fudgy brownies with graham cracker crust and peanut butter truffles

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Hey guys, remember when I had a baking blog?

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Me neither.  Life, amiright?  But I’ve gotten a few requests to share this recipe (most of which I made up and did not diligently record, so apologies in advance if your brownies fail), and I thought this old thing would be a good place to do it.  This recipe is a classic example of the Stoner Food by Non-Stoners phenomenon—what can I say, I just like putting all the good things into a bowl and baking them into a pan of delicious.  Stone-cold sober.

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These are also the latest effort in my quest to convert all of my friends who don’t think they’re Sweets People—and thankfully, there are few—into Sweets People.  And if that means whipping out the brown sugar, dark chocolate, and peanut butter-flavored big guns, so be it.

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Fudgy Brownies with Graham Cracker Crust and Peanut Butter Truffles
Brownies adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home To Yours.

Ingredients

For crust:
2 packages graham crackers, pulsed into crumbs (from one box; each box usually has three packages)
1 cup flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 sticks butter, melted
1 egg (optional)

For truffles:
½ jar creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup flour

For brownies:
10 tablespoons butter, cut into 10 pieces
12 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
⅔ cup all-purpose flour

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 13×9″ pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Stir together graham crackers, flour, and sugar.  Drizzle in melted butter and stir well (I find my KitchenAid is best for this, but you can definitely do it by hand).  Crumbs should stick together solidly when pressed.  If they’re not sticking, stir in one egg.

Press crumb mixture into pan.  Bake 15 minutes or until just starting to brown.  Remove to cool for about 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees F.

While crust is baking, make the truffles (I don’t really know what else to call these—they’re basically just nuggets of peanut butter goodness).  Mix together peanut butter, sugar, and flour until it forms a thick dough.  (You should be able to roll it into balls easily.)  Add more flour if it is too thin.  Set aside.

Next, make the brownie batter.  Melt chocolate and butter gently in a double boiler (you can do this in the microwave, too, but be REALLY careful!  I usually put it in for 30 seconds at first, give it a good stir, and then stir at 10-second intervals until it’s just barely melted).  Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing throughly after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla, then gently stir in the salt and flour.

Pinch off ½- to 1-inch bits of the peanut butter “dough” and sprinkle them across the crust (feel free to actually roll them into balls if you want to be fancier than I was).  Pour brownie batter over the crust and peanut butter, then sprinkle with more peanut butter dough.  Bake 30-35 minutes.

Chill completely, then sprinkle (or coat, as I did) with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares.  Receive accolades.

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playing catch-up

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Whoooo’s a slacker?

Okay, that might not be true.  I might have gotten two new jobs, found an apartment,  moved my whole life thirty miles southish, and put out sundry fires associated with all of those things in the last month and a half.  Which is cool for me, but maybe not so cool for anyone who was actually expecting some kind of content from this blog.

Also, I’ve been feverish and hacking my lungs out on my boyfriend’s couch for the last week, and what a saint he is for not throwing me out on the street until my apartment opens up.  So there’s that.

Maple brown sugar pound cake

Since we last spoke, there have been Funfetti swirl cookies, a maple brown sugar pound cake, some actually kind of delicious macrobiotic vegan cookies, and a delicious two-layer brown sugar pound cake with dark chocolate ganache (which, unfortunately, was devoured before it could be photographed).

Funfetti swirl cookies

Today, we’ll kill two birds with one stone.  I’m going to direct you over to Peabody’s page for the Funfetti cookies pictured above – which were delicious as well as downright adorable – and write out this very simple vegan cookie recipe.  We have a self-proclaimed “level 12 vegan” in our offices who, in addition to following all of the regular vegan rules, doesn’t eat any processed sugars.  I based this recipe on one I found on Allrecipes, but I’ve printed it here to reflect the changes I made.

I know people turn up their noses at vegan desserts, but I’ll say one thing: they sure don’t get as pissed when you bring them in at breakfast time.

