When an amazing baker like Sarah Kieffer says that she’s been making these blondies for almost two decades, I had to try them. Right? They did not disappoint.
The recipe was adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics by Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog. I used espresso, fine sea salt, and dark chocolate chips. We ate them with and without (caramel) ice cream. 🙂
Yield: one 9×13-inch pan of blondies (about 12 large or 24 small)
213 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
12 T (1 1/2 sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, cold
297 g (1 1/2 cups) light brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 T strong coffee, room temperature (I used espresso)
1 1/2 T pure vanilla extract
86 g (3/4 cup) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
128 g (3/4 cup) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (I used 72% dark chocolate chips)
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
Grease a 9×13-inch metal baking pan with cooking oil spray. Line the pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang on 2 sides. (I clip the overhang with binder clips to keep it in place.)
Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Let cool and then chop; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt.
Remove pan from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined. Let the mixture come to room temperature. (I transferred it to a large bowl to expedite the process at this point.)
Add the egg and vanilla and whisk to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl (if you haven’t already).
Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently until incorporated.
Using an offset spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out with just a couple of crumbs.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut into squares.
My friend’s daughter is in love with Magnolia Bakery’s Famous Banana Pudding. She inspired me to peek at the recipe in their cookbook and to try this unique, upgraded version. The book declared that this is actually the “ultimate version.” 🙂
The recipe was adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. I used red gel food coloring and modified the method. I also layered the dessert in various individual glass serving bowls. Fun. We love red velvet anything so this was very well received! I’m not sure that it even needed the bananas. 😉
This “ultimate version” requires advanced planning. I made the cake a day in advance. I would also recommend making the pudding base a day in advance! Next time. 😉 Once the dessert has been layered, it is refrigerated another 4 hours to overnight prior to serving.
Yield: Serves up to 16 (4 to 5 quarts)
For the Red Velvet Cake:
383g/13.5oz (3 1/3 cups) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup or 170g/6oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g/16oz (2 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
1 scant tsp red gel food coloring (or 6 T liquid red food coloring)
3 T (22.5g/0.75oz) unsweetened dark cocoa powder, sifted
1 (8oz) package full-fat cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
3 cups (720g/25.5oz) heavy cream
4 to 5 ripe, firm bananas, sliced
160g (1 cup plus 1 T or 5.6oz) mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
To Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, preferably on convection. Butter a 9×13-inch metal baking pan; line with parchment paper and butter and flour the parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.
Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and the paddle.
Add the red food coloring and sifted cocoa powder to the mixer bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, carefully mix until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the vanilla and buttermilk.
Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. After each addition, be careful to mix just until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not ovemix. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.
In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda.
With the mixer on low speed, carefully add the cider vinegar and baking soda mixture to the batter and combine well. Scrape down the bowl.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (I baked mine for 47 minutes.)
Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely. (The cake can be made ahead and wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days.)
To Make the Pudding:
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the condensed milk and water on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
Add the pudding mix and beat until no lumps remain and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Put the room temperature cream cheese pieces in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Beat until smooth.
Add the chilled pudding to the to the cream cheese and mix until thoroughly combined and smooth, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate while you prepare the whipped cream. Clean the stand mixer bowl and whisk.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the heavy cream on medium speed for about 1 minute; until cream starts to thicken, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form. (be careful not to over whip)
With the mixer running on low speed, add the chilled pudding mixture a spoonful at a a time. Mix until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
Cut the cake into a 4×2-inch grid. (8 rectangular pieces) If preparing the dessert in individual servings, divide the cake into 16 pieces. Set aside.
Select 16 individual serving bowls (or a trifle bowl or wide glass bowl with 4-5 quart capacity). (I used a variety of glasses and glass dessert dishes.)
Spread 1/3 of the pudding on the bottom and layer with enough slices of the red velvet cake to cover the layer. (I used about 1/2 (slightly less) of each rationed slice of the cake, reserving crumbs for the top.)
Add 1/2 of the sliced bananas (enough to cover the cake pieces) and 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips. (I used 1 tsp of chocolate chips per layer in each serving.)
Repeat twice more. The second layer will be identical; the final layer will be pudding topped with a cake crumbs instead of pieces, and chocolate chips without (or with, if desired) banana slices.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before serving.
My kids haven’t had a snow day in a couple of years, but today we had our second snow day of the season. We were very happy for the break from reality. 🙂 Everyone slept in this morning and then my daughter made this special breakfast. ❤
These baked donuts were quite a treat- I had to post them right away. The recipe was adapted from bunsinmyoven.com. They were very light, tender, and moist. The batter would also be great to bake in mini-bundt pans. Next time!
