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Sky-High Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

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Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

When I go Christmas shopping, I have a bit of a bad habit. Very rarely, if ever, do I manage to get through an entire shopping trip without buying at least one thing for myself that catches my eye. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be out shopping for everyone else. However, sometimes when you’re just browsing, you tend to stumble upon some fantastic finds.

This past holiday season, I spent a good chunk of an afternoon wandering around Barnes & Noble. I really hope that brick and mortar book stores never disappear completely; I thoroughly enjoy floating from section to section, leafing through books that look interesting, and totally losing all sense of time. On that particular day, there was a display of local, Pittsburgh-themed books and among them was a new cookbook with dishes from popular restaurants around the city. I snatched it up for myself, along with a handful of other books for people on my shopping list.

Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays died down, I curled up on the couch with this book and dug in. Almost every single one of them jumped out at me, and there were at least a couple that I had enjoyed before. When I flipped the page to these lemon meringue bars, a light bulb went off. I’ve never been head over heels for lemon bars; I find that they’re generally a little too tart for my super sweet taste buds. However, lemon meringue pie, I can always get behind. The crust and the meringue help to balance the tart of the lemon; plus, I never turn down pie.

Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

These bars offer all of the best parts of pie, but without the fuss of a pie crust, blind baking, or making lemon curd. The crust bakes up into a soft, almost cookie-like base, which I found to be absolutely phenomenal. The filling is tart without being bitter, and then oh, that beautiful meringue!

Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

As you can see, it piles up extremely high, which I just adore. Big, pillowy layers of meringue toasted with a kitchen torch. If you prefer smaller, hand-held bars, you could cut the amount of meringue down. I personally love that it’s a pretty low-maintenance dessert, but makes such a grand statement.

Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

If this recipe and the book have taught me anything, it’s that it is absolutely, 100% A-OKAY to buy yourself presents while Christmas shopping for others :)

Sky-High Lemon Meringue Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Sweet Potato Pretzel Dog Treats
Two years ago: New England Clam Chowder and Granola Cookies
Three years ago: Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Four years ago: Maple-Oatmeal Scones
Six years ago: Happy 1st Birthday Einstein!

Yield: 9 bars

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

A graham-flavored crust is topped with a lemon custard and torched meringue. All the flavor of a lemon meringue pie in an easy-to-eat (and make!) bar.

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
6 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Meringue Topping:
1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
6 egg whites, at room temperature

Directions:

1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8×8-inch square baking pan, then line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side. Set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour and graham cracker crumbs, mixing until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and pat into an even layer (the dough will be rather soft). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack.

3. Make the Filling: Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the yolks on high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and beat until light and fluffy, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the lemon juice and beat on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the filling is set and the center does not jiggle when the pan is moved. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Once completely cooled, cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

5. Make the Meringue Topping: In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the water, and the corn syrup over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, do not stir, and heat to 240 degrees F.

6. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. If the sugar syrup has not yet reached 240 degrees, turn the mixer off and wait. Once the syrup reaches the correct temperature, turn the mixer speed to medium and add the syrup to the bowl in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy and cool, about 7 minutes.

7. Spread the meringue on top of the chilled lemon bar, swirling to form peaks. Using a kitchen torch, torch the meringue to a golden brown color. If you do not own a torch, you can place the pan in a 500 degree F oven for a few minutes to brown the top. Be sure to keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Allow the meringue to cool, then slice into bars and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Brown Eyed Baker

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars

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Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

When I start to see big displays of canned pumpkin adorning the endcaps of supermarket aisles, my heart skips a beat. While I really enjoy baking with pumpkin, it’s also a sign that my favorite time of year is here. Yes, I love the beautiful, changing leaves (they are a million different colors right now!), the crisp air, cozy sweatshirts, and nightly mugs of hot chocolate. However, those displays also signal that the holidays are right around the corner. I love all holidays, but Thanksgiving has always been extra special to me. While Christmas is usually dominated by shopping and gifts, Thanksgiving is allowed to bask in the glory of amazing food, great wine and a day spent just being with friends and family. I think that’s why pumpkin tugs at my heart strings so much.

