Category: Bars

Apple Pie Bars

October 30, 2009


Sometimes you need a lot of treats.  Maybe you are having a big party or have a weekend’s worth of events coming up and want to bring something to each one.  Or perhaps you are incredibly well-organized and want to stock your freezer full for the family that is coming over the holidays, plus still have something to give to your kids’ teachers.

If any of the above fits you, I would advise you to make these Apple Pie Bars.  If you like the look of them but don’t know what you would do with 48 of them, I would not advise you to make them.  I made them for last weekend’s yoga retreat and I only brought about half of them and then only about half of them got eaten.  I felt like everywhere I looked in my life there were apple pie bars.  They were like little bunnies, just multiplying and multiplying.

This is not to take anything away from what is a really lovely treat.  It’s really like a slice of apple pie but in pick-up-and-eat bar form.  Aside from the task of peeling and slicing 12 apples, it’s not a lot of work for a lot of bars.  I didn’t freeze mine, but the recipe says you can and wouldn’t it be nice to have a big batch to pull from now and then?  The recipe also says you can make them up to four days ahead and keep them at room temperature but I will tell you that the crust gets a little soggy after a day or two.  No flavor is compromised, just not as crisp.


One Year Ago:  Zucchini Soup

Apple Pie Bars
Adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 48 large bars

Whenever I bake with apples, I almost always use Granny Smith.  They are readily available and while they are not what I would choose to eat out of hand, they are wonderful for baking.  I like that they keep their structure more than other apples (i.e. don’t become mush) and I also like that they are on the tart side.  To me, apple desserts should have some play on sweet and sour.

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples (about 6 pounds) – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup water, as necessary

3/4 cup walnuts
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled

1.  Make the crust.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Line a 15-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms.  Press the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and 1/2 inch up the side in an even layer.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden and set.  Let cool on a rack.

2.  Meanwhile, make the filling.  In each of 2 large skillets, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter with 1/2 cup of the light brown sugar.  Add the apples to the skillets and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir half of the cinnamon and nutmeg into each skillet.  Cook until the apples are caramelized and very tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes longer; scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet and add up to 1/2 cup of water to each pan to prevent scorching.

3.  Make the topping.  Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8minutes.  Let cool, then coarsely chop the walnuts.  In a large bowl, mix the oats with the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the walnuts and press the mixture into clumps.

4.  Spread the apple filling over the crust.  scatter the crumbs on top, pressing them lightly into an even layer.  Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until the topping is golden; rotate the pan halfway through baking.  Let cool completely on a rack before cutting into 2-inch bars.

Make ahead: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for a month.

Brownie Wars

October 22, 2009

Brownie Collage

Let’s get right down to business.  Are you cakey or fudgy?  Don’t laugh – it’s an important question.  Well, some people think it’s important.  Some people are downright militant about their brownie preferences.  Me?  My brownie preference is “Yes, please.”

Some recipes I find and then have absolutely no problem telling myself it is the definititive fill-in-the-blank recipe.  Challah for example.  I made some of that gorgeous egg bread this week for a lunch party on Saturday and, as I was braiding the dough, I realized that I have never ever been tempted to find another challah recipe.  Why mess with perfection?  Years ago when I found an über-fudgy brownie recipe, I thought it was the be-all end-all and would be my brownie recipe forever.  But I have strayed.  I’ve made Mexican browines, Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies and just recently, I made the Baked cookbook version.


Now, this is not an apples to apples comparison.  I made the Baked version in a 15×10 pan rather than a 13×9 knowing full well that they would turn out flatter.  After having a few things from that cookbook turn out sub-par, I was really pleased with the brownies.  Cakey but not dry and with terrific chocolate flavor.  Not overly rich and just about perfect when topped with homemade honey lavender ice cream and leftover almond praline from Holly B’s scones.


My old stand-by (which is from Bon Appetit) I did make in an 13×9 pan and they were as close to a large piece of fudge as I remember.  They are gooey, not from being underbaked, but just from the amount of butter and chocolate in there (with very little flour).   If you want fudge masquerading as a brownie, this is the recipe to try.