Ugly but rather tasty vegan cookies

Macrobiotic Vegan Cookies

1 cup almonds, toasted

1/2 cup oat flour

3/4 cups oats

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds in a food processor until they reach desired consistency (coarse or fine meal).  In a large bowl, stir together almonds, oat flour, oats, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt until thoroughly combined.

Form mixture into 2-tablespoon-sized balls; flatten slightly.  Arrange on prepared baking sheets.  Bake 12-15 minutes, or until edges are brown.  Remove carefully and cool completely on racks.

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.

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.

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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.

gluten-free oatmeal cookie bark

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My family cooks from scratch.  We do this exclusively and almost to the point of snobbery; it creates a sort of anxious struggle for our friends between really delicious food and and really annoying cooks.  When I was little and we’d have people over for birthdays, they would be shocked at how good our cakes tasted.  “That’s because you’re probably used to store-bought,” my dad would scoff.

pre-baking

I cringe a little thinking about that, but it’s hard to grasp the power of butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract if you haven’t creamed them together in the bowl of your mixer and then caught a drip off of the beaters.  Some people have joked that it’s love that makes the things I bake taste good; I suppose that may be, but my hunch is that it’s really just butter.

Case in point: this “bark,” a hybrid of a few recipes I picked up around the Interwebs that I then re-worked to meet the gluten-free preferences of my boss, probably isn’t perfect.  What it is, however, is chock full of real butter, rich brown sugar, and chocolate chips, and that should be good enough for anybody.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Bark

1 3/4 cups rice flour

1 cup oats

Pinch salt

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together rice flour, oats, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients until fully incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by 1/4-cupfuls onto prepared baking sheet.  Using a spatula (you may want to oil it lightly), spread dough to thickness of chocolate chips.  Bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool completely, then break into pieces.

 

a cupcake almost-fiasco

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I feel like I should shove these photos in someone’s face threateningly.  “Those cupcakes sure look nice, don’t they?  You better appreciate those cupcakes.  You almost didn’t get those cupcakes at all!”  (Side note: I wonder if anything threatening has ever actually been done with cupcakes?)

The confusing part is that these were actually fantastic until the frosting came into play.  “What?” you say.  I know.  The frosting is the best part, especially this cream cheese frosting I whipped up (previously seen on this red velvet cake and probably some other things I haven’t told you about), which was declared “the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever tasted” by my good friend Courtney and of which there is a massive tub in my fridge that I am trying desperately not to devour with a spoon, perhaps a ladle.  Oh, bikini season.

 

Overconfidence was my downfall.  Sure, I can make Hello Kitty cupcakes for your five-year-old’s birthday party.  No, I don’t need fondant.  Thirty smiling cream cheese feline visages on thirty chocolate and vanilla cupcakes coming up.  Made sturdily from frosting and optimism.

I’ll leave it at this: My thirty chocolate and vanilla cupcakes decorated cheerily with flowers and little polka-dot borders looked lovely.

 

Despite my decorating failures, however, these cupcakes were still great.  With a soft but defined crumb and perfect little domed tops, I somehow managed to pick two winning recipes.  I suggest you make at least one of these…but please, no Hello Kitty.

not too bad, when all was said and done.

 

Vanilla Cupcakes

Adapted from Deb

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, slightly softened

1 1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

½ cup sour cream

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups flour

1/6 cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add sour cream and vanilla; stir until smooth.

In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients, then slowly add to butter mixture until just combined.  Fill cupcake liners to 2/3 full.  Bake 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Epicurious

1 ¾ cups flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cups sugar

¾ cup/1 ½ sticks butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup hot water

1 ¼ cups chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line standard muffin pans with paper liners.  Stir together dry ingredients.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated.

Beat in vanilla, half of flour mixture, and hot water.  Stir in remaining flour mixture until just combined.  Let batter stand until cooled and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake 22-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached.  Cool completely in pans.