Carmelitas, Or How I Was Told to Bribe my Coworkers

A few coworkers and I were out to lunch, welcoming a new member of the team. The subject came up that I liked to bake, to which the woman on my left said “You know, you haven’t been baking much at all out of the “Stuff we want Liesl to make” Pinterest board. I think that you don’t really love us any more.” One of my leaders was also at the table and said, “Yeah, your year-end review is coming up. I think you need to show us the love.”

So, I got ‘gently persuaded’ to bake something and bring it in to work. Plus, we’re all facing the end of our fiscal year, so we’re all a little stressed out.

Original recipe is here: http://luluthebaker.com/2010/10/the-tale-of-the-carmelitas.html

Here’s What You Need
32 caramel squares
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

And Here’s What You Do
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
4. Remove pan from oven and evenly layer the chocolate chips over crust then pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel.
5. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
6. Seriously, don’t try to cut them before they are cool. They will still be a little wobbly when they come out of the oven and will firm up as they cool.

What I Did
I really need to read recipes all the way through before charging blindly ahead (but, hey! Where’s the fun in being prepared?) I thought that one recipe would be enough to cover a 9X13 pan. So, I had to improvise and do another 1/2 recipe to try and cover the 9×13 pan. They turned out ok.

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Oh yeah….

However, here it is a week later, and I’m making another pan for Scott. This time, I had all the ingredients that I needed for a full batch, and I can already tell that they are going to turn out better than the last batch did.

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The coworkers loved them! I ended up bringing a few home for Scott to take to work, but I don’t think that actually happened. Because really, they are the perfect thing to pick you up after a long hard day at work. Or on a Saturday. Or a Sunday…

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

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Bake Sale Part 1 – Cinnamon Roll Bars

Ahh…the bake sale.  Perpetually the go-to money maker for all things.  At work, we generally use it to raise money for a cause.  We’ve raised money for Share our Strength (The Great American Bake Sale), and this time around, we used it to raise money for our back to school drive to help fill backpacks with school supplies that are distributed to children whose families do not have the money for everything they might need for the school year.  This year, we raised $560, which will definitely fill a lot of backpacks!

This post is the first in a series of recipes of what I made for the bake sale.  These cinnamon roll bars seemed to be the biggest hit of everything that I made.  I got more compliments out of these than anything else!

Original recipe is here:  http://blissfulwhimsy.blogspot.com/2012/03/cinnamon-roll-cookie-bars.html

What You Need

1 box yellow cake mix

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon

Icing

2 tablespoons milk

2 cups powdered sugar

 

And Here’s What You Do

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all bar ingredients and pour into a greased 9X13 baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.  While baking the bars, mix together the icing ingredients.  Once the bars are removed from the oven, pour the icing over the top.  Let cool in the pan.

What I did

I followed the ingredients to the letter, with the exception of substituting soy milk for dairy milk.  But, that was the only change that I made.  The batter for the bars is not so much poured in as it is pressed into the corners and evenly distributed with a rubber spatula.

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There was a corner that was a little wonky, so I decided that would be the “quality control” sample.  I instantly loved the warm, gooey, slightly granular texture of the bars, a bit like biting into brown sugar that has been hard pressed into a bar.  But with so much delightful cinnamon flavor!  I shared my sample with Scott, who also commented on the uniqueness of the texture.  I wish that mine had turned out a bit more like the original recipe picture.  There’s a lovely thick layer of frosting on those, though due to the intensely sweet nature of the bars, it might have been a little overpowering.

Until Next Time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes

Candy Bar Cookie Bars

More bars this week!  I’m really getting to like trying these bar recipes.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup butter

¼ cup dark or light corn syrup

¼ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 ½ cups quick cooking rolled oats

1 12oz package semisweet chocolate pieces

1 cup butterscotch-flavor pieces

2/3 cup peanut butter

1 cup chopped peanuts

 

And here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 375.  In a medium saucepan heat and stir brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup over medium-low heat until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the ¼ cup peanut butter and vanilla; stir until smooth.

For crust, place oats in a large bowl.  Pour brown sugar mixture over oats, stirring gently until combined.

Press oat mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.  Bake for 10 to 12 minute or until edges are light brown.  Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack.

In the same saucepan, heat and stir chocolate pieces and butterscotch pieces over low heat until smooth.

Stir in the 2/3 cup peanut butter until smooth.

Sprinkle half of the peanuts over crust.  Slowly pour chocolate mixture over the peanuts, spreading evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining peanuts over the top.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack until bars are firm.  Cut into 1-inch squares.

What I did:

I followed the recipe exactly as stated.  At one point I scrubbed up like I was prepping for surgery and dug right in to the oat mixture to press it into the bottom of the pan.  There is something oddly satisfying and comforting about squishing warm and sticky oats into a pan.  I know, there’s something wrong with me.  And the smell of toasting oats in the oven is one that cannot be matched.

I was fine with everything until it came to melting the chocolate and butterscotch in the saucepan.  I had scraped all of the brown sugar mixture out of it, so it was basically clean.  I’m not sure that I should have done that because the chocolate and butterscotch pieces did not melt well.  The mixture looked a bit…dry.  Thinking back, I think it was a lack of some sort of binding agent (like butter or any sort of fat).  It should have been ok with the peanut butter, but it wasn’t enough for my satisfaction.  It was fine enough to work with, but I would have liked to have seen it smoother.  There was a bit of it left clinging to the edges of the pan when I was done, and it wasn’t to be moved but a rubber spatula at all.  Perhaps I should not have scraped the pan so much when I was putting the mixture in the oats…

I had fun hauling out my big knife again, this time to make short work of the peanuts.  They are surprisingly easy to chop up!