If I were a food scientist or Alton Brown, I could tell you precisely why these recipes turn out so differently.  Although they are both brownies and the method is similar, the ingredient list and the proportions of those ingredients are very different.  But ultimately food science is not why you read Dana Treat is it?  I’m here to tell you my personal opinion.  My next pan of brownies will be from the Baked cookbook.  Why?  Because they are what I think of when I want a brownie.  In other words, perfect.

One Year Ago:  Soba Noodles with Tofu and Bok Choy

The Baked Brownie

Baked – New Frontiers in Baking
Makes 24 brownies

If you like the idea of a flat brownie, make them in a 15-by-10 inch pan, or what is often called a jelly roll pan.  If you want them thicker, use the 13-by-9 called for in the recipe.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13 inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.  Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars.  Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan.  The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.  Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined.  Add the vanilla and stir until combined.  Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be too cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture.  Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 24 brownies

I cut back the amount of sugar in here from 3 cups to 2 1/2.

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a 13-by-9 inch metal baking pan, knocking out excess flour.

Melt butter with chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove bowl from pan and whisk in eggs, 1 at a time.  Sift together flour and cocoa powder in a separate bowl and stir into batter with sugar and salt.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven until top is firm and a tester inserted into the center comes out with crumbs adhering, 35-40 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on a rack before cutting into squares.

Holly B’s Cappucino Bars

October 14, 2009


(Thank you to all of you who have entered my giveaway!  I will announce a winner tomorrow.)

Have you heard that expression “small but mighty”?  When I hear it, the first thing I think of is my younger son.  He is actually quite big for his age but considering that age is only 2 1/2 he is still small, all things considered.  But oh, is he mighty.  I wouldn’t say he has the terrible two’s though.  I would just say that he is a force to be reckoned with.  Most of the time he is very agreeable, cheerful and funny.  But if he doesn’t get, say, a lollipop like his brother because he didn’t finish his lunch…watch out.  He threw such a fit that I had to take him outside and even then people were staring across the street.  Small but mighty.

On a visit to Holly B’s Bakery, you will find lots of large treats.  The slices of pizza are huge, the cinnamon rolls are generous, even the cookies are big.  These Cappucino Bars are not.  They are slender and delicate looking but they pack a flavor punch.  The combination of coffee, chocolate, and just a bit of cinnamon here is intoxicating.  In spite of the title, the coffee flavor here is fairly subtle so even my coffee hating husband thinks they are delicious.


To buy the Holly B’s cookbook, please visit this site.

One Year Ago:  Quick Olive and Cheese Bread and White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage

Cappucino Bars
With Love & Butter
32 bars

To get really flat bars, I find it works best to smooth them over with an offset spatula, using gentle pressure, just after they come out of the oven and before you apply the glaze.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tbsp. instant coffee or espresso powder (not granules)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack at the middle level.  Line a 10×15 inch pan with baking parchment or grease lightly.  (DT: This is also called a jelly roll pan.)

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, instant coffee, and vanilla.  Blend in the flour, baking poser, and salt.  Last, stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  The mixture will be very crumbly, with barely enough dough to hold together the chocolate chips.

Use your fingers, palms, and heels of your hands to press the dough evenly into the pan.  If necessary, cover the dough with wax or parchment paper and use a small rolling pin to flatten the lumps.  Bake 5 minutes, rotate the pan, and  bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until the edges are just starting to brown (watch carefully).  Cool in the pan 5 minutes before spreading with glaze.

Put all the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan on medium heat.  Don’t leave this stuff!  Find a whisk and stir until smooth and barely bubbly.  Drizzle the glaze evenly over the bars and smooth out to the edges and corners with a rubber spatula.

Cool until the pan is just warm to the touch and cut into bars with a sharp knife.  (Holly recommends cutting 8 on the 10-inch side and 4 on the 15-inch side, equaling 32 candy-bar sized cookies.  You can halve them too.)

Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies

September 29, 2009


(If you are new here, I am baking my way through a wonderful local baking cookbook.  For more info and more recipes from this treasure, click “Holly B’s” on the sidebar to your right.)

My neighbor and friend Julie just visited Lopez Island for the first time with her husband.  Before they left, we sat down for coffee so I could give her the down low on what to do.  I gave her directions on how to find Watmough Beach, a spot so hidden that my parents were unable to locate it all the years that their children were campers on the island.  (They were starting to wonder if the camp directors were putting funny things in our food.)  I told her that it was absolutely imperative that they order for Chocolate Gateau for dessert at the Bay Cafe since it is the single most perfect chocolate dessert I have ever had.  (And no, they won’t give me the recipe.  I ask every time we are there.)  But I didn’t have to tell her to visit Holly B’s.  She reads my blog.  My posts about the bakery were one of the primary reasons she wanted to visit the island.

I just heard from her in a brief email that they visited the bakery three times in 24 hours.  That is impressive, even by my standards.  She told me they had the cinnamon rolls, the almond butterhorns, the Mexican pizza, and I can’t wait to hear what else.  I wonder if they got a peanut butter brownie.


Brownies, in this chocolate lover’s opinion, should be chocolate.  Not only should they be chocolate but they should be all chocolate with no nuts.  Then why am I crazy for this peanut butter brownie?  I don’t know.  That Holly B works magic.  There is plenty of chocolate here and if you take yours out of the oven a little too early, as I did, you might think you are eating a gooey Reese’s peanut butter cup.  As tempting as that might sound, I would encourage you to let them bake a little longer and allow them to get a little more cakey.


To buy Holly B’s cookbook, please visit this site.

Peanut Butter Brownies
With Love and Butter
Makes 12 huge squares or 24 small ones

You have your choice here of creamy or chunky peanut butter and I used chunky.  When baking with peanut butter, you almost always want to use something like Jif or Skippy, not the all-natural kind.

2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup peanut butter, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F and move the rack to the middle position.  Butter a 9×13-inch pan.

Whip the eggs and brown sugar together with an electric mixer.  Add the peanut butter, melted butter, molasses, honey, vanilla, salt, and flour.  Mix.  Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips by hand.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan.  Strew the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips over the surface.  Bake 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake 15 minutes more or until the brownies turn golden and the center is set (doesnt’ jiggle when you shake the pan firmly).  Cool and cut into squares.

One for the Kids

July 11, 2009


Summer.  ‘Tis the season for casual al fresco dinners with family and friends.

I needed a couple of desserts for this weekend and, because ours and other kids were going to be present, I figured I would make them a little something in addition to the “adult” desserts.  Well, that’s one of the reasons I made these bars.  Another reason is that the other desserts I had planned did not have any chocolate in them, and it is very hard for me to serve dessert without chocolate somewhere in sight.  Another reason is that I have a 6 pound bag of pretzels in my basement – the product of a Costco impluse buy.  We are pretzel lovers in this family, but I fear we may never actually get through this bag.

Enter the Chocolate Chip-Pretzel Bar.  This recipe comes from this month’s Food and Wine.  It is rare that I get to a magazine recipe in the actual month it was written for.  I am perpetually 6-8 months behind.  But in reading through the August issue, this recipe jumped out at me as a perfect kid dessert.  Yes, it helped me in the pretzel department, but it’s also easy and has chocolate sprinkles on top.  What adult…er, I mean kid…doesn’t like sprinkles?


Chocolate Chip-Pretzel Bars
Adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 2 dozen 2-inch squares

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (DT: I used semi-sweet.)
1 1/2 cups mini pretzels, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. chocolate sprinkles

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing overhang on the 2 long ends.

2.  In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, 1 minute.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the chips and pretzels.

3.  Spread the batter in the pan and top with the sprinkles.  Bake for 30 minutes, until golden; the center will still be a little gooey.  Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

4.  Run the tip of a knife around the side of the pan and lift the bar out using the parchment paper.  Cut into 24 squares and serve.

(The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.)

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