Epic Nut Free Brownies

Homemade brownies are so much more amazing than boxed brownies. Try these! I tested many homemade brownie recipes before I opened the bakery and this was the one that stood out. It is the perfect balance of fudge and cake texture. It is a little bit of extra work but that is what makes the difference between this recipe and others.
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Pictured Here: Classic Chocolate Fudge, Butterscotch Marshmallow and White Chocolate Espresso (use a dark roast on the instant coffee for Espresso flavor)
1 dozen
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
1½ cups Smuckers caramel syrup (or another nut free caramel, I love Gaucho Ranch Dulce De Leche also see allergy statement here)
1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ cups Hershey’s cocoa powder
2½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Nescafe Instant Coffee (decaf for kids!)
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Nielson Massey or McCormick vanilla extract
1 cup any fun mix-in (milk, dark or white chocolate chips, crushed Oreo’s, dried fruit, Kraft mini marshmallows, crushed Nabisco Graham crackers, etc)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9X13 baking dish and set aside.
Place the butter, the pound of chopped chocolate and caramel into a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt them together in the microwave or over a double-boiler. If melting in the microwave, heat for 60 seconds, then stir. Repeat in 30 second increments, if needed. Once completely melted, cool down.
Mix flour, cocoa, salt, and coffee together in a separate bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla into the melted chocolate mixture. Then slowly incorporate the dry mixture and whisk until just combined.
Finally gently fold in the fun mix in. Pour the batter into the dish and bake for 35-45 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Check at 35 minutes with a toothpick. The moment the toothpick comes out mostly clean, remove them from the oven.  Allow the brownies to cool completely. Cut into 12 squares.  Serve.

Chef Leonard’s Famous Cheddar Chive Biscuits

We made these biscuits for a pop up brunch and people still rave about them. They are perfect for a Christmas morning treat. The dough can be made a night to 2 days in advance, cut out on a cookie sheet, refrigerated and baked that morning. You can also leave out the cheddar and/or chives if you want something more plain. They are brushed with melted butter which keeps them egg free!!
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Makes 1 dozen biscuits
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus additional flour for work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening , cut into ½ inch chunks
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into ½ inch chunks
¾ cups plain whole milk yogurt
¾ cups whole milk
1½ cups grated cheddar cheese (good quality)
½ cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add shortening to flour mixture; break up chunks with fingertips until only small, pea-sized pieces remain. Working in batches, drop butter slices into flour mixture and toss to coat; pick up each slice of butter and press between floured fingertips into flat, nickel-sized pieces. Repeat until all butter is incorporated; toss to combine. Freeze mixture (in bowl) until chilled, about 15 minutes.
Sprinkle flour on your work surface. Combine yogurt and milk and add all but 2 tablespoons to flour mixture; stir briskly with fork until ball forms and no dry bits of flour are visible, adding remaining yogurt-milk mixture as needed (dough will be sticky and shaggy but should clear sides of bowl).  Carefully fold grated cheese and chives into dough. Transfer dough onto center of prepared work surface, dust surface lightly with flour, and, with floured hands, bring dough together into cohesive ball. Add more flour to work surface and lightly roll the dough about a ½ inch thick. Dip a 3 inch round cutter in flour and cut out 12 biscuits, dipping cutter in flour every time.
Brush biscuit tops with melted butter. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Nut Free Oatmeal Cream Pies

These were another very popular cookie at the bakery. They remind us of the classic Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies but with a more natural taste.

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Makes 12
For the Cookies:
1 ½ sticks butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2¼ cup Quaker rolled oats
For the Filling:
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup Kraft Marshmallow Fluff
For the Cookies:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line your baking sheet with foil or parchment. Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on medium speed or beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is light and fluffy, around 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another minute. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined. Add the oats and combine. If it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of extra flour at a time until the mixture can be handled.
Roll the dough into balls, about the size of a large gumball, using your hands and place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the centers are set. Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool completely.
For the Filling:
Beat the butter and vanilla together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Mix in the Fluff.
When the cookies are cooled, match them with another cookie according to size. Take one cookie and place about two tablespoons of the filling in the center on the flat part of the cookie. Take the other and place it on top and press it until the filling comes to the edge of the cookies.

Recipe Adapted from Bless This Mess

Homemade Nut Free “Whatchmacallit” Bars

This was one of the most popular desserts from my bakery. People who are feeling nostalgic love Whatchamacallit bars. This recipe is a great match. It is also another great candy that is a good for Christmas. Don’t worry about making them perfect, we want them to look homemade!