Never one to settle for plain pumpkin pie, I love experimenting with different pumpkin recipes. This combination of an oatmeal crumb bar and pumpkin pie filling is so unique, I didn’t wait long to try it.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

This is the first time I tried a combination of oats and pumpkin. What took me so long?! The flavors are such a natural complement to each other, and the texture contrast between the oat crumb and the silky smooth pumpkin pie filling is fantastic. The top is nice and crunchy, then you get to the creamy pie layer, followed up by the firm crust. I may or may not have eaten multiple pieces when I originally cut into them. Oops!

These bars have got me in the mood to plan a Thanksgiving menu! Do you have any pumpkin recipe requests for this fall?

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Maple-Walnut Ice Cream
Three years ago: Russian Pound Cake
Four years ago: Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars
Five years ago: Lavash Crackers

Yield: 16 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 to 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Pumpkin pie filling sandwiched between two layers of oatmeal crumb bars.

Ingredients:

For the Oatmeal Crumb:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cups quick oats
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Pumpkin Pie Filling:
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups canned pumpkin
⅓ cup evaporated milk

Directions:

1. Make the Oatmeal Crumb: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust oven racks to center and upper-middle positions. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides; set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt to combine. Add both the granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix until no clumps remain. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract, then stir with a fork until the mixture is evenly moistened. Press half of the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.

3. Make the Pumpkin Pie Filling: Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Finally, whisk in the pumpkin, and then the evaporated milk until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined.

4. When the crust has finished baking, pour the pumpkin pie filling over the bottom crust and return it to the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven, pinch the remaining oatmeal crumb mixture into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the pumpkin pie filling. Return the pan to the oven, placing it on the upper-middle rack, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it is golden on top and the center only jiggles slightly.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, at least 1 to 2 hours. Then, transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Brown Eyed Baker

Carrot-Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Icing

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Carrot-Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Icing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

It’s about that time, isn’t it? The time during the summer when zucchini plants are absolutely exploding in gardens everywhere. Zucchinis seem to multiply like rabbits from day-to-day. One day you go out and pick five zucchini, don’t see a trace of any others, and by the next morning there are four more full-size zucchini ready to be plucked. If you’ve ever had a garden, you know the joys that come from eating produce that was grown right outside your window. You also know that by the middle of August, you start running out of people to gift with zucchini and tomatoes. That means it’s time to bake!

Carrot-Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Icing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

I have more than a few zucchini recipes on the site already, but now that my mom’s garden is heading into overdrive, it’s a good time to start cranking out a few new recipes. I spied this carrot-zucchini bar recipe awhile back on Pinterest and saved it for the summer, when I knew I would have garden-fresh zucchini at my fingertips. These bars taste like a cross between carrot cake and zucchini bread; topped with an easy cream cheese icing, they make a perfect snack or dessert.

Do you have standby zucchini recipes for when the garden goes crazy?!

Carrot-Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Icing by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Blackberry Gin Fizz Float
Two years ago: Top 10 List: Favorite Yeast Bread Recipes
Three years ago: Chocolate Fudge Swirl Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Four years ago: Italian Wedding Soup
Five years ago: Pain Ordinaire Careme
Six years ago: Italian Stuffed Peppers

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

An easy recipe for Carrot-Zucchini bars; a great way to use up extra zucchini from the garden!

Ingredients:

For the Bars:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini
½ cup chopped walnuts

For the Cream Cheese Icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Make the Bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger and baking soda; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, honey, eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until no flour remains. Fold in the carrots, zucchini and walnuts.

4. Spread the batter into an ungreased 9×13-inch pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.

5. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Spread evenly over the cooled bars. The bars can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Notes:

  • The ginger flavor in these is fairly pronounced, so if you don’t like ginger feel free to omit it or substitute cinnamon. You can also use walnuts in place of the pecans, or really any other nut that you like.

