Peppermint Brownies


In honor of the chocolate-mint combo that 99% of people seem to adore, I made these brownies.  Even though they would never be my first choice dessert, I knew “normal” people would enjoy them, particularly at the holidays.  The pretty red and white chopped Candy Cane Kisses melted on top dress up regular ol’ brownies and make them cute and festive for the season.  The good news for me is that the mint flavor is not overpowering at all.  These are still first and foremost a moist, fudgy brownie, and the peppermint flavor is more of an afterthought.  Ben and I thought the balance was just right, but if you want more of a mint kick then double the peppermint extract in the recipe.  Speaking of the recipe, I now know it by heart after making 8(!) batches for holiday baking.  But really it was just 4 batches – I don’t consider an 8×8-inch pan of brownies to be a full batch, no siree!  A 9×13-inch pan is more like it.  And I don’t think your friends, family, neighbors or coworkers will be disappointed you made some extras 🙂

Side note – today’s holiday giveaway is a copy of one of my very favorite cookbooks, The New Best Recipe.  See the Facebook page to enter.  Details will be posted before 7 am.  Good luck!

Peppermint Brownies
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Yield: 1 9×13-inch pan (about 36 brownies)
Ingredients:
8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1½ tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 (1.55 oz) milk chocolate bars, broken into segments
1 bag Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, wrappers removed and coarsely chopped

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water; heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chocolate mixture with the sugar and eggs until well blended.  Whisk in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and the salt.  Whisk in the flour just until incorporated.

Spread half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Layer with the milk chocolate pieces.  Spread the remaining batter evenly over the milk chocolate pieces.  Bake 30-35 minutes.

Remove the brownies from the oven but maintain the oven temperature.  Sprinkle the chopped Candy Cane Kisses over the top of the brownies and return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Chill the brownies until the candy topping has firmed up.  Slice and serve.

Source: slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction

S’mores Bars


I was one of the rare kids that wasn’t crazy about s’mores.  I’m not completely sure why, but I think it may have been the messy process of eating one, or the frustrating process of toasting a marshmallow just so over a bonfire rather than charring it.  Whatever the case, for years I thought I didn’t like s’mores.  Silliness, I tell you.  I have since realized that I am crazy about the chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker flavor combo in all sorts of fun treats.


These s’mores bars are a recipe from the early days of the blog that needed to be reintroduced.  I love them for a few reasons.  Most importantly, they taste fantastic – you just can’t go wrong with s’mores.  These are no bake treats that come together in less than 15 minutes and require very few dishes.  And of course since they are bar cookies they are easy to serve anywhere since no utensils (or even a plate) are necessary.  These would be a fun treat to make with the help of kiddos, but until my guy gets a bit bigger he’ll just have to enjoy the finished product.

Other s’mores treats:
S’mores Cupcakes
S’mores Cheesecake Bars
S’mores Layer Cake
S’mores Oatmeal

S’mores Bars
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Yield: 12-16 bars
Ingredients:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup mini marshmallows
2 whole graham crackers

Directions:
Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with aluminum foil.  Lightly butter the foil.  Place the butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave until melted.  Mix in the graham cracker crumbs and stir with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Pour the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  (I like to use the bottom of a ramekin to do this.)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the condensed milk and chocolate chips.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and salt.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the graham cracker base.  Working quickly, spread the chocolate into an even layer and smooth with a spatula.  Sprinkle the marshmallows over the top of the chocolate.  Gently press down so that the marshmallows become partly embedded in the chocolate.  Break the whole graham crackers into small pieces and stick into the chocolate mixture between the marshmallows.

Cover and refrigerate the bars until firm, about 4 hours.  Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Use a large sharp knife to cut into squares or rectangles.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: Williams Sonoma

Peach Crumb Bars


These fruit crumb bars may just be one of my very favorite desserts.  You see, I’ve now made them with blueberries (delicious), freshly picked raspberries (amazing) and now with ripe, juicy peaches.  Every variation has been a delight.  I already have several fall-inspired variations in mind.  This particular variation reminded me of a perfect, portable version of peach pie.


They are easy as can be, and are obviously easily adapted to many different types of fruit.  I had these peaches in my kitchen and I really think they had about 5 minutes left before they would have been too ripe to use for anything except water balloons, so I decided to whip these up.  All the other ingredients are pantry staples so if you have the fruit on hand, you are ready to go.  I love that the same mixture used for the base also serves as the crumb topping.  I think it’s true of all the versions, but with peach in particular, these are really best served the same day they are made.  The fruit is very juicy and the crust portion will get soggy if left to sit much longer than a day.  I’m sure your friends and family will think it quite the travesty that you need help finishing them off.

Peach Crumb Bars
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Ingredients:
1½ cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
Zest of half a lemon
16 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 large egg
5 cups peeled, chopped peaches (about 5 peaches)
5 tsp. cornstarch
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Grease a 9 x 13″ pan; set aside.

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 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.

