Blood Orange Bars

It’s blood orange season! Oh, how I love baking with these sweet, ruby-red citrus treats. I bought a bag at the supermarket a few days back intending to make some curd, but decided that blood orange bars would be a better experiment.

If you’ve ever had a lemon bar, you know the unique joy that the sweet/tart combination of filling set against a tender crust brings. Blood oranges are sweeter than lemons, and therefore yield a more mellow citrus flavor. This recipe is adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, using less sugar than her lemon bar variety. Next time, I might actually include some blood orange zest in the filling and see what happens.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

For the filling

  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup blood orange juice, at room temperature*

*It took four blood oranges, about the size of tennis balls, to yield 1 cup of juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a glass baking dish with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Add flour and stir to completely combine; press into the baking dish and bake for 20-22 minutes, until the edges are just barely golden brown.

In another medium bowl, sift together sugar and flour, then add eggs and blood orange juice, whisking to combine completely. Pour over crust and bake for another 22-24 minutes, until the center is set. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for a few hours, then place in the fridge to chill further before cutting. Cut into 24 squares and store in the fridge; you can keep these bars at room temperature, but they’re best served cold.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

So, I wanted to mail this pan of brownies to my brother and his family, but I didn’t want to cut them and risk them drying out in the shipping process. I began with a disposable pan, baked the brownies, and let them cool completely. Then I wrapped the pan in foil, placed some of those air pack bubble things that coming in shipping boxes on the top, and secured the lid with enough packing tape to last through the apocalypse.

Fortunately, it appears that my plan worked – as you can see by the photo here, the brownies arrived in North Carolina unscathed and, to my knowledge, still tender. Everyone in Andy’s family likes Reese’s peanut butter cups, but you could swap in miniature Snickers bars or another type of candy in the recipe if you like, or just leave them plain. This recipe is adapted from an “on-the-fence” brownie recipe from King Arthur flour and yields a texture somewhere between cakey and fudgy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup 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
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 24 miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Melt butter over medium heat, then stir in sugar and continue heating until just warm; this helps give a shiny top to your brownies. Remove from heat and place in a medium bowl along with cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla and stir to combine. Whisk in eggs, then stir in the flour and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and add miniature peanut butter cups; I spaced mine out into four long rows of six cup each. Gently press peanut butter cups down into the batter.

Bake for 28-32 minutes, until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 24 brownies.

Candy Brownies

Mike and I had several premium candy choices left over from this Halloween, among them fun-sized Snickers (let’s be honest, they should just be called bite-size) and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. What better to do with leftover chocolate than to stuff it into brownies, then chop up some more and sprinkle it over the top of said brownies?

This recipe is adapted from one I found at Averie Cooks; I actually made a double batch, but the measurements below would yield one single 8 x 8 pan. You can use regular cocoa powder if you like, but I went with Hershey’s Special Dark, which is actually just Dutch processed cocoa. You’ll also notice that the recipe contains both coffee and espresso powder, which really enhances the flavor of chocolate without making it taste like coffee itself. One of the great mysteries of flavors, no?

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled for about 1 minute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee (it’s fine to use leftover coffee from the morning)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 12 fun-sized Snickers bars
  • 8 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, cut into quarters

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil and spray with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and coffee and mix well to combine. Whisk in cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt until well blended, then add flour and mix until just combined; you don’t want to over-mix your batter.

Pour about 2/3 of the mixture into your prepared tin. Take 8 of the Snickers bars and 8 Peanut Butter Cup quarters, placing them in four evenly spaced rows of four candies each; I alternated my rows so there was one of Snickers, then one of Peanut Butter Cups, then another of Snickers, and a final one of Peanut Butter Cups. Pour the remaining batter over the candy and smooth as much as possible with an offset spatula. Chop up remaining candies and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for about 30-32 minutes, being very careful not to over-bake. Brownies are done when a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Remove from oven and cool in pan completely before cutting.

Remove from pan and cut into 25 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Marble Brownies

Until yesterday, I’d never made those classic cream cheese marbled brownies. How this treat escaped me for so many years I don’t know, but there you have it. While I’m still not eating chocolate, I really considered it yesterday, wondering if it would send me into migraine land. As they baked, a heavenly aroma of chocolate filled my kitchen. And who doesn’t like cream cheese, especially when it’s swirled in chocolate? Well, some people probably don’t, but seriously, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

These brownies went to work with me today, as a special thank you to our design team. My buddies in design are incredibly talented, have great senses of humor, and always make things work for us even with very short notice. Surely worthy of these treats.

Ingredients

For the cream cheese swirl

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon flour

For the brownies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil, extending over the sides, and spray with baking spray.

