Crazy good fudgy brownies

One pot uber-fudgie brownies. No mixer required.

 

It’s a brownie baking kinda night. I typically double (in a 15 x10 inch pan or 13×9) or  triple the recipe and put them in a half-sheet pan (18×13) because these brownies are meant to be given away. They’re loaded with walnuts and well, chocolate. Don’t like nuts? Leave ’em out.

But, remember, walnuts are high in good-for-you fats that provide protection against a host of health problems. And dark chocolate, including bittersweet, has heart-healthy antioxidants and has been found to lower blood pressure. Never mind the butter and sugar. Surely the nuts and chocolate cancel out the butter-sugar concerns. I like to think these brownies are a health food.

 

Double batch of walnut-loaded fudge brownies baked in a jelly roll pan.

Walnut-Studded Dark Chocolate Brownies

1/2 cup butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped (bittersweet chips work, too)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and bittersweet chocolate. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter and chocolate are melted. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir granulated sugar and brown sugar into chocolate mixture until smooth. Add eggs, beating with spoon until well combined.

3. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Stir in nuts and milk chocolate pieces (batter will be thick). Spread in prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is set but still soft. (A toothpick inserted in center will come out slightly gooey.) Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 16 brownies.

Tip: The secret to fudgy brownies is to make sure you don’t overcook them. For easy clean up,  line the baking pan with foil or baking

parchment, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the foil. When brownies are baked and cooled, lift out the foil along with the slab of brownies. Remove foil and cut brownies.



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Pumpkin Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars Reprise

Autumn in Milwaukee

In case you missed this post from a few years back. These are the most amazing pumpkin bars, if I do say so myself.

It’s Fall, Y’all!

Went out for a contemplative walk, but kept getting distracted by nature. First the trees with their distracting oranges and reds and yellows against the sky-blue sky. And the slightly deeper blue of Lake Michigan in the background. And the crunch, crunch, kick, crunch, flutter of the leaves underfoot. And the sunshine which made the day look like it should feel warmer, but instead simply verified what the trees know: Fall is here.

And so it’s time for Pumpkin Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars.

Baking them results in aromatherapy of the highest order. Happiness guaranteed.

And yes, I know that they are more cakey than bar-like, but they’re called bars anyway.

I’ve been baking these for-almost-ever. And tweaking them a bit over the years. The original recipe included 1 cup of oil, so I experimented with half oil, half applesauce. It works, but makes the texture a little gummy. So I tried this version with 1/4 cup applesauce. Thumbs up. (You can skip the applesauce and use 1 cup of oil, if there’s no applesauce in the house.)

The spices are subject to your whim or your pantry. I’ve been loving cardamom lately so I added some. Sometimes I include a dash of cloves and/or ginger. But always, always cinnamon.

The frosting is barely sweet, the way I like it. Oh, and I almost always add pecans. But you’ll notice there are none in the photo. That’s because I was entertaining someone with nut allergies. They were still good (but even better with pecans!)

Pumpkin Bars Minus the Pecans

Pumpkin-Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Read More >>



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Soft and Spicy Ginger Cookies

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

Am doing my civic duty this weekend and dedicating batches of baking to the Milwaukee police precinct in my neighborhood. Still paying back the officers who tended to the emotional havoc I experienced after being held up by a gun-wielding youth a few years ago.

The Milwaukee Police Dept. has been getting a lot of bad press lately. But they have a tough job. And they’ve always been kind to me.

Anyway, I’ve been making these for years. I got my first taste of them while an editor at Better Homes and Gardens. Then again after I became editor at Taste of Home magazine when we sent batches of these to soldiers (slightly different recipe). They pack well and hold their flavor for a looong time. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves. Oh, yeah.

I can’t take credit for this version. It may have originated from BH&G; or come from a Taste of Home reader…and it’s all over Pinterest, so who knows? I always tweak recipes, so maybe it’s mine now!

I sometimes use my 1/4-cup size ice scream scoop and make GIANT ginger cookies. If you want to go that route, increase the baking time by 2 or 3 minutes. And you will only get a couple dozen big ol’ cookies out of the batch, rather than about 5 dozen cookies.

