The other day I was trying to decide what to make for my friend's birthday. She loves food almost as much as I do and definitely has a sweet tooth. I know that she loves almond croissants, chocolate, and bakery items but isn't as fond of desserts like cookies. Since I had already gotten a birthday box (so cute! from Michael's) to put the dessert in, I had to make something that would fit. Plus her husband and daughter are a bit picky so I knew I couldn't make anything too fancy.
After deciding on brownies I tried to find a good recipe but none of the recipes I had looked good. I like a good chewy, fudgy brownie that isn't too dry or cake-like. Martha had several brownie recipes on her site so I finaly settled on the double chocolate brownies.
This was the first time I had ever used parchment paper (I finally found it for cheap at Target. Reynold's now makes it in a roll) as I usually use my silpats for anything that needs a nonstick surface. While I love my silpats, they don't work for brownies and bar cookies so I'm thrilled that I now know where to get parchment paper nearby. It makes such a HUGE difference when cutting them and keeping the brownies in perfect squares.
Right before Lisa stopped running her blog, Comfort Food/In a Nutshell, I copied down a recipe that she had made. She had started a nut theme and one of her first posts on nuts was for Chewy Walnut Squares from Tina Salter's Nuts: Sweet and Savory Recipes from Diamond of California.
Chewy Walnut Squares:
1 c. chopped walnuts, 1/2 c. flour, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 c. packed brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread walnuts on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan. Bake, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Leave oven set to 350 degrees.
Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with a 16-inch sheet of aluminum foil; press foil firmly to make a snug fit, and let excess foil drape over edges. Coat foil generously with vegetable oil spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth. Gradually stir in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in walnuts; batter will be quite stiff. Scrape into pan, spreading evenly.
Bake until lightly browned at the edges and the top no longer looks wet, 20 to 22 minutes. (The center will appear soft and underbaked but will firm as it cools.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Grasp the overhanging foil and lift from pan in one piece; place on a work surface. With a long, sharp knife, cut into 2-inch squares. Peel squares from the foil and serve at room temperature.
Store airtight at room temperature up to 5 days.
Notes: These bars are incredibly addictive. I am using all my willpower to keep from eating them all before my husband gets home. I used walnuts from a local farm near my mom's in the Santa Barbara wine country. This one farm also makes walnut oil that must be divine if it's as incredible as their walnut. They honestly taste nothing like the walnuts you buy in the store. It's not just that they are super fresh. They have a special almost "smoky" flavor. I couldn't find a website for the walnuts but I found the website for the company that makes the walnut oil.
Thanks to Lisa for originally posting this recipe. Since her blog is no longer published I decided to repost the recipe so you could all try it.
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
There are many recipes for beer bread out there but I think this one is perfect because it's so simple and fast. Plus it's easy to memorize.
Thanks to Susan from Farmgirl Fare for posting both the original beer bread recipe as well as coming up with this alternative whole wheat version. Check it out. I decided to make the whole wheat version one night because we were out of milk for the following morning and my husband must have milk with his cereal. So I took the lonely bottle of beer in the back of the fridge and made the whole wheat version since it lasts longer in your belly. I'm sure the original beer bread recipe she posted with cheddar cheese is just as good. I liked the whole wheat version because we could eat it with cheese, jam, butter, or Nutella. It was so satisfying with Nutella. Just two thick slices can keep you going all morning long.