Cranberry Shortbread Bars

What's_Baking_BadgeEvery month I think things are going to settle down, and every month seems to get busier and more chaotic than the last. I can’t tell you how many times I earmarked a day on the calendar to make bars for this month’s What’s Baking? theme, how many times I pulled butter out of the fridge to soften only to put it back in the fridge later that day.

Thankfully, this month’s hostess, Nichole from Cookaholic Wife, was completely understanding when I emailed her this past weekend to see if I could get this post out a few days late. My in-laws, husband and daughter had just went to the movies and my Little Man was down for a nap, so I was going to whip up the bars, start this post, and hope the photos came out well. Nichole had agreed to to my plan just minutes before and the butter was melted… and Little Man woke up.

Needless to say, I managed to get the bars baked, photographed them before the family could eat them, and here I am, night before it’s due, writing my post. Big thanks to Nichole for letting me submit late!

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

These bars are part of my Operation Clean Out Freezer. Spring cleaning. My two freezers is in desperate need of it. (There’s inspiration for ya!)

Every year, I stash an extra bag of cranberries in my freezer for some recipe that is sure to strike my fancy during the year. As I was baking this, I couldn’t help thinking that this would be a great recipe for fall. The tart cranberries have a touch of sweetness from the sugar (and of course, the slightly sweet shortbread crust and streusel). This recipe is halved from the version in Fine Cooking Magazine, and rewritten, but not heavily adapted.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Adapted from Fine Cooking, Dec 2006 (p. 75)

Makes 16 Bars

Ingredients:

  • 11 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries

Make Crust: Line an 8×8 inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine unsalted butter, 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. sugar, and salt. Whisk in egg yolk. Transfer 2/3-3/4 of it to the prepared pan, pressing along the bottom to cover. Use a fork to prick all over. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.

While crust is in fridge, move a baking rack to upper third of the oven and preheat to 325F.

Bake the Crust & Prep the Rest: Remove from fridge and bake crust for 18-22 minutes, until crust is set and edges are beginning to brown.

While crust cooks, combine remaining dough with 2 Tbs. sugar, crumbling with clean fingers. Set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, combine remaining 1/2 c. sugar, cranberries, and 2 Tbs. water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the sugar doesn’t burn. Lower heat slightly and continue to simmer until cranberries break down and mixture becomes a thick syrup, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When crust is ready, remove oven and allow to cool slightly. Increase temperature on oven to 350F.

Assemble and Bake the Bars: When crust has cooled slightly, top with cranberry mixture, spreading to cover. Crumble streusel topping throughout.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and set. Do not overcook.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before cutting.

Serve at room temperature.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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Mini Zucchini Quiche

What's_Baking_BadgeI feel like I just joined the What’s Baking? group and all of a sudden, it was my turn to choose the theme. Since my hubby and I have been trying to eat well (in other words, avoid the sweets) and we’ve been spending a lot of time entertaining around brunch time, I knew immediately that I wanted to go with quiche.

Unlike a frittata (my other go-to type of dish for brunch) which starts off being cooked stove-top and then is finished in the oven, a quiche is baked entirely in the oven. Quiche frequently are baked with a crust, but this time, I went with a crustless quiche, for something extra light. The zucchini was really not noticeable, making this a good recipe for picky eaters (my 3-year old daughter) and uses whole wheat flour for a nutritional boost. The star of this recipe is really whatever herb you choose to use in this recipe.

Come back next Wednesday (April 27) to see what other quiche recipes the What’s Baking? group has cooked up this month!

Mini Zuchini Quiche

Also pictured: fruit salad with mint and poppy seed vinaigrette.

Side Note: Quiche are also a wonderful, light option for a savory appetizer. I like to make mini quiche when entertaining a large crowd. Simple make ahead of time and warm in the oven before serving.

Mini Zucchini Quiche

Adapted from Weight Watchers

Makes 3-4 dozen mini quiche

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray (optional, depends on your muffin tin)
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 small zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil or rosemary, finely chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. If you have a silicon muffin mold, use that, placed on a baking sheet. Mini Zucchini QuicheIf not, spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. (May need to cook in batches.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cheese, baking powder, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Add diced zucchini, onion, and herbs, tossing to coat in flour. Set aside.

In a small bowl, gently whisk together eggs and olive oil just to combine. Stir into dried ingredients until just incorporated.

Portion into prepared muffin cups – a heaping tablespoon per muffin cup.

Bake for 15 minutes, until quiche are golden brown and quiche are cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

Serve hot.

Peanut Butter S’mores Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Peanut Butter S'mores Bars

What's_Baking_BadgeI was pretty excited when Joanna of Kosher Kitchen chose Baking with S’mores Variations as the theme for this month’s What’s Baking? To me, s’mores are a summer dessert. We enjoy sitting outside around a fire pit, toasting marshmallows and making old-fashioned s’mores. I love the flavors, but apart from some s’mores cupcakes (which are amazing, by the way), I haven’t played with the flavors too much. I was thrilled to be able to try out one of the many s’mores-inspired recipes I’ve bookmarked over the past few years.

I, of course, couldn’t help but to choose what might be the most sugar-laden dessert I could find – complete with peanut butter baking chips, two types of candy, and a jar of marshmallow fluff. The photo really does not do these bars justice – they’re super rich and stayed soft, even after a few days on the counter. They definitely we a good start to the workweek.