 

Soft and Spicy Ginger Cookies

Makes 63 cookies (1 tablespoon dough/cookie)

4 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup mild-flavored molasses
3/4 cup sparkling (or course) sugar or sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Stir together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat shortening for about 30 seconds. Add the 2 cups sugar and beat until combined. Beat in eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture and beat until combined. Shape dough into balls (I made these exactly 1 tablespoon per ball), and roll them in the remaining sugar. Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes. Tops will be slightly puffed and soft. Don’t over bake. Cool for 1 -2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet to rack.


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Shortcut Dark Chocolate Almost Toffee

You may have fallen in love with these already. But if you need a really fast homemade gift, this is it.

Saltine crackers, blanketed in melty butter and brown sugar, plus a heavy-handed scattering of chocolate chips and almonds. Done.

I’ve been making this for years from a recipe that was handed to me scribbled on a piece of notepaper. I’ve tweaked it a bit to include dark chocolate and sliced almonds. (But you’ll probably find something similar all over the Web.)
It’s one of my go-to last-minute treats for entertaining…You can have a batch ready for nibbling in 15 to 20 minutes.
Crunch. Munch. Moan (in an ecstatic way).
Dark Chocolate and Almond Toffee Crisps
 
40 saltine crackers (1 sleeve)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips and/or chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan (10x15x1) or rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil). Line the crackers in a single layer on the parchment paper in pan.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Let it bubble for 3 minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Immediately pour mixture over crackers. Bake for 5 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top; let stand for 5 minutes, then spread melted chips evenly over all. Top with sliced almonds. Cool completely, then cut or break toffee into pieces.


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Happy Heart Valentine’s Day Cookies

I concocted this Valentine’s Day cookie recipe as my heart shattered—when my mother died four years ago in early February—and I called them Broken Heart Lemon Sugar Cookies. But now, they bring back happy memories. And so I’ve changed the title to Happy Heart Lemon Sugar Cookies. It’s amazing how the simple act of baking can transport you—no matter how much time passes—to a cozy place of love and family and happy times. Baking is my meditation. It’s my hammock on the beach even when the ground is blanketed in snow.

These cookies are simple to make and just in time for Valentine’s day. They taste so much better when you share them.

And you’ll make me kinda happy if you like Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen on Facebook.

 

 

Happy Heart Lemon Sugar Cookies

About 3 dozen 2- to 3-inch cookies

broken heart cookies 2

Beat until creamy:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons powdered sugar (it adds a light texture)

1 to 2 tsp. lemon peel (I use a Microplane to remove the lemon peel in fine shreds)

1/4 tsp. salt

Add and beat until combined:

1 egg

1  tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Add and beat on low (or stir with a wooden spoon) until combined:

2 1/2 cups flour

Divide dough into thirds, flatten into disks, and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using 1 part of dough at a time, roll dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Use a 2- to 3-inch cutter to cut out cookies. Place on cookie sheet about 1-inch apart.

Repeat with remaining dough. Pat dough scraps together and roll and cut.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges get a hint of brown. Do not over bake. Remove to a cooling rack. When cool, frost with Lemon Glaze. Add little red hearts or pink and red sprinkles, if desired.

Lemon Glaze: Whisk together 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, 2 to 3 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. lemon peel, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.



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Change-Your-Fortune Cookies

fortune cookies

Kinda proud of these nice-and-spicy cookies. Look good. Taste fantastic. But homemade always does, doesn’t it? Just in time for Chinese New Year. Write your own fortune for the future. Then take action to make it come true. Or just make the cookies and eat them.  (Yes, you may have seen this recipe, from our cookbook Heartbreak Recovery Kitchen on Leite’s Culinaria.)

