. Why anyone thought to put these three ingredients together, I don’t know. But they’re a genius, and should be celebrated well beyond St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte, friends.

Note: you can likely buy the 50 ml “mini” bottles of Bailey’s at your local liquor store (known as a state store in Pennsylvania). If not, a 50 ml bottle translates to about 3 1/3 tablespoons.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 50 ml bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, Bailey’s, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the bottle of Bailey’s, stirring to combine. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to reach a thicker drizzling consistency. Drizzle over brownies; allow icing to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Pumpkin Bars with Maple Drizzle

Pumpkin season is here, and there is a canned pumpkin shortage at my local grocery store. Of all the things I expected people to hoard during the pandemic, canned pumpkin wasn’t among them. Toilet paper? Sure. Cleaning supplies? Yep. But canned pumpkin? Quite a surprise.

Fortunately, I keep a few cans of pumpkin on hand for my year-round pumpkin-themed baking efforts, like these deliciously spiced pumpkin bars. They are incredibly easy to make, and would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving feast – though I think the next time I make these, I’ll cover the entire top with the maple drizzle for more of an icing. It’s quite tasty, and I would like more of it to enhance the delicious spices in the bars.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cloves until completely combined.

Add eggs, pumpkin puree, and vegetable oil, stirring well to completely combine, with no dry streaks or lumps remaining.

Pour batter into an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 pan and spread evenly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 2 hours before drizzling.

To make drizzle, combine powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a bowl and stir to combine. Add additional syrup to reach a smooth but slightly thicker drizzling consistency. Pour into a piping bag and snip off the end; drizzle over bars (or just drizzle from a spoon). Allow drizzle to set before cutting bars into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 32.

Midnight Brownies

The brownie-baking extravaganza continued last week with these midnight brownies, which I’ve named as such because they are delightfully dark. These treats use Dutch process cocoa, which is made by washing cocoa beans in a potassium solution to neutralize its acidity before they’re processed into powder. 

The end result of this process (apparently pioneered by the Dutch) is a darker cocoa powder, which yields a different type of flavor in baked goods. Dutch process cocoa is also usually paired with baking powder, an acidic raising agent, rather than baking soda, which needs to react with an acid to create a rise in baking. Science was never my strong suit, but I think if I had learned it with baking-related examples, I would’ve understood it much better. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin; sprinkle the bottom with sugar if desired for a crunchy bottom crust.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter, then stir in sugar and return to heat very briefly, until its hot – between 110 to 120 degrees – it will look shiny as you stir it (this helps the sugar dissolve better, which yields a crunchy top on the brownies). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Stir in eggs, then flour, until batter is smooth. 

Pour into prepared baking tin and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until brownies are set and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Easy Brownies

Brownies have been my go-to treat throughout Baking in the Time of Coronavirus. Why? They’re incredibly easy to make, and these are probably the easiest recipe I’ve ever found. I omitted the frosting from these treats, which I found at Tastes Better from Scratch, so I could ship them off to Maryland.

These treats were baked especially for Mike’s young cousins, AJ and Tommy; their parents, our Uncle Al and Aunt Sam; and our Aunt Penny. Al and Penny are Mike’s mom’s youngest siblings, and they moved from suburban DC to a more rural part of Maryland a few months back. Mike helped with the move, and naturally I sent treats, which prompted the boys to ask if “Amy would bake for us too” on a more regular basis. Tommy said these brownies “taste like the stars,” which I take as high praise indeed. They are delightfully fudgy with a crackly top, exactly how a brownie should be.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin; I always sprinkle the bottom of the tin with sugar when I’m baking brownies for a crunch bottom crust.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in cocoa powder, then salt, flour, and vanilla until the batter is smooth.

Pour into the baking tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 30-34 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. These brownies are fudgy, but shouldn’t be too gooey in the middle when they’re done; the center will look mostly set on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.