Category Archives: Bars

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

PB bars

I just got back from a delightful 24 hours in Red Bank, New Jersey, where James is stage managing Moliere’s “School For Wives” at the Two River Theater.

Two River

The show runs through October 5 and I highly recommend getting out there if you can —  Robert Stanton is wonderful as always (I worked with him on my very first Equity show, A.R. Gurney’s “A Cheever Evening” back at the old Playwright’s Horizon theater.  He is one funny, funny man and a very fine actor!)   The rest of the cast is terrific too, director Mark Wing-Davy is inventive and irreverent as always, and the production values at this theater are truly first-rate.  (Plus, the theater is within walking distance of the train and Jon Bon Jovi’s community restaurant Soul Kitchen.)

Not to arrive empty-handed (yes, I always bring treats to every show I see) I brought a batch of these No-Bake Peanut Butter bars, having found the recipe on Facebook.  (No idea other than that who came up with this.)  These are so delicious and more-ish that I just had to get them out of the house.  The cast and crew seemed to agree, since they were all gone by the end of the show.

CArson Elrod
Carson Elrod, who plays Alain,  enjoying a pre-show sugar fix.

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients:

1 cup salted butter (melted)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter — natural, non-sweetened kind is best
1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Pour peanut butter mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.
3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second increments until almost melted. Stir chocolate and pour over the peanut butter mixture. Spread chocolate with a spatula. To even out chocolate, tap pan on the counter.
4. Refrigerate bars for one hour. Cut while bars are still cool. Enjoy

 

Julia Kulaya Wardrobe
Julia Kulaya, Wardrobe

Wine and Unwind — Raspberry Almond Bars

Image

I love this picture of James’ prop preset list — it’s American history boiled down into just a few, iconic things.  Puts it all into perspective one can grasp, doesn’t it?  (I also love that James laminates his preset list and physically checks off each item EVERY NIGHT.   Young stage managers take note and learn from a master!)

“All the Way” is winding down — last chance to see it is Sunday, June 29 so get your tickets now (if you can!)

For last week’s Wine and Unwind, James made one of my personal favorites — Raspberry-White Chocolate Almond Bars.  They manage to be decadent AND chocolate-free (it’s almost unimaginable that such a thing is possible.)  But their creamy sweetness is perfectly offset by the notes of raspberry and almond.  And the nutty crunch is exactly right — ooh, I may just have to make a batch right now!

 

Raspberry Almond Bars 2

Raspberry-White Chocolate Almond Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 package (10 – 12oz) white chocolate chips
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

*For a gluten-free option, substitute the following for the 1 cup of all-purpose flour:
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

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

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

3.  Combine flour and salt.  Add to egg mixture and stir just until combined.  Spread half of mixture in a greased, 9″ x 9″ pan.  Bake at 325* for 15 – 20 minutes (if you are making the gluten-free option, you may need to bake it longer.)

4.  While the crust is baking, heat jam in a small saucepan over low heat.  Spread jam over finished crust.  Stir remaining chips into batter and drop by tablespoons over jam layer.  Sprinkle with slice almonds and bake for 30 – 35 more minutes (again, you might need to bake it longer for the gluten-free version.)  You’ll know it’s ready when you stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.

5.  Cool on wire rack.  Wait to cut into bars until completely cool, otherwise it will fall to pieces and you’ll just have to shovel it all up with a fork.  Oops.

All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Jersey Boys Tony Good wishes

“Jersey Boys” cast and crew wishing their across the street neighbors good luck on Tony night!

“All the Way” represented at Broadway’s biggest awards show, bringing the Tonys for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actor home to 52nd Street.   Our Backstage Baker was at Radio City in his tux to enjoy the show and party until dawn.  (Okay, maybe not exactly dawn, but there was some party hopping happening!)

And on post-Tony Tuesday, James brought in a celebratory batch of  decadent “All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies.”  Enjoy!

All the (Milky) Way Brownies 1

All The (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients:

Brownie Layer

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

 Cheesecake Layer
16 oz cream cheese, softened (2 packs)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 bag chopped Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites (these are great because you don’t have to unwrap the individual candies.)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of  a 9/13 pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the paper.

