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Cranberry Bliss Bars
11

cranberry bliss bars

I think my parents thought I was crazy when I was looking at colleges.  My “fall-back” was a small state school in upstate NY.  And by upstate, I mean way-the-hell-upstate, not just a little north of NYC, as many downstaters see the upper Hudson Valley.  Potsdam is north enough in New York that you could almost throw a stone over the Canadian border.  It was an 8 1/2 drive to see the school.  In March.  Where it still snowed like a mutha.  My first choice, however, was an even smaller lush private school in PA where snow was “meh”.  I had butterflies when I visited.  I’m sure my parents were terrified of the cost.

cranberry bliss bars

You’ve heard this story before.  You know what happens.  That following August, this south-shore-downstater packed her Bean Boots, silk long underwear (a much better baselayer than traditional long-johns, FTR), heaviest winter clothes (who knew what November would bring even before Thanksgiving was in sight?) and half of her childhood bedroom (my mom would say three quarters) and headed north to her new home away from home.

Included in the massive amount of winter clothing that filled my tiny dorm closet to the brim that August were a few pair of flannel lined jeans.  On the mornings where the average low temperature in January was nearly 0 degrees F, these jeans came in handy.  And sometimes, the long underwear went underneath the flannel lined jeans.  It was freaking cold.  But those jeans saved me that year – they were like a warm hug on a cold morning.

cranberry bliss bars

These cranberry bliss bars are similar.  They’ll wrap you up and warm your soul.  If you’ve been to Starbucks this time of year, you know the treats I’m talking about…and surprise, surprise – they’re super easy to make at home!  With a white chocolate, cranberry, and brown sugar blondie base, a lightly-flavored orange cream cheese frosting, and more cranberries and white chocolate drizzled on top, how could you possibly go wrong?  There is a little bit of ground cloves in the blondies which pulls the orange and cranberries together beautifully and adds to the general addictiveness.  Those mushy-base “bars” Starbucks sells that you have to eat with a fork are no comparison to these homemade treats.  Perhaps paired with a mug of warm spiced wine or cider, these bars are perfect for a cold winter night.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 2-4 dozen bars (depending on the size you cut them)

In place of the chopped white chocolate, you could use white chocolate chips but I really love biting into a substantial piece of white chocolate in these bars. The chips will get a little lost so if you go that route, you’ll want want to increase the amount of chips to 8 oz.

Ingredients

    For the blondies:
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp grated orange zest
  • 4 oz white chocolate, melted
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×11-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. To make the blondies: Melt the butter and stir in all of the sugar until the butter has completely incorporated; let the mixture cool to room temperature. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed until the eggs have incorporated. With the mixer on low, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until no evidence of flour remains. The batter will be very thick. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate until they are dispersed.
  3. Dump the batter to the prepared baking pan and with your hands, flatten it out (without mashing it) into the pan. Baked for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are just barely golden brown (mine took exactly 18 minutes). Let the pan cool on a wire rack until the blondies are completely cool.
  4. To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until combined, about 30 seconds. Quickly mix in the orange zest.
  5. To assemble the bars: Remove the uncut blondies from the pan and place the whole piece on a large cutting board. Spread the frosting evenly over the blondies (an offset spatula works great here) right out to the edges. Sprinkle the cranberries over the frosting. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cranberries and frosting – don’t worry about being too neat in your drizzling here. Before cutting, transfer the blondies on the board to the refrigerator to allow the frosting to set up for 30 minutes. Cut the blondies lengthwise into thirds then cut each third into four squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into triangles. You can cut the triangles in half again if you want/need more bars. These bars can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days but they last better in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Serve right from the refrigerator or slightly warmed to room temperature.

Source

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Blackberry Lime Crumb Bars
4

Well, we missed picking blueberries again this summer.  I seriously don’t know how we’ve managed to do this for the third summer in a row but somehow, July and early August just sneak by without a spare Saturday to hit up the local blueberry patches.

We did, however, stumble upon a blackberry u-pick field while we were cruising around the north shore of my old stomping grounds early last week.  What a day it was!  The night before was filled with a fun family wedding at an aquarium (such a great place!) and we took Monday off to get in some sun and relaxation before heading home.  Windows down.  Music up.  Long Island’s farm and wine country.  Sea air creating those never-ceasing and uncontrollable ringlets with my not-tightly-enough pony-tailed hair.  We had an inkling of what vacation feels like.

