Pecan Pie Bars

Done

AHHH, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving …

Sometimes I think the Thanksgiving is when it’s over! It’s a lot of work. A lot of cooking. For us, a LOT of driving!

And …

10 MINUTES OF EATING!

What the heck!?

And then … and then … cleaning up! HOLY COW!

Fortunately, the Dear One and I do most of the cooking, so I sit back and let others clean it up. I am GREAT at making the mess but not so great at cleaning it up!

I wanted to bring a dessert, but it had to be something that traveled well. 8 hours in a car can be brutal on a cake or pie. I love pecan pie. From what I had gathered there were at least two pies and a cake coming. So pie was out.

I had come across this recipe from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine … pardon me whilst I dry the tears from my eyes … oh, how I miss you Gourmet! Okay … so I had found this in Gourmet and it was in a megapile of recipes I had torn from magazines (never to be seen again). Fortunately someone had the good sense to make it and pin in on Pinterest! To whomever it was, thank you!

This really goes together in a snap. Tastes just like pecan pie. I am sure with the same calorie count, BUT cutting them into squares gives you a little pecan pie taste without indulging in a whole slice. (YEAH, RIGHT, let me see you eat just one! Well, all the you out there except my mother, Madam Willpower!)

Careful not to over bake them. Careful not to leave them out in a FREEZING cold solarium. They.Become.Rocks! If that happens, a very quick, very short zap in the microwave will help.

Oh, and a scoop of ice cream goes a long way!

Who was it I head saying something about these being less fattening? Oh, me! Well, in the immortal words of Gilda Radner … Never Mind …

For crust:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 C packed brown sugar
  • 2 2/3 C all-purpose flour
  • ½ t salt

For topping:

  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 2 C chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

NOTE: Not parchment. Not any thought of I don’t need to line it. No cooking spray. FOIL! You’ll thank me later!

First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.

Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.

Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.

Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.

Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars and serve.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookie Strips

Done

More from our snow bound day of baking. I love chocolate chip cookies, really love them, and will try any new recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but how many different ways are there to make a chocolate chip cookie? Especially drop chocolate chip cookies. It’s really just changing up the ‘goodies’ inside. I love playing with the sizes and shapes. Now, we’ve already seen the Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie, which was great and easy and a wee bit different. But, while flitting around some of the blogs I read I saw these chocolate chip cookies and they have toffee AND you don’t have to scoop them! They make great big Cookie Monster sized cookies … that you cut into strips. This recipe comes from the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer:  All the Good Cookies recipe book.

Many thanks again to my friend Lisa for braving the snow to make cookie baking day so much fun and to Miss A for awakening from slumber with a zeal to get her bake on!

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 C light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/3 C (8 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C Heath toffee bits (add 2/3 cup if you’re a toffee lover!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Creaming

Place the butter and sugars in a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

panoramic

With the mixer on low, add the flour, baking powder and salt; beat well and scrape again.

Stir in the chocolate chips and the toffee.

Rolling

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter of the dough between two floured sheets of waxed paper into an 8-inch or so square.

NOTE: Flouring wax paper? Nope, doesn’t work. Lightly flour the rolling pin and you’re just fine!

Ready to Bake

Transfer the cookie squares to the prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 17 minutes.

While hot, cut each cookie square in half, then cut each half into eight 1-inch slices. Cool the slices on the cookie sheets completely.

Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies

Brownies

I am the eldest child (well, at least chronologically). Not an easy task. As the eldest, you are the experimental child. Your parents really have NO clue what to do with a baby, a toddler, a child, a tween, and (EEK!) a teenager.

When you get to the youngest child – especially if there is a gaggle of children – that youngest child can pretty much juggle knives and it’s okay.

Not convinced? Neither was Sandro. Our conversation sounded a bit like this:

Me: “when I was your age …”
Sandro: (eye rolling)
Me: “Yes, I know, I was never your age. But, when I was, I had a midnight curfew!”
Sandro: “What!?”
Me: “Not that I ever came home on time, and was grounded constantly, but yes, at 21 I had a midnight curfew.”

