This weekend was a very busy one in the kitchen. The hubby and I hosted an acoustic concert at a local photography studio and in my true fashion, I always feel the need to feed people. Well, since I met Ryan, at the same sort of acoustic event that he’s been hosting for years now, I felt the need to contribute to the cause. And, what better way to contribute than butter, flour, sugar and eggs?

I always go overboard and despite my efforts to plan something simple and easy, I ended up making 5 different cookies/bars and setting up a grand display. This led to many hours on my feet, in a hot kitchen, up to my elbows in dirty dishes and flour/sugar spills (I am a messy cook!). It was kind of crazy in the triple digit heat we’re experiencing. Especially since I opted to do two items that were not “hot weather friendly”. Either way, everything turned out delicious, despite some creeeeeeping caramel and white chocolate ganache. All the better to lick off your fingers, right?

Butterscotch Cashew Bars
From: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 t. kosher salt
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
11 ounces (1 bag) butterscotch chips
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1 T. plus 1 t. water
2 cups roasted salted whole cashews

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with parchment (the original text of the recipe gives a long and laborious description of this – my less sophisticated version worked just as well).

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar and salt on medium speed, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Decrease the speed to low, add the flour, and mix until just combined. Press the dough lightly into the bottom of prepared pan and poke holes all over with a fork. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust turns a golden color. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stir together the butterscotch chips, corn syrup and water and heat, stirring until the mixture comes to a simmer and the chips are melted. Remove from heat and pour the mixture evenly over pre-baked crust.

Sprinkle the cashews over the butterscotch caramel and return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove bars from pan and cut.

*I couldn’t find roasted cashews in my grocery store, so I went through the trouble of splitting the whole cashews into half and then dry-toasted them in a pan on the stove. I think it was way worth it.

Cappuccino Brownies
From: Bon Appetit Magazine, July 2009 issue

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c all purpose flour

6 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fold 16-inch long piece foil to 8×16 inch strip; place in 8x8x2 inch metal baking pan, leaving overhang on 2 sides. Repeat with another sheet of foil in opposite direction lining the pan completely. Spray foil with nonstick spray (*or, you can make it easy, like I did, and line the pan with parchment paper and a thin coating of Crisco. It works.).

Stir butter and unsweetened chocolate in heavy saucepan over very low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at at time. Whisk in espresso powder, vanilla, then salt; sift flour over and stir to blend well. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until puffed and dry looking and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 35 minutes; cool completely in pan on rack.

Place white chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate in bowl. Let stand 30 seconds, then stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. If necessary, microwave on low power in 10 second intervals until white chocolate is melted completely. Chill until ganache is thick but still slightly pourable, about 25 minutes. (It may just be me and the warm weather, but I felt it was too thin and that I could cut 1 tablespoon of the cream out).

Lift brownies from pan and place on parchment paper (or wax paper). Pour ganache onto center of brownies and spread to edges (some may drip over). Sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill until ganache is set, at least 2 hours.

Almond Bars
From: adapted from a recipe from Lynda Rollema, friend from church

3 c. Bisquick mix
2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 T. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. almond slivers

Combine Bisquick mix and sugar and then cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Add in beaten eggs and extract and mix until combined. Press mixture into a jell roll pan or 9 x 13 inch pan. Spring almond slivers on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Cut into squares before they cool completely.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
From: my family cookbook

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
24+ coin sized peanut butter cup candies

Combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. Cream butter and peanut butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and blend well. Add in flour mixture to creamed mixture slowly. Place dough in founded teaspoons (I use a small scoop) in lightly greased miniature muffin pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until puffed and light brown (do not over bake!). Remove from oven and press a candy cup into each cookie and press in firmly. Allow to cool and chocolate to set (usually in refrigerator).

The Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie
From: My adaptation on the recipe rumored to be the famous $250 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus Café, as told in the famous email chain letter. Either way, it’s a great cookie and it makes a huge batch.

5 c. quick oats oatmeal, blended to a fine powder with a food processor
3+ c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
2 c. butter
2 c. white sugar
2 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
3 t. vanilla
24 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
8 oz. milk chocolate bar, grated
3 c. chopped nuts *optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together blended oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla and blend well. Slowly mix in flour mixture and blend well. Blend/stir in chocolate chips, grated chocolate bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 6-10 dozen cookies.


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