Our intention was to pick blueberries but we filled up 3 pint baskets with gorgeous blackberries instead.  No complaints here, especially considering we got this dessert out of the deal.  A quick stir together of blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lime juice (to help the blackberries break down) is sandwiched between a crumb mixture that acts as both the bar base and topping.   So simple.  So amazing.  And yep, so versatile too – strawberries, peaches, blueberries, apples, raspberries (you get the point) all work beautifully here so you can’t possibly choose the wrong fruit!

Blackberry Lime Crumb Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: 12 bars

The original recipe calls for lemon zest and juice but lime seems to be a more natural choice to use with blackberries. If you use other fruits, choose your citrus according to what works best with that fruit.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided into 1/2 and 1/4 cups
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1 stick (8 oz or 1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 8x8-inch pan with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the baking powder and flour. Lightly whisk in the salt and the lemon zest. Cut in the butter and half of the beaten egg with a pastry blender (or two knives or your fingers) until the butter is about pea-sized - the mixture should be crumbly without much loose flour. Spread a little more than half of the dough mixture in an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan and press down firmly to form the bottom crust.
  3. In another medium bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and lime juice together. Gently mix in the blackberries with a rubber spatula until combined. Spread the berry mixture evenly over the bottom crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the berries. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving. These bars keep well refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Source

source: adapted from these strawberry crumb bars

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No-Bake S’mores Bars
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It feels like the last time we bought cereal was in 2009.  Seriously though, we don’t eat cereal here except for the odd box of Kashi that gets used for yogurt parfaits once in a while.  Buuuut, when I starting seeing Golden Grahams used in place of Rice Krispies for these s’mores bars on Pinterest, I just couldn’t resist tossing a box into my cart.

And honestly, it wasn’t done without a inkling of shame because I certainly realize the amount of sugar a box of the Grahams contains…and then, oh lawdie, I’d be only adding a ton more sugar to them in order to complete the dessert.  And to cut to the chase, I made these bars twice in the matter of 10 days because I wasn’t 100% happy with how they turned out the first time.  The large surface area of the cereal must have sucked up extra marshmallow because the bars just weren’t holding together as I would have liked.  So the second time I made them, I added more sugar.  ::headdesk::

That made them perfect though.  Don’t get me wrong, these bars are super sweet and rich but they are definitely worth having just one.  The Hershey’s Drops that I used were beyond the best idea I’ve had in ages because really, what is a s’more without Hershey’s?  Forget using semi-sweet chocolate chips – it just won’t be the same.  Luckily, we were able to give away some of each batch that I made because they are definitely dangerous to have around!  So now you’ve got a dessert to bring to the next rainy-day BBQ where real s’mores won’t be in the cards or to make with the kids for a movie day…or frankly, for any other reason at all.  You’re welcome. :)

[Disclaimer: No compensation or products were given for writing this post.  This is not a review post of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Drops.  I simply love them enough to share my excitement about them with you.]

Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars
18

IMG_0520

Anyone will tell you that the process of creating your own baking recipes is a difficult one.  There’s this “science” to baking that we bakers know about and live by…how just the right amount of yeast, baking powder, or egg whites will make sandwich bread, fluffy biscuits, or a soufflé rise perfectly…how flour packed into the measuring cup is actually a different amount than flour fluffed into the cup…even how soft the butter is affects how the water and fat molecules in butter react in a recipe.  The science of baking is often the reason so many of us home bakers leave the recipe creation and testing up to the pros – let them figure out the nuances and tell us how to overcome them.  I’m totally fine with that!

So when I came across the idea for these chocolate chip toffee bars, a) I knew I would need extra time at the gym this week, and b) I knew the America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was the only recipe that I would want for these bars.  It is by far my go-t0, most beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe and if I were to combine toffee (uh yes please!) with any chocolate chip recipe, there was no question which one it would be.  And when I tell you that the toffee bits melt into the cookie dough and that the two blend into a rich caramel-milk chocolate cookie bar, I’m not lying.  I swear, this cookie bar was heaven.  Soft centers with a little crunch on top and the occasional nibble of a toffee bit that survived the oven temperature.  Seriously, go make these now and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that the ATK/CI recipe is anything but perfection (both for cookies and bars like this one).  And, I can’t stress this enough – when you’re looking for a fabulous recipe, be sure you know who really created it – it makes all the difference in the world to have a truly credible recipe to work with.