I couldn’t go away for a weekend with friends, just miles away, without a lot of guff. Sandro is going to CANCUN with friends. Le sigh.

On the other hand, I never had hand-me-downs. And while knife juggling and staying out late wasn’t allowed, my parents’ life fit around my schedule, as opposed to all those that follow whose every move has to really fit around everyone else’s schedules.  Also, my parents let me try any activity that tickled my fancy. After a bunch-o kids, you already know when certain activities will last about 45 seconds before they flit on to something else and you become more hesitant to sign that permission slip.

What does this have to do with brownies, you may ask. Absolutely NOTHING!

Sandro Pan

Oh, that ^ handsome fella is Sandro. And when I said I felt like baking something and then said brownies, his face lit up. So, really how could I refuse! What brownies to make? I had wanted to try these brownies since first seeing them in Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours. This was the perfect opportunity.  As always happens, Sandro disappeared while I was getting ready to bake these brownies and he only re-emerged from his room once he smelled the just out of the oven brownies!

These are really chocolatey. Nice crisp top and a gooey inside. They’re made in one pot – another BIG plus. Just pay attention to the part about BUTTERING the baking pan (I didn’t) and letting them cool completely before cutting (Sandro didn’t). They get better and richer as they sit. These definitely go into the brownie rotation!

  • ½ C cocoa or 2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 C roughly chopped walnuts or pecans

NOTE: Not having baker’s chocolate and being far TOO lazy to go out, I opted for the cocoa.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Ingredient Pan

Melt butter with the cocoa or chocolate together in a heavy saucepan over medium low, whisking constantly till blended. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well.

Ready to bake

Pour into a well buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Bake for about 40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

NOTE: SEE THOSE WORDS … WELL BUTTERED!? I am just seeing them NOW! They were a bit difficult getting out of the baking pan.

Baked

Cool completely and cut into squares. These brownies are very fudgy and may be somewhat difficult to slice cleanly; use a sharp knife and a spatula to help them loosen from the baking dish.

NOTE: Ah, the other problem with getting them out was that other foreign word … COOL!

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Baked

We’ve had snow. We’ve had rain. We’ve actually had SLUSH fall out of the sky. Windy … well, all I could think upon opening one eye one morning was ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!’ Ice everywhere. So much ice our friends won’t all drive down our driveway, and I find myself praying as I drive up the driveway, please make it, please make it, so that I don’t suffer the INDIGNITY of being watched as I don’t quite make it to the top of the hill!

Welcome to Maine! Seems to be the mantra here of fellow sufferers, or perhaps it’s a condolence from another who has not managed to escape.

As we stand outside, the Dear One keeps looking at me, mostly smiling, an occasional grimace as a blast of arctic wind finds a tiny speck of skin not covered, and asks, ‘You will be here when I get back, right?’  Ask me again when I’m not shivering in my boots … well, truthfully, the answer will be the same, yes, I’ll be here when you get back, and if I can manage the driveway, I’ll even pick you up at the airport.

(As an aside … I have spent two weeks either in slippers or my Bean boots. I have had a line from a movie constantly floating around in my head. Remember the Goldie Hawn movie Private Benjamin? The scene where she’s marching around in a circle out in the pouring rain wailing  “I WANNA WEAR MY SANDALS! I WANNA GO OUT TO LUNCH!” All I keep thinking is … I want to wear shoes! I want to wear a cute pair of heels!)

But when it’s too frigid to go outside. Well, too frigid for me to go outside, I get bored. We’ve watched all of Sherlock, The Tudors, House of Cards, Jon Stewart, every decent movie on Hulu, Netflix and Crackle. Bookshelves have been built. Every single bit of laundry done. It’s 9:00 am … NOW WHAT!?

When cabin fever sets in I only have a few things on my mind … cooking and eating (oh, what did you think I was going to say!!). If I cook or bake, I don’t want to eat. So better to cook than graze. But what to make?

