Category Archives: Bars

Brookies

Brook BloomBrooke Bloom enjoying a Brookie

“Time and the Conways” opened on October 10 and I’m a little behind in my posting — this recipe was from their last Wine and Unwind in the rehearsal space before going to the theatre.

“Brookies” are that classic  combination of  brownie batter and cookie dough (get it?  Brownie + Cookie = Brookie.)  James made these with a nod to Brooke Bloom who plays Madge Conway.  Brooke is also a new mom who is juggling being in a Broadway show and having a newborn baby.   I had the good fortune to see the show this past Sunday, enjoy Wine and Unwind with the cast and crew, and interview Brooke.  Can I just say that she is amazing?

First, her baby is three months old.  That means she started rehearsals four weeks after giving birth.  Can you imagine?  I can’t.  “I auditioned when I was nine months pregnant,”  she told me.  “I really did it as a lark because who could have thought I looked right for the role then?”  Well, Rebecca Taichman for one!

“When I got the call, I thought that there’s no way I can do this.  I’m breastfeeding, the baby is just a month old — it’s impossible.  But I’m blessed with a very supportive husband, and my mother has also been a huge help.  The producers even gave me a dressing room to use as my nursery so I could feed the baby during tech.”  Wow, it sounds like Sweden or something over there at the American Airlines Theater!  But isn’t that the way we SHOULD be treating working mothers?

Okay, I’m off my soapbox.  Here’s the recipe for Brookies — enjoy!

Brookies

Brookies

Ingredients:

Cookie Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Superfine sugar for dusting

Brownie Layer:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and then sprinkle the bottom with a thin layer of superfine sugar.
In a large bowl, beat  together the softened butter, light brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.   Add 1 egg; beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Whisk 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking soda together in another bowl. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is combined. Stir chocolate chips into dough. Pat dough down into the bottom of the prepared baking pan to cover completely.
Stir 1 cup white sugar, melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together in a bowl; add 2 eggs and beat well. Mix cocoa powder into butter mixture until well-combined. Stir 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt into cocoa mixture until batter is combined.
Pour brownie batter over cookie dough and spread to cover completely.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brookies comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Anna Camp and Gabriel Ebert enjoying a little Wine and UnwindAnna Camp (Hazel Conway)  and Gabriel Ebert (Alan Conway) enjoying a little Wine and Unwind 

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Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Pic 4

This week one of the INDECENT Co-Producers hosted the Wine and Unwind. Let’s welcome Sarahbeth Grossman and her family recipe for Mocha Brownies into the Backstage Baker Club!!! Sarahbeth was also one of the producers on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and on ANN.

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Ingredients:

2/3 cups butter
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Method:

Melt butter, coffee and chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from heat.  Stir in ingredients in the order listed.  Beat at high speed for 30 seconds (batter will turn lighter brown in color.) Pour into greased 9×11 pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min.

Butter Cream Frosting:
Melt and heat 4 tablespoons of butter until light brown and frothy (do not burn).  Beat in 3 cups of confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 3 Tablespoons of cream or milk.  Stir til smooth then spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into squares after frosting sets.


Pic 1
From left to right: musician Matt Darriau, actor Tom Nelis, Baker, co-Producer Sarahbeth Grossman and her Mocha Brownies, actor Max Gordon Moore

Pic 2
Actor Rich Topol who plays Lemml and a Wine and Unwind guest

Pic 3
Tom Nelis, special guest Vivienne Benesch, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in North Carolina and Max Gordon Moore

Sadie Thompson Brownies (now with more cherry!)

The Backstage Baker has gone Hollywood!  Well, sort of.  He’s in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater stage managing a new musical called Rain.  (Read more about it here.)

