bang on fantastic bars!

I’m about to share THE recipe with you… and I promise it’s the kind of recipe that will have you planning to bake your next batch as you finish eating the squares in front of you!

Chocolate and toffee. Together in one bar. Seriously! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These are the types of bars that are not just fantastic – they are gobsmacking, tummy pleasing, lip licking wonderful bars. And if you don’t believe me… give them a try. I swear you’ll be itching to make another batch. They’re that good. (as a side note… I made two batches of these babies…in a 5 hour time frame)

Black and White Toffee Bars
1 c. + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla salt
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. dark chocolate chips
1 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. toffee candy pieces (quite small)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Grease your 9-inch square pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

You’ll need to combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer and with your paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using an electric mixer), beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together – about 3 minutes at a level 4/ medium speed. You want the result to be creamy and fluffy. Once you get to that stage you’ll beat in the egg.

You’ll then gradually beat in the flour – lower your speed for this part to the Stir level – you want everything to just combine.

Now, you’ll dump in the remaining ingredients: chocolate and white chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Grab your handy wooden spoon and stir – everything will be thick. Don’t worry, this isn’t a loose batter, it should feel like molasses…

Once you have distributed all the bits of goodness, spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. These should be golden on top, it’s hard to do the clean stick test… since the entire thing is made up of melted chocolate ;0) (your stick should not come out clean)

Allow the bars to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Before cutting into your desired bar shape, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes, this will allow the chocolate to set, making it easier to cut.

I ended up with 24 bars per batch – 12 squares that I then cut into triangles.

These babies were inspired by Starbucks, but conquered by me :0)

Starbucks part deux

As I mentioned in my last blog, my Starbucks themed week included their Banana Walnut Bread… only, I didn’t make a bread. I decided that these would be much better as mini bundt cakes; and added handfuls of chocolate chips to the mix (you can never go wrong with chocolate) ;0)

Feel free to make these in a loaf pan or in a large bundt pan if you don’t have the mini ones. Just increase the baking time if you do use the larger pans.

Banana-walnut chocolate chip mini bundt cakes
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp vanilla salt
1 egg
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Spray your mini- bundt pans (8) with non-stick spray (or grease with butter).

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In your larger bowl, mix together the egg, sugars and vegetable oil until combined (I used my electric mixer at this point). Add the flour mixture – again, using your electric mixer, adding the buttermilk, vanilla and mashed bananas until everything is incorporated.

Grab a wooden spoon and fold in the 1/2 c. chopped walnuts and chocolate chips (I added in an extra handful of chips too). I used my mini ice-cream scooper to scoop the batter into the mini bundt pans (4 scoops per pan). Top the batters with the 1/3 c. chopped walnuts.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (45 to 50 minutes if using a loaf or large pan) – you’ll want the skewer to come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pans.

Aren’t they so adorable? So easy to make. And again, I kicked Starbucks butt! :0)

I decided to bring Starbucks home with me…

I have to admit… when it comes to lattes, I’m a sucker for Starbucks. Every time I stand in line waiting for my grande soy latte I look at the baked goods on display and think… “I can totally do better than that!”… and so began last week’s baking challenge. I decided to bake up a batch (or three) of Starbucks‘ classic Cranberry Bliss Bars and their Banana Walnut Bread.

I think in the end I did really well… the bars ended up with a bit of a thicker brownie crust than I would have liked – but I now know what I’ll do next time… and believe me, there will be a next time. I can understand why these are such a hit in the coffee shops around the holidays – they look so festive when assembled – and taste as good as they look!

You have to be a little proactive with this recipe… the frosting calls for softened cream cheese – so be sure to take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (ditto for some of the butter). And… you have to be patient… things need to cool before you can continue to assemble, but it really is worth the time and effort. I promise… after all, if I can be patient enough to do this, you can too!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

The Base
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp orange extract
2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Prepare a 9×13 rectangular pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Allow the melted butter to cool slightly. In a large glass bowl and with your electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and sugars for 3 – 5 minutes until light. Gently blend in the eggs (1 at a time) and orange extract with the mixer at low speed. Add the flour, baking powder and ginger, just incorporating. Add the cranberries and chips – folding in with a wooden spoon.

Spread the batter into the pan (it’ll be thick, that’s ok). Bake until the skewer test comes out clean – my oven took about 45 minutes – but I started checking @ 29 minutes… since I didn’t want to over bake and dry out the brownies.

Allow the brownies to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

While they are cooling start on your frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
3.3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp orange extract
3 tbsp half & half (or milk – whatever you have on hand)

Add your paddle attachment to your kitchenaid and blend the cream cheese and the butter until fluffy (about 3 minutes @ speed 4).

Add the orange extract and the powdered sugar and beat until you get that fluffy and spreadable frosting – adding the half & half a tbsp at a time; use your judgement in adding the liquid… it’ll give you that looseness you need to create a spreadable frosting.

Spread the frosting over the cooled brownie bass.

Now for the fun… garnish these babies :0)

The Festive Garnish
1/2 c. dried cranberries, roughly chopped
zest of 1 orange
1/3 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Zest your orange and roughly chop your cranberries. Sprinkle them both over the frosted base.

Mix the white chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a glass bowl over a simmering pot of water. Allow the chocolate to melt – stir as needed.

Using either a whisk or a fork, drizzle the melted chocolate over the bars. Allow the white chocolate to set for one hour before you cut them. I wanted the “traditional Starbucks triangles“, so I cut the base in 3 columns and then 4 rows and then cut each of those squares in half diagonally to create the triangles.

Simply beautiful and really impressive.

Next time: I’ll be using a 10×15 rectangular pan for a thinner brownie base… and I’m also going to exchange the orange extract for vanilla and swap out the orange rind for crystallized ginger… just to twist it up a little more.

Here’s to the beginning of the holiday season… cheers!