chocolate chip oreo graham cracker brownie bars

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I owe you an apology.

All I’ve done the last few weeks is load you down with everything that’s rich and chocolatey, right smack in the middle of the kind of 90-degree weather that makes our cats flop over on the carpet in fuzzy black mirror images of one another.  It’s high time I gave you a nice, light fruit dessert.

What did I give you?  Four cookies in one.  Yes.  Four.

Because as hot as it is outside (and inside, especially since I chose to make tomato sauce and these insane sugar bombs on the same day), I couldn’t resist these.  If one cookie is good, four are better, right?  So I suggest you brave the heat.  Will you have to cook in shorts and not much else?  Possibly.  But it’s a small sacrifice to make for something as beautifully white-trash as these.

 

Chocolate Chip Oreo Graham Cracker Brownie Bars

Adapted slightly from Peabody

For the cookie layer:

1 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

For brownies:

6 ounces chocolate chips

1/2 stick butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

3/4 cup flour

Oreos and/or graham crackers

Line a 9-inch square pan baking pan with wax paper, then spray with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.

For cookie layer:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, then slowly stir in flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in chocolate chips, then pat dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Layer Oreos and/or graham crackers on top of cookie layer.  Set aside.

For brownie layer: Melt chocolate gently with butter.  Beat in egg.  Stir in salt, cocoa powder, and flour.  Spread evenly over Oreos or graham crackers.

Bake 30 minutes.  Remove from oven; cool completely before cutting.

oreo-stuffed cookies

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Regardless of the shameless hand-wringing that some of you may have been subjected to over the last few weeks, REALLY SUPER AWESOME things are happening.  Day job drama aside, I received an offer to write for HowStuffWorks.com, a subsidiary of Discovery and the host site of some of my favorite podcasts.  That brings my grand total of writing gigs to four, and as an English major, honestly, I should just shut up about this other job stuff now.

As cool as that is and as thrilled as I am, uncertainty still sucks.  But you know what’s a great antidote?  That’s right.  Excess.

Honestly, this sort of absurd anxiety is the only thing that could have motivated me to foist a recipe this ridiculous upon you smack in the middle of bikini season.  If there’s one thing that’s constant right now, it’s that I have some pathetically reptilian cravings for stoner food, and I don’t know if you can get any more “stoner” than cookies wrapped in cookies.  Welcome to my downfall.

Oreo-Stuffed Cookies

Adapted from here and probably lots of other places

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 package Oreos

2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, scraping down the bowl occasionally.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients, then chocolate chips, if using.  Chill dough 15 minutes.

Take about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough and flatten into a patty.  Wrap as much as you can around an Oreo.  Flatten another bit of dough and wrap around the other side, patching as needed.  Continue until both cookie sheets are filled, then chill wrapped Oreos for another 15 minutes.  Bake 9-10 minutes.  Cool completely on a rack.

snickerdoodles

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I’m busy.

Really busy.  Like doing productive things, sitting at my desk with an iced coffee tapping furiously, cleaning all the surfaces in my house because I just got new cleaning supplies (and maybe because I’m generally overcaffeinated these days thanks to said iced coffee) busy.

Also, possibly making money.  So I really hope you’ll forgive me for just popping in to drop off these snickerdoodles, which were simple, delicious, and a fun activity for the three-year old and eight-year-old who got to help me make them.  You can use all butter, but I’d recommend the mix of butter and shortening I’ve suggested here.  A little hydrogenated fat won’t kill you.

Snickerdoodles

Adapted from here

3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white sugar

3-4 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Slowly mix in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Form dough into 1- to 1 1/2-tablespoon sized balls; arrange on prepared baking sheets with at least 2 inches space between each.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely.

oatmeal cookie bars with almond graham cracker crust

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You know what’s a bad combination?  Big life decisions and a nascent iced coffee addiction.  As if I wasn’t already vibrating out of my chair here at my desk trying to soothe the hordes of what might as well be gerbils who’ve gone off their Ritalin squirming up my shoulders from the regular iced decaf – yes, DECAF – I sucked down earlier.  I’m a wuss at the mercy of a completely indifferent universe that is in no way plotting against me, but just has really bad timing.