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12 servings

1 cup Sunbutter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Rice Krispies (you can use gluten free)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening (I like Earths Balance)

Mix together sunbutter, sugar, Rice Krispies, and melted butter. Form with your hands into 2 inch squares and place on foil until all mixture is used. Melt chocolate chips and shortening together. Dip bars into this mixture, set on foil again and let harden.

No Nut Brittle Candy

This is an easy recipe with only a few ingredients. It is a fun Christmas giveaway also. Candy thermometers are fairly easy to get, you can pick one up at your local supermarket.

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Serves 16
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup any Enjoy Life Seed and Fruit Mix (I like Mountain Mambo)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.
In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in Seed and Fruit Mix. Set candy thermometer (you can get one at your local grocery store) in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 F or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.
Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. Let cool and snap candy into pieces.

Nut Free Granola Bars

My kids love this recipe. It is easy to make and very healthy. You can add anything you want to it and it will still work. Seeds, chocolate chips and mixed dried fruits are some of the things I like to add to it.

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Makes 24 bars

2 cups Quaker oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup wheat germ (you can omit for gluten-free)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour (you can use a gluten free flour mix, King Arthur is nut-free!)
¾ cup any dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped pineapple, etc)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, dried fruit and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be hard to cut.

The BEST Nut-free and Vegan Chocolate Cake EVER

I actually like this recipe more than my real chocolate cake. It is rich and delicious and can be decorated any way you choose. It can also be made into a dozen cupcakes, just make sure that whatever cooking spray you use is totally vegan also.

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Makes 2 perfect 8-9 inch layers
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup  Hershey’s Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup plain unsweetened Motts Applesauce mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add applesauce/baking powder mixture, water, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with chocolate frosting.
Vegan Chocolate Frosting
Makes 3 cups
1 cup solid vegetable shortening (I like Earths Balance)
3½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons water
Cream shortening for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment or with a spoon in a mixing bowl on medium speed.  Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the shortening. Add vanilla extract, salt, and water and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Nut-Free Scotcheroos

A classic dessert made nut-free!

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Serves 12
6 cups Rice Chex (Gluten-free Rice Krispies will work also)
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sunbutter
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups Vermont Nut Free butterscotch chips
1/2 cup sunbutter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease a large round bowl and pour the cereal in. Set aside. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Set aside.
In a pan on the stove, combine the corn syrup and sugar. Stir over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of sunbutter. Immediately pour this mixture over the cereal and fold in. Pour into the 9×13 pan.
In a microwaveable 4 cup measuring cup (or other microwave save dish) combine the butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, 1/2 cup of sunbutter, and vanilla. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring very well after each interval, until it is completely melted and smooth. It should take about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Pour over the bars. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before cutting.

Nut-Free Chocolate Ranked!

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Various Brand Descriptions
Callebaut: Belgian chocolate that is nut-free? Absolutey! The Callebaut Corporation has several facilities in different countries around the world. According to their Sales Department (Galit_Greenfield@barry-callebaut.com), the manufacturing facility based in Belgium is completely peanut and tree nut free.  The one issue to be aware of is that because it is sold in a mostly bulk capacity, you have to make sure it has not been repackaged anywhere. Although you end up buying a large amount, it is so delicious. It will be worth it.
Guittard: According to Guttard’s official allergy statement, their chocolate is safe. They have one production line that has almonds on it but apparently it is isolated and they follow strict guidelines. You should make the decision for yourself, the products are fantastic and very easy to acquire.  
Vermont Nut-Free: Vermont Nut-free offers a wide range of products. The disadvantage is it can get very expensive and is not as rich in flavor as some of the European brands.
Trader Joes: Offers a more basic selection but this chocolate is available in every Trader Joes Market around the country. The flavors are similar to Hersheys chips which are not always trustworthy. Here is the statement from the company.
Enjoy Life: LOVE these products!!  They are all delicious and are free of the top 8 allergens. When you open a box or bag of anything you never have to worry.
Hershey’s: Hershey’s chocolate is tricky. They have many products that are safe and then many that are not. I have been told that the labels are trustworthy and that is an advantage but it is disappointing that they offer so many products that are not available to people with nut allergies. With that said, the cocoa powder is phenomenal. It is peanut and tree nut free and free of pretty much every other allergen also. It gives you the opportunity to inject that classic Hershey’s flavor into all of your baked goods without having to worry.
Sweetworks: I LOVE Sweetworks’ Sixlets. They taste like M&M’s and look like pearls. They come in every color and make baked goods look fancy. I had a long talk with the company representative at the Sweets and Snacks Show in Chicago and they were very comfortable with their role as the nut-free alternative to M&M’s.
 

