Over the Top Cookie Bars

When I started thinking about creating this I had a clear head, then I woke up Saturday morning with a cold, but preceded to go on with the experiment today. I was inspired by VanillaSugar blog, she always has something super creative coming out of her kitchen, though clearly she has more experience under her belt. My brain was not working at full capacity (from the cold itself and the cold medicine), but I managed to bust it out, though not exactly how it should have been. I knew I would have some issues completing this successfully when I forgot to add the egg in the cookie dough...

The stuff added to this chocolate chip cookie bar is literally over-the-top with chocolate, peanut butter and crackers. This sweet, salty, cheezy, peanut buttery combo hits the spot, just have to get the ratio of layers right. The issue I had this time around was too much cookie, not enough Cheez-its!

But now that I've tried assembling them and tasting, here are directions that will have them turn out how they should have...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer

Get a basic cookie dough recipe ready, even the pre-made stuff and press it into a greased large (6-capacity) muffin tin, or an 8x8 baking dish. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. (mine were too think). You'll have cookie dough left over especially if you only make this in the muffin tins. Bake in oven and let cool in the pan. Loosen the cookies by running a knife around the edge and still leave them in the pan.

Peanut Butter Layer
  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • salted peanuts (optional)
Mix all ingredients except the peanuts with a mixer until smooth. Gently mix in peanuts. Spread evenly over the cooled cookies. Place in fridge until set (or close to set).

Chocolate Layer
  • 1 Cup white chocolate chips (or any type of chocolate you like)
  • 2 tbsp butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1tbsp light corn syrup
  • 2 cups slightly broken Cheez-its and/or pretzels
Melt the chocolate chips (use good quality, melting white chocolate can be tricky), butter and corn syrup in a double boiler with as little heat as possible. Stir vigorously. As soon as my white chips started to melt, I took it off the heat entirely and stirred as hard as I could until it became silky.

Gently mix in the Cheez-its/pretzels into the chocolate. Poor the warm chocolate over the cooled cookies and let set in the fridge until hard.

* I didn't do my layers in this order, but I think it should all stick together better with the hard chocolate on top.


National Chocolate Cake Day

The best part of my Thursday was finding out it's National Chocolate Cake Day.

But what great person decided January 27th was National Cake Day and how long has January 27th been National Cake Day? I've scoured the Web and can't find these answers. I mean even a Baltimore Sun staff blogger couldn't find the origin...

I guess I'll have to get my history-fill with some interesting moments in chocolate's history:
  • The name chocolate comes from the Aztec word xocoatl, - a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans
  • The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means "Food of the Gods"
  • In the 17th Century chocolate was a fashionable drink for the elite believed to have health and aphrodisiac qualities
  • In 1847 Joseph Fry created the first "modern" chocolate bar
Read more at SmithsonianMag.com: A brief history chocolate

To celebrate this momentous day, I'm posting a recipe for the most delicious Flourless Chocolate...Torte (but we'll just call it a cake today). A Torte is a cake. Tortes have certain characteristics that can set it apart from other "cakes". Some of the least controversial of these characteristics are tortes often use an ingredient to act in place of flour, like ground nuts or bread crumbs. Tortes are often denser and shorter (because of the flour substitute that is used).

I made this cake about a year ago, it is a bit unrefined looking. The chocolate glaze cooled before I could smooth it out with a metal cake spatula or wide knife, but it tasted....perfect to me!

*Disclaimer: This is one of those recipes that takes hours (because of all of the time needed to cool the cake a few times). Otherwise, it's not too tricky- I promise!

Flourless Chocolate Torte Cake 
The William-Sonoma Baking Book (2009)
...isn't flourless chocolate torte a bit redundant?
Important Kitchen Tools
  • metal cake spatula or wide-knife
  • double boiler or make-shift double boiler
  • parchment paper
  • beaters
  • 8 (or 9)-inch cake pan

Cake Ingredients
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder for dusting (my new favorite, affordable one is Wondercocoa)
  • 10 oz Bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped- be sure to use good quality chocolate
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • and 2 tbsp sugar (keep separate)
  • 1 tbsp brewed espresso (or rum, either are optional- but it really enhances the flavor of the chocolate)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper, grease the paper and sides of pan and dust with cocoa powder (to prevent from sticking).

Over simmering water in a double-boiler, combine the chocolate and butter. Whisk until melted and blended. Set aside to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, espresso (or rum), vanilla and salt until pale and thick.

Gradually pour in the chocolate mixture and continue beating until well blended.

In a deep, clean bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and continue to beat until medium-stiff peaks form (kind-of floppy peaks).

Using a silicone spatula, scoop the egg whites onto the chocolate mixture and fold them in gently, until no streaks remain.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the cake puffs slightly and a toothpick comes out moist but not  liquid, about 35 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes in a wire rack.

