Friday, June 24, 2016

Salted Caramel Brownie Bites

Chocolate and caramel is a winning combination. These little brownie bites are fairly simple, but not at all plain. These are quick and efficient, as you bake all of the brownie bites at once. If it were a warm day, these would be ideal as you only have to have the oven on for a short while. That’s not an issue for us in the Seattle area. Although we had a warm spring, this first week of summer has been quite mild. Some days I’d even call it downright gloomy (which I actually love)!

I used a mixer to make the brownie batter, but it’s so simple that you could mix it up by hand. You wouldn’t think that half a cup of flour and cocoa powder would be sufficient for making 24 cookies, but it was fine. I used a medium cookie scoop to make the process of portioning the batter easier. It’s also a lot less messy. For the topping, I used caramel bits rather than caramel squares. The original recipe called for 20 caramel squares, so about a cup is the equivalent.

These looked great coming out of the oven and I made a super deep indentation, so there would be more room for caramel! I didn’t take the cookies out of the pan when they were cooled. I think the combination of pressing the cookies really hard to make an indentation, perhaps not baking them enough, and leaving them in the pan, I had a terribly difficult time getting them out of the pan cleanly. Out of 24, I think only about 10 came out cleanly. I have a bit of a caramel travesty all over my counter! Whether the cookies came out of the pan or not, they are still very tasty. Chocolate and salty caramel is a winner, no matter what they look like.

Salted Caramel Brownie Bites
½ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup caramel bits
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Sea Salt, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 24-count mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

 In a large mixer bowl, beat the melted butter and sugar on medium until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again on medium until well combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and mix on low until just combined.

Scoop the brownie batter into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the brownie bites comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Make an indentation in each brownie bite while the brownie is still warm. Allow the brownie bites to cool. Once cool, remove the brownie bites from the pan.

In a medium microwaveable bowl, combine the caramel bits and heavy cream. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring the mixture well between each increment. Continue heating until the mixture is smooth. Spoon the caramel into the indentation in each brownie bite. Sprinkle the top of each brownie bite with sea salt.
Recipe from Live Well, Bake Often

Friday, June 17, 2016

Chocolate Almond Brickle Cookies

Today is the last day of school and graduation! While being on the quarter system we have “last days” pretty frequently, spring quarter is always a big relief to finish. It’s been a really tough year and work has been extra busy. I typically have a little time before I start work for the summer, but not this year. I’m helping implement a new software in the library and I’m also going through certification testing for that software. No break for me!

I hadn’t made a chocolate cookie in a bit, and chocolate is always a good choice. I have been baking with toffee/brickle chips a lot, but they’re so great that you can’t go wrong. I used plain brickle chips, with no chocolate, as that’s what the store had. The ones with chocolate would certainly work, too. I’m not sure why stores just carry one or the other. I guess with limited shelf space they figure they have something with toffee/brickle, check it off the list, and call it a day.

These cookies aren’t too bad to put together, but melting the chocolate can be a messy prospect. Chocolate dough is always a little messy, but if you use a cookie scoop to portion the cookies, it helps a lot. I used a pinch of sliced almonds on top of each cookie and that worked out. I slightly flattened the cookies before baking, which helped the cookies bake. I think these cookies have a slightly addictive quality, strong chocolate flavor with the occasional crunch of the brickle bits. I hope I don’t eat too many of these!

Chocolate Almond Brickle Cookies           
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup brickle chips
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. In a small bowl, melt the unsweetened chocolate. Stir until smooth and then stir in the espresso powder, set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium until light. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat again on medium to incorporate. Add the chocolate mixture and stir on low to combine. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture. Stir in the brickle chips.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, using a medium cookie scoop. Top each cookie with some sliced almonds.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cooled, make the glaze: in a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar until smooth. Add additional milk if too thick, additional powdered sugar if too thin. Drizzle over the cookies and allow the glaze to set.   

Recipe from Garlic and Zest

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pina Colada Cookie Bars

This month’s What’s Baking theme was bars. I make bars all the time and they are something that I really enjoy baking! I hadn’t actually planned to make the What’s Baking recipe this week, but I hadn’t made bars in a while and it was high time to do so. I knew I would be home, too, so I had picked these bars that take slightly more time because of the time it takes to bake and frost the bars. These bar cookies are quite special, so I thought that they fit the theme very well. Thanks to Nichole at The Cookaholic Wife for being this month’s host! 

These pina colada bars require two ingredients that are a little different: coconut extract and cream of coconut. I had the extract, but not cream of coconut. There are many coconut products on the market these days, but this is the traditional cream of coconut that is used to make the pina colada drink. I found it in the aisle with the drink mixers. It’s not super cheap, but it’s nice to splurge a little bit now and then. The cream of coconut comes in a can and it’s imperative to shake it really well or it’s just not the right consistency.

The bars are a variation on a sugar cookie bar, with coconut extract. I only used 2 teaspoons instead of the tablespoon the original recipe stated; too much extract can really be too much! The frosting is very soft, and I ended up adding an additional cup of powdered sugar to make it workable. The cream of coconut is fairly fluid, but it imparts such great flavor to the frosting. I think these bars were a great success, and they are a nice bit of sunshine on a gloomy day here in the Seattle area. 

Pina Colada Cookie Bars
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup crushed pineapple, well drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9” x 13” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla and coconut extract. Beat again on medium until fully incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky.

With lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25-29 minutes, until lightly browned along the edges and the center is set. Allow to cool.

Make the frosting: in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, 3 cups of powdered sugar, cream of coconut, coconut extract, vanilla, and salt on medium until smooth. If the frosting seems too fluid, add up to an additional cup of powdered sugar. Add the pineapple and mix on low to incorporate.

Spread the frosting on top of the cooled bars. You will likely have more frosting than you need. Chill for 30 minutes before cutting into bars.
Recipe from Mirlandra’s Kitchen