I need more coffee.

That’s a lie.  I don’t need more coffee.  What I need is to be a grown-up, to be patient, to make a possibly tough choice, and to trust that I’ll be able to make everything okay, regardless of whether things turn out the way that’s easiest for me.  And, like, believe in myself, or some crap.  It’s not that hot, and I’m wearing a cute shirt.  Things can’t turn out too badly!

While I’m tizzying away over here, I’ve left you a recipe.  Remember when I told you about my sort of unsettling lack of restraint when it comes to combining lots of good things into one?  That may or may not be what happened here.  My favorite twin sister, thoughtfully acknowledging my current dearth of funds, requested “something with oatmeal and maybe almonds or hazelnuts and not that much chocolate” for her/our birthday; I went for all of the above plus more.  So while I stew in my own anxiety, please enjoy.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars with Almond Graham Cracker Crust

For bars:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups oats

3 cups almonds, chopped

1 recipe graham cracker crust

 

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease a 13×9 inch pan.  Pat graham cracker crust into pan; bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; set aside.

While crust is baking, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Cream butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually stir in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in oats.

Evenly sprinkle chopped almonds over baked crust.  Drop batter by tablespoonfuls over, then smooth to an even layer.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until edges are golden.  Cool completely before cutting.

cookie dough blondies

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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s summer.  It’s very much summer.  And here in Southern California, that means stifling heat.  Although anything over 85 degrees makes me considerably more grumpy, it’s the unseasonal and decidedly unwelcome humidity that’s been nagging like a pesky little brother at my clammy soul of late.  I’m not sure who signed off on that, but they are not getting any of the delicious cookie dough blondies I’m about to share with you.

before

However, what summer weather doesn’t do for me, it does for the amazing summer fruit that’s been showing up everywhere from supermarkets to parking lots, and I took this opportunity the other day to stock up on a whole bunch of plums and nectarines.  Now, here’s the thing about nectarines.  When they’re good, they’re heavenly.  But when they’re not, they’re mealy balls of tasteless, teasing, would-be fruit.  Adam Carolla sometimes rants about things that do more harm than good – birthday party clowns, water beds, etc. – and I’d like to add stone fruit to that list.  As much as I try to be egalitarian about it, I still approach the fruit bins at Trader Joe’s with trepidation and have vowed to only purchase summer fruits from the poor sweaty souls at the farmer’s market.

after

Know what doesn’t carry that risk?  Butter.  And sugar.  Say what you will about that whole clogging arteries thing, but regardless of season, harvest, temperature, or other added ingredients, these two won’t let you down.  I know; you thought this was going to be some nice, fresh, healthy dessert, didn’t you?  I’m sneaky.

I’ve been making this recipe for years – it’s my go-to “need a quick dessert that will knock everyone’s socks off” recipe, and now I’m sharing it with you so you too can look awesome at parties and around Christmastime.  If you can bear to turn on the oven, I highly recommend churning out a batch of these ASAP.

Cookie Dough Blondies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375* Fahrenheit.  Grease a 13×9 inch pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter with sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  With mixer on low speed, gradually stir in dry ingredients until just combined.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top.  Bake 3-4 minutes, until chips are soft.  Remove from oven.  With a knife, swirl chocolate in a decorative pattern, being careful not to overdo it (it’ll start looking ugly and muddy).  Bake 25 more minutes, or until edges are golden.  Cool completely in pan before cutting.

blueberry muffins

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It’s almost July 4th, and your RSS feeds are probably glutted with cakes decorated as American flags and recipes for red, white, and blue Jell-O.  As fun as the strawberry stripes and blueberry stars are on a bed of white buttercream, though, I’ve seen the patriotic desserts enough to be over it.  I’m all for providing content that’s timely and useful – which, admittedly, flag-themed desserts sometimes are – but if I were a really good blogger, I would have offered up something boozy and refreshing here instead of the arguably hypocritical blueberry muffins I’m about to show you.

