Butter Pecan Blondies

Butter pecan is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. This flavor combination is also absolutely perfect in a buttery blondie. This easy recipe uses pantry staples to create a quick dessert without even using a mixer!

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I omitted the rum and substituted an additional teaspoon of vanilla extract in its place. I baked mine long enough to achieve light golden brown color but may increase the baking time next time to heighten the depth of flavor.

  • 1 1/2 cups whole raw pecans
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups light-brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum, optional (can substitute 1 additional tsp of vanilla extract)
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, 6 to 7 minutes. Let cool, then chop.
  3. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter (or coat with cooking oil spray), then dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together butter and 2 cups brown sugar until combined.
  6. Add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture; whisk until combined. Add vanilla and rum.
  7. Fold in flour mixture with a spatula until just combined (do not overmix).
  8. Fold in half of nuts.
  9. Transfer batter to prepared dish; smooth top with an offset spatula.
  10. Sprinkle top with remaining nuts and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
  11. Bake until golden around edges and a tester inserted in center comes out with very few crumbs, 22 to 24 minutes. (Watching carefully- Next time I may increase the baking time up to 28 to 30 minutes.)
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Note: Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Variations: If you’d rather not use rum, increase the amount of vanilla to 4 teaspoons.

Festive Sugar Cookie Bars

I hope everyone had a lovely Fourth of July celebration. 🙂

We had a very low-key day followed by a delicious meal prepared on the grill, in Fourth of July fashion. This fun dessert was a festive way to end the day! The meringue icing was incredibly thick and fluffy; the pattern could be easily modified to decorate for any occasion.

This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens. The cookies kept well for several days in the refrigerator.

Yield: 24 bars

For the Sugar Cookie Bars:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • Meringue Icing (recipe follows)
  • red and blue paste food colorings

For the Meringue Icing:

  • 3 cups Confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 T meringue powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a half sheet pan (15×10-inch baking pan) with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment paper, and coat the parchment with cooking spray.
  3. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl beat butter with mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Beat in egg and vanilla bean paste.
  6. Beat in flour mixture. (Dough will be crumbly.)
  7. Pat dough firmly and evenly into prepared pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  8. Meanwhile prepare Meringue Icing. In a large bowl beat Confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup water, the meringue powder, and cream of tartar with mixer on high 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and fluffy.
  9. Divide three 1/4-cup portions into small bowls. Cover remaining Meringue Icing to prevent drying out.
  10. Tint 1/4-cup portions with paste food coloring to make red, light blue, and dark blue. Transfer each to a small resealable (sandwich) plastic bag.
  11. Evenly spread remaining Meringue Icing onto cooled cookie.
  12. For firework “burst” design, snip a small corner from each pastry bag. Pipe concentric circles in different sizes with tinted colors. Pull a toothpick from center to outer edge to create the firework pattern; wipe or replace the toothpick between each pull. Repeat as desired.
  13. Chill, uncovered, 2 hours or until icing sets. To store, cover loosely with foil and chill up to 3 days.

 

Strawberry Pie Bars

I had my eye on this recipe way before I even went strawberry picking…and these pie bars met every expectation. 🙂 This recipe is from Joy the Baker. Wonderful!

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Strawberry Filling:

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced into bite-size chunks (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons minute tapioca
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for topping
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over two edges of the pan about two inches. This will make the pie bars easier to remove after it’s baked. Lightly spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. For the crust, place the butter, sugars, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon and mix on low-speed until just combined.
  5. Scatter two-thirds of the dough into clumps in the prepared pan, flour your fingers and press the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides of the pan about 1/2-inch. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and set aside to cool while you prepare the topping and filling.
  7. In a small bowl combine the remaining crust and pecans. Stir until combined and set aside.
  8. In a medium bowl toss together the sliced strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and spices. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes until some juices develop in the bottom of the bowl.
  9. After the juices have developed, add the melted butter and the instant tapioca. Stir to combine. The tapioca will look coarse within the mixture but it will dissolve in the oven.
  10. Spread the strawberries evenly over the crust.
  11. Pinch medium pieces of remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly over the top of the strawberry mixture (they won’t cover the top completely but do your best to cover).
  12. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the topping is brown and the strawberry mixture is bubbling. (If there are still tapioca bits, take the pan out of the oven and gently stir those berries in so the tapioca gets moistened.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  14. Chill in the refrigerator to easily remove the bars from the pan. Once cooled, remove from the pan and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Note: The bars can be stored, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Chip Streusel Brownies

My indecisiveness can be crippling- that’s why I really love recipes like this one. It’s perfect for those of us who can’t decide if we should make cookies or brownies. 😉 I am slightly more partial to brownies… and this brownie base was made even more delicious by incorporating dark chocolate.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. Rich and amazing.

