Chocolate Chunk Brownies

I love a good brownie, and I love all brownie pieces equally: corner, edge, center… but if I HAD to choose, I’m a center piece girl. I love the fudgy, gooey brownie that is soft, and ever-so-crusty on top. Yes. Brownies are a wonderfully indulgent treat. I like them a little fudgy, but not too gooey, and I have a fantastic brownie recipe that I’ve been using for a few years now, this one.

However, I went to make brownies yesterday and realized I was short an egg. I quickly looked up a brownie recipe that had all ingredients that I had (because I hate when I go to make something and I need to go to the store!), and wasn’t disappointed. These brownies are thick, rich, and the perfect amount of fudgy. I find they get a little goo-ier than I’m used to because of the chocolate chunks, but they are still absolutely incredible.

I mean, is there such thing as a bad brownie? I think not.

Paul cooked us up an indulgent steak dinner, with rib-eye steaks, Ceasar salad, garlic bread, grilled Cajun corn, and a potato-carrot-onion concoction. I wanted something as equally indulgent to be able to stand up to such a great dinner, and these brownies sure hit the spot!

I changed a few things – I didn’t have milk chocolate chips, so I used semi-sweet, and instead of the extra milk chocolate chips in the batter, I put in a bag of 70% Dark Chocolate chunks. They were perfect with the sweetness of the brownies. I’m reflecting the changes I made in the recipe below, but the link to the original recipe I used is above.

Go make these, and get some chocolate into your life!

Ingredients

Yield: 16 brownies, a 9×9 inch pan

½ c. plus 2 tbsp. melted butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
½ c. melted chocolate chips, milk or semi-sweet
¾ c. flour
¼ c. cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
1 c. (or 1 small bag (a little more than 1 cup)) Dark Chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 or a 9×9 inch square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla, and whisk again.

In a small bowl, melt the chocolate, then add to the butter and egg mixture. Whisk together until smooth.

Using a spatula, fold in the flour, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Transfer batter to prepared pan, smooth out, and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool in pan at least 30 minutes, then slice and serve.

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Nanaimo Bars

Happy Canada Day!

I was feeling in the mood to celebrate Canada Day, and I figured what better way to celebrate than making a treasured national dessert.

I had no idea how easy Nanaimo bars are to make, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not making them sooner. I like Nanaimo bars, but I find that they can be a bit rich, so when I indulge, I usually only have a small piece. Paul loves them, though, and he doesn’t get them very often. These are also no-bake! How fantastic is that! There is a little bit of stove-top use, but really, that’s about it. For the recipe, I actually went to my mom, and to the plethora of cookbooks I have in my kitchen. I found a recipe in a Company’s Coming cookbook, and my mom (bless her heart!) actually sent me to the City of Nanaimo website, where they HAVE A RECIPE FOR THESE! Crazy, right?

The Company’s Coming cookbook was the 150 Delicious Squares book, (where these Marshmallow Squares originated from), and here is the link to the City of Nanaimo website. I compared them to see how different they are, and they are almost identical, so I took a few things from the cookbook, and a few things from the website to create (hopefully) a perfect version of a Canadian classic.

Happy Canada Day from me to you!

Ingredients

Yield: 1 9×9 inch pan (24-36 bars, depending on cut size)

For the bottom layer:

½ c. butter
1/3 c. cocoa powder, sifted
¼ c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1¾ c. graham cracker crumbs
¾ c. shredded unsweetened coconut
½ c. finely chopped almonds

For the middle layer:

2 c. icing sugar
½ c. butter, softened
3 tbsp. milk or cream
2 tbsp. vanilla custard powder (I used Bird’s brand)

For the top layer:

2/3 c. (or 4 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp. butter

To make the bottom layer, melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add in the cocoa and sugar and stir until smooth. Add in the beaten egg. Stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds. Press into an ungreased 9×9 square pan. Set aside in the fridge to firm up.