Baking is more time consuming than cooking. You have to pay attention to every ingredient and it takes time. Cookies are always good. The Dear One LOVES chocolate chip cookies, and he did build a bookshelf in the kitchen for all most of my cookbooks. SO chocolate chip cookies it is! This recipe has been calling to me for quite some time, what better time to try it!?

  • 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 C packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t coarse salt
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chips

NOTE: Room temperature is really subjective. Room temperature, in Maine, is not the same as it was in NYC. A little zap in the microwave did the trick.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Creaming

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars with a wooden spoon.

NOTE: The allure of this recipe, besides one ginormous chocolate chip cookie, was not using baking sheets AND the Kitchen Aid AND making a huge pile of bowls and pans, etc., BUT, that being said, creaming sugar and butter together by hand is for the birds!

Stir in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.

Adding chips

Stir in chips.

Transfer to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; smooth top.

Ready to Bake

NOTE: A glob. A glob, I tell you. It’s the same as cookie dough that you would scoop for individual cookies. Getting it into all ends of the pan is tough. And smoothing it? HA! I tried flouring my fingers, no. I wet my fingers with cold water and that let me push the dough around to get the job done. But ICK!

Bake until cookie is golden brown and just set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes.

I cut this into wedges to serve.

Inside Out S’mores

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was given the honor of choosing a recipe from Hoosier Homemade. There are so many wonderful recipes on Liz’s site that it was really difficult to choose just one. Then I saw her recipe for Peanut Butter S’mores.  The S’mores reminded me that I was itching to try Smashing S’mores from How Sweet It Is. What a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone!

Jessica at How Sweet It Is copied adapted these after Trader Joe’s Smashing S’mores and I stole adapted them from Jessica.

These are so simple and so yummy! You can make as many or as few as you want so they can be perfect for a quick snack or dessert in a pinch.

All you need are:

  • marshmallows
  • graham crackers
  • chocolate chips or bar chocolate, melted

I burnt roasted the marshmallows a little bit first. I like the toasty flavor marshmallows get when roasted a bit. Once roasted let cook completely.

Melt a small bowl of chocolate to use as the glue to hold everything together.

Break graham crackers into fours, then cut or snap each plank into squares. Use a small dab of chocolate to glue the squares together. Add one dab on top of the top graham cracker and press the marshmallow on top. Let the stacks sit for 30-60 minutes or until the graham crackers and marshmallows are stuck together.

Melt more chocolate in a deep glass bowl or mug to make it easy for dipping. Using a thin fork or long pointy tool press it into the top of the marshmallow gently. Dip it in the chocolate and cover as much as you can. I sat my stacks on a fork and drizzled the chocolate over the top. Remove and set on wax paper, leaving until the chocolate is hardened.

I stored mine in the fridge but they are fine at room temperature too! While the chocolate is still wet you can add sprinkles to the top, some crushed graham crackers or chopped nuts.



Sour Cherry Streusel Cake

This recipe was shared with me many, many moons ago by one of my pals at Nigella’s Kitchen Forum.

This cake also happens to be my son’s favorite sweet comfort food. It is one of two sweet things my son will request – the other being my kitchen sink oatmeal cookies. The cake is light and delicate with sour cherries and a crispy, buttery streusel topping.

It doesn’t ship well.

My making this can only mean one thing – VISITING WEEKEND AT CAMP! I cannot wait to put my arms around that skinny boy. I know. I know. He’s a man – HA. He’s 21. He’s my baby. I don’t care if he’s 51. He’s my baby.

Enough filler. Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled cake.

Although the recipe is originally called Platz (Mennonite Streusel Cake), it came to me as Sour Cherry Streusel Cake and that is how it shall forever be known. The recipe comes from Johanna Burkhard’s 400 best Comfort Foods.

And besides, if I had told my family that their now beloved Sour Cherry Streusel Cake was actually called Platz, I don’t think they would have been quite so quick to love it! And until I bought the book, I would never have thought to make this with other fruit! I think it was more of a sour cherries – yum – what could be better than that! The book recommends cherries or apricots. I’m thinking blueberries!

And I wait patiently every year until late spring/early summer for the sour cherry crop to be ready. And sometimes I miss it.

