Thursday, October 25, 2012


I had good intentions to share last week's treat with you when we made it, but alas, we're finding so many things to do here it is tough to sit inside when we want to be out exploring our new home.


While I will get back to those goodies another time, I felt compelled to sit my behind down this evening and talk about these outrageous "Brooksters" I made for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day.

Think thick chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in a devilishly tight hug of decadent, dark brownies. Yes, beware - this hand-held treat may just blow your mind!

I made a few changes to the original recipe - it was supposed to be prepared in 6 individual pie tins. I had none of those and didn't feel the urge to run out and find them (though, if I happen to see them while we are out and about, I will pick them up now!), so instead we swapped those out for a regular muffin/cupcake tin. Next, the yield given says 6, with a generous amount of chocolate chip cookie dough leftover to bake off as, well, tasty cookies.

What I ended up doing was doubling the brownie recipe, then left the cookie dough amount the same - this gave me enough of the dense brownie batter for 28 Brooksters and I still had some leftover dough (HAD is the key word here... Jeff and I couldn't stop snacking on the raw dough, so sadly, it never made it into cookies). I also tossed in a tablespoon of black cocoa powder for an edgier depth to the brownies, but if you don't happen to have that handy, up the unsweetened cocoa powder to two tablespoons.

I do have one note - don't skimp on the chilling step of the dough and batter - they both need to be cold to give you even baking results. Also, if you only have 1 baking pan and want to keep the yield as-is, follow the recipe, yet keep the leftover brownie batter in the bowl and in the fridge. Allow the baked Brooksters to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove them and wash the pan to both clean it and cool it down. Then fill with brownie batter and the cookie dough - as long as you've kept the leftovers in the fridge while you bake, you can just fill and bake.

You can end up with two results - if you slightly under-bake these, you'll have a slightly gooey core with a dangerously fudgy brownie barrier holding it all together. Fork worthy, for sure. With a few extra minutes tacked on the total bake time, the two will have married together into an irresistible portable package that can be taken behind closed doors and enjoyed alone. What, like you've never done that? If you're feeling especially naughty, warm one up slightly, then drop a rounded scoop of your favorite ice cream dead center on top.

Brooksters (Adapted from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients)

For the cookie dough

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks or 1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chunks

For the brownie batter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon black cocoa powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (look for a range in the 60 to 70%), coarsely chopped
16 tablespoons (2 sticks or 1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

To prepare the cookie dough

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing until well combined after each. Mix in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in chocolate chunks. Cover bowl and set in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.

To prepare brownie batter

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powders and salt.

Melt chopped bittersweet chocolate and butter together in in the bowl of a double boiler set over medium heat, stirring frequently. When melted and smooth, turn the heat off (but leave the bowl set over the steaming water) and whisk in granulated and brown sugars. When combined, remove bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined after each. Mix in vanilla. Scatter flour mixture over the top and gently fold the two together - do not overmix at this point. It is ok if a little of the flour mixture remains visible.

Butter or spray with nonstick spray each well of your muffin tins, then fill each with brownie batter until they are just shy of halfway full. Cover the pans and place into the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Scoop out cookie dough using a generous tablespoon cookie scoop (my dough balls ended up weighing about 38 grams each) and roll each into a ball. Flatten each slightly into a disk - you want each disk to be slightly smaller than the tops of the muffin wells. Remove one muffin tin containing the chilled brownie batter from the refrigerator and gently press one cookie dough disk into each well.

Place pan into the oven and bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cookie part is very golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Around 20 minutes gave us slightly gooey centers, while at 25 minutes, they were just baked through.

Makes about 28 Brooksters, with some leftover cookie dough.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine Bars...

Now that we've had some time to settle in, remove a few trees worth of packing paper from several enormous boxes and gotten to know the neighborhood a bit, I think it is safe to say "Wow, I wish we could have moved here a lot sooner!".

The weather has been wonderful, the access we have to the different markets, produce and grocery products in general can't be beat and while the dogs may have missed their lovely fenced-in yard the first couple of days, they are sure eating up all the smells, walking trails and doggy parks (right on the water, no less) that they have been exploring! Look at them - all tuckered out after a day of new adventures. (PS - The photos should now be much larger when you click on them, compared to our older posts.)

I've even managed to get the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day started up at Jeff's new office. We decided to ease in with a fairly fuss-free recipe, making these decadent Good Morning Sunshine Bars out of the next book from the guys behind BakedNYC, Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients.

This decadent treat is made by tossing a crunchy combo of crispy rice cereal squares (use your favorite brand) and chunky nuggets of salted peanuts around a thick, warm syrup made from dark brown sugar, corn syrup, creamy peanut butter (I used homemade - so, natural style works fine), a generous glug of vanilla and to give additional balance to all that sugar, a couple pinches of coarse salt. If you have an aversion to corn syrup, you could try using Brown Rice Syrup or my favorite substitute for this, Golden Syrup - the burnt-sugar, caramel-esque syrup that I love drizzle over buttered toast or pancakes.

If you find it difficult to get the cereal and nuts coated evenly enough, don't be afraid to lightly grease your (clean) hands and dig on in - just make sure the syrup isn't too hot. After gently pressing the slightly sticky mess into a rectangular pan (use a light, but firm hand here - you don't want to crush the cereal too much), you'll want to wait until the mixture has solidified and begun to cool off before rushing off to the finale that completely takes these bars over the top.

Yes, these are drenched in haphazard lines of melted bittersweet chocolate that not only lures in the chocoholics, but adds just enough bite to tone down the inherit sweetness these intensely peanut-y squares have. The original recipe did call for milk chocolate, which I could see appealing to some, but we opted for the darker chocolate because, well, that's just what we like.

Good Morning Sunshine Bars (Adapted from  Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients)

6 cups plain rice cereal squares
1 1⁄4 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter (homemade or natural works fine)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1⁄2 teaspoons coarse salt
5 to 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted

In a large bowl, toss together cereal and peanuts.

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar and corn syrup. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a full boil - allow mixture to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in peanut butter, vanilla and salt.

Carefully pour mixture over the cereal and peanuts, then use a sturdy wooden spoon to toss the ingredients together until thoroughly coated.  Scoop the mixture out into a 9" x 13" baking pan coated with cooking spray (you can also line the pan with foil or parchment paper, if desired, to make removal of the bars easier). Using greased hands, gently press the mixture down until it forms an even layer, trying not to crush the mixture as you go along.

Set pan aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Drizzle melted chocolate all over the top, then set aside until the chocolate has just begin to solidify before cutting into bars.

Makes about 24 servings.