Friday, April 24, 2009

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

I enjoy a baking challenge, but I'm also a huge fan of some of the most simple sweets, one of those being rice krispy treats. Is there anything better you can make with four basic ingredients? (I'd love some feedback on that, by the way!) I say four instead of three, because as with pretty much everything else I make, adding in a little vanilla makes them even better! I think it's also a bit nostalgic. My mom didn't make them regularly when I was a kid, but they're just kind of a kid food, right?
While I do LOVE the traditional treat, I'm always interested in seeing ways that the rice krispy treat has been enhanced or combined with other ingredients The well- known scotcharoo is a variation lots of us have enjoyed. Although, when I make them I leave out the butterscotch chips and only use chocolate. Delicious, but highly addictive, so they're rarely made by me.
But aside from the scotcharoo, there are so many other alterations out there! So, I was excited when I came across this recipe. A combination of rich brownie, marshmallow, peanut butter and rice krispies...well, I just had to try it. Sure it's got more than your basic four ingredients, but it's worth the extra time and work. Look out scotcharoos, I think these beat you by a mile. They were awesome.
Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars

Brownie Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients:
7 ounces mini marshmallows
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter (I love Jif)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 ½ cups Rice Krispies

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan OR cover your pan with foil first and then spray with cooking spray. It makes cutting the bars a million times easier (and more even, at least for me!) because you just pull the whole thing out of the pan and then cut. And the clean up is almost nothing too!

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate, butter, and ¾ cup of the semisweet chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir occasionally while melting. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, place the eggs and whisk thoroughly. Add in the sugar and vanilla. Stir the melted ingredients into the egg mixture, mixing well. Stir in the dry sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in the remaining ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and even with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the corner of the pan comes out with moist crumbs.
Remove the brownies from the oven, and immediately sprinkle the marshmallows over them. Return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.

While the brownies are baking, place the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat, add the cereal,and mix well. Allow this to cool for 3 minutes or so.

Spread the mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate until chilled before cutting. These are pretty rich, so you can actually cut them pretty small...or not, it's up to you!

One more thing: Do you hate it when recipes give ingredients in weight instead of cups like the 7 ounces of marshmallow in this recipe? I did, but then I bought a food scale and I LOVE IT! I use it a lot more than I thought. When a recipe calls for 1 pound of chicken, I can actually use that amount instead of guessing. I was making rolls for Easter and knew that I was supposed to get 16 rolls out of the dough, so I weighed the dough, divided the amount by 16 and made sure my garlic knots (recipe coming soon for that one) each weighed the same amount. I know, a little bit OCD, but I loved that they all turned out the same size.
For this recipe if you don't have a scale, just use enough marshmallows to cover the brownie layer. Or a few more. You can't go wrong with extra marshmallows, I promise!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Aloha Chip Cookies!

A few nights ago my long-time friend Terra knocked on the door. Since she lives in frigid North Dakota I was pretty surprised to see her. And, I was even MORE surprised with the treats she was delivering: a perfectly ripe Dole pineapple (YUM!) and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. In North Dakota???

No, you see a few days earlier Terra and her Air Force pilot husband caught a plane to Hawaii and, on the way home, got dropped of at the base nearest to our town. Her delivery was coming straight from the Islands. I did hold back my covetous feelings about being on a beach in Hawaii, but it wasn't easy. It was really fun visiting with her AND the treats were an added bonus.

I started thinking that Nate and I probably wouldn't (um, and shouldn't) eat all of those chocolate covered macadamia nuts. So, when I was making chocolate chip cookies the next evening with a recipe I don't use all that often, but I really SHOULD, (it's a good one!) I decided to get a little creative with the help of Terra's Hawaiian treats.

And, so, instead of plain old chocolate chip cookies, here's a great recipe for Aloha Chip Cookies. (But if you're not in the 'Aloha spirit' or just don't have your own box of Mauna Loa's laying around, leave out the coconut and replace the nuts/chocolate combination with chocolate chips!)

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup angel flake coconut
1 cup chocolate covered macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the coconut and chopped nuts and chocolate. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 12-14 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Bunnies

I love having a week off of work. In addition to getting our house cleaned, laundry done and groceries bought (and NOT being stressed out about getting it all done) I really got to do some fun things. Our house is accessorized with a few new things AND I had a chance to make these.

