Monday, August 6, 2018

Caramel Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing

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So it's back to school here in the South, as in today, I saw the buses running.  The thermometer will reach 100 degree heat index.  That just doesn't seem proper does it?  Back in my day, school started after Labor Day, and that first day you scooted out of the house in a wool plaid skirt and new stiff leather shoes.  I'm sure it was warm, but not this inferno!  All I need is a yellow school bus to start thinking about fall, and I am dreaming of Halloween cookie designs and my favorite molasses cookies, but decided to start with a brown sugar blondie instead. Blondie is the term for today, but in my day we would call these a frosted bar.  Bar cookies were the rage, and these did not disappoint.  I never had a bar like this growing up, I really think the brown sugar pecan flavor is truly Southern!

This recipe comes from the Women's Exchange of Memphis.  Founded in 1885, it remains an icon in Memphis history.  Basically a consignment store for seamstresses and crafters, it is a volunteer organization with some of the cutest stuff around.  The very best place to buy a baby gift, and their tearoom is a popular lunch spot.  So when I came across these brownies (actually a blondie), I decided they were perfect to kick off fall.  Even though it's still summer.

I made these in an 8 X 10, and they are quite thick, better for a dessert, a small slice with ice cream.  They can be made 9X13 which would make them thinner, not a terrible thing.  They are really rich! The very worse thing that can happen here though is over baking!  So watch carefully...when the edges are crisping, the center should be about there.  If you make a larger pan with thinner blondie, the baking time will be significantly shorter!  Here's how they went:

Caramel Brownies With Brown Sugar Icing

2 c. light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325°.  Blend butter and sugar until well beaten.  Add eggs.  When eggs are incorporated, add remaining ingredients and mix.  Pour into greased pan, minw was 8X10, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Check for the sides to crisp before the center, but do not overbake!  Cool before frosting.

Brown Sugar Icing

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted is a good idea!)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and then add the brown sugar and stir until the mixture begins to boil.  Stir constantly and boil for 2 minutes.  Add the milk and salt, bring back to a boil and then remove from heat.  Cool until lukewarm.  Add the sifted powdered sugar beating with a mixer, and add vanilla.  While the icing is pliable, spread on cooled brownies.

I am loving this whole brown sugar business, so warm and different from traditional buttercream. We thought these would be delicious without the icing as well, and delicious with a scoop of frozen yogurt. Either way, these are a winner for sure.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grandma's Date Nut Bars

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Mmmm. Date nut bars, such an old fashioned treat. Dates are a wonderful fruit that have been grown and harvested for over 5,ooo years. They were essential to the diets of nomads because of their high carbohydrate content and potassium as well. But they are not the most fashionable food, probably because of the carbs, the 4-letter word of every hot diet. 

My Grandma's date nut bars have been a staple in our family since I was a little girl. It isn't any great secret of a recipe, although for years I was sure it belonged solely to my family. Imagine my surprise when I saw it on the back of a box of Dromedary Dates.  September is the beginning of date harvest, so fresh dates from California will become more readily available, and these are even better with fresh dates! But for years, the box of dates sealed in plastic was all we ever used.  Grandma would never lead me astray.  And my Grandma would have a square with a cup of coffee at 3 o'clock. A tradition I still love.  But I on earth did my Grandma ever fall asleep with a cup of coffee, from a percolator every afternoon?  Vexing. 

I once gave Grandma's date nut bars a bit of a makeover by reducing the sugar, butter and flour, I think maybe they are just a little healthier for you. But honestly, adding the rice flour wasn't really any great improvement.  I'm a bit over all this crazy substitution stuff.  So here's the way I make them.  It makes a big pan, because you just can't stop eating them.  Its not exactly a doubled version of the original, but it really works.   All I know is, a date nut bar and coffee with milk is the world's greatest breakfast. Did I mention the fiber? Dates are loaded, and with the addition of oatmeal, these babies will keep you satisfied way longer than a brownie for breakfast. Trust me, this is exactly the sort of thing I research.

Grandma's Date Nut Bars
2 boxes, 8 oz ea. chopped, diced dates
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

2 1/2 cups flour
3 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
2 sticks butter (salted is best)

Spray a 9X13 pan with Baker's Joy. In a small saucepan simmer the water, dates and sugar until it thickens. Take off heat to cool. Preheat oven to 375°.
Mix dry ingredients in large bowl and cut in butter using a pastry blender until it resembles gravel. Pack half of the dry mixture into the bottom of pan. Cover with the date filling and then the reaming dry ingredients.
Bake for about 40 minutes.
They are delicious warm, chilled, for breakfast or even dessert (vanilla ice cream is pretty okay with them).  They are loaded with sugar in all forms, but also filled with love and nostalgia.  Aunt Florence who lived well into her 90's would tell you how much healthier this is than that terrible stuff you buy at the coffee shop loaded with colors and preservatives.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Cookies for Wedding Favors

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Oh the is the most exciting day in the life of these young people (until that first baby arrives!) and I love making cookies for them.  Usually it is for a shower, bridesmaid luncheon or the host bags.  I am not a big fan of the cookie favor at the wedding. I want cake.  Please, good old fashioned wedding cake with buttercream roses and white fluffy cake.  Keep the fondant (Blech!), the red velvet (just NO!), the chocolate (grooms cake maybe), Funfetti (think 6 yr old birthday) and gasp...naked cake... away from the celebration.  Naked!  The only reason anyone would eat wedding cake is for that nostalgic taste and feel of that icing.  But I guess I'm just old.

Lucky for me, the sugar cookie is the star of many take away bags, arrival bags, reception options and dessert bars.  I have done many cookies in the wedding theme, and they are all special to me!!

The air brushed T were for the rehearsal dinner at my son's wedding.  I just didn't have the time to pipe the T on all those cookies.  I made a lot of them, so there were plenty left over after the rehearsal, and it was nice that folks could grab one when they came to our room for a little hospitality!  It was a very fun weekend!

I dod these fun cookies for a friend.  When her company arrived to their hotel they each got a bag and these cookies were part of the gifts.  I loved to be a part of their very special weekend!!!

These were for a bridesmaid's luncheon before the wedding.  Someone saw that I had posted them and asked me to make her the same cookie.  Same invitation and bridesmaid dresses, different city!  I don't ship cookies so I was not able to help her out.

This was a custom monogram made for the bride and grooms big weekend.  The MOB sent me the booklet for the wedding which was chock full of all the events going on that weekend in the Highlands.  Sounds like an amazing time!!!  Speaking of time, this monogram....

Another bridesmaid luncheon...different colors!!

I made these for my adorable niece for her big weekend.  After I had piped 100 Mr. & Mrs. cookies, I was like, Damn!!!!  They are Dr. and Dr.!  But it just din't have that wedding feel so I only did a few of those!