Various Kinds

Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate is made from cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, milk and sugar. Milk chocolate is obviously a lighter color than dark chocolate and contains much less cocoa liquor than dark chocolate does. Milk chocolate is the most often used when it comes to confectionary and it is cited by the majority of chocolate lovers to be their favorite of the three varieties of chocolate.

  1. Callebaut Milk Block 32 %
  2. Guittard Milk Chocolate Baking Bar
  3. Vermont Nut Free

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate, in contrast to milk chocolate, is made from cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. The greater amount of liquor used in dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate is what causes the bitterness characteristic of dark chocolate. As the amount of liquor used goes down the bitterness of the chocolate goes down as well.

  1. Callebaut Dark Block 60 %
  2. Guittard Dark Chocolate Baking Bar
  3. Vermont Nut Free

Semisweet Chocolate Chips: Semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolates contain cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, and sometimes lecithin (acts as an emulsifier).  The quality and blends of cocoa beans, amount and quality of the added ingredients, and the processing determines the quality of the chocolate.  Each brand has their own special formula and method of processing.

  1. Callebaut 811NV Select Semi Sweet 56% Chocolate Callets
  2. Trader Joes Semi Sweet Chips
  3. Vermont Nut-Free
  4. Trader Joes Chocolate Chunks

White Chocolate: The fact is that it is not truly chocolate at all, in fact white chocolate is made from cocoa butter and sugar and no cocoa liquor at all. Many people who like white chocolate over dark or milk state its sweetness and creaminess as the reason why.

  1. Callebaut White Couverture Callets 28.1% Cacao 22 lbs.
  2. Guittard Choc-Au-Lait
  3. Trader Joes White Chocolate Baking Chips
  4. Vermont Nut Free

Candy Melts: Candy melts are a product that are often recommended for easy candy making or coating cake pops with a chocolaty coating. They come in many colors and have a plain, vaguely milky flavor that serves as a base for additional flavorings. There are other products with very similar names out there that perform in the same way.  Many people make the mistake of thinking that these are chocolate, since they’re recommended for candy making, but these melts are not chocolate. They’re primarily made with a combination of sugar and vegetable fats – not cocoa butter.

  1. Guittard A’Peels
  2. Vermont Nut-Free white chocolate candy melts

Some More Fun Stuff:

Vegan Chocolate:

  1. Enjoy Life Mini Chips and Mega Chunks
  2. Callebaut Dark Chocolate Baking Callets

Chocolates in a Candy Shell:

  1. Vermont Nut Free Skippers
  2. Sixlets

Cocoa:

  1. Hersheys Cocoa
 

Chocolate Information Sources:

http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Difference-Between-Dark,-Milk-and-White-Chocolate&id=3780418

http://www.joyofbaking.com/SemisweetChocolate.html#ixzz2mWmUcuSG

http://bakingbites.com/2012/10/what-are-candy-melts/

Pecan-less Pie

For those of you that miss Pecan Pie, try this alternative. It is incredibly easy and utilizes pumpkin seeds, which are healthy and give it that bit of crunch that it would normally miss.
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Makes 1 8-inch Pie

For the Crust:
1 9-inch refrigerated Pillsbury Pie crust
For the Filling:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup (7 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon McCormick or Nielson Massey vanilla extract
2 cups Gerbs raw pumpkin seed kernels

For the Crust:
1. Transfer dough to 9-inch pie pan, preferably glass. Press dough into corners and sides of pan, being careful not to stretch dough. Trim edges of dough to make 1/2-inch overhang. Tuck overhanging dough under so that folded edge is flush with rim of pan. Chill shell until firm, about 1 hour. Prick sides and bottom with fork.
2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake crust about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Remove from oven, brush sides and bottom with egg yolk, and return to oven until yolk glazes over, about 1 minute longer. Remove from oven, and set aside while preparing the filling. Lower oven temperature to 275 degrees.

For the Filling:
3. Melt butter in the microwave. Mix in sugar and salt with wooden spoon until butter is absorbed. Beat in eggs, then corn syrup and vanilla. Place mixture in a saucepan over a low flame and stir constantly (watch for burning) until mixture is shiny and warm to the touch, about 130 degrees. Remove from heat; stir in pumpkin seeds.
4. Pour mixture into warm shell; bake until center feels set yet soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer pie to rack; let cool completely, at least 4 hours. Serve pie at room temperature or warm, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.