Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares

I first made these in 2013 for a brunch buffet. I made them Friday morning, traveled ~250 miles for a family event and enjoyed them on Sunday late morning. They held up incredibly well in transit and tasted freshly made against the assortment of sweets that were available. On some level they satisfy that mix of sugar, salt and fat that many of us crave.

This recipe is based off of one I first found in the King Arthur Flour Blog, flourish.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel squares
Servings: 20 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup ground pretzels (about 6 oz. of stick pretzels)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pretzel pieces (about 2 oz of stick pretzels)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make a sling with parchment paper in the bottom of a 9″x13″ metal baking pan. Spray the open sides with baking spray.
  2. For the crust combine the flour, ground pretzels and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and combine to make a stiff, somewhat sandy, dough.
  3. Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and press it into an even layer. Use the back of dry measuring cup to press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool while making the filling.
  4. Combine the chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe vessel (I use a large glass measuring cup). Microwave for 4 minutes at 40% power, stirring after each minute. Continue microwaving at low power until the mixture is smooth and the peanut butter is fully integrated.
  5. Pour chocolate mixture over the crust and spread to the edges. Top with the chopped pretzel bits, pressing them into the chocolate to ensure adhesion.
  6. Transfer to the freezer for 45-60 minutes to set the topping. Use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 20 pieces.

Notes:
To make the ground pretzels I placed 6 oz. of stick pretzels in the bowl of the food processor and let it spin for about 2 minutes. I then sifted the ground pretzels to remove the larger pieces that remained.

Zucchini Brownies

I have dinner with my mom at least every couple of weeks. She shared a zucchini brownie that a friend of hers passed along and it was pretty good. I had a zucchini and thought I’d see what I could come up with. The results were pretty good, though more a snack cake than a brownie.

It is amazing to me how well the zucchini is absorbed into the finished product. If I didn’t know it was there I don’t think I’d be any the wiser.

Zucchini Brownies
Servings: 12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes (plus cooling time)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup shredded zucchini
  • 270g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prep a 13″x9″ pan by spraying it with vegetable spray, lining it with a piece of parchment to make a sling and then spraying it again with vegetable spray.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, soda, salt and espresso powder and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix the sugar and oil together. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. It won’t turn into a batter, more like lightly moistened sand.
  5. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips; stir until well mixed. The batter will moisten up as you stir. You want it to just come together; a small pocket or two of dry ingredients won’t be a problem.
  6. Transfer to the prepared pan and press to the edges. Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees at the halfway mark.
  7. Allow brownies to cook in the pan for at least 1 hour.

Notes:
I shredded the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater.

I stand by the lightly moistened sand analogy. Shocking how much liquid the zucchini provided and how it goes from nothing-like-brownie-batter to a geez-this-is-thick-brownie-batter in less than a minute.

I drew inspiration from several recipes I found online including The Best Zucchini Brownies, Chocolate Zucchini Brownies and one at chef-in-training.com.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

This cake is a riff on one my dad really enjoyed and that my family always called Bob’s Chocolate Cake. That recipe, handed down by my great grandmother to my dad, is delicious in memory and short on instructions. This one seeks to fill in some of the gaps in that recipe.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes plus time to cool

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 13″x9″ aluminum pan with baking spray.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
  3. Combine chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat at 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until butter and chocolate is combined. Add the espresso powder and combine.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla to the bowl. Beat until well blended.
  5. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches and mix to combine in between each addition.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pan 180° halfway through baking.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then remove from pan and fully cool before frosting.

Notes:
My family frosts almost every cake with a simple butter and powdered sugar icing. We tinted this one orange for no real reason other than white seemed a little boring.

Meringue Cookies

These cookies are based on a childhood memory of Christmas gatherings at my aunt’s house. It was a potluck affair and another aunt always brought a cookie assortment. There would always be 4 or 5 meringue cookies, usually with chocolate chips inside, in the box. I probably ate 95% of the meringues present because I thought they were just so good.

Meringue Cookies

Meringue Cookies
Servings: 5 dozen cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 135g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of a mix of mini chocolate chips, mini cinnamon chips and raspberry jammy bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 4 baking sheet pans with Silpat or parchment.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer add the egg whites, salt, cream of tarter and vanilla. Beat on low for about 30 second to combine then incrase speed to medium or higher. Beat until the frothy egg whites turn into a thickening white meringue, about 2 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on medium-low gradually add the sugar. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whip until the meringue has gone from shiny to dull white.
  4. Carefully fold in the chips & bits with a spatula. Do not beat at the meringue or it will deflate.
  5. Using 2 teaspoons (the dining utensils, not the measuring spoons) scoop our a heaping spoonful of meringue and use the second spoon to transfer it to the baking sheet. You can fit 12-15 meringues per sheet.
  6. Bake two baking sheets at a time for a total of 30 minutes, swapping sheet locations and rotating the sheets 180 degrees half way through baking.
  7. Move the finished cookies to a cooling rack, leaving the cookies on the baking sheet to cool. Bake the second batch of cookies at this point.
  8. Meringues should cool completely in 30 minutes.

Notes:
While I used a mix of add-ins you could use all mini chocolate chips or just about any small morsel of tastiness.  I prefer the “mini” variety of chips.  These are small cookies and full-sized chocolate chips overtakes the meringue.

You can check that you’ve reached the desired stage by stopping the mixer and removing the beater. Invert the beater; if the meringue is at the correct stage it should stand up without moving.

I used two recipes as references in creating this recipe: the first is from gimme some oven and the second was from FoodTV.

“Pricey” Brownies

At some point after we started dating my now husband decided that box-mix brownies were a waste of time. He came up with the following recipe and it has stood the test of time. These are a dense, slightly chewy, brownie with a deep chocolate taste.

"Pricey" Brownie

The name “pricey” comes from the fact that Ted calls for high quality chocolate. We typically use a bittersweet chocolate that we get from King Arthur Flour. The original recipe called for Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Chocolate. We’ve used the Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar with good success. The use of chocolate chips, no matter the quality, isn’t allowed when Ted makes these. 🙂

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some days you just want something sweet to munch on. These cookies are fairly easy to make, at least they are if you have a big stand mixer. One of the things I like about them is they stay reasonably soft even days after baking. Not that the lot of them tend to last for days. 🙂

C is for Cookie

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Recipe under the cut