1. With a mixer combine melted butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the cocoa and mix well. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined, do not over mix.

2. Set aside one cup of the brownie batter and smooth the rest into the 9×13 prepared pan

3. With your mixer  (cleaned off), begin making your cheesecake layer by beating cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

4. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie mixture and using a spatula, smooth it evenly over the brownie batter.

6. Sprinkle the chopped Milky Way Simple Caramel pieces evenly over cream cheese layer.

7. Using the reserved cup of brownie batter, drop spoonfuls over the top of the candy bar layer, scattering around.

8. Use your spatula or a butter knife to gently swirl the batters. This will combine the cream cheese layer and top brownies layer a bit, which covering the candies in batter. This does not need to be perfect.

9. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares (at least an hour).

I like these cold so I refrigerate after cooled. Any leftovers (if there are any leftovers) should be refrigerated.

 

 

Slutty Brownies

Slutty6

 

These are just the epitome of decadence.  I mean, brownies with a chocolate chip cookie AND an Oreo cookie layer????  I must admit I take issue with them being called “Slutty” Brownies (I mean, why not “Dirty Boy” or “Gigolo” Brownies??)  but that’s what they’re called, so . . .

Anyway, these are so good that the Backstage Baker made these twice — once for a Wine and Unwind and once for a social with the Jersey Boys company (the theaters are across the street from each other.  All Broadway is family!)

Slutty Brownies

Ingredients:

Cookie layer:
1½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1½ sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
Pinch of salt

1 package of Oreo cookies

Brownie layer:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling coffee
3/4 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
2½ cups sugar
1½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13″ brownie pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.
2.  For the cookie layer:  Mix the wet ingredients for the cookie layer (egg, butter, and vanilla) with the sugar until smooth.  Mix the rest of the cookie layer ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Stir into the wet ingredients in small increments into everything is well mixed.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into the pan and cover the entire bottom surface evenly.
3.  Add a layer of Oreo cookies on top of the chocolate chip cookie layer. As much of the surface should be covered as possible without overlapping cookies.
4.  For the brownie layer:  Whisk the cocoa powder into the boiling coffee until there are no clumps. Add the oil and butter, and again stir until smooth.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla, making sure the mixture before adding is cool enough the eggs will not cook. Once this is all smooth, stir in the sugar.Stir in the flour, salt, and mix until smooth.
5.  Pour the brownie batter all over the Oreos.
Bake for an hour. Allow to cool for two hours before serving.

 

Slutty1
More than just wine at WINE AND UNWIND

 

Slutty2
The layers

 

Slutty3
Susannah Schulman who plays Barb, along with a million other roles

 

Slutty4
The completed batch

 

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Actor Christopher Gurr enjoying a bite

 

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Layering the cookies

 

Slutty8
The cookie layer

 

Slutty9
Michael McKean enjoying a taste.

Secret Ingredient Brownies

TTK5Lest you think James has abandoned baking for (gah!) supermarket treats, just know that he has been swamped with rehearsals and tech and rehearsals and previews and rehearsals and . . .  Well, you get the picture.  Opening a Broadway show is a very time-consuming endeavor, and  A Time to Kill  is a big one with lots of pyrotechnics, a turntable and lots of light cues.  (Check out the Broadway trailer here.) Anyway, between it all, James has been practically living at the John Golden Theatre.  So he’s had little time for baking.  (Hopefully, after A Time to Kill  opens on October 20, James will be able to share some more recipes!)

But before all the madness with tech and rehearsals and previews began, James created the following recipe for the Company’s last Wine and Unwind in the rehearsal space.  There are a number of cast members who are gluten-free and/or vegan, which is quite the challenge.   But our Backstage Baker is not to be denied — he is all-inclusive!   Herewith, then, is a divine brownie recipe made with — drum roll please —  BLACK BEANS!!

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well)
2 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder- dutch or regular
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (Honey will work, but not for strict vegans.)
2 nunaturals stevia packs or 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips* (not optional. Omit at your own risk.)
Optional: more chips, for presentation

*  Enjoy Life is a good brand of vegan chips.