I’m looking forward to another indulgent breakfast tomorrow morning… We just found out that my kids have another snow day! 🙂
Yield: 12 mini donuts
For the Donuts:
1cup all-purpose flour
1/2cup granulated sugar
1/4cupcocoa powder, sifted
1/4cupmini chocolate chips
1/4teaspoon coarse salt
1/2teaspoon purevanilla extract
6tablespoonssour cream or Greek yogurt
1/4cupmilk (preferably whole milk)
For the Glaze:
1 1/2cupspowdered sugar
1/4cupmilk (preferably whole milk)
1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of coarse salt
To Make the Donuts:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Coat two mini-donut pans with cooking oil spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Whisk in the mini chocolate chips.
In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat together the vanilla, egg, sour cream, milk, and oil.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, distribute the dough into two greased mini-donut pans.
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
Let the donuts cool completely before glazing.
To Make the Glaze:
Place a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, or newspaper under a wire rack to catch drips of glaze.
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
Dunk the donuts in the glaze to fully coat and place on the wire rack to set, about 5 minutes.
These classic brownies are absolutely perfect. We baked every variation! I have made them with and without adding Oreos- both perfect. I have also made them allowing the chocolate chips to melt and allowing the chocolate chips to stay partially intact (adding a little texural contrast). Both delicious. Yes, we’ve “suffered” through many batches. 😉
This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. The website describes them as having the perfect balance between a fudgy and cakey brownie- I completely agree. They are incredibly moist, have a good rise, and have a lighter-colored and shiny top crust. Superb.
The recipe makes a large batch (which I recommend) but half the recipe can be made in an 8-inch square pan. In order to keep the chocolate chips intact, the batter must cool slightly before adding them. To melt the chocolate right into the brownie, the chips are stirred into the warm batter. My family didn’t agree on a favorite version but we all enjoyed each and every one of them. 🙂
Yield: 24 brownies
4 large eggs
106g (1 1/4 cups) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-Process Cocoa (I used Trader Joe’s Cocoa), sifted
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso powder
1 T vanilla extract
227g (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter
447g (2 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
177g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
340g (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 Oreo cookies, quartered, plus 2 crumbled Oreo cookies, for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection.
Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan or line with parchment paper and coat with cooking oil spray. (I used a pyrex baking dish.)
Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them at medium speed with the sifted cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla for about 1 minute, or until smooth. (You can do this while you’re melting your butter (next step).)
In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted.
Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will help produce a shiny top crust on your brownies.
Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
Add the flour and chips, stirring until smooth. Again, adding the chips helps produce a shiny top crust. (Note: Decision time: Do you want chocolate chips that show, and add a bit of chunkiness to your brownies? Or do you want the chips to simply melt into a rich smoothness, perfectly amalgamated within the brownie? **For chips that retain their shape and add chunkiness, let the batter cool for about 20 minutes before adding the chips, stirring occasionally to hasten the process. **For brownies where the chips melt right into the brownie, add them to the hot batter immediately, stirring to combine.
Incorporate the quartered Oreo cookies, if using. (Keeping the Oreos in larger pieces (quarters) made them visible in the finished brownies.)
Spoon the batter into the parchment paper-lined and lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Sprinkle the crumbled Oreo cookies over the top, if using.
Bake the brownies for 27 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. (Note: When making half the recipe, bake in an 8″ x 8″ pan for 20 to 25 minutes.)
Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.
As if my CSA zucchini wasn’t enough, my friend brought me more beautiful zucchini from her garden. I made four loaves of this bread (two batches) with a single zucchini! Amazing.
This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I incorporated whole wheat flour. As suggested, I used less sugar and also omitted the add-ins. We ate some, shared some, and froze some for later. This loaf improves with time- perfect to make the night before serving it for breakfast. I imagine it would also be delicious lightly toasted and topped with butter.
Yield: 2 loaves or 24 muffins
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sunflower oil (can also used olive oil or another vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (can also used half (or even all) turbinado or half light brown sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out (from about 10 oz zucchini)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
1 to 2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chocolate chips (or a combination), optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
Generously grease 2 loaf pans (8×4 or 9×5) with butter and flour or with nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease 24 standard muffin cups or line with paper liners.
Whisk eggs, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bottom of a large bowl.
Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and whisk them in well.
Stir in zucchini.
Gently stir in flours, mixing only until incorporated.
Fold in any add-ins, if using.
Divide between prepared pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes for a loaf, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before inverting and removing from the pans. The loaves can also cool completely in pans.
Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 5 days. Loaves also freeze well.
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
6 ounces/170 grams chocolate chips or small chunks
Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Place a rack in the middle and place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on it.
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.
With the mixer running at low-speed, add salt and vanilla.
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.
With the mixer running at low-speed, shake in flour, beating just until dough holds together. Mix in nuts or chocolate just until combined.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
Coat a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and coat again with cooking spray.
In a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and milk. Stir until everything is completely melted.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is melted and well combined.
Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda directly into the chocolate mixture.
Using a whisk or electric mixture on low-speed, beat until no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
Add vanilla and food coloring and continue to beat on low-speed until everything is throughly combined.
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.
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:
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Beat in the vanilla.
Sift the sugar directly into the butter mixture. Beat until thick and creamy.
Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies.
Transfer to the refrigerator to set the frosting.
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.