It seems only fitting, and just a little bit naughty, to share this recipe for Cherry Brownies, herewith renamed “Sadie Thompson Brownies,” that James served at his first Wine and Unwind for the cast and creatives of Rain at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

Now Rain has had a long and storied history both onstage and on film.  Based on a scandalous 1921 short story written by Somerset Maugham about a prostitute named Sadie Thompson and the missionary who rapes her (okay, I’m taking gigantic liberties with the intricate plot)  it first premiered as a Broadway show in 1923 with Jeanne Eagels starring as Sadie Thompson. (Lee Strasberg called her Sadie “One of the great performances of my theater-going experience . . .  An inner, almost mystic flame engulfed Eagels and it seemed as if she had been brought up to some new dimension of being.”  This from the man known as the Father of Method Acting!)  In 1928, Gloria Swanson produced and starred in the silent picture version called Sadie Thompson.  Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth also starred in later iterations of this story.

It’s a plum, er, a cherry of a role!

(For those of you who want to know, the wine was a Sangiovese with a hint of cherry.)

Sadie Thompson Brownies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Grease a 9 x13 inch pan and then dust with cocoa powder for extra chocolatey-ness. (You can use flour instead if you prefer.)

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. IT will get thick!  Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the cherries. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Cherry Brownies1
The actor Tally Sessions who plays Alec MacPhail. Costume research in the background.

CherryBrownies2
The director Barry Edelstein

CherryBrownies3
The actress Betsy Morgan who plays Louisa MacPhail and the pan of disappearing brownies. She was recently in Michael John LaChiusa’s FIRST DAUGHTER SUITE at The Public.

CherryBrownies4
Associate Music Director Tim Splain, Actor Jeremy Davis who plays Jo, and book writer Sybille Pearson. Scenic ground plans on the back wall.

 

Sophie’s Baklava

Sophie Ann CarusoSophia Ann Caruso and a pan of Baklava she made for the cast and crew of LAZARUS. Notice the large bag of Carnation Instant Milk behind her … that was part of the mixture for her angel blood at the end of the show.  

Our Backstage Baker’s most recent show, LAZARUS, closed on January 20, 2016, and what a run it was.  I was lucky enough to see the show just before it opened.  And (I am so sorry to admit this now) I frankly didn’t get it.  In fact, I didn’t get it to the extent that I was wildly annoyed by the show.  I liked the music, the production was impeccable, and the cast of supremely talented actors did yeoman’s work.  But I felt that all they were doing was presenting a pretentious, self-indulgent show designed to trick the audience into liking it just because David Bowie was connected to it.  “Emperor’s new clothes”  I thought, when I read all the respectful reviews.

But I saw it before the news of David Bowie’s death changed everything.  Learning that he had created this show while he was slowly approaching the end of his life suddenly made everything snap into place.  My perception of the show literally transformed in that moment when I understood the context of its creation.   And that moment was, in itself, another puff of theatricality, of life, for a show that had been seen weeks earlier and filed away.  It added dense layers to a project that had previously been seen as just an exasperating piece of performance art accompanied by some catchy tunes.

So, I can’t let LAZARUS go without posting this gorgeous recipe for baklava.  Somehow baklava, that sticky, heavily layered Greek pastry, is the perfect pastry-metaphor for this show. (Wikipedia even tells me that that word baklava comes from the Mongolian which means “to tie or wrap up.”)  I won’t beat you over the head with an explanation, (I mean “pastry-metaphor” is already pushing it,) but if you were lucky enough to see LAZARUS, I think you’ll know what I mean.  (If not, you can always download the cast album soon and perhaps get a sense of what I’m talking about.)

This recipes comes from the ethereal Sophie Ann Caruso who played The Girl — the angel who tries to save the lead character, Thomas Newton, and bring him home, but ends up dying center stage in a pool of snow white blood.  Yeah, it was that sort of show.