It’s my birthday weekend, though, and this year, that means more drinking of alcohol than cooking with it.  So instead, I’m bringing you these blueberry muffins.  It happens, of course, that these are half patriotic already, meaning I’ve already broken my own rule – and which also means that you now have free reign to make them additionally so with the addition of some chopped-up strawberries.  I’ll be busy drinking the alcohol I wasn’t cooking with – and thus will be far too busy to judge.

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

1 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 stick butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen and un-thawed

Line 2 muffins pans with paper liners.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.

With the whisk attachment, in the (very clean) bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt to glossy peaks.  Gently scrape whites into a separate (also clean) bowl.

In the same mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add egg yolks; beat about 2 minutes.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the dry ingredients, then yogurt, then other half of dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined (there should still be some visible traces of flour).  Gently fold in egg whites, then blueberries.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake 30 minutes, or until edges are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool completely.

strawberry buttercream macarons

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this is what triumph looks like.

I did it.

Oh yes, my friends.  That lofty peak, that holy grail of baking, those finicky little bites of meringue and almond and delectable filling – after a number of sticky, flat, and frustrating attempts, the elusive French macaron is MINE.

piped

You may notice that some of my shells have cracked tops.  You may notice that a few are lacking noticeable “feet,” that bubbly little region on the bottom of each cookie.  You may also notice that I don’t care, because I’ve finally figured out how to make these little suckers, and it’s all going to get better from here.

look how pretty.

I really wish I could offer some profound macaron wisdom for any who, like me, have spent more time than they care to admit dropping almond meal onto a food scale, grain by grain, for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of French patisserie.  Unfortunately, I don’t tend to be that useful, and this is no exception.  Instead, I’ve tried to emphasize the important steps in the recipe below – the things that I messed up and gradually and by process of elimination learned to do correctly.

Afraid of macarons?  I don’t blame you.  I’m still learning their secrets, but I can promise that they’re attainable – in addition to delicious, gluten-free, and lowish-calorie (they’re made with egg whites; that counts, right?) – and really, I’d like to see anyone come up with a reason compelling enough to refute that argument.

finished - and so, so cute.

Strawberry Buttercream Macarons

This is a very basic shell recipe.  Since the filling I chose was strawberry buttercream, I chose to make the shells pink, but you can easily omit the food coloring (or use a different color) and fill with anything you choose.  Nutella?  Dulce de leche?  A ganache of some sort?  Go to town.

3 oz. egg whites (about 3 whites), aged at room temperature at least a day [This is important.  Don’t be lazy.]

3 oz. granulated sugar

6 oz. powdered sugar, divided

3 oz. almond meal

Generous 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Food coloring (optional)

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or by hand, if you want a workout), whisk egg whites to foamy.  Add granulated sugar and whip to soft peaks.  Do not overbeat!  You’ll end up with flat, oozy shells.

With a spatula, gently fold in 3 oz. powdered sugar.  This is important.  Don’t use the mixer.  Add food coloring, if using.  Gently fold in almond meal and remaining 3 oz. of powdered sugar, then vanilla.  Again, if you’re folding, you should not be using your mixer.  Spatula is the way to go.

Pipe batter into small rounds on parchment paper.  Let sit 1-2 hours, or until rounds have developed a hard shell.  If you’re planning on making your own filling, this is a great time to do so.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely on racks before filling.

Just a note:  Every time I’ve made macarons, I’ve ended up baking them for at least 10 and sometimes 12 minutes.  Check at 8, but if your shells don’t come off of the parchment fairly easily, they probably need another minute or two.

 

Strawberry Buttercream

3 large strawberries

1 stick butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-4 cups powdered sugar, divided

1 tablespoon heavy cream

In a food processor, pulse strawberries until pureed.  Add butter and vanilla, then 2 cups powdered sugar.  Pulse until combined.  Add cream, then remaining sugar, pulsing after each addition.

When buttercream has reached the desired consistency, pipe onto the flat side of one cookie and sandwich with a second.