Brown Eyed Baker

Blueberry Crumb Bars

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Blueberry Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

Ahh, sweet blueberries. I am positively obsessed with them right now. I’ve been eating them by the handful… and with cottage cheese… and in a bowl of cinnamon shredded wheat… and in every baked good I can possibly imagine. I can’t imagine a day when I’ll ever tire of baking with blueberries. This past weekend, I decided to combine blueberries with one of my favorite desserts – crumb bars! Give me anything with a crumb topping and I’ll devour it faster than you can say “butter”. Quite a few years ago, I made peach crumb bars, which I successfully turned into blueberry crumb bars. If you can go wrong with fresh fruit and a buttery crumb crust and topping, I haven’t found a way.

Blueberry Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

I’m sure you could easily adapt these bars to use up whatever type of berry you have in your fridge, but I am definitely partial to the blueberry. It’s my favorite of the berry family, plus I just love that beautiful purple color that baked blueberries exude.

Prepare yourself for the fact that you will continue to cut “just a little piece” until half of the pan is gone. It’s unavoidable; just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Blueberry Crumb Bars by @browneyedbaker :: www.browneyedbaker.com

One year ago: Frozen Hot Chocolate
Two years ago: Top 10 List: Favorite Pie & Tart Recipes
Three years ago: Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
Four years ago: Vanilla & Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta

Yield: 20 to 24 bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Crumb bars loaded in the middle with fresh blueberries.

Ingredients:

For the Crumb:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg

For the Blueberry Filling:
4 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice of one lemon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. Make the Crumb: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter, and then the egg (the dough will be crumbly). Press half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently fold in the blueberries to coat evenly with the sugar mixture. Spread the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust, drizzling any excess juice in the bowl over the filling. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the blueberry layer.

4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Brown Eyed Baker

Key Lime Pie Bars

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Key Lime Pie Bars

There are few desserts that make me think of carefree vacation days filled with sunshine and warm ocean breezes more than key lime pie. It has a smooth, light texture and is packed with a lime punch. The flavor of citrus – be it lemon, lime, orange, etc. – always makes me think of sunny days; it has such a bright flavor. Last year, I made my first key lime pie and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to assemble and bake. I’m a big fan of portable desserts and with summer picnics in full force right now, I thought that a key lime bar was long overdue.

Key Lime Pie Bars

Just as with the pie, these bars came together in no time at all. You’d think that a creamy pie filling such as this would require a tedious curd, but instead you simply whisk together a tiny bit of cream cheese, lime zest, sweetened condensed milk, an egg yolk and lime juice… pour into the crust and bam! Done!

While key limes can sometimes be hard to come by unless you live in a major citrus-growing area, you can also substitute regular limes for both the zest and the juice. The crust is made with animal crackers (my inner kid loved munching on the leftovers!), but if you can’t find them, you could easily use graham crackers or your favorite basic cookie for the crumb crust.

Key Lime Pie Bars

A crunchy crumb crust combined with a cool, creamy filling and zesty lime flavor is the perfect recipe for a hot summer day.

What’s your favorite summer dessert?

Key Lime Pie Bars

One year ago: Chinese Coleslaw and Golden Grahams S’mores Bars
Two years ago: Top 10 List: Favorite Brownie Recipes and Zucchini Pineapple Bread
Three years ago: Rocky Road Ice Cream
Four years ago: Italian Supreme Calzones

Yield: 16 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

A recipe for Key Lime Pie Bars – all the wonderful flavors of the pie, but in easy bar form!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the Filling:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
Pinch of salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
½ cup Key lime juice

For the Garnish:
¾ cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened), toasted

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing the extra foil to hang over the edges of the pan. Lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Make the Crust: Process the animal crackers in a food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. Add the brown sugar and salt and pulse a few times to combine. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened, about 10 pulses. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

3. Make the Filling: Stir together the cream cheese, lime zest and salt in a medium bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk until completely incorporated and no lumps remain. Whisk in the egg yolk, then add the lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated.

4. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth into an even layer. Bake until the filling set and the edges are beginning to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

5. When ready to serve, run a paring knife around the edges of the pan and lift the bars from the pan using the foil overhangs. Cut into 16 squares and sprinkle with toasted coconut, if desired. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Brown Eyed Baker

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

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Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

I first began hearing about Nanaimo Bars a few years ago, when they started popping up on some food blogs and all over Pinterest. They were new to me, and I quickly learned that they are a Canadian dessert, made popular in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, by a local housewife who submitted the recipe for a cookbook back in the 1950′s. The original bars were made of a chocolate crumb base, topped with a vanilla custard filling and then a chocolate ganache. I’ve been wanting to try them for some time now, and then received an email from a sweet reader who offered me a peanut butter version of the famous bar. It took me all of two seconds to respond with an enthusiastic, “yes, please!” You know I can’t turn down peanut butter recipes!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

It probably comes as no surprise that I absolutely LOVED these bars. The base is a wonderfully dense and chewy chocolate mixture that includes coconut and graham cracker crumbs. The base is topped with a peanut butter filling that reminds me of a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and then a final layer of chocolate ganache is spread over top. Aside from the base, the rest of the bar tastes very similar to the Buckeye Brownies that I made earlier this year. The base of these aren’t as rich as a traditional brownie, but the combination of flavors is phenomenal.

Now I can’t wait to make traditional Nanaimo bars!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

One year ago: Hamburger Buns and Mojito Cupcakes
Two years ago: Sweet and Salty Brownies
Three years ago: Pea in a Pod Baby Shower Cookies

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

A peanut butter version of the popular Nanaimo Bars.

Ingredients:

For the Base:
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut
⅓ cup cocoa powder

For the Filling:
1¼ cups creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup milk

For the Topping:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Make the Base: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar and eggs. Use a large wooden spoon to stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and cocoa powder until completely combined. Transfer to prepared baking pan and press evenly into pan. (The mixture will be a little sticky, so you may need to wet your fingers a bit and then press it in.) Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm and no longer shiny. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before preparing the filling.

3. Make the Filling: Microwave the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl until completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk in two additions, whisking until smooth. Spread evenly over the base and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

4. Make the Topping: Using a double boiler (or a microwave on 50% power), melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the filling and allow to set at room temperature (or refrigerate to speed up the process) before cutting into bars and serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

(Recipe provided by reader S.M.C.)

Brown Eyed Baker

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

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Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Cheesecake has long been my dessert infatuation of choice. Having never been a big fan of traditional cake with frosting (I know, right?!), I started turning to birthday alternatives around the time I was in middle school. I went through an ice cream cake phase, then it was tiramisu and finally, cheesecake. I’ve had some version of cheesecake for my birthday more years than I can count. Once I really got the baking bug, I started experimenting with baking my own. The very first birthday “cake” that I made myself was an Oreo Cheesecake, as that was my favorite flavor from The Cheesecake Factory at the time. I don’t make many cheesecake bars (instead opting for a cheesecake the size of my head), but after playing around with some cheesecake bars this summer, I decided I needed to make more of them. An Oreo version was the next logical step.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

These cheesecake bars have a thick, substantial crust, which I love. Nothing is worse than cheesecake or cheesecake bars that sit upon a wimpy, thin, soggy crust. Thick and sturdy is the only way to go, and this crust fits the bill. On top is a smooth, creamy cheesecake that is absolutely packed with chopped Oreo cookies. One of the things I love about cheesecake bars is that I don’t feel nearly as guilty about eating two as I do when I eat two pieces of cheesecake (not that that’s ever stopped me!).

I haven’t used them in this recipe yet, but if you wanted to go the 100% from-scratch route, you could even use homemade Oreos! That cuts down on the guilt factor even more ;-)  If you give them a try in the recipe, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Oreos… Cheesecake…

Life is very good.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

One year ago: Cheddar and Ale Soup with Potato & Bacon
Three years ago: Quiche Lorraine Scones

Yield: 16 bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

A bar version of the fabulous Oreo Cheesecake, complete with an Oreo crumb crust and a creamy cheesecake loaded with chopped Oreo cookies!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
23 Oreo cookies (store-bought or homemade)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sour cream
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies (store-bought or homemade), coarsely chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two of the sides.