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan.

2. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.)   No seriously, keep blending.  Stir in the chips, then pour mixture into pan.  Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.

3.  Bake the black bean brownies for 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9-12 brownies.

TTK3

The happy cast getting ready to enjoy James’ treat!!

Write, Wine and Unwind

Mark Bittman Brownies

Our peripatetic Backstage Baker has returned to the city!  After enjoying a few days of downtime after “The Master Builder” closed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, James then drove eight hours north to stage manage  “The Romeo and Juliet Project” for the Chautauqua Theater Company.   (I hear it had a cast of 90 and used over 14 rehearsal spaces!)  Now, he’s back in town and already in pre-production for his next Broadway show, “A Time to Kill“.  It starts previews on September 28, so fingers crossed that James will have time for some rehearsal baking . . .

In the meantime, a friend of James’ is working on “The Laramie Project” at Ford’s Theatre.  As part of their Lincoln Legacy Project, Ford’s is presenting an exhibit called “Not Alone: The Power of Response” that recreates the 10,000+ pieces of mail that were received by the Shepard Family after Matthew’s murder.   James had been given a bunch of blank envelopes and needed people to help address them (they wanted as many different handwriting styles as possible.)

It’s a heavy, emotional project.   What better time for a “Write, Wine and Unwind” gathering?

James served summery peach Bellinis and a good red wine along with homemade brownies: “Because of a busy weekend schedule I needed to make something simple. One cookbook I could never live without is Mark Bittman’s HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING. It is a book that every home baker and chef should have. I opted for his brownie recipe. It is so easy and so delicious.   (Note that the melting chocolate technique is not from the recipe but the way I like to do it.)”

And folks dropped by all afternoon to enjoy the brownies and address envelopes to the Family of Matthew Shepard.

letters photo

Mark Bittman’s Brownie Recipe

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

Method:
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a square baking pan with butter or line it by overlapping 2 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil crosswise and grease the lining.
2. Combine the stick of butter and the chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave them on medium for 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval.   When the chocolate is just about melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Gently stir in the flour, salt, then the chocolate chips and cherries (if you’re using them.)
4. Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a rack until set. If you used parchment, lift it out to remove the brownies. If not, cut them in squares right in the pan. I then dusted the cooled brownies with powdered sugar.

Store, covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.


Wine and Unwind — Brownies stuffed with Peppermint Patties

Brownie photoTech rehearsals began today for “The Master Builder”.  To celebrate the end of studio rehearsing, James served Brownies Stuffed with Peppermint Patties at last Sunday’s Wine and Unwind.

Lighting designer Jim Ingalls, Set Designer Santo Loquasto and Director Andrei Belgrader joined the cast and crew for this end of the week tradition.

All were pleased with the results. Actress Katherine Borowitz decided this was her favorite dessert so far.  (In fact, this recipe has made me add a new category to this blog — Decadent!)

Brownies Stuffed with Peppermint Patties

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon plus one cup of butter (divided)
8 squares (1 once each) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 Tablespoon boiling water
5 eggs
3 3/4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
44 chocolate covered peppermint patties or one bag of the miniatures. Flatten the patties a little bit with your fingers.

Method:

1.   Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with foil. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, brush over foil, set aside. In a microwave, melt chocolate and remaining butter. Cool slightly. Dissolve coffee granules in boiling water.

2.  In mixing bowl beat the eggs, sugar, coffee mixture, vanilla, salt and almond extract on high for 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in chocolate mixture and flour until blended. Stir in walnuts.

3.  Pour half of the batter into prepared pan. Top with a layer of Peppermint patties, filling the gaps with broken pieces. Top with remaining batter. Bake at 425 degrees for 23-27 minutes or until top is set (watch them closely, they tend to burn around the edges). Cool on wire rack. Using foil, lift the brownies out of the pan and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Cut into small pieces. They are filling.