Brewer’s Blondies
14

Brewer's Blondies

Oh boy am I excited about today’s post and I think it’s mostly because while the name of these blondies stopped me from making them for so long (brewer’s, like in brewer’s yeast??), they actually turned out to use some of my favorite ingredients. Essentially, we’ve got these fantastic, drop-to-your-knees-amazing malted milk ball/Whoppers blondies from the awesome guys at Baked, who’ve yet to let me down on a recipe.  Filled to the brim with Whoppers and chocolate chunks, these blondies are a treat I will not soon forget. If you remember, I’ve been lamenting about my love for malted milk powder over the past year, so you could imagine my excitement when I spotted my new favorite baking ingredient as an ingredient in these blondies.  Adding some depth and a little bit of a caramel flavor to the blondies, the powder combines with dark brown sugar, Whoppers, and chocolate chunks…and it’s a heavenly combination. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but save a few of your Whoppers and press them into the tops of the blondies when they come out of the oven, not only for a great look, but because, ummm…it’s whole pieces of candy!

Brewer's Blondies

Don’t have or can’t find malted milk powder?  Well whatdoya know!  I’m giving some away!!

Strawberry Crumb Bars
38

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Please don’t yell at me for posting another delightful dessert recipe this week – I just can’t help myself!  First the blackberry oatmeal pie bars, now these strawberry crumb bars.  Either of the two would be an outstanding choice for your next reason to make dessert but let me tell you a little secret behind these here bars…it’s not strawberry season yet here in New England. In fact, we’ve got another month to go before any picking goes on but the great thing about strawberries shipped in from Florida in the middle of April is that in spite of the fact that you know they’re not local and thus don’t taste nearly as fantastic as local strawberries do, they’re still damn good in these crumb bars.  The strawberries are baked into the form of a buttery hand-held crumble and are truly irresistible.  They soften and sweeten into everything you long for in a summer strawberry – need I say more?  I made a half-batch and brought them to a meeting with some of my staff at work and there may have been a couple of people who took a few extra bars in napkins just in case they went before seconds could be claimed.  Not that I was watching or anything…but doesn’t every food blogger have an eye on the food to see how quickly it disappears? Gosh, I hope I’m not the only one.

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Yield: 9-12 bars

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks (½ lb) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 13×9 inch pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the baking powder and flour. Mix in the salt and the lemon zest, and stir together with a fork. Cut in the butter and egg with a pastry blender (or two knives if you don’t have one) until the largest chunks are about pea-sized. The mixture should be crumbly without much loose flour. Spread about half of the dough mixture in an even layer over the bottom of the prepared pan and press down firmly to form the bottom crust.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the strawberries with a rubber spatula until combined. Spread the berry mixture evenly over the bottom crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the berries. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Source

source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Annie’s Eats

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Blackberry Oatmeal Pie Bars
16

Blackberry Oatmeal Pie Bars

Now that so many different types of fruit are coming back into season, our fridge is stocked to the gills with different types.  A handful of grapes with lunch, a few cut-up juicy strawberries for a mid-day snack…you get the picture.  But what really makes me happy is baking with fruit.  Heated up, the natural sugars in fruit brighten up anything you bake them in.  Take these pie bars, for example.  Blackberries have never been a favorite of mine but since I know the power some time in a 350 degree oven can have, I gave them a whirl in these bars.  I added a some strawberries also because, well…why not?  The recipe calls for frozen blackberries but since it was the first time I had ever baked with them, I wanted the full-on experience of what so many adore about these berries and I used fresh.  And as it turns out, when baked, I love blackberries!  The fresh berries held up beautifully to the heat and each bar had a few whole berries to savor.

