Friday, January 19, 2018

Butter Pecan Bars

It’s too early to start baking springy, citrus things, even though we have had some record breaking warm weather. I still have some gingery recipes that I want to make, too. January is hard because I am never sure what to bake. Many folks are trying to eat healthy, and even if you aren’t, you may be looking for simple foods after the excesses of the holidays. So what to bake? Well, bar cookies are always a good option.

This bar uses classic ingredients: pecans, brown sugar, chocolate. The bars were originally named Butter Pecan Turtle Bars. I thought the bars abounded good, but I don’t quite think they warrant the label of a “turtle” candy. I suppose that the butter and brown sugar filling is kind of like a caramel, but it isn’t at all like the caramel I expect in a turtle candy.

If you are expecting a thick, gooey bar, this isn’t it. These bars somehow contain a lot of ingredients but are relatively thin. Don’t let the thinness fool you, these are very rich! I think that they taste a lot like butter toffee, rather than a turtle. They are very buttery! The chocolate ganache topping does remain soft. Don’t be tempted to put the bars in the refrigerator to set, the chocolate would stiffen too much, and the bars would be impossible to cut. If you want to refrigerate the bars after they’ve been cut, that’s ok.

Butter Pecan Bars
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the crust: in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until well combined. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour and then the salt. The mixture will look like sand. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9” x 13” pan. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

Make the filling: in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the filling over the cookie crust.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the bars are lightly browned along the edges. Allow the bars to cool for 30 minutes before making the topping.

Make the topping: place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Microwave the cream until just about to boil (about 60 seconds). Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Stir the mixture with a whisk until it is smooth and glossy. Pour the topping over the bars and spread with a small spatula into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle with the ¼ cup chopped pecans.

Allow the ganache to set before cutting into bars, at least 15 minutes.

Recipe from Bake or Break

Friday, January 12, 2018

Mocha Fudge Snaps

It’s hard to go wrong with a chocolate cookie. This one has the added zest of espresso powder, which is even better. Many chocolate recipes add coffee to the mix, which make chocolate taste richer. This recipe calls for a good amount of espresso powder, so you can certainly taste the coffee in these!

I wanted to make these cookies dairy free, so that my friend at work could enjoy these as well. While I am an enormous fan of butter, there are other options. In this case I substituted coconut oil for the butter. Since you melted it together with the chocolate, I figured the coconut oil would look perfectly. I also purchased dairy free chocolate chunks, which thankfully aren’t too hard to find at the grocery store. The substitutions worked great, although I ended up refrigerating the dough for too long. It became very hard and I had to let it sit at room temperature a bit before baking the cookies.

The dough does soften considerably as you shape it into balls, so that helps. I rolled the cookies in regular granulated sugar, but you could use sparkling or decorative sugar if you’d like. The sugar didn’t stick to the cookies that much, but I got enough of a coating to work. They bake up nicely, but are fragile until they have cooled at least 10 minutes. They have a wonderful fudgy consistency and the coffee flavor is clear. I think these turned out fantastically!

Mocha Fudge Snaps
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar

Combine the unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate, cocoa powder and coconut oil in a medium bowl. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.  

In a large mixer bowl, beat the sugar and eggs on medium for 4 minutes, until the mixture becomes pale yellow. Add the vanilla and espresso powder and stir to combine. Add the chocolate mixture and mix on low to incorporate. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4” balls and roll in sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set. The cookies will be puffy, but will settle and crack as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Sweet Recipeas

Friday, January 5, 2018

Chai Almond Cookies

It’s a challenge to pick cookies after the new year. Many folks have had so many sweets during the holidays that they don’t want so many sweets. This was not the week to choose a super decadent treat. I always like a good spiced cookie, and this recipe was featured in a recent King Arthur Flour baking catalog. I usually look through the catalog once and then recycle it, but I tore out this recipe since I knew I would be making it.

This recipe calls for chai spice, which King Arthur Flour sells, but I didn’t use that. I looked at the ingredients in the chai mix and I had most of them on hand. I ended up using Chinese five spice, which contains cinnamon, anise seed, star anise, ginger and cloves. I added some pepper and additional ginger. I could have added cardamom, but I don’t really care for it so I left it out. Any combination of these types of spices would work for this recipe.

These cookies are easy to make, and bake up perfectly! They bake for a longer time that you would expect, I imagine that is due to the almond flour which makes for a more robust dough. For the glaze, the original recipe says that it should be the consistency of molasses, so quite thick. These cookies have a nice crispness, and the almond flour adds a good texture. I like the mix of spices I used, it’s just a little different than the typical cinnamon/ginger combo. Don’t be afraid of using pepper, a tiny bit adds so much!

Chai Almond Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chai spice*
1 cup almond flour
1-1/2 cups flour

1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon chai spice
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chai spice. Mix on medium until light. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the almond flour and then the regular flour.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, using about 1 tablespoon dough per cookie. Leave about 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until set and golden. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely before glazing.

Make the glaze: in a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, chai spice, butter, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Add additional milk if needed to reach the right consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

*You can purchase this from King Arthur Flour, or make your own by combining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cardamom, ¼ teaspoon allspice, ¼ teaspoon anise and a pinch of black pepper.