To make the middle layer, beat the butter with the icing sugar and custard powder until smooth. Add in the milk or cream as needed. Spread evenly over bottom layer. Set aside in the fridge to firm up.

To make the top layer, in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate chips, stirring often. Remove from heat when chocolate is almost fully melted, and stir until smooth. Spread evenly over middle layer. Smooth out, and chill in the refrigerator until top layer is set.

Slice and serve.

Marshmallow Squares

Welcome to my last post of 2018!

I took a little bit of a break from the blogging world for the past few weeks for a few reasons. One was my own sanity. I have been extremely busy the past four months, and that will not stop when January starts again.

As for the end of our 2018, we hosted a bit of a party, and I made two desserts. I made my Lemon Squares, and these. So good!

Next month, we are finishing up the first semester of this school year, my grade 12’s are writing diploma exams, I go to Edmonton to mark exams, and then we get right into the second semester. The life of a teacher is never boring!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas holidays! Ours was busy. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day driving around Southern Alberta, and are in the throes of planning a New Year’s Party that is about to get into full swing in a few minutes.

For Christmas, my mom gave me a cookbook full of a bunch of desserts. I spent a few hours looking through the cookbook, and this was one of the recipes that stuck out to me. It looked simple, and I had everything in my pantry. The perfect dessert.

This recipe came from the Company’s Coming 150 Delicious Squares book in the Company’s Coming Sweet Treats 2-in-1 Cookbook. It was extremely simple to make, the perfect kind of dessert.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 9×9 pan of squares

For the crust layer:

1½ c. flour
¾ c. butter, softened
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed

For the marshmallow layer:

1 envelope (¼ oz.) unflavoured gelatin
¾ c. cold water
¾ c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
¾ c. icing sugar
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. (6-8 drops) red food colouring (or any colour)

Line a square 9×9 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, butter, and sugar for the crust layer until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a wire rack completely before filling with the marshmallow layer.

To make the marshmallow layer, in a small saucepan combine the cold water and gelatin, and let sit for 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt, and heat the saucepan on low until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the icing sugar, and transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Chill the large bowl, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until very thick. Mine took about 25 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and beat in a mixer with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add in the almond extract, vanilla, and the food colouring, and beat on high for about 10 minutes, until mixture is thick and soft peaks form. Spread evenly over the cooled bottom layer.

Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight, and cut into squares and serve.

S’mores Cookie Bars

Summer time means summer flavours, and what’s more reminiscent of summer than a s’more? I’ve experimented with a few s’more desserts here and there on the blog, and now, it’s high time for another one!

These bars have the best of both worlds. Everything you need for a s’more: marshmallow, chocolate, and graham crackers, combined with cookie dough. Delish! The beautiful thing is that your graham crackers are your base, so this is actually quite a sturdy bar. The cookie dough, laden with tons of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, is put on top of the graham crackers, all baked together, and then EVEN MORE s’more fixings are put on halfway through baking to create a chocolatey, gooey, amazing dessert.

I found the original recipe here, and only changed the chocolate chips required. I didn’t have milk chocolate chips, so I just used all semi-sweet. You don’t need to, though. If you want a mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate, just go half and half. I can’t complain though. These bars are pretty simple to whip together.

Paul loved these, I loved these, and I might go get one to snack on as I’m writing this. These cookie bars are so good! Make them now. It’s going to be a short post, because GO MAKE THESE! If you are a lover of all things s’mores, you will love these!

Ingredients

Yield: 24-30 bars, depending on cut size

2/3 c. butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
½ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2¼ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate)
1 1/3 c. mini marshmallows, divided
1-2 large chocolate bars
2 sleeves graham crackers, broken into squares, with 5-6 crackers reserved and crushed for topping

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a large rimmed baking pan (13 x 18) with parchment paper.

Line the bottom of the pan with the square graham crackers. Try to get an even layer with no gaps.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the stand attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, mixing after each addition.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Slowly beat in the flour mix until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips, and 1 cup of mini marshmallows.

Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, drop small balls of cookie dough evenly over the graham cracker base. Once all your dough is on the graham crackers, use a spoon or your hands sprayed with cooking spray, to lightly pat down the dough evenly over the graham crackers, trying to get as even a layer as possible.

Bake for 5 minutes in the preheated oven.

Remove from the oven, then sprinkle the remaining marshmallows over the top of the cookie bars, as well as the reserved crushed graham crackers. Break your chocolate bars into squares and sprinkle over the top of the bars as well.

Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.

If your marshmallows did not get as brown as you would have liked, turn on the broiler and broil the bars for 1-2 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn, just turn a beautiful golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Cut into bars or squares, and serve.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd

When I think of pavlova, I think of my dear friend Rita. She was the first person who introduced me to the deliciousness of pavlova, and did so in such a beautiful way that it will always be cemented in my memory. A strawberry-kiwi pavlova with whipped cream. Amazing.

With the end of the school year comes goodbyes. These goodbyes are always hard, and one of these hard goodbyes was to my fellow staff at my school. Teaching contracts can be finicky things if you don’t have a permanent or continuing contract, which I didn’t this year. Hence, we had to say goodbye.

For our year-end staff get-together, we decided to have a potluck. Considering my luck with cheesecake (you might remember my Salted Caramel Pecan Cheesecake), both myself and my fellow staff members were all for me making dessert, and I wanted it to be something special. Paul was the genius that suggested pavlova, and I had everything in the fridge to make it, including cream to make whipped cream to top it. The only thing I didn’t have was the fruit.

I bought strawberries and peaches, and made simple fruit toppings to go with the pavlova, the lemon curd, and the whipped cream. The original recipe I found here. I have found that pavlova is not particularly difficult to make, but is time-consuming. Still, the results were worth it. I will let you know, pavlovas are traditionally Australian, and are meant to be crisp on the outside, and slightly gooey and marshmallow-esque on the inside. These ended up practically perfect.

I made a few changes to the recipe, none very special or important. Instead of making one large pavlova, I made a dozen small, individual-sized servings. This made it much easier to serve. Either way, I was very pleased with the results, so were my staff members, and so was Paul. It was a win-win-win situation. This is the perfect summer dessert; light, airy, fruity, sweet, tart. It’s got a bit of everything you need.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 large pavlova, or 12 small servings

For the pavlova:

6 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar

For the lemon curd:

Zest of one lemon
1 ¼ c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened and at room temperature
4 eggs
½ c. lemon juice
Pinch of salt

For the fruit topping:

¼ c. sugar
1/8 c. water
2-3 c. frozen fruit (I used strawberries and peaches)
2 tsp. cornstarch, mixed with 2 tsp. cold water

For the whipped cream:

1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

To make the pavlova, preheat the oven to 395°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. If making one pavlova, trace a cheesecake ring on the parchment paper and flip so the traced circle is next to the baking tray. If making 12 portions, line two trays with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, not stopping the mixer until mixture is thick and glossy, and the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the cornstarch with the last tablespoon of sugar. Whip until sugar is completely dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, use a spatula to fold in the vanilla and vinegar.

Spoon the meringue into the ring on the prepared pan, or the twelve portions on the two pans. Make the centers slightly depressed and the edges slightly higher, so the meringue forms a shallow bowl shape.

Place the meringue into the oven, and IMMEDIATELY lower the oven to 210°F. Bake for 1½ – 2 hours, until the outside of the meringue feels dry and crisp. Turn off the oven, and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool completely.

For the lemon curd, in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler), combine all curd ingredients, and whisk until combined. Whisking constantly, the mixture will thicken over the course of 15-20 minutes. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, and does not run easily off, it is done.

Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap until cool.

To make the fruit topping, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan until thickened and smooth. Fruit will cook down until tender and soft. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

To make the whipped cream, combine all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip until thick and smooth.

To assemble, slice pavlova, or take a pavlova round and place on the serving dish. Top with lemon curd, the fruit topping, and whipped cream, and enjoy!