Friday, February 13, 2015

Food Friday - Sweet Treats for Our Sweeties

From Kris B.

I'm not one for the overly romantic expressions of Valentine's Day.  I don't expect fine chocolate and a dozen perfect roses.  Nor do I give the male equivalent, whatever that is, to my Valentine sweetheart.  We tend more naturally  toward a simple and genuine spoken "I love you!" and some quiet time together over a nice cup of coffee and perhaps a shared sweet treat, which is sometimes bought and sometimes homemade.  

All in all, my hubby is pretty good guy and awesome husband.  He makes the bed every morning before heading out to the kitchen to pack our lunches.  He empties the cat litter and takes the trash out.  He's good about helping with the laundry and dishes.  More importantly, he always knows when I need a hug and when I need to be left alone.  He knows when my body hurts and when my heart hurts.  He respects the quirky person that I am.  That is saying a lot!  

He does, however, have one major character flaw; he does not like chocolate in baked goods.  No chocolate cake, no chocolate iced donuts, no chocolate chip cookies, and no brownies.  He prefers his baked goods (and his wife) to be blonde...and with coffee.

It has taken the chocoholic in me some time to not immediately reach for the chocolate chip cookie or brownie ingredients when baked goods are called for.  But after six years, I now will think Snickerdoodle or peanut butter cookies and "blondies" first, thus proving that old dogs can be taught new tricks!

In the recipe box that my mom gave me in 1983 when I got married the first time, she included a basic recipe for what she called "Butterscotch Squares."  In all honesty, I always thumbed right past that card giving it not even a glance because of its lack of chocolate until I married "Mr. I Don't Like Chocolate In My Baked Goods."  Suddenly I found myself reaching for that neglected recipe.  How did my mom know back in 1983 that in 2010 I would need a recipe for "Butterscotch Squares," more commonly known as blondies?   

Most recipes for blondies call for the same ingredients as real brownies minus the chocolate.  They get their added "flavor" from nuts.  The recipe that my mom gave me calls for walnuts, which admittedly are my least favorite kind of nuts.  I will usually substitute the walnuts with pecans.  Though nuts are perfectly okay with both of us, I wanted to come up with something, some ingredient, that would make these blondies a little bit special for my hubby.  Coffee is always the first thing that comes to mind when I am thinking of ways to his heart...and stomach.  

Since any kind of brownie gets its liquid from only butter and egg, I wasn't sure how to incorporate actual coffee because of the additional liquid.  I finally had an "aha" moment and decided to add espresso powder.  Success!  So here I share with you one of my sweetie's favorite sweet treats, Espresso Blondies. 

Espresso Blondies


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. espresso powder
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.  Glass works best.

My mom’s recipe called for melting the butter first.  My daughter, the trained pastry chef, says the butter should be used at room temperature, but not melted.  I have done it both ways and have not noticed a marked difference.  

in an electric mixer mix the butter and sugar.  Add the egg and continue mixing until creamy.

Mix the vanilla and espresso powder together in a small bowl and then add to the batter.  

Then add the flour, mixing just until it is incorporated.  Do not overmix.  The batter will be quite stiff.

Spread the batter into the greased pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until blondies are golden brown on the top and start to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let the blondies cool completely before cutting.  If you line your baking pan with parchment paper, you can cool them in the pan for ten minutes and then lift the blondies and place them on a cooling rack to speed up the process.

This recipe can be easily doubled to make a 9x13 pan. The one time that I did this, I did not have enough brown sugar so I used 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and a 1/2 cup of white sugar.  It worked just fine.

From Tracey G.

I have no idea how I came to find this recipe, I'm sure I didn't search for it on purpose, lol, as I'm really not a big fan of German Chocolate cake - well, the frosting I should say, as it's not ever really been a favorite of mine. So I must have stumbled upon it by accident, while looking for something else, likely some kind of bar cookie for a bake sale or something. I think it originally came from the Betty Crocker site, but I can't be sure anymore as it's been quite a few years ago that I acquired it. And I haven't made it in ages either actually. So when Kris and I were talking about doing sweet treats in honor of Valentine's Day, it popped into my head. Glad it did, because I forgot how much I really do like them! LOL And oh my goodness are they simple to make, wow, super easy.

 I love bar cookies, they are a great thing to have in your bag of tricks for when you need something fast and easy, for whatever reason - bar cookies and easy brownies are a great go-to when you need a quick batch of treats. I remember I'd made a batch of some kind of chocolate chip bar cookie (another recipe I need to resurrect!) for a fund raiser for a person in my community who had been diagnosed with cancer, the local bar/restaurant where everyone went put the fundraiser on - I believe there was an auction and so forth. So, anyway, I'd made a batch, packaged them up nicely and left them on the kitchen island to be taken the next day, a Saturday, early. Well, my mom was living with me even then and before she'd left for work she'd thought they were for us here at home, so she'd helped herself to a few, lol. I had to quickly bake up more - thank goodness for bar cookies! I had another batch done in no time - and they sold fast because I got them there while they were still warm, lol. So, yes indeed thank goodness for the wonderfully easy bar cookie, one pan, a few cuts and you've cookies or treats for a few people ;-) 

As I said, this recipe is super easy, a box of German Chocolate cake mix, a tub of German Chocolate frosting or otherwise known as creamy coconut pecan frosting, 1 cup chocolate chips, butter and milk. That's it. :-) Preheat the oven to 350°F....

Cut the butter into the cake mix with a pastry blender or fork...

Until the mixture looks like fine crumbs...mine still had some larger crumb to it, but it still worked out just fine ;-)

I like to line the pan with foil so I can pull it out to cut it into bars easily. I then lightly grease the foil. Next, you pat in about 2 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture and bake for about 10 min.

After the 10 minute baking, remove it from the oven and sprinkle on the cup of chips. Then you drop tablespoonfuls of the frosting evenly over them. With the remaining crumb mixture, mix in 1/4 c of milk, and then drop that onto the frosting layer. Pop back into the oven and bake for about 25-30 min. When the top cake layer is dry to the touch, it's done. Cool it completely, then pop into the fridge until firm. 

And now, the recipe:

German Chocolate Cake Bars

2/3 c butter or margarine, softened
1 pkg German chocolate cake mix
1 c (6oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1 tub creamy coconut pecan frosting, ready-to-spread
1/4 c milk

1) Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.
2) Cut butter into cake mix in medium bowl, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Press half of the mixture, 2 1/2 cups, in bottom of pan. 
3) Bake 10 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the baked layer, drop frosting by tablespoonfuls over the chocolate chips. Stir milk into remaining cake mixture, drop by teaspoonfuls onto frosting layer.
4) Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake portion is slightly dry to the touch; cool completely. Refrigerate until firm. Cut as desired. To get 48 bars, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows.

May your Valentine’s Day be sweet!

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