Friday, August 19, 2016

Rum Nanaimo Bars

Now that we are nearing the end of August, it’s finally gotten warm in the Seattle area. After last summer’s record heat, I can’t say that I’m too sad that this summer has been much more normal, even a bit chilly at times. This week we have had temperatures in the 80s and the 90s are predicted. Most places don’t think that’s a big deal, but it is here where so few homes have air conditioning. It’s not so fun to bake when it is 85 degrees in the house.

I typically try to find a couple of no-bake recipes to have on hand, when it is so hot. One of my favorites is Nanaimo Bars. I visited Nanaimo last summer and we had a great time. It’s a sleepy little town on Vancouver Island, BC. They had Nanaimo everything there: fudge, martinis, cake, cheesecake, anything you can think of. I like a traditional Nanaimo bar, but the filling lends itself to lots of variations.

I find that many Nanaimo bar recipes aren’t really Nanaimo bars. They have to have custard powder in the filling. Not pudding mix. They need to have three layers: a base, a custard powder filling of some sort, and a chocolate top. The base varies a little, and this one was different in that you do bake it for a few minutes. This filling started out as an eggnog filling, but that doesn’t work for August, so I just kept the rum! Scoring the bars just before the chocolate set was brilliant and the bars cut so much easier. These have a good rum flavor and the only downfall is that the chocolate melts a bit on your hands since the weather’s so warm.

Rum Nanaimo Bars
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup coconut
1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons custard powder
2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
3⁄4 cup chocolate chips
4 teaspoons coconut oil or shortening

Make the base: Line a 9” square pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
Make the base: Preheat oven to 325. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Stir in the egg, coconut, and graham cracker crumbs. Spread the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the base is set. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Make the filling: in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, custard powder, and salt until light. Add the rum, milk, and vanilla and stir until the mixture is smooth. If the filling is too runny, add up to an additional ½ cup of powdered sugar. Spread the mixture over the base and refrigerate for one hour.
Make the chocolate topping: in a small microwaveable bowl, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth. Spread the chocolate evenly over the refrigerated bars.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then score the bars into sections. Scoring the bars just before the chocolate is fully set will make cutting easier. Refrigerate for an additional 20-30 minutes, until the chocolate is fully set.
Lift the bars from the pan and peel away the foil. Using the scored lines, cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers.
Recipe from House & Home

Friday, August 12, 2016

Brownie Thumbprint Cookies

It seems like I am forever on the quest to find something new, something different, something that will catch my fancy this week. My husband loves chocolate chip cookies, so when I find a recipe that is chocolate chip themed, it usually ends up at the top of the list! I saw these cookies and knew they would be really interesting.

They use a chocolate brownie mix for the filling, which I suppose you could figure out how to make your own, but I just went with the mix. My mixture was a little dry, like it needed a little more butter, so it was tricky to shape into balls. I had way more filling than I needed, despite doubling the chocolate chip cookie recipe. The original recipe said that doubling the recipe would make it about even for cookie/filling, but that wasn’t the case for me. That’s ok!

These are a little tedious to make. The cookie dough is on the sticky side, and then my brownie filling was a little crumbly, but I got them together. This recipe made 4 dozen cookies, with lots of extra filling as I mentioned previously. I wasn’t sure how long to bake them, as they don’t really brown, and I didn’t want the brownie filling to be dry. 10 minutes worked the best, although once batch the cookies were slightly larger and needed a little more time. I suppose the chocolate drizzle isn’t necessary, but it fancies up the cookies. These have a good brownie flavor, and it’s good with the chocolate chip cookie.

Brownie Thumbprint Cookies
18.4 ounce chocolate brownie mix
3/4 cup butter, melted

¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the brownie mix and melted better and beat on medium until combined. Wrap the brownie filling in plastic wrap and set aside. Wipe out the bowl with a towel.

In the same bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium until light. Add the cream cheese and sugar and beat again on medium until combined. Stir in the vanilla. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the baking soda, flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and bake an indentation in each cookie with your thumb (or the end of a wooden spoon). Shape a small amount of the brownie filling into a ball and press into the indentation, pressing until the brownie filling is even with the cookie.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies are set. They won’t brown much, but will look set. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cool, make the drizzle. In a small bowl combine the chocolate chips and shortening. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring frequently, until smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic bag and snip off the corner. Drizzle the chocolate over the cooled cookies. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Chocolate Caramel Butter Bars

After a couple of warm days last week, the weather cooled nicely and I sure wanted to bake! I had found a no-bake recipe, but I decided to save that for a different week that was a lot warmer. This recipe came across my Pinterest feed, and it looked so good. I recall making a bar similar to this a few years ago, but this recipe had a little extra added: chocolate and almonds. Caramel is always popular at work, so I figured this would be a winner.

I luckily had all of the ingredients needed for this recipe. For the caramel, you have options, depending on what you might have already. I had caramel sauce in the refrigerator, but you could also use a cup of caramel bits. Or cut up caramels that you have. The original recipe used cut up caramels, which you just sprinkle over the partially cooked base. I thought that the caramel sauce would create the most even layer; I’m not exactly sure how it would turn out using the different type of caramels.

These bars are quite hefty. I didn’t even use all of the dough for the topping, I felt like I had a nice thick layer already, and didn’t want it to be too thick. While baking, it’s hard to tell when they are baked through. The top doesn’t brown all that much. I hoped for the best when I took them out of the oven at 35 minutes. I didn’t want the caramel to get too hot! Make sure they are cool before cutting, but don’t refrigerate them like I did! That made the caramel rock hard and impossible to cut. Cut them in small pieces, because these are very rich and substantial. These were such a big hit, I plan to make them again!

Chocolate Caramel Butter Bars
1½ cups butter, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup caramel sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, powdered sugar, and sugar on medium until creamy. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the flour and the salt. Stir just until the dough comes together. 

Press 1/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press into a thin, even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the bars from the oven. Spread the caramel sauce evenly over the partially baked crust. Sprinkle with salt and then top with the chocolate chips. 

Crumble the remaining dough on top of the bars and then sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Ensure that the crumbs are evenly distributed. 

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the crumb topping is barely browned. Allow the bars to cool on a wire rack. 

Lift the bars from the pan and peel away the foil. Cut into squares. 

Recipe from Kevin's Cooking