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I’ve been feeling a little bored with my standard bakes lately. They’re still good, don’t get me wrong, but they just aren’t scratching that itch anymore. After a relatively brief tour around Pinterest, I landed on a recipe from Bon Appetit for Gooey Brown Butter Blondies with Pecans. I decided to go with something that was sweet, but really highlighting more savory flavor elements like brown butter and toasted pecans, and I have to tell you I was delighted with the results.
Brown butter mixture
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg
¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more
2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
1½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1¾ cups (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream (for serving)
Brown butter mixture
Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns, 5–8 minutes. Transfer brown butter to a medium bowl; let cool slightly. Add egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until mixture is light and falls back onto itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 3 minutes. Fold in flour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 13×9” baking dish and dust with flour. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.
Whisk baking powder, salt, and 2¼ cups flour in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar and 1 cup butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating between additions; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in vanilla.
Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients. Fold in half of pecans. Scrape two-thirds of batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top, pushing batter to edges. Alternating, dollop brown butter mixture and remaining batter on top. Smooth and sprinkle remaining pecans over.
Bake until blondie is golden brown and firm (a tester will not come out clean), 30–35 minutes. Let cool before slicing. Serve with ice cream.
DO AHEAD: Blondies can be made 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
- This recipe was a little more complex than your standard dump and mix but well within the reach of the casual baker.
- Hands down one of the best recipes I’ve tried. I loved it; my husband loved it; an office full of my new coworkers loved it. One guy even told me it was one of the best things he’d ever eaten. This is a fantastic option for a situation that calls for something a little extra special.
Strawberry Shortcake is a summer dessert staple here in the south. Even more so here in Florida where some of the best strawberries you could ever have are grown in state. Heck, we even have a festival for it. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. However, all this strawberry pride has led to some overly processed sugar bombs that don’t even deserve the shortcake name. I wanted to do away with all that and bring the focus back where it needed to be – on the strawberries.
The base of my dish is a slightly sweet black pepper biscuit. It might seem a bit odd, but the tiny bit of heat you get from the freshly ground pepper goes wonderfully with the sweetness from the cream and the berries. Also, I do acknowledge that there is a bit of sugar in each component of this recipe, but I tried to use it in a way that enhances rather than overpowers. Don’t let the multiple components throw you – the biscuits are the only tricky bit to this recipe; everything else is super simple.
Biscuits (makes 9-12 depending on size)
- 1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 3 tsp organic sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees F
- Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together with a fork.
- Pour cream into well in the center of the dry mixture and stir gently with the fork until the mixture begins to come together.
- Turn contents of bowl out onto a floured surface and shape into a rough ball.
- Fold the ball in half and press out with the heel of your hand. Turn 90 degrees and repeat eight more times.
- Pat mixture into large disk approximately 1/2 inch thick
- Use a glass with a greased rim to cut out biscuits (do not twist or the edges will seal and prevent biscuit from rising).
- Once you’ve cut out all of the biscuits you can, place them on the baking sheet and combine remaining dough and make another round of biscuits. Repeat until dough is gone.
- Bake biscuits for 13-15 minutes.
- Place on rack to cool completely before using.
- 1lb ripe strawberries
- 1 heaping tbsp organic sugar
- Slice strawberries
- In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries and sugar tossing to coat the berries.
- Store mixture in refrigerator for 2 hours to allow juices to collect.
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsps powdered sugar
- Chill mixing bowl in fridge for 1 hour prior to making the whipped cream.
- In chilled bowl, combine sugar and cream and whip on high until soft peaks form.
*Do not over whip or mixture will begin to turn into butter.
Assemble components and enjoy!
So there you go – simple, special, and perfect for summer.