2. Make the Crust: Process the Oreo cookies in a food processor until they are turned into fine crumbs. Drizzle the melted butter over top and pulse a handful of times until the butter is evenly distributed and all of the crumbs are moist. Dump the crumbs into the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes (leave the oven on).

3. Make the Cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until incorporated.

4. Slowly add the eggs, beating well after each addition, and mix until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sour cream and vanilla, beating until incorporated.

5. Gently fold in the chopped Oreos, then pour the batter over the prepared crust, smoothing it into an even layer. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles slightly, about 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving.

7. To serve, lift the cheesecake out of the pan using the parchment or foil handles. Slice into bars and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Brown Eyed Baker

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Earlier this month, when I made a batch of maple-walnut ice cream, I mentioned how any mention of maple reminds of a classic episodes of Friends, as well as Buddy the Elf. Truth be told, both Ross and Buddy knew what they were talking about. Maple is such a pure, clean flavor, and unfortunately, it often times takes a backseat to other favorite fall baking ingredients, like pumpkin and apple. In an effort to increase my maple syrup consumption leading up to multiple viewings of Elf starting in November, I picked up a ginormous bottle of pure maple syrup and hit the kitchen. This recipe certainly encompasses the best that fall has to offer – maple, pumpkin, gingersnaps and cheesecake, not to mention cinnamon and the usual suspects when it comes to fall spices. If you’re looking for fall flavors, these bars are a total win.

While I love, absolutely love cheesecake, there’s no denying that it’s a lengthy process to make one from scratch. They are totally worth the effort, but between the long bake time, cool time and chill time, sometimes you don’t get to taste your creation until the next day. These bars are the perfect compromise. They are essentially a pumpkin cheesecake filling, spiked with maple, and poured on top of a gingersnap crust (which means they can be thrown together quickly), but you can eat them as soon as they cool to room temperature. There are plenty of times in life when we need to practice patience; eating these bars is not one of those times. You can save up your patience for a trip to the doctor’s office, or the grocery store on a weekend morning ;-)

I love that these bars encompass all of my favorite flavors and textures of the season, and that they are contributing to my seasonal maple consumption. What’s your favorite flavor to bake with during this time of year?

One year ago: Salted Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Bars
Two years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip & Pecan Granola Bars
Three years ago: Potato Rosemary Bread
Four years ago: French Toast
Five years ago: Soft Pretzels, Part II

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

A maple pumpkin cheesecake filling sits atop a gingersnap crust, for a fantastic fall dessert. No forks required!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
42 gingersnap cookies (about 9 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
2 eggs
1 (12-ounce) pan evaporated milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch ground cloves

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper so that it extends over each long side of the pan.

2. Make the Crust: In a food processor, pulse together the gingersnaps and sugar until they become fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a few more times to incorporate. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

3. Making the Filling: While crust is baking, prepare the pumpkin filling. Beat together the cream cheese and the brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and mix on low speed until completely incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the evaporated milk, maple syrup and vanilla, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves and mix on low to incorporate.

4. Pour the filling over the prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until the filling is set in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Once the bars have cooled to room temperature, you can cut and serve them, or you can refrigerate them and serve them chilled.

5. Using the parchment paper overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and onto a cutting surface. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream and candy corn, if desired. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Brown Eyed Baker

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

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I am totally and completely infatuated with fall. From pumpkin, apples and cinnamon to jeans, hoodies, football and everything in between… I love it all. It’s such a cozy time of year and I love the warmth that it brings, even though the days grow chillier. I’ve always loved apple pie, but have long been partial to the Dutch version. As much as I love pie crust, I just can’t resist the crumble topping of a Dutch apple pie. As much as I enjoy making a homemade pie, I love bar desserts for their ease of assembly and the ability to just grab one and eat it standing up. All of the same fabulous flavor without the need for a plate and fork.