In another bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and nutmeg.  Gently mix in the peaches with a rubber spatula until combined.  Sprinkle the fruit mixture evenly over the crust.  (Note: Because my peaches were overly ripe, they were floating in a bowl of juice.  I used a slotted spoon to transfer the fruit to the baking dish, discarding most of the excess juice, to prevent the crust from getting soggy.)  Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the peaches.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

When I told you of my growing obsession with cheesecake, I wasn’t kidding.  And it turns out, you weren’t either.  The response I get with almost any post about cheesecake is overwhelming – seems you all love it too!  I’ve been really digging the lemon-blueberry flavor combination this summer and I decided to try it out in the form of a cheesecake bar.  I searched around for a recipe but none really struck me so I decided to create my own.  Thankfully these were everything I had hoped for – light and creamy lemony cheesecake with sweet, juicy blueberries and my favorite graham cracker crust.  I brought the leftovers in to work and they were gone by the end of the day.  I’ll take that as a good sign 🙂

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
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Ingredients:
For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. sugar
8 tbsp. butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature.
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with foil.  Lightly grease the foil.  In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.  Toss with a fork until well blended and all the crumbs are moistened.  Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and maintain the oven temperature while you prepare the filling.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and sour cream.  Beat on medium speed until smooth.  Add in the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Fold in the blueberries gently with a spatula until evenly incorporated.  Pour the mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently spread into an even layer with an offset spatula.

Bake for 35 minutes or until just set and the center no longer jiggles when the pan is tapped.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.

Source: Annie original

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Did you think maybe I was done bombarding you with Oreo awesomeness?  Nope, not even close.  Seems I just can’t get enough Oreos lately.  Combine them with a fudgy brownie (my major weakness) and a cream cheese swirl – well, it just doesn’t get a whole lot better.  I made these for an end of the year parent night in Ben’s classroom and I enjoyed them so much, I seriously considered making something else for the event so I could keep these to myself.  I did give them up but have been missing them ever since.  Guess I better make them again soon!  Word is that these were the most popular of the various desserts I sent, and they were gone in no time.  That speaks for itself, no?  This recipe is easily doubled in a 9 x 13″ pan (and quite frankly, I can’t imagine making them any other way.)

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
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Ingredients:
8 tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1½ cups coarsely chopped Oreo cookies
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line an 8×8″ baking pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt; whisk together to combine.  Add the eggs to the pan with the butter-sugar mixture and whisk until well blended.  Whisk in the milk.  Transfer the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Fold in the Oreo cookie pieces.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

To make the cream cheese mixture, combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well-blended and smooth.   Drop the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter in dollops.  Use the blade of a knife to gently swirl the cream cheese mixture together with the brownie batter, creating a marble effect.

Bake for about 22-24 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving.  (I prefer to refrigerate once the brownies have cooled to room temperature to make for easier slicing.)

Source: adapted from Sugar Plum

S’mores Cheesecake Bars


As if I needed another dessert addiction, it seems I have found one – cheesecake bars.  They are just too convenient!  My favorite indulgent dessert packaged into a smaller, more portable, and slightly less guilty serving.  Then, throw into the mix the classic flavor combo of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow – I stand no chance in resisting.  I loved ’em.  Another bonus was getting to use my kitchen torch.  It is so fun to use and in this case, it really helped achieve the authentic campfire s’more flavor because the marshmallows rapidly caught on fire (don’t worry, I quickly blew it out!)  My only change for next time will be to add a bit of sour cream to the batter to provide more creaminess that I found slightly lacking.  I have indicated this in the recipe below.  I already have my eye on the next type of cheesecake bars I want to try – stay tuned for that!

S’mores Cheesecake Bars
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Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup marshmallow cream
2 tsp. cocoa powder
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

For the topping:
1½ cups mini marshmallows
Milk chocolate chips, melted (optional)

Directions:
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line an 8×8″ baking pan with foil; spray lightly with cooking spray.  Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.  Stir together with a fork until well combined.  Press the mixture in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.  Bake 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack while you prepare the filling.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325˚ F.

To make the filling, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, sour cream and marshmallow cream.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and eggs until incorporated.  Stir in the melted chocolate until well blended.  Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and smooth the top with a spatula.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until the center is just set (does not jiggle when shaken gently.)  Remove from the oven.

Evenly top the cheesecake layer with the mini marshmallows.  Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, just long enough so the marshmallows begin to melt into each other.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack.  Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the tops of the marshmallows.  (Alternatively, this can be done underneath the broiler with a very watchful eye.) Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, drizzle with melted milk chocolate if desired.  Transfer to the refrigerator and chill 2-3 hours before slicing and serving.

Source: adapted from Sugar Plum

Sugar Cookie Bars


I’ve never been one to think decorated sugar cookies were too complicated or time-consuming.  None of the steps take all that long and anyway, they are fun to make!  But for those that need a quick, low maintenance sugar cookie, look no further.  These are even easier than drop cookies because you just press the dough into a pan, bake, frost, slice and serve.  You get the taste of a sugar cookie without all the fuss.  This makes a huge quantity of cookies (depending of course on what size you cut them).  I did think they were a little lacking in flavor as written, but the recipe is a great base for adding whatever flavoring suits your taste.  Next time I’ll definitely add lemon zest and vanilla bean and have indicated this below, but orange or almond extract would also be wonderful.  Same goes for the frosting – this one is fine, but feel free to use your favorite.  Whatever floats your boat!

Also, a quick announcement – the winner of the Chocomize giveaway is…….
Erica, who said her customized chocolate bar would include: “…dark chocolate with Oreos, peanut M&M’s, and…maybe those candy orange slices?  Yum!”

Congratulations, Erica and thanks to everyone who entered!  Don’t forget that even if you didn’t win, you can still receive 10% off your Chocomize purchase with the coupon code annieseats.

Sugar Cookie Bars
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Yield: about 4 dozen bars

Ingredients:
For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest from 1 lemon
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

Directions:
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Grease a 13 x 18″ rimmed baking sheet (mine was 12 x 17″).  Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla, seeds from the vanilla bean, and lemon zest.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda.  Stir together with a fork to blend.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the milk.  Tint as desired with food coloring.  Spread over the cookie in the pan, cut into bars and serve.

Source: adapted from The Repressed Pastry Chef