Rub a knife around the inside edges of the pan to loosen, then invert onto a wire rack. Carefully peel off the parchment. Let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until very cold. at least 4 hours-overnight.

Chocolate Glaze
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 8 oz chopped, bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp light corn starch

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, same as above.Remove from heat and whisk in corn starch until smooth and glossy.

Set the cold cake on a wire rack over a large plate or baking sheet (to catch all the glaze run-off). Slowly poor the warm glaze over the center of the cake. The glaze should cover the surface evenly, running down all sides evenly. * Be sure to have that metal cake spatula or wide knife handy to smooth out!
Refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours). To cut the cake, dip the knife in hot water and wipe dry before each cut.

Cheers to National Chocolate Cake Day!

Yum Wondercocoa- also delicious in coffee


Flour Tortillas: Healthy, Simple, Fresh, Awesome.

Turns out my brother likes to tinker in the kitchen too. Also he's funny and created a killer tortilla recipe that literally anyone can make. Here is the email, in its original glory:

Hello Mother and Father and Sister,

Maybe you don't know that you want it, but here is my (finely tuned flour tortilla recipe. Massively better and healthier (way less fat+sat. fat) than store bought. God damn Mission tortillas. I will ruin them.

Anyway, I have gone through a bunch of tweaks to the recipe and prep to figure out how to get soft, flavorful, low-fat flour tortillas.

To make 4-5 excellent, relatively healthy flour tortillas:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (having fresh flour may matter)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 cup (3 oz) water - use filtered and nuke for 20 secs
1 tsp oil (suggest olive or canola; doing a generous tsp helps too)

important equipment:
rolling pin (handle-less style is much easier)
10"+ cast iron skillet

1. Mix dry ingredients in large mixing bowl
2. Nuke water for about 10-20 seconds to get it lukewarm or so
3. Add oil to dry ingredients, stir to combine
4. Add water to bowl. Many recipes say add slowly. This is not necessary. Add almost all of it. You will know you have added the right amount of liquid when all the loose flour is picked up into the dough ball automatically as you mix.
5. The dough should be slightly tacky, add small amounts of water or flour to adjust if necessary.
6. Knead briefly on lightly floured surface, about 2 minutes, until dough is smooth. This should really be pretty brief.
7. Return dough to bowl and let stand, covered with damp paper towel/cloth for 15 minutes
8. Divide into five golf ball sized dough balls
9. Let them rest, covered with the towel, for five minutes. This would be a good time to start heating the pan
10. Heat pan on high heat. This is the really critical part. If it's a cast iron skillet, the pan should really be just on the edge of smoking. Too low temp leaves you with tough, crappy tortillas (sorry about that dad) *
11. Working with one dough ball at a time:
   a. Flatten with the palm of your hand into a thick disc about 3-4" across
   b. Roll out dough (kinda like a pie crust?) until you have a tortilla about 6-7" around. If you are like me it will be highly irregular.
   c. Place in pan. cook for 30 seconds on one side; it should start to bubble and have brown spots on it after 30 seconds; if it doesn't, temp is too low.
   d. Flip and cook reverse side for 30 seconds.
   e. Put aside and cover loosely

You can work on rolling out the next tortilla while the first is cooking to make the cooking process go quickly. I have done two batches in the past two days and they are fantastic. The dough really doesn't need to be worked at all, the ingredients combine very easily with a small amount of mixing and kneading.

Tortilla Dough Balls

In the Pan


If you make 5 tortillas, they are just under 100 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and less that 0.05 grams of saturated fat, 0 preservatives and infinitely better than store-bought.

Happy Taco Tuesday everyone!

* I'm assuming they made tortillas one night during my dad's visit to Brooklyn and that they turned out "crappy" for said reason.


Happy New Year Ya'll

When a cookie created by The Ms. Paula Dean arrived in my inbox as one of Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies holiday emails, I knew I had to try it- Chocolate Butter Gooey Cookies. Only three main ingredients are in it: moist chocolate cake mix, cream cheese, and can you guess the last one?

So I figured one last indulgent sweet recipe was in order for the last hoorah of 2010- New Years Eve, plus it didn't matter that I had no free time, because this recipe is semi-homemade :)

Paula's Chocolate Butter Gooey Cookies
  • 1- 18 oz moist chocolate cake mix
  • 1- 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
  • powdered sugar for rolling
Have ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer or a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Mix in the instant coffee and cake mix. Let the cookie dough chill in the fridge for a couple of hours (otherwise it's too sticky to roll). Roll the chilled dough into balls and roll in a bowl of powdered sugar. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 11-12 minutes. Cookies will stay soft and gooey! Let cool completely- The flavor of the cookie greatly improves after they have been out of the oven for a few hours.

Courtesy Foodnetwork.com
No personal picture, we were too busy celebrating in beautiful snowy Tahoe!

From my kitchen to yours!