Peanut Butter S’mores Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Adapted from Mom On Timeout

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients:

  • 12 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 c. light brown sugar
  • ½ c. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. graham cracker crumbs (from about 4 graham crackers)
  • 1 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. peanut butter baking chips
  • 7 full-sized Hershey’s chocolate bars
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow fluff
  • 1 c. quartered Reese’s miniatures

Make the Dough: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until well combined. With the mixer still running on medium speed, add in peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla – all one at a time. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

Reduce speed to low and one at a time, add graham cracker crumbs, oats, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and flour. Scrape down sides of the bowl as necessary. Finally, mix in peanut butter baking chips.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Assemble & Bake: Remove dough from fridge. Pour ⅔ of the dough into the prepared pan. Spread into an even layer. Top with Hershey’s bars, then marshmallow fluff.

Stir Reese’s miniatures into remaining dough, and drop onto fluff layer. The dough won’t completely cover the fluff.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven, and let cool completely before cutting.

Serve at room temperature (or, as my hubby preferred, microwave for 10 seconds to make extra warm and gooey) and store in an airtight container.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I was super excited when this month’s What’s Baking? theme turned out to be Baking with Fruit, chosen by Jaida at Sweet Beginnings. The weather is beautiful and the local farms are opening up for picking. There’s nothing better than fruit fresh from the farm.

While it’s a little early for blueberry picking here, I had a stash in the freezer that I wanted to use up to make room for more farm-fresh fruit. While these bars called for fresh blueberries, my flash-frozen berries worked just fine. (I’d caution against purchased bags of fruit, which would have a higher water content than the flash-frozen ones I used.)

These bars were really out of this world – I don’t think I can say enough about them. The photos, with my messy cutting, don’t do them justice. The bars are super soft and just slightly sweet. I was surprised at the subtle sweetness of the crust/crumble and the bright, fresh blueberry flavor. These are the sort of dessert you can easily return to for seconds, thirds, and fourths. Which I did until I finally wrapped up several pieces to take to a friend.

In the future, I’d consider serving these warmed slightly, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Blueberry Shortbread Bars

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Adapted from All Recipes via Smitten Kitchen

Makes a 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbs. pieces
  • zest and juice of one lemon, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 c. fresh blueberries (4 pints)

Prep: Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.

Make the Crust/Crumble: In a medium bowl, combine 1 c. sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut butter, lemon zest and egg into the dry ingredients. Dough will be crumbly.

Make the Blueberry Filling: In another bowl, stir together lemon juice, remaining 1/2 c. sugar and cornstarch. Gently fold in blueberries.

Assemble: Pour half of flour mixture into prepared baking pan. Gently pat into an even layer. Top with blueberry mixture and sprinkle evenly with remaining flour mixture.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until top is slightly browned.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. (Smitten Kitchen recommends chilling bars so that it’s easier and cleaner to cut)

Store, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature or in the fridge. At room temp, the bars kept fresh for at least 3 days (at which point I had eaten or gifted the entire pan).

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

What's_Baking_BadgeThis month’s What’s Baking? theme was chosen by Nicole from Seven Ate Nine – Bake With Garlic. At first I was excited by the theme, the chance to do something a little more savory. But then I started worrying about what to make. With Easter entertaining on the agenda, I decided to accompany my usual Beef Wellington with fresh bread, inspired by this month’s theme. The “baking” was twofold – first roasting the garlic until soft and sweet, flavoring good olive oil, and then using the two components to bake into bread.

I’ve made fresh focaccia bread once before and was impressed with both the ease and the wonderful flavor. This recipe produced the same results. Like most fresh breads, it’s takes a little while to make, due to the rising time, but the result is worth the effort. (For your convenience, I added the time required for each step in bold, at the step, in case you need to break up the steps or plan your day around them.)

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Foccacia

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

Adapted from Kitchen Konfidence

Makes a 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. good-quality olive oil
  • 1 large head of garlic, top cut off
  • 2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (from 4 springs)
  • flakey sea salt

Roast the Garlic and Flavor the Olive Oil: Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place olive oil in a small oven-safe bowl. Add garlic, top-side down. Cover bowl with foil and cook until garlic is soft, 45-60 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing garlic from oil and removing garlic cloves from the skin, setting aside the cloves to use on the bread later. If needed, pour oil through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove solids. Set aside.

Time: 1 hour

Make the Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, gently stir warm water and yeast with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula to dissolve yeast. Allow to sit until the mixture begins to foam, about 5 minutes.

Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and fit with the dough hook. Add flour, fine sea salt, and 2 Tbs. roasted garlic olive oil. Mix on low speed, stopping periodically to scrape dough off hook, until mixture is smooth and slightly sticky, 10-15 minutes.

In a clean bowl, place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil. Add dough ball to bowl and turn to coat completely in oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. Dough should double in size, about 2 hours. (Note: In my house, I find that dough rises best when placed in the kitchen while I’m using the stove/oven or by my gas fireplace, left on. I apparently keep my house too cool for dough to rise easily without an additional heat source.)

Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours

Rest: Place 1 Tbs. reserved olive oil in a 9×13 baking dish (I used a Pyrex dish). Spread, ensuring bottom and sides are coated.

Uncover and punch down dough. Transfer to prepared baking dish, stretching so that it covers the entire dish. Cover again with clean towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Time: 45 minutes

Bake the Bread: When dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°F.

After dough has finished resting, use clean fingers to a dimple dough (pressing slightly with fingertips, all over). Brush with remaining roasted garlic olive oil (you may have some leftover) and add reserved garlic cloves. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and chopped rosemary.

Place in oven and immediately lower temperature to 375°F. Bake until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.

Allow to rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Time: 30 minutes + time to cool slightly (additional 15ish minutes)