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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Banana Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Forget banana bread, this ice cream is the perfect use for super ripe bananas on the counter! 😉

I know that the trend is to make healthy banana ice cream, but this one is the real deal. It has puréed bananas in the custard base instead of milk. I added vanilla extract and chocolate chips to make it even more special. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. SO so SO creamy!!

Yield: About 1 1/2 pints

For the Fruit:

  • 4 very ripe medium bananas
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk

For the Base:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • â…› teaspoon fine sea salt
  • â…” cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To Prepare the Fruit:

  1. In a blender, purée bananas, sugar, lemon juice and salt until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)

To Make the Base:

  1. In a small pot, simmer heavy cream, sugar and salt until sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream.
  3. Return pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
  4. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
  5. Stir buttermilk and the fruit purée into base. Add the vanilla extract. Cool mixture to room temperature. (I place the bowl into an ice bath.)
  6. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. (I place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the base before placing in it into the refrigerator.)
  7. Churn the base in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. At the end of processing, add the chocolate chips; continue processing until evenly incorporated.
  8. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store in freezer until needed. If storing in the freezer, directly cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap before covering with the lid in order to prevent icing.

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Mark Bittman’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I feel somewhat compelled to try different chocolate chip cookie recipes- especially when they claim to be “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER”…. (and I don’t think I’m alone!)

A couple of weekends ago, I had to make a dessert for my kids and their friends, so naturally I thought of chocolate chip cookies. I had seen this recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything on Sarah n Spice.com. She said that they were “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER”- even beating out a recipe from Alton Brown. (WHAT!?!?) I had to try this one.

I liked that the recipe incorporated both mini and standard semisweet chocolate chips. I adapted the recipe only to chill the dough prior to baking. We ate them as is as well as in chipwich form with French vanilla ice cream. SO good!! I have come to the conclusion that I just appreciate a really good chocolate chip cookie. It’s too hard to judge “The Best!”

  • ½ pound unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 on convection.
  2. Start off by creaming together sugar and butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until the cookie dough comes together.
  5. With a spoon, stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or up to overnight.
  7. Scoop tablespoon-size mounds on a baking sheet. (I used an ice cream scoop.)
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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Other Chocolate Chip Cookie Favorites:

Outrageous Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Move over brownies! These cookies are super chocolatey, soft, and chewy. Loaded with chocolate chunks. Quick, easy, and delicious. The recipe for these tasty cookies was adapted from Martha Stewart Living; I melted the chocolate in a double boiler and adapted the cooking time to use a convection oven. I’m ready to make them again!!

I’m bringing these goodies to Fiesta Friday #59 at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy 🙂

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 package (10-12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (on convection).
  2. Heat chopped chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate.
  5. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 8 to 10 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 12 to 15 minutes in a standard oven. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Do not bake the cookies to a crisp; they are meant to be soft and chewy.)

Note: Don’t worry if the batter seems thin. It should look more like a brownie batter than a cookie dough.

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If you like this you may also like:

Skinny Whole Wheat Pumpkin Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Thanksgiving is so indulgent, I wanted to have a lighter treat to offer for breakfast. These moist muffins have NO oil or butter and are whole wheat. Nice!

This recipe was adapted from Friday Cake Night. I substituted whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour, substituted a spice blend for pumpkin pie spice, and added mini chocolate chips. I also made mini muffins instead of a loaf. They were a bit sticky and worked better with cooking spray on the pan instead of paper muffin cup liners.

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection. Lightly coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed banana, brown sugar, apple sauce, pumpkin, and eggs until smooth.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips) to the bowl with the banana and pumpkin mixture and stir until well combined.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (I used a cookie scoop) and bake for 12 minutes.

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Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I feel as though I am revealing a secret recipe…. These cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, New York, are sold all over the United States. Now I know why these cookies are their signature item! They are FABULOUS- thin, crispy – but not too crispy, and loaded with chocolate chips. I don’t know if the water in the dough or the dark brown sugar makes the difference, but there is a difference. 🙂

This recipe is from Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Home-Style Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads. I modified the recipe by using unsalted butter, chilling the dough for 1 hour prior to baking, and by adjusting the baking time for a convection oven. I baked them for 12 minutes when using 2 baking sheets at a time, and for 8 minutes when using only 1 baking sheet. Delicious.

Yield: 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies

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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup salted butter (I used unsalted!)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, silpat, or butter.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add the water and vanilla; mix until just combined.
  6. Add the eggs and mix them lightly.
  7. Stir in the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Be careful not to overmix!
  8. Using a small cookie scoop, drop the cookies onto prepared cookie sheets.
  9. Bake them for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the edges and centers are brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

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Two Years Ago:

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