Yield: Serves 16+

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)

For the Brownie Batter:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. For the Cookie Dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter; line with parchment, leaving a slight overhang on long sides.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 6 minutes.
  5. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in egg. Beat in vanilla.
  6. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture; beat until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate.
  7. For the Brownie Batter: Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
  8. Remove from heat; whisk in granulated sugar.
  9. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  10. Whisk in cocoa and salt.
  11. Fold in flour until combined.
  12. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula.
  13. Crumble cookie dough evenly over batter.
  14. Cover with parchment-lined foil; bake until just set, 20 minutes.
  15. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center (avoiding chocolate chunks) comes out with moist crumbs, 27 to 30 minutes more.
  16. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift brownies from pan using parchment; cut into 16 squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Snickerdoodle Crumb Bars

I am drawn to cinnamon-sugary desserts in the fall. Especially if streusel is involved. 🙂 I wanted to bake this snickerdoodle-coffee cake hybrid dessert the second I saw the recipe. I was not disappointed! These cookie bars are not only delicious, they are versatile as well. They could be served for a special breakfast, snack, or dessert.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. We ate them for dessert. They were extra-fabulous served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

For the Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 stick cold unsalted butter (4 tablespoons), cut into pieces

For the Topping:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Bars:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for dish
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

  1. Make the Streusel: Whisk together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut in butter until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Make the Topping: Stir together cinnamon and granulated sugar; set aside.
  3. Make the Bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter parchment. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  4. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, both sugars, and eggs. Add flour mixture; stir to combine.
  6. Spread half of batter into bottom of dish.
  7. Sprinkle with half of cinnamon sugar.
  8. Dollop remaining batter on top; spread evenly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
  9. Sprinkle evenly with streusel, then remaining cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake until a tester inserted in middle comes out clean, 25 to 28 minutes in a convection oven, or 30 to 35 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Let cool completely. (In order to keep the layers intact, the cake must be completely cool before cutting it into bars.)
  12. Transfer to a cutting board using parchment overhang and cut into bars to serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Crisp Toffee Bars

I am a huge fan of a skillet-baked dessert. Irresistible. These blondie-esque, nutty cookies were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The edges were fabulously crumbly too. In the original recipe, the edges are removed prior to serving… What on Earth?! 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I weighed all of the dry ingredients, included both of the add-ins, increased the skillet size, and reduced the baking time. The article cited that the original recipe for these buttery, basic toffee bars belongs to Maida Heatter, the great American dessert maven of the 20th century. It was adapted for a cast-iron skillet by Charlotte Druckman, who wrote a book on cast-iron baking in 2016. Wonderful.

Yield: 2 dozen bars

  • 2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter, cold but not frozen, plus 1 T more for buttering the pan
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/210 grams soft-packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups/240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/100 grams unsalted slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 ounces/170 grams chocolate chips or small chunks
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Place a rack in the middle and place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on low-speed for about a minute, until softened. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
  3. With the mixer running at low-speed, add salt and vanilla.
  4. Add the brown sugar, then turn the speed up to medium and beat until mixture is the color of peanut butter and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
  5. With the mixer running at low-speed, shake in flour, beating just until dough holds together. Mix in nuts or chocolate just until combined.
  6. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place 1 T of butter in it. As butter melts, swirl it over the bottom and sides of the pan until evenly coated.
  7. Dump dough into skillet and press it out to evenly fill the skillet. You can use your fingers (being careful to avoid touching the hot pan), a potato masher or the bottom of a measuring cup. Press dough down firmly to make a compact, even layer.
  8. Transfer to oven and bake for 25 to 40 minutes, until the top is walnut brown. You may be tempted to take it out when the edges have begun to darken, but let it continue to cook so the entire surface can take on that color. There may be bubbles visible on top of the dough; that’s a good sign.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. If necessary, run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen. Cut into bars, squares or diamonds. (I cut them after they had completely cooled.)
  10. Let the bars cool completely before removing from pan. Store in airtight container; they keep well for up to 1 week.

Note: This recipe can be adapted to bake in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

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Red Velvet Brownies

I think that all I have to say is that I’ve already made these wonderful brownies three times before posting them! They are a great modification of the classic Southern cake- including the essential cream cheese frosting.

The recipe was adapted from Fat Witch Bake Sale by Patricia Helding with Lucy Baker. Fat Witch Bakery is a family favorite NYC bakery, and one of the first we visited after moving to New York. I used semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate chips, lined the baking pan with parchment paper, and modified the baking time for a convection oven.

I contemplated omitting the red food coloring, but it just would not have been as much fun. (…besides the fact that my daughter had a very strong objection!) 🙂 Yummy.

Yield: Makes one 9×9-inch pan 16 square brownies or 32 triangle brownies

For the Brownies:

  • 5 1/2 T (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp red food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and coat again with cooking spray.
  3. In a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and milk. Stir until everything is completely melted.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is melted and well combined.
  5. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.
  7. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda directly into the chocolate mixture.
  8. Using a whisk or electric mixture on low-speed, beat until no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
  9. Add vanilla and food coloring and continue to beat on low-speed until everything is throughly combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.  Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or up to 30-35 minutes in a standard oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.
  11. Cool in the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour. Make sure that they are completely cooled before frosting.

Note: This is a good time to bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature before making the frosting.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Sift the sugar directly into the butter mixture. Beat until thick and creamy.
  4. Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator to set the frosting.
  6. Cut the brownies just before serving.

Note: The brownies will keep longer if they are stored uncut. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 days.

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