I was very lucky this year, and came across some at the Farmer’s Market in Union Square Park. I pitted all of them and put some in the freezer for use later in the season. Did I mention I love my cherry pitter? Well I do! Not as much splattering and the fruit doesn’t get too damaged in the process.

Cake:

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 C butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract or grated lemon zest
  • 4 C pitted, drained sour cherries or other seasonal sliced fruits

Crumb Topping

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or fork to make coarse crumbs.

Beat egg in a bowl; stir in cream and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture to make a thick batter.

Drop small spoonfuls of batter into a generously greased 13 x 9-inch cake pan and spread evenly.

Top with cherries in a single layer.

Combine flour and brown sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or fork to make coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle evenly over fruit. Bake on middle rack in oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until top is golden.

Place pan on a rack and let cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 12 squares

NOTE: In a dash of occasional madness, I have been known to add almond paste (1/2 a tube) to the cake batter and a little almond extract (1/2 teaspoon). And to incite further frivolity in my house I have made 1 1/2 times the streusel topping!

And just coz I know you want it – one me peek at the cake …

Sugar Cookie Bars

As many of you know, my darling son does not dorm at scollege. It was his choice. He has been heard saying – though of course not to me, lest he need to give up any of that ANGST – he likes his home, his parents and his mother’s cooking and care, so why would he sleep in a dorm 10 miles away.

He does, however, work at a performing arts camp from June 1st to August 31st as music staff (Tommy is a musician – bass trombone in case anyone out there needs a music teacher or musician for some reason!) and bunk counselor. Doesn’t pay exorbitantly well. The weather is spotty until mid-July. The work is hard. The food is terrible. My husband and I go up on visiting weekends and if that food is their best foot forward for the parents – MYOHMYOHMY what are they feeding my baby!?

That being said, he has a wonderful time. He loves his campers. He teaches music lessons. He plays some fantastic music. And, being it’s a performing arts camp, he has played in the pit orchestras of some amazing shows. The first amateur production of Hairspray anywhere. West Side Story using Leonard Bernstein’s original manuscript.

He always comes back from camp having lost at least 10 pounds and a list of dinners he wants as soon as humanly possible. Now, at 6’1″ and 130 pounds soaking wet, that’s a skinny boy every day, it is a scary skinny kid in August.

So, when he calls and says – PLEEEEEASE, Mommy (I am Mommy when he wants something), send cookies. I hear that voice asking me for cookies and I see this little boy to the left. I know, I know, he’s 21 and doesn’t look that way, but don’t we all see them as sweet little children? I picture him wasting away to nothing. To the right, that’s what he looks like now. Cute, ain’t he?

What is a mother to do? Bake! That’s what a mother does! Bake and mail. Bake and mail. Bake and mail. But these have to be cookies that travel well. These have to be cookies with no chocolate – with the exception of a few chips here and there. Did I mention MY son hates chocolate?  There can be no nuts whatsoever in the cookies – the camp has a strict no nut policy.

AND – AND – there are cookies for Tommy, and Tommy’s 2 best friends, and a little bribe for the mailroom folks. They are supposed to open every package and take out items that are verboten. It’s amazing what a bribe of sugar and flour will do!

I asked my Facebook buddies for suggestions and got some really good ones that will be making their way to camp this summer, but I suddenly started seeing these sugar cookie bars everywhere. They looked amazing and the recipe bakes on a half sheet pan so it makes a LOT of cookies. I traced the cookies back to Anissa’s Kitchen. Thank you!

Usually they are frosted, but frosting would not work for these. I thought it would be a terrible mess in the mail. I personally love sugar cookies with sanding sugar on top. Sanding sugar would be perfect for mailing. Sanding sugar it is!

You use a half sheet pan. Cookies/bars are as large or small as you choose to make them!  These are REALLY good and very easy to make.

  • 1 C butter; room temp.
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 5 C flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda

 

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl and mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and mix. Add in flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Spread on a greased 13×8 baking sheet (a half sheet pan).

If you are using sanding sugar, sprinkle top of cookie

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut.

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