Blackberry Oatmeal Pie Bars

The oatmeal comes into play by my own accord.  It’s not called for in the original recipe but I amended the recipe a bit to be WW PointsPlus-friendly (3 Points each by the way – 16 bars from an 8×8 inch pan).  And as it turns out, this was probably the best substitution I’ve made in ages!  The oatmeal gets whirred around in the food processor (per original recipe instructions) and breaks down into a fine oat flour, blending perfectly with a little bit of all-purpose flour.  When all baked up, it lends a delightful and almost nutty flavor to the pie bar crust and topping which blended perfectly with the sweet fruit.  Overall, these bars were a fabulous end to our Mother’s Day lobster lunch yesterday with Kyle’s mom and I can definitely see different types of fresh fruit being used in this recipe in the next few months.

Blackberry Oatmeal Pie Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 12 bars

Ingredients

    For the crust and topping:
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, chilled
  • For the fruit filling
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 12 lb fresh blackberries
  • 4 oz fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped

Instructions

  1. To make the crust and topping: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Combine the oats, flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add it to the flour mixture. Process until the butter is evenly distributed but the mixture is still crumbly, 30-60 seconds.
  3. Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture to use as the topping. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake 12-15 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes.
  4. To make the filling: While the crust bakes, whisk the eggs in a large bowl then whisk in the sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, and lemon zest. Gently fold in the berries and spoon the mixture over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture evenly over the filling, and bake 45 to 55 minutes.
  5. Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into bars or scoop out of the pan to serve cobbler-style.

Source

source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather via Pink Parsley

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Caramel Crumb Bars
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When you have 10+ recipes to blog about, sometimes a recipe comes along that needs to cut the line.  This one here is a line-cutter.  Don’t hate the line-cutter.

(more…)

Pumpkin Butterscotch Blondies
9

Pumpkin Butterscotch Blondies

There’s not much more I can say about these blondies other than they were FANTASTIC.  I’m mean, really, really awesome. And they got the stamp of approval from my cousin and her freshman roomie after I sent her a care package including these babies during her first college finals week. (She’s on trimesters hence the early finals.) Remember those early days of email…or the days ::gasp!:: pre email…when you ran to your mailbox hoping for something…anything!…from home? Well, since the world seems so much smaller now due to the ability to be constantly connected with each other, I know mail from home while at college is pretty rare.  However, I remember that the days when packages arrived were just the best…so why not take a few minutes and brighten someone’s day with a package of these!!   And if you don’t have anyone to send them to, keep them all to yourself.  I promise, it won’t be difficult and if it were up to Kyle, he would have kept them all to himself. You won’t question how that’s possible after you try them because they’re just soooo good.  The mix of butterscotch chips and pumpkin spice is the perfect combination and I’m pretty sure another batch will be going in the oven this weekend. Gotta keep the man happy, right?

Pumpkin Butterscotch Blondies

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 dozen bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups butterscotch chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with foil. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate and 1 cup butterscotch chips with a rubber spatula.
  3. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and sprinkle remaining ½ cup of butterscotch chips over the top of the batter. Bake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.
  4. To serve, lift the cake from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and using a sharp knife, cut into 24 squares.

Source

adapted from Martha Stewart via Annie's Eats

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
3

pbjbars

I’ve yet to come across a human being who didn’t love a good pb&j sandwich.  Pair it with a tall glass of icy cold milk and you’ve got perfection. I know that this sandwich evokes great memories for some but let me say, these pb&j bars will start making memories for you!  They were downright fantastic! Soft, sweet, and just perfect. With some recipes I’ve made containing peanut butter, I’ve run into the issue where the pb does not come through enough but this is not the case with these bars.  The pb flavor is front and center and the combination with the strawberry jelly is one I will not soon forget.  I considered skipping the chopped peanuts on top (personally not a fan) but I’m so glad I didn’t because they added a wee bit of texture and some extra saltiness that these bars needed.  And after reading the Musings post for this recipe, I also decided to add an extra 1/2 cup of jelly (as some commented the bars were a little dry) and chilled them in the fridge overnight before serving to really allow them to set.

If you’ve been following along with my Week with the Barefoot Contessa, you’ve come to the only dessert recipe I chose for the week so I recommend taking a few minutes tonight to make these.  You’ve probably got all of the ingredients needed for the recipe but I don’t recommend waiting to make them.  You’ll come across an exciting pumpkin recipe or some chocolate cake and these mundane-sounding bars will get passed on.  Don’t let it happen!! You will be sorry!