Oh, I LOVE spring break! Instead of all of those "must do's" that usually fill my Saturday, after some major hedge trimming this morning I came inside and made Easter bunnies. I'm still learning about making good royal icing and my hand control with piping could use some practice, but I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, especially on the first try.

This sugar cookie recipe is one I found online, but it's definitely a keeper. I think it's going to be our 'permanent' sugar cookie recipe, at least for now! One hint, if you use salted butter, cut back on the salt to 1/2 or 3/4 teaspoon. It's up to you!

My new favorite Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
2 ½ c. sifted flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.

This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. If you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.

Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.

Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well - add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Every year I get excited to make Easter Basket Cupcakes ALMOST like we did as a kid. Back then there weren't giant muffin tins and the only egg shaped candies besides a Cadbury Creme Egg were jelly beans. Times sure have changed. The Easter candy section at Target alone is out of control with WAY too many choices, which made it hard to decide just how to top this year's cupcakes. In the end, I settled for a variety.

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Start with a white cake mix and follow the recipe...well mostly. Here are a few cake mix secrets:
1. Replace the water in the recipe for milk, especially whole milk.
2. Add in at least 1 teaspoon of GOOD quality vanilla. And an extra splash (or teaspoon) will only make it better!

Bake the cupcakes according to the directions on the package. If you're using a large cupcake tin like I did, the baking time is about 20 minutes. I do large cupcakes for my 'grown up' friends and the regular sized ones for their kids and other littler folks.
After the cupcakes have cooled completely, make your frosting. (It's not THAT much work and WAY better than Betty Crocker!)

Here's the recipe:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk (again, whole milk is best!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
green food coloring

Combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and almond extract. Add powdered sugar in 1 cup increments until combined. Then add milk and food coloring, mix until smooth and spreading consistency. I like to beat frosting for at least 5 minutes so it's light and fluffy.Frost the cupcakes with a generous layer. It's one of the best parts of the treat, after all!

As a kid my mom always put the sweetened coconut in a jar for me to shake. I loved that job! After you put the coconut in a container of your choosing, add a few drops of green food coloring, place the lid on tightly and give it a good shake.
Sorry no exact measurements here about how much coconut or food coloring. But if you don't make enough or your 'grass' just isn't green enough add a little more! And, if you're grass is way too green, just add some more coconut and shake, shake, shake.
Now it's time to add the eggs. Jelly beans seemed to stick a little better when I was a kid. Maybe it's because they weren't as heavy as the chocolate ones. Anyway, I like to put just a little frosting on the bottom side of each egg to 'glue' the eggs in place. After that, add a white pipe cleaner and you're done! I've also seen these made with the thin ropes of red vines for the handle, but I'm sticking with Hall Family tradition, AND I think I prefer the white handle.
So, if you've got kids who need something to do this week, or need a cute little place card for your Easter dinner, this might just be for you. Give it a try and maybe you'll have a new Easter tradition too!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I know a thing or two about cheesecakes and cookies. I've definitely given myself a lot of experience and, truth be told, made some pretty tasty versions of both. So why not put them together and create an over the top, rich chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake bars?
I typically like my cookies, alone (um, sometimes even frozen!), dunked a time or two in milk, but nothing else. Cookie dough ice cream is never my first (or second or third) choice and that cookie dough candy that I see at the movie theaters would be my absolute last pick. I'd even choose Raisinets first.

So, I kind of went against my own 'cookie principles' in making this combination, but I definitely don't regret it. These do not fall into the 'one bowl' section of a cookbook, and they do require some time, but it's well worth it.

My advice though...make them for someone or some occasion. Having the whole pan around for too long could be calorically very dangerous!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Bake or Break


  • 1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons graulated sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides. Butter the parchment paper.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

Press crust mixture into bottom of pan and 1 inch up sides. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool

Cookie Dough

  • 5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Using an electric mixer , mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.


  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended.

Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling. (I pressed the cookie dough into a teaspoon and then dropped it onto the filling...worked great!)

Bake about 30 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack

For chocolate topping, melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter if necessary to make chocolate smooth. Drizzle over top of bars. Cool bars in pan completely, about an hour.

Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars and serve.