This is definitely a bar that needs to be completely cooled before you eat it.  When they were completely cooled to room temperature, they came out very gooey and fell apart easily.  So, I stuck them into the fridge, and they’ve been living there ever since.

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I’m not incredibly impressed by the way they came out.  Scott cut them up once they had chilled out in the fridge for a while, and said that they were really difficult to get out of the pan.  But, he LOVES them!  And they’ve gotten rave reviews from his coworkers.  He has asked me to make them again, so I will have to try again with some modifications.

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes!

Chocolate Walnut Coconut Bars – Dessert for a Lazy Day

Chocolate Walnut Coconut Bars

Bars are not cookies, nor are they brownies.  They are delightfully in the middle of the road.  Brownies could be classified as bars, as they are baked in a tray or a large dish, rather than portioned out on a cookie sheet.  Bars normally consist of layering ingredients in a pan and baking.  Hence the reason I call this dessert for a lazy day.  I made it even lazier than the recipe initially calls for.

Ok, enough with the boring dessert classifications.

I made this recipe because as I was thumbing through the stack, this was the only one that made my fiance (Scott) raise his eyebrows and go, “Hmmm” (except for the Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter cookies, but we had peanut butter cookies last week.  Jeebus, he has a one-track mind).  Of course, he does eat most of the things that I bake, so therefor, I cater to his tastes.  For the most part!  He’s a rock-awesome baker too, so there may be a post or two containing things that he’s made in the future.

One more thing – I will always post the recipes as I find them, including all brand names and optional ingredients.  Sometimes I will follow them exactly.  Usually I won’t go with the brands that they state in the recipe unless that brand is the only one that makes that particular ingredient.

 

Onward to the recipe!

Here’s the ingredients:

11 Honey Maid Honey Grahams, crushed (about 1 ½ cups crumbs)

¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine, melted

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, chopped

1 ½ cups Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut

½ cups Planter’s Walnut Pieces

½ cup raisins

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

 

And here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 X 9 pan with foil, leaving some foil over the edges to easily lift the bars out of the pan once they are baked. Grease the foil lining.  Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter until combined, then press evenly onto the bottom of the pan.

Spread chocolate, coconut, walnuts, and raisins over the crust (in that order).  Pour sweetened condensed milk over mixture in pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool in pan.  Lift out of pan onto cutting board, using foil handles.  Cut into bars to serve.

It says it makes 32.  I didn’t count to see how many I cut.  Sorry.

 

What I did instead:

So, I did a bit of changing to this recipe.  I did not put raisins in it.  It just seemed weird with all the other ingredients.  I substituted a ½ cup of peanut butter chips instead.  They don’t get all melty and disappear into the bar. They keep their shape completely.  And I had them in the cupboard.  You really didn’t think I would get away from peanut butter this week, did you?

I also used graham cracker crumbs instead of crushing the graham crackers.  I’ll use the crumbs quicker, and the work is already done for you.  See? Lazy.

I admit that I did use the Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate because sometimes I am a stickler for exactly following the recipes.  (No lazy?  What the heck?  You created MORE work?).  But chopping was really easy with a big sharp knife that we normally use for cutting up the sides of beef bought at Sam’s Club.  However, after tasting the end product, I think you would be completely fine using semi-sweet baking chips like the ones you buy for cookies. (Ha! Redemption!)  And you will avoid having your hands covered in chocolate.  Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

I did not use the Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut.  You can use any brand of sweetened coconut.  I didn’t use Planter’s Walnut Pieces either.  We use a lot of walnuts, and we’d just been to Sam’s…so generic five pound bag of walnuts it is!  And they freeze well.  Yes, I did have to break them up a little because they were walnut halves, but still…

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After a few minutes out of the oven, these were still a little on the hot side and still pretty gooey.  But the flavor was good.  After they had cooled (cause you have to test them again!), they were much firmer, and all the layers of flavors really started to come out.  Scott said that he would like to have more graham cracker crust on the bottom.  I had enough of a crust, so it would be your call if you decide to add more.

A few notes on ingredients: 

I think I have an addiction to sweetened condensed milk.  I LOVE using it in recipes.  I love that most bar recipes call for it as the last layer.  It’s the glue that holds everything together.  If you’ve never made bars like this before, and are weird-ed out by the fact that you pour it directly out of the can and it pools on top of all the other layers before it is baked like some strange science experiment gone wrong, fear not!  It melts down into the bottom layers and makes everything super moist while baking.  Think of it as body lotion for the rest of the ingredients, cause that’s kinda what it looks like.

I never use margarine in baking.  That stuff is one molecule away from plastic.  Butter comes from cows.  Margarine comes from a laboratory.  No brainer.

Oh, and I use generic store brands wherever I can find it.  It’s cheaper, and normally the same quality.  I know, lazy AND cheap.  But, to my defense, I normally make fudge with Ghirardelli chocolate, so you can’t call me cheap in all cases.

Final decision – definitely a make again!  And the ingredients are very customizable!

Peace, Love, and Cupcakes!