Sophia’s Baklava

Ingredients:
for orange honey syrup
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 medium orange (reserve the halves)
3/4 cup honey

for pastry and filling
1 lb phyllo pastry sheets
1 cup melted butter (that’s two sticks)
2 cups whole walnuts
1 cup unsalted pistachios. plus more roughly chopped for garnish
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (scant)

Method:

for the syrup
In medium saucepan stir together the sugar, OJ and 3/4 cup water.  Add the juiced halves.

Set saucepan over medium hear and bring to a boil. Stir often until sugar is dissolved.

Stir in honey and lower heat to medium low. Simmer 7-10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Pour the hot syrup through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Press firmly on the solids to get any liquid, then discard the solids.

Allow mixture to cool 30 minutes at room temperature before moving bowl to refrigerator to cool completely.

for the pastry
Position a rack on the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, then set aside.

Cut phyllo to fit pan snugly and cover stack with a damp dish cloth. Lay one sheet of phyllo in pan and gently brush with melted butter. **NOTE:  keep stirring the melted butter during this process so the solids don’t separate.**   Add a second sheet and brush with more butter. Repeat with six more sheets.

Pulse about half the walnuts and pistachios with sugar and cinnamon in a food processor until they are course crumbs. Pulse the rest of the nuts. Sprinkle an even layer of nuts over the buttered phyllo.

Layer and butter another four sheets of phyllo and sprinkle them with nuts. Repeat this step twice. You will have used 20 sheets of dough.

Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and butter and layer another 8 sheets of phyllo. You will have used 28 sheets.

Brush butter over top layer, cover pan and refrigerate 10 minutes.

Take pan out of refrigerator. Carefully cut the layered dough with a sharp knife diagonally into 1 1/2 inch rectangles. Cut diagonally the other way to make diamond shaped pieces. Be careful not to shift the phyllo sheets while cutting.
Bake for 45-55 minutes until the pastry is lightly bronzed.

While the baklava is still hot pour half of the cold syrup evenly over the top. Allow the syrup a few minutes to seep into the pastry. Pour the remaining syrup over the pastry.
Garnish with roughly chopped pistachios. Set it aside to cool before serving. Ideally it should sit 8 hours to let the flavors meld (but 4 hours will do if you are impatient).

Nutty Naughty Bars

Naught Bars

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice,
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is coming to town!

 I think naughty is the way to go, don’t you?

After a brief hiatus, the Backstage Baker returns with an indulgent treat suitable for the season.  He served them last week at the first Wine and Unwind for the cast and crew of Lazarus, the new musical currently on at the New York Theater Workshop.  By David Bowie and Enda Walsh, directed by Ivo Van Hove and starring Michael C. Hall, it’s based on the novel “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”  Let’s just say Book of Mormon it ain’t!  But go see it, if you can get tickets.  (Which you can’t because it’s sold out.)  Maybe it’ll move to Broadway . . .

James tells me that this recipe comes from his cousin Patti who lives in Ghana.  Here are her notes:
Be sure to add macadamia nuts cut in half, and whole or pieces of
cashews to the mix. I add a bit more vanilla than they mention. These
bars are good without the nuts, but when I make them with nuts, people
are actually rolling their eyes and moaning when they bite in.
Cambodians and Africans too,  flip for these bars. My driver gobbles
them, so I have to freeze half as soon as they cool, or I wouldn’t
have any for myself.

Life is different in Ghana, no?

Naughty Bars

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup combination of macadamia nuts and cashews

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter and set aside.

In a large microwave-safe glass bowl, melt the butter on high for 30 seconds (or until butter is almost completely melted), covering the bowl with a paper towel to avoid splatters.

Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, mix in the brown sugar and stir until combined. Add the baking powder, salt and vanilla — mix well. Gradually add the flour —the batter will be stiff – and mix until completely incorporated. Whisk the eggs well in a small bowl, and then add to the batter, mixing well one last time.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan (a spatula works well for this) and bake until golden around the edges and the center is still soft, about 30 minutes.

DO NOT OVER BAKE!