Yield- 3 dozen

Gluten-free Coconut Blondies

BlondiesOkay, so James has never made these for a show, a Wine and Unwind, or even just as a simple dessert after a casual meal.  However, I have no doubt he WILL make them when faced with a gluten-intolerant cast in the future!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been experimenting in the world of gluten-free baking and this recipe is mostly my own design.  I’d had a remarkable gluten-free blondie at my local coffee shop and wanted to try and recreate it.  Oh, sure, I Googled “gluten-free blondies” and found many, many recipes.  And I bought a packet of Bob’s Red Mill fava & garbanzo flour  (I know, ick, right?) that had a recipe on the back for blondies, but there was just too much extra stuff in it (no coconut, though.)

So I made up this recipe, with a little from here and a little from there.  The kiddies can’t get enough of these bars!

Just a couple of notes:  I’ve found that it’s a great idea to weigh your gluten-free flours for absolute accuracy, so I have given you the exact weights to shoot for.  There is little room for error in gluten-free baking.  This sounds all sorts of off-putting but really it’s not (if you just happen to have a postage scale that likes the metric system.)

I also recommend bringing your eggs (and shortening) to room temperature before starting.  I know this is something you’re supposed to do with any type of baking, gluten-free or not, but I am a lazy, lazy baker and take tons of shortcuts.  I’ve never bothered with this niggly little step in regular baking.  No can do in the world without gluten.  Trust me on this.  You’ll be glad you did.

Last, I think this recipe lends itself to being veganized very easily.  I’ve indicated the substitutions at the end of the ingredients list.  I’ve never actually tried the vegan version though, so if anyone does, please let me know how it turns out.

And really last, don’t be intimidated by this series of notes and reminders and dictums (dicta?).  You can probably ignore them all and the blondies will still come out fine.  But then again, if you’re going to go to the trouble of whisking together 4 different kinds of flour, you don’t want to end up with a doorstop instead of a treat!

Gluten-free Coconut Blondies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (100 grams) coconut flour
3/4 cup (100 grams) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (25 grams) tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch)
1/4 cup (25 grams) garbanzo & fava bean flour mix
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
*1/3 cup butter
*2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
*1 cup chocolate chips
*Simple subs to make this vegan:
Use soy margarine instead of butter; use 2 tablespoons flax meal whisked with 6 tablespoons warm water for eggs;  use vegan chocolate chips.

Method:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Grease an 9 x9 inch baking pan with shortening. Set aside.

3.  Mix coconut powder, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, chickpea flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt together until blended.

4.  Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  mix in eggs

5.  Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until blended. Add nuts and toasted coconut and mix just until blended. Spoon into prepared baking pan, top with reserved toasted coconut and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or until top looks dry and edges have separated from the pan.

6.  Cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack — allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes approximately 16 blondies.

Chocolate Chip Blondies with Praline Topping

Last Sunday was hair supervisor Monica Costea’s last day at Virginia Woolf and she aptly requested “Blondies.”  Monica’s moving next door to the Shubert to work on the new musical Matilda  (previews start on March 4.)  But she’ll still be able to stop over and enjoy WINE AND UNWIND on Sundays.

Monica not only styled the women’s hair for Woolf, she also cut the male actor’s hair and has been a Broadway fixture for almost three decades.   Her first show was Alfred Uhry’s The Last Night at Ballyhoo, and she’s worked steadily ever since, doing hair on Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Lion King, Wicked, The Music Man, A Class Act, Ghost, Sister Act and Hair, to name just a few.

Since she is a Southern girl, James decided to top the Blondies with a praline topping.  (He would usually use pecans but Monica wanted walnuts, so he substituted.)

blondies

Chocolate Chip Blondies with Walnut Praline Topping:

Ingredients

nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Topping:
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Method

1.  Heat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with the cooking spray. Line the pan with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides; spray the parchment with the cooking spray.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Then, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and mix in the brown sugar and vanilla. One at a time, mix in the eggs; mix in the flour mixture until just combined (do not over mix). Add the pecans or walnuts and chocolate chips.

3. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 25 to 28 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.

4.  Make the praline topping: In a small saucepan, heat the brown sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of water, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over the cooled blondies and sprinkle with the nuts. Let the topping set, 10 to 15 minutes.

5.Holding both sides of the paper overhang, lift the cake out of the pan, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Store the blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.