I like making cupcakes, and I am always looking for an excuse. One of the things I’ve been doing consistently for the last few years is sending cupcakes to work with Andy for Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it, even if you’re in a relationship, the holiday can be a bit intense, and what better way to brighten someone’s day than with a cupcake? I gotta make sure my diligent taste-testers are taken care of, right? In the past, I’ve done some more traditional flavors – chocolate, chocolate-covered strawberry, strawberry, white chocolate, etc. – so this year I wanted to do something a little less expected. I liked the idea of going a little darker and more mature with the flavor profile, but I still wanted a little holiday “cheese” so I decided to pair black cherries and Disaronno. So good! Plus the cherries really did bake up almost black, which made things interesting from an aesthetic stand point.
- 1 Box Betty Crocker White Cake Mix
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 veggie oil
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup cherry puree
- 4 tbsp Disaronno
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe here)
- 4 tbsp cherry puree
- 4 tbsp Disaronno
- Pre-heat oven to 350F
- Combine cake mix, egg whites, oil and water and mix thoroughly. Mix in Disaronno.
- Put two cups of mix into a separate bowl and mix in cherry puree.
- Fill cupcake wrapper 1/2 full of regular mix, top off to 2/3 full with cherry mixture. Swirl together with toothpick or skewer to create a marbled effect.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- While cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting.
- Add cherry puree and Disaronno to completed frosting and combine thoroughly.
- Frost cooled cupcakes and enjoy!.
A few months ago, I tackled the Maniac Fire Bread from Sweet & Vicious. It was pretty great, and one of my taste-testers was so in love that she HAD to have the recipe. Unfortunately, after reading the directions, she decided that the whole process was more than she cared to tackle with her limited baking skills. So I had a thought: what if I came up with something that combined the same flavors, but was much less complicated to complete? Say, something utilizing that most amazing of baking cheats, the box mix? Challenge accepted!
- 1 box of Betty Crocker Supreme Triple Chunk Brownies
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1/2 cup veggie oil
- 2 eggs
- 1-1 1/2 tsp minced serrano chile
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray brownie pan with non-stick spray.
- Combine mix, cinnamon, milk, oil and eggs in a bowl and mix thoroughly
- Mince the serrano and then fold into batter and pour into prepared tin.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
- Obviously, this isn’t quite the same thing, you know, being brownies instead of a quick bread, but the flavor is there and you still have the dense texture that is dotted with chocolate chunks. Plus, it’s easier to cut and consume.
- I know a lot of bakers gasp at the idea of using mixes instead of baking from scratch, but let’s be honest – life is busy, and you don’t always have time to make everything from scratch. Besides if most people were given the choice between box mix brownies or no brownies, I’m pretty confident in asserting that they’ll happily take/settle for the box mix bakes. Sometimes it’s just better to work smart instead of hard.
The other day I found myself packing up fresh berries to take to a friend’s house for game night. As I looked at the containers of fruit, I kept thinking “this needs something.” Which queued memories of the many, many, southern church pot lucks I went to growing up. I remembered this delicious, tangy dip that my mom frequently had to remind me to share or to leave some for other people, but I couldn’t remember how to make it. Fortunately, we live in a world of Pinterest, and while I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I did find something close, and with a tweak here and a reconfiguration there, I think I’ve gotten it exactly right. It seemed to be a hit with everyone who tried it, and the cats attacked the almost empty bowl when I gave it and the mixing spoon to Andy to “finish off.” I am thinking it would also be pretty wonderful layered into a tart shell with some of that fresh fruit layered on top…..a recipe for a later day.
- 8oz of cream cheese (I used the 1/3 fat from Philadelphia)
- 3/4 cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp Almond Extract
- In a mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and vanilla yogurt until uniform in texture.
- Next, beat in powdered sugar and almond extract until completely incorporated.
- Chill covered until ready to serve.
Super simple, but now I know the secret and you guys do too. People seemed to really like this with strawberries, but I think it also works well with tarter fruits like granny smith apples. I’d be interested to try to veganize the recipe, since I’ve had both vegan yogurt and cream cheese and I think the flavors/consistency are close enough to work. With so many friends with different dietary restrictions, it’s nice to have something you can put together quickly and reliably.