Change-Your-Fortune Cookies

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash ground cloves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet, dark, or semisweet chocolate
  • Chopped peanuts, sprinkles, minced candied ginger, or other little sweet or spicy things

1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. If using parchment, lightly coat the paper with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Have a couple of muffin tins at the ready.
2. Write fortunes on long strips of sturdy paper. (The paper can be fancy or plain, it matters little. Best stick with strips that are 3 1/2 to 4 inches long and no more than 1/2 inch or so wide.)
3. Stir together the butter, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves.
4. Beat egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, add about half of the flour, and beat just until combined. Switch to a spatula and fold in the butter mixture. Add the remaining flour and beat  until combined.
5. Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter onto baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly and very thinly into a 3 1/2-inch circle. Repeat to make 3 or 4 cookies on each baking sheet.
6. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fortune cookies begin to brown around the edges. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 30 seconds. Then, working quickly, transfer the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a clean dish towel. Place a fortune just above the center of each cookie and fold the cookie in half, pinching the top of the curved portion to seal. Gently bend the ends of the fortune cookie together to form a fortune cookie shape. (Fold the cookie over a chopstick to help form the bend in the center.) Place each cookie in the muffin tin, to help it retain its shape while it cools. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Hurry!)
7. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Dip half of each fortune cookie in the melted chocolate. If desired, sprinkle with chopped peanuts or candied sprinkles.



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It’s a Dark Chocolate Fudge Kinda Day

fudge w: dulce de leche

I’ve been in a scowly woe-is-me mood for the past couple of days. That’s why I had to make my what-the-funk  fudge. It’s fast (about 5 minutes once the ingredients are assembled on the kitchen counter). And ohgeewhiz good.

I must admit that I was inspired by a basic Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe. But I’m not a basic kinda girl. I wanted a thicker fudge, so I cut back on the amount of sweetened condensed milk. Then I added a little espresso to add intensity to the chocolate chips (plus I added dark chocolate), a little butter, a dulce de leche drizzle on top…and coarse sea salt. Next time I’ll add chopped toasted pecans, but this pan full of happy was being shared with my nut-free friend.

The reviews were quite favorable. And the funk is gone.

Quick Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge
Makes 24 pieces, give or take

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or any instant coffee) dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 cup dark chocolate pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (save the rest of the 14-oz. can for your coffee)
1 tablespoon butter, softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dulce de leche
Coarse sea salt

1. Line a square pan (8×8-in or 9×9-in)  with parchment; set aside. Stir together espresso mix, chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in a glass bowl. (I used a 4-cup glass measuring cup.)

2. Microwave for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 1 minute more; stirring every 30 seconds or so, until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread fudge into pan.

3. Microwave dulce de leche (in a glass bowl or measuring cup) at 70% power for 15 seconds or so. Drizzle over fudge in pan. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Chill fudge about 30 minutes or until you can’t stand it any longer. Use parchment paper to remove fudge from pan. Peel off parchment. Cut. Share. Eat.

 

 



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Dark Chocolate Brownies at Midnight

One pot uber-fudgie brownies. No mixer required.

One pot uber-fudgie brownies. No mixer required.

I typically triple the recipe and put them in a half-sheet pan (18 x 13 x 1 inch) because these brownies are meant to be given away. I actually ran out of walnuts, so this photo only has about half the amount. Usually they’re fully loaded—a nut-lover’s dream. Works too if you leave ’em out.

But, remember, walnuts are high in good-for-you fats that provide protection against a host of health problems. And dark chocolate, including bittersweet, has heart-healthy antioxidants and has been found to lower blood pressure. Never mind the butter and sugar. Surely the nuts and chocolate cancel out the butter-sugar concerns. I like to think these brownies are a health food.

Walnut-Studded Dark Chocolate Brownies

1/2 cup butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and bittersweet chocolate. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter and chocolate are melted. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir granulated sugar and brown sugar into chocolate mixture until smooth. Add eggs, beating with spoon until well combined.

3. In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Stir in nuts and milk chocolate pieces (batter will be thick). Spread in prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until top is set but still soft. (A toothpick inserted in center will come out slightly gooey.) Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 16 brownies.

Tip: The secret to fudgy brownies is to make sure you don’t overcook them. For easy clean up,  line the baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the foil. When brownies are baked and cooled, lift out the foil along with the slab of brownies. Remove foil and cut brownies.



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