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.
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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

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.

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.

Nut-Free (and Gluten and Egg Free!) Snickers Bars

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These were one of the most popular desserts in my bakery and they are so simple to make. Sunbutter gives it the nutty flavor and sunflower seeds give it the crunch.

Homemade Nut-Free Snickers Bars

Makes 1 dozen bars

First Layer:
1¼  cups milk chocolate chips
¼ cup sunbutter
Second layer:
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup evaporated milk
1½ cups marshmallow Fluff
¼ cup sunbutter
1½ cup Gerbs sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
Third layer:
1 14-ounce bag of Kraft brand caramels
¼ cup heavy cream
Top layer:
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup sunbutter

For the First Layer:
Spray your baking pan well (Bakers Joy spray is nut free!). Melt ingredients together in a saucepan or microwave, then pour into the baking dish and spread until even. Let cool and harden completely.

For the Second Layer:
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in fluff, sunbutter and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Turn off heat and fold in sunflower seeds, then pour over bottom chocolate layer. Let cool completely.

For the Third Layer:
Combine ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Let melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth – this took about 10 minutes for me. Pour over nougat layer and let cool completely.

For the Top Layer:
Melt ingredients together in a saucepan or microwave, then pour over caramel and spread until even. Let cool and harden completely.Refrigerate for at least one hour, then cut.