Make the cream cheese topping: in a mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and 1 tablespoon flour and beat to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat; remove from heat and transfer to a clean mixing bowl, then slowly beat in sugar, a little bit at a time. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each until just combined. Beat in milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat in flour mixture in three batches, beating until just combined after each.

Pour chocolate batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Spoon cream cheese topping in blobs over the top. Using a dull knife or spatula, gently swirl the cream cheese into the chocolate batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan on a wire rack; once brownies are completely cool, lift out of the pan by the foil. Cut into bars.

Makes 24 (or you can cut them smaller if you like).

Lemon Almond Bars

I’ve baked a lot of bars this summer. Why? Perhaps because they’re easy, in that you usually just need a few bowls and one pan. No need to prep your dough and roll it, or scoop individual portions for cookies. You make them, press or spoon them into your pan, and about a half-hour later you have a nice batch of treats.

Some bars are more complicated than others, especially those with a bottom crust, a filling, and a topping or glaze. While this sounds complicated, in most cases it’s really not. These lemon almond bars, a King Arthur Flour recipe, were easy to make and taste even better after they’ve had a few days to “age.” These treats actually remind me of a pie in bar form; the bottom crust might seem very thin, but it’s really all you need with the filling.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped roasted unsalted almonds
  • 1/4 cup flour

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • zest from 1 medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Make the crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a crumb-like texture that sticks together when you scoop up a handful. Press into the bottom of your baking pan and bake for 12 minutes.

While crust is baking, make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla extract; stir in almonds and flour. Once crust is baked, pour filling over top, smoothing out as much as possible. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top looks set.

While the filling is baking, make the glaze: in a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter, and lemon zest; slowly stir in lemon juice to make a very watery, runny glaze.

Remove bars from oven and allow them to sit for 2-3 minutes, then pour glaze all over the top, spreading gently with an offset spatula; the glaze will soak into the bars right away. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting; store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Makes 24.

 

 

Linzer Cookie Bars

I’ve never had a linzer torte, or even a linzer cookie. Until I made these linzer  cookie bars, I had no idea how delicious the combination of almonds, cinnamon, raspberry jam, and lemon zest could be. Granted, these things are all delicious on their own, but together in bar form you get a whole new level of flavor.

A linzer torte is actually a pastry from the Austrian city of Linz, involving crust made with ground hazelnuts and a jam filling. The linzer cookie is adapted from the tart with similar ingredients. And the bar version, thanks to the geniuses at King Arthur Flour, is an easy, tasty twist on both the pastry and the cookie. I used almond flour instead of ground hazelnuts, but you could swap hazelnuts or even walnuts for the nut flour in this recipe. The end result is a wonderful combination of flavor and texture that is part pastry, part cookie. This is one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in a while, and I look forward to making them again.

Ingredients

For the crust and topping

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • generous 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 2 cups flour

For the filling

  • 1 1/4 cups raspberry jam
  • zest from 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

To make the crust and topping, cream the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, and almond extract until fluffy. Add egg and beat well, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Add almond flour and flour, mixing until just combined.

Reserve 1 cup mixture for topping and spread remaining mix in the bottom of the baking pan, pressing it flat with your fingers to get an even layer. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the edges are golden and the middle is set.

While the crust is baking, make the filling: place jam and lemon zest in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth and just hot. Remove the crust from the oven and spread it evenly with the jam. Break up the reserved crust mixture into crumbs with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the jam layer.

Bake for another 22-25 minutes, until the jam bubbles around the edge of the pan and the topping looks set; the bars won’t brown except at the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 24.

Frosted Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Do bakers like me (read: people who usually do everything, and I mean everything, from scratch) use mixes sometimes? Absolutely. Today I discovered a bag of peanut butter cookie mix in my pantry and decided to whip up some frosted peanut butter cookie bars with it.

While scratch baking is great if you have the time and inclination, many people are just too busy to go about softening butter and whisking eggs and whatnot. Enter the bag, or boxed, mix: a convenient way to have home-baked treats in no time. You can always jazz up a boxed mix, which is what I did here; I added a scratch-made peanut butter frosting to these bars, but you could just as easily use a can of chocolate or vanilla frosting from the grocery store if you like. I sprinkled half of these bars, which Mike will take to work, with some chocolate chips once they were frosted, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 box or bag peanut butter cookie mix, plus the ingredients listed on the box/bag
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your cookie mix according to the package directions; I used Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix, which called for three tablespoons of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of water, and one egg. Mix dough and press into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan; bake for 18 minutes, until the top is just golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool bars completely before frosting; to make frosting, beat butter and peanut butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes until smooth and nearly all the lumps of butter have disappeared. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating on low, then medium, then high speed for about 3-4 minute total.

Spread frosting over cooled bars; if desired, sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cut into bars; makes 21-24 bars, depending on how large you cut them.