These bars are a perfect alternative to dutch apple pie, from the crust to the spiced apples and the buttery crumble. Not only can you eat them on the go, but you won’t feel nearly as bad about eating two or three of these, as opposed to two or three pieces of pie… that’s always a bonus! ;-)

One year ago: Salted Caramel Cashew Bark
Two years ago: Pittsburgh Steelers Football Jersey Cookies
Three years ago: The Famed Neiman Marcus Cookies
Five years ago: Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 1 hour | Bake Time: 30 minutes

For the Crust:
8 ounces (4 cups) animal crackers
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Streusel:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. If using foil, grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Make the Crust: Process the crackers, brown sugar and salt in a food processor until they have been reduced to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse to incorporate. Press the crumbs into an even layer in the prepared pan and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Cook on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Keep the oven on.

3. Make the Streusel: Whisk together the flour, sugars and cornmeal in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and toss with a fork until the dry ingredients are all evenly moistened. Set aside.

4. Make the Filling: Combine the apples, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Assemble: Spread the apples over the crust in an even layer and sprinkle with the streusel. Bake until the streusel is brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Using the foil or parchment overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies)

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Brown Eyed Baker

Homemade Clif Bars (No-Bake!)

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I had been in the dark about Clif Bars until just a couple of months ago. I had heard of them, but I typically don’t buy bars like that, so I had never tried one. I met a good friend for dinner one night, and she was giving me the details about her relatively new job. Among the perks were free, healthy snacks in the cafeteria area. She said that there were bins of Clif Bars, and when I mentioned that I’d never tried them, she pulled one out of her purse and gave it to me. A few days later I was spending the bulk of the morning running errands and without fail, found myself starving. I didn’t want to get fast food or hit a vending machine and then remembered that I had the Clif Bar in my purse. I dug it out and gave it a try. It took approximately 2.2 seconds for me to realize why so many people are such big fans of these bars. It only took another 10 seconds to start brainstorming ideas for a homemade version. Through some trial and error, I came up with an awesome replication of the Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch variety.

Even though there isn’t anything inherently “bad” for you in these bars and they are certainly a step above your typical processed granola bars, but I still relish making anything I can from scratch in my own kitchen. I grabbed the wrapper to study the ingredients, did some Googling and finally came up with these bars. I absolutely love them – they’re sweet, chewy, a little crisp and packed with flavor. These are sweetened with brown rice syrup, don’t include any sugar and are gluten-free. These make an awesome snack, and are a perfect substitution for breakfast or lunch if you’re running late or on the go.

If you’ve had them, what’s your favorite Clif Bar flavor?

One year ago: Maple-Walnut Fudge
Two years ago: Pancake Cupcakes with Maple-Bacon Frosting
Three years ago: Chewy, Fudgy Triple-Chocolate Brownies
Five years ago: Beef Mushroom Barley Soup

Homemade Clif Bars

Yield: 9 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

1 cup dates (pitted)
1¼ cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup quick-cooking oats
¼ cup coarsely chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
½ cup peanut butter
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Spray an 8×8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Combine the pureed dates with the cereal, oats, peanuts, flaxseed, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

3. Combine the peanut butter and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and completely blended. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

4. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly to pack the mixture into the pan. Let the mixture sit until completely cool and set, at least 1 hour. Cut into bars, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

(Recipe adapted from Enlightened Cooking)

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Brown Eyed Baker

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

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There’s not much in the world of desserts that I love more than the combination of peanut butter, chocolate and cheesecake. Give me any of those three on their own and I’d grab a spoon or fork and go to town. Mix two of them together and you enter the land of pure sweets bliss. But all three? Put them together and you have dessert nirvana. I have always had a huge weakness for the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, as well as for cheesecake, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally put them all together in a peanut butter-fudge cheesecake. Since then I have been ALL OVER anything that includes that amazing trifecta. Enter these cheesecake bars. A chocolate graham cracker crust holds a peanut butter cheesecake filling, which is topped with a chocolate glaze. Come to mama.

