Currently viewing the tag: "bars"

Blueberry Apple Bars

A kind reader pointed out to me that there  is a slight mistake this Blueberry Apple Crumb Bar recipe in The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, so I’m putting the recipe here (with corrections). The ingredient list is correct in the book, but the directions mention ‘baking soda’ instead of ‘baking powder’, and list cinnamon in the filling when there is none. Sorry about that!

If any of you happen to live in Winona, Minnesota, or are visiting there this weekend, I’ll be doing a book signing at The Blue Heron Coffeehouse from 2-4 this Saturday, January 14th. The Blue Heron is the coffeehouse I talk about throughout my book, and where I learned to bake, and it’s wonderful to be going back for this event.

I am also teaching a class in St. Paul at Cooks of Crocus Hill Sunday, February 5th, from 1-2:30. I’ll be doing some demonstrations, sharing treats, and signing books. You can register here if interested!

You can find a few of my recipes from the book around the web. So many beautiful posts, I’m totally overwhelmed! Julie from Always with Butter made my chocolate chip cookies. Molly from My Name is Yeh made my yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Michelle from Hummingbird High made my cheesecake, and Cynthia from Two Red Bowls made my cheesecake with a hazelnut twist. Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks made my shortbread with chocolate. Food 52 made my oatmeal white chocolate cookies. Sara from Sprouted Kitchen made my whole wheat banana chocolate muffins. Cindy from Hungry Girl Por Vida made my honey cake and added grapefruit. Elizabeth from Brooklyn Supper made my orange cranberry bundt cake. Alana from Fix Feast Flair made my brown butter buttercream. Alanna from Bojon Gourmet made my peanut butter granola. There are a few more that I will post later!

Thank you again for all your support. It’s been so fun to see what everyone is making from the book on Instagram, and I appreciate all your kind words and reviews. If you make something from the book, please tag it #vanillabeanbakingbook so I can find it!

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peach struesel bars
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
-From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
peach struesel bars
peach struesel bars

peach struesel bars
These streusel bars are also another baking recipe I’ve created as a Pulses Ambassador this year. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too. Also check out my Vanilla Lavender Cupcakes.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

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When something brings out the worst in me, I find myself scrambling to find the good. After a 5 hour car trip alone with my two kids, where everyone [and that would be especially me] was crabby, where naps were rejected scornfully, and where a zip lock bag chock-full of cheddar bunnies was purposely, but oh so quietly, crumbled into the tiniest pieces imaginable, then sprinkled all over knees and hair and seats and floor, and then not to mention the 6 straight days of unbearable humidity and just not.enough.sleep, I am searching for the best of me. It’s hard to find.
It’s in these moments I see that angel and demon on my shoulder, waiting. For one instant I feel ripped in two, almost like those active labor contractions that brought these two babes in, and I have to make a choice. If I lose it, this car ride is going to be a never-ending train wreck. So I have to search for the door: the door down a long, dark corridor, the door so terribly hard to open. There, scrawled across it, almost illegible, is the word ‘patience’. And I have to make it there, open it, and there will be more for me. But I have to make it.
And let me be honest, it’s not easy to get to. Sometimes I close my eyes and think instead ‘chocolate! Just give me some damn chocolate and then I’ll find that door!’ Most days that dark, dreamy treat is a good temporary solution. Some people find comfort in alcohol, exercise, intrigue, or shopping, but I turn towards sugar and salt, hopefully paired together. I readily admit to you this isn’t the best option. But there are those moments, the Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday moments, where just that taste of something sweet and salty buys me a little more time. I so badly wish it was heirloom tomatoes freckled with sea salt, or bright red strawberries smashed on salty wheat crackers that I reach for instead; or, of course, sheer good character alone. I’m working on things. Slowly, slowly.
In the mean time, however, these salty bourbon bars have helped keep me sane. Bittersweet chocolate, fleur de sel, and bourbon goodness: tiny bites of sweet comfort. Yes, they will float me down that long corridor, and I will find the handle. I will open that door.
[I finally have some NYC pictures up here, if you want to take a peek.]

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Dear Reader,
I feel that you and I have come to a place in our relationship where I need to tell you something, and that it’s time for us to go a little deeper. It may be no surprise; perhaps you’ve picked up hints and started to figure things out. But if you haven’t, I’m worried this confession may not be what you expected. Or wanted. So I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve read Lord of the Rings almost more times than I have fingers or toes. [Are you moving your hand to the mouse pad? Are you trying to get off this page? I am hoping our relationship is strong enough to handle this.]
It may be weird, or geeky, or both, that I reread these three treasured books twice a year*, and that the long, terrible-but-beautiful march of the hobbits has resonated so much with me, much more than any other book ever has. I find comfort, and insight, and identity in a journey that costs something, brings maturity through pain, and ends on a bittersweet note. I find the human experience captured so beautifully in this there-and-back-again tale, and any burden or trouble I carry into the pages with me somehow becomes lighter in Tolkien’s storytelling.
There are times when comfort and familiarity are so important, where vices are needed to just get us through, to keep us connected to something in difficult times. Reading well-loved books and days filled with baking is where I find solace and some grounding in my soul. These blond brownies have been with me even longer than Middle Earth has; peeking out of every bake case I have stocked, gracing my kitchen table at birthday parties and baby dedications, bringing relief after long hours on my feet, and soothing tears at funeral luncheons. And they just might be with me that one day I follow Samwise towards the Great Sea, in hopes they will help to get me to white shores and a swift sunrise.**
So, dear Reader, I guess this letter [and confession] is really just a reminder that we both have things that are dear to us [our adult security blanket of choice, if you will], things that get us through the rough patches and dark shadows. I may have taken a nerdier route to make it through the night, but I’ve never been ashamed of it. Hopefully my admissions show you just how much I care for you [and to let you into my head a bit], and my hope that there is something to comfort you in this confusing world, too.Love Always,
Sarah

Even as a young girl, the sweet and salty combination was one of my most favorite things. I have very fond memories of my sister and I dunking hot, salty fries in cold, frothy chocolate shakes, gleeful at our latest invention. Sure, they were from some fast food empire, but we didn’t know any better, and thought we had come up with the most amazing discovery. [We also came up with popcorn and sour patch kids. Try it next time you’re at the movies. Really, just dump the sour patch kids on in. You won’t regret it.]
Years later, I am now enjoying salty and sweet in a more sophisticated way. Every restaurant, coffee house, bakery and food blog has some pastry or recipe that combines this union. The Baked Explorations cookbook is no exception, and these brownies are incredible. They are so chocolaty and deep, with a thin layer of salty caramel and a dusting of coarse sugar and salt. They are a little more work than heading through the drive-through for a shake and fries, but it is time well spent. I think my sister would agree.

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