Let cool completely before cutting into small squares. They go together quickly and there are NEVER any left over!

Michael Esper
Michael Esper who plays Valentine enjoying some naughtiness

 

Cristin MillotiCristin Milioti who play Elly tasting the Naughty Bars.

Raspberry Almond Bars

Raspberry Almond Bars

I’ve blogged more than 50 recipes, the vast majority of which come directly from James our Backstage Baker, and I cannot believe that I haven’t already blogged this recipe.  It is a terrible oversight on my part because this is one of my very favorites, and a staple in my personal pantheon of baked goods.   These bars are always popular and always disappear first from any dessert table! Do try them for your next church social or PTA bake sale.

James baked these early Sunday morning (before a 1pm matinee!  Who does a 1pm matinee?) to the delight of the Hamilton cast.

Poor Jersey had to wait for her walk until they were cooling . . .

Jersey

Raspberry Almond Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1 package vanilla chips (10 or 12 oz)
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9″ x 9″ pan.

1.   In a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup vanilla chips.  DO NOT STIR.

2.  In  small bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Gradually add sugar.  Stir in chip mixture and almond extract.

3.  Combine flour and salt.  Add to egg mixture just until combined.  Spread half of this batter in your pre-greased pan.  Bake at 325* for 15 – 20 minutes.

4.  In a small saucepan over low heat, melt jam then spread over warm crust.  Stir remaining chips into batter and drop by teaspoonfuls on top of jam layer.  Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Cool thoroughly on wire rack before you even attempt to cut into bars.  (I can never wait, and my bars always looks ragged.  Don’t be like me.  WAIT!)

Daveed

Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) digging in

Anthony Ramos

Anthony Ramos (Laurens/Philip Hamilton) achieving nirvana

Betsy Struxness

Betsy Struxness (Ensemble) posing with what’s left

Nirvana Bars (Gluten-free)

Nirvana Bars
These may well have been the biggest hit at any Wine and Unwind ever.

Leslie Odom Jr
Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr) enjoying Nirvana

These bars are so simple to make, and are gluten-free AND can easily be made dairy-free/vegan as well.  They’re win win win for any gathering.   Just don’t try to reduce coconut milk and sugar yourself because this is what happens:

Nirvana Oops!

Actually, the photo doesn’t do the tragedy credit — James tried to make the first batch vegan, but didn’t have any sweetened condensed coconut milk on hand.  So ever the problem solver, he tried reducing coconut milk and sugar down into a thick, syrupy vegan dulce de leche sort of thing.  But it was late and after about an hour and a half of cooking and stirring, he just poured it on the crust.  Only a few middle pieces didn’t burn!  I only share this so that you know that even the Backstage Baker has his share of baking tragedies.  Luckily, he lives in New York City and can get anything at anytime — yes, even sweetened condensed coconut milk at 2am — so he was able to make a fresh batch.

Thayne
Ensemble member Thayne Jasperson helping himself to a piece, with Daveed Diggs, who plays Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, in the background opening champagne.

Nirvana Bars

(inspired by The Gluten Free Goddess)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or vegan buttery stick, such as Earth Balance
1 1/2 cups gluten-free chocolate cookies, processed into crumbs  (I used Tate’s)
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark, your choice)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped roasted almonds
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (if you want to make this vegan, substitute coconut sweetened condensed milk here.  But DO NOT try to reduce regular coconut milk and sugar because it won’t work!)

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2.  Place the butter in a 9×13-inch baking pan and set it in the oven until the butter is melted. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

3.  Toss the cookie crumbs in the buttered pan until they are completely coated with butter.  Press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Pour the condensed milk on top of the cookie layer. Then add a layer of chocolate chips, a layer of coconut, a layer of almonds. Using the back of a spatula, press the mixture firmly into the pan.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes, until set.

5.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill thoroughly before cutting.  James drizzled chocolate over the top for an extra festive fillip.

Makes 15 to 20 bars.