For as much as I love cheesecake, you just can’t beat the ease and simplicity of cheesecake bars. No worrying about a springform pan, water baths, long bake times or long chill times. The bake time is much shorter, which means you can get one of these into your mouth in record time. Plus, I feel much less guilty about grabbing three or four of these rich and creamy squares than downing a slice of cheesecake. A trick of the mind, for sure ;-)

One year ago: Cinnamon-Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Three years ago: Potato-Bacon Torte
Four years ago: Cheddar Ale Spread

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 50 minutes

For the Crust:
2½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Glaze:
6 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons vegetable shortening (can substitute coconut oil)

1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter and toss together with a fork until the crumbs are all evenly moistened. Press the crumbs into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack and cool.

2. Make the Cheesecake Layer: Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, peanut butter and flour on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly pour in the milk and then the vanilla extract and beat until combined.

3. Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cheesecake layer is set around the edges and still appears slightly soft when the pan is wiggled. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.

4. Make the Chocolate Glaze: Combine the chopped chocolate and vegetable shortening in a small bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the cheesecake layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Brown Eyed Baker

No-Bake Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

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Has it felt like the surface of the sun in your neck of the woods this year? It has certainly been ungodly hot in here in Pittsburgh. Some people bask in the glory of blazing hot summer days. I am not one of those people. For someone who constantly complains about being cold and needs to carry a hoodie into a movie theater in the middle of July, you’d think I’d enjoy a little warmth. A little warmth, yes. Sweltering, disgusting heat and humidity? No thank you. Once we reach more than two days above 90 degrees, I start doing the equivalent of a rain dance, which I can only hope brings about fall weather sooner rather than later. I can’t help it. The heat and humidity make me miserable – I get a headache, get cranky and am generally intolerable. If I could create a climate where it’s in the mid-70′s, sunny and breezy for eight months out of the year and then cold and snowy for November through February, I’d move there in a second. I’m not aware of any such place, so I’ll continue to hide in the air conditioning until it cools down a bit. Although I still do my fair share of baking during the summer, I try to minimize the time spent over the stove and with the oven blasting. Enter the wonder of no-bake cookies and bars!

No-bake recipes are fabulous. They usually require less than 15 minutes of your time, no oven, and are the perfect way to satisfy any instant gratification you require from a sweet treat. If you have kids, these types of recipes are also great to have on hand for quick after-school snacks. Or maybe a bunch of ravenous teenagers end up at your place, ready to eat you out of house and home. They’re also great for mom if you’re in dire need of something sweet, don’t have a lot of time and want something easy. Then these are your best friend.

Feel free to make all sorts of substitutions to this recipe. Use almond or cashew butter, Nutella or Biscoff, different flavors of chocolate chips, etc. You could even stir in chopped nuts, dried fruits or marshmallows at the end. Have fun, be creative, and keep cool these last few weeks of summer!

One year ago: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Two years ago: Beer Waffles with Cinnamon-Caramel Apples
Three years ago: Zucchini Bread
Four years ago: Italian Bread
Five years ago: Chicken Spread

No-Bake Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Yield: 16 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

3 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt

1. Line an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. (You can use a 9×13-inch if you want thinner bars.)

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oatmeal, 1 cup of the chocolate chips, the peanut butter and vanilla extract; set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter and salt over medium heat. Bring to a full boil (there should be bubbles covering the entire surface) and boil for 2 minutes.

4. Immediately pour the hot mixture (carefully!) over the oatmeal mixture and quickly stir to combine, ensuring that all of the oatmeal mixture has been moistened. Turn the mixture into the parchment-lined pan and use the back of a spoon to press it evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips over top and gently press them into the top of the mixture.

5. Allow the bars to sit at room temperature to set up, which takes about 30 minutes. Use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Note: Like any no-bake cookie, the final texture of these really depends on how long you boil the sugar mixture. If it doesn’t boil long enough, the cookie mixture will be too soft; if you boil too long, they could turn out dry and crumbly. I like to set a timer just to be sure.

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Brown Eyed Baker