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Fruitcake? No Way!
Holiday baking to make spirits brighter

 

 

 


 

Even if your idea of baking is eating cookie dough from the tube (OK, I plead guilty), this time of year brings out the urge to tie on an apron and fire up the oven. Yes, baking season is upon us. Even busy Triangle businesswomen crave the comforts of hearth and home these days. From out-of-the-box to kitchen-crazy, recipes from seven recent cookbooks can make it the sweetest month.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Lighthouse Cookbook
The Best Recipes and Stories From America’s Shorelines

Published by Cumberland House

Carolina Trifle

1 pound sponge or pound cake
1 large package vanilla custard or
pudding, flavored with almond
extract or liqueur (follow package
instructions and cool before using.)
2 quarts fresh fruit (strawberries,
peaches or blueberries)
4 cups whipped cream

Slice cake into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Place 1 layer of cake in the bottom of a glass serving dish.

Cover cake with custard, followed by fruit. Continue layering, finishing with whipped cream.


Makes 6-8 servings.

 

Pecan Nut Crunchies

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Blend together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter in a mixer. Add both sugars, scraping down the sides as the mixer runs. Add egg and vanilla, and blend. Slowly add the flour to the butter-sugar mixture.

Stir in the pecans and raisins. Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.


Makes 30-36 cookies.

 

250 Treasured Country Desserts

Published by Storey Publishing

Jam Thumbprints

Considering how pretty they look sitting on a plate, these cookies are surprisingly easy to make. If you can, use two types of jam, perhaps apricot and raspberry, and the cookies will sparkle.

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at
room temperature
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, at room
temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup jam

Sift the flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in the ground almonds.

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the vanilla and process until combined.

Add the flour mixture and process until well blended.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1-1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a generous indentation in the center of each cookie, twisting the handle to spread the opening. (You can use your thumb, but a spoon makes a neater hole.) Using the tip of a pointed teaspoon (not a measuring spoon), fill with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon jam. You want a generous amount of jam, but don’t overfill; make the holes bigger if necessary.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.


Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

 

Molasses Cookies

Molasses wasn’t exactly the sweetener of choice in early American cooking; it was just about the only affordable sweetener (honey and maple syrup were available in limited quantities, depending on where you lived). Eventually, the cane sugar and sugar beet industries made granulated sugar affordable, and this sugar replaced molasses in most recipes.

2-1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark molasses
Granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt into a medium bowl.

Beat together the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until creamy. Beat in the egg and molasses. Stir in the flour mixture, blending thoroughly. (If the dough is too soft to handle, chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.)

Shape the cookie dough into balls the size of walnuts. Dip the tops of each ball into granulated sugar. Place them sugar-side up, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.


Makes about 48 cookies.

 

 

Southern Farmers Market Cookbook

Published by Gibbs Smith

Warm Wild Cherry Carolina Gold Rice Pudding
Carolina Gold rice makes a sophisticated yet homey rice pudding when cooked low and slow in whole cream and fattened with rehydrated dried fruit (which is also readily available at regional farmers markets). In this recipe, I use dried, tart cherries rehydrated with fresh pomegranate juice. The lemon and orange zest provide a pert, citrus finish. Serve warm, topped with pan-toasted, chopped almonds.

1-1/2 cups whole cream
1/2 cup water
1 cup uncooked Carolina Gold rice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 fresh vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
Generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup lightly chopped dried tart cherries
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest from 1/2 orange
3 tablespoons half-and-half (as needed)
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted


In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, water, rice, sugar, vanilla bean and salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer.

Cover and cook until the water and cream have been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cherries with the pomegranate juice. Heat for 1 minute on high in the microwave and set aside.

When the rice is done, uncover and fluff gently with a fork. Remove the vanilla bean. With the edge of a paring knife, scrape the vanilla beans out of the pod and return to the rice, discarding the pod.

Pour any remaining pomegranate juice from the cherries over the rice, lightly chop the cherries and return them to the rice pot. Add the lemon and orange zests and gently fold all together. If the pudding seems too thick, fold in the additional half-and-half.

Serve warm with almonds that have been toasted and coarsely chopped.


Makes 6 servings.

 

Stuffed McIntosh Apple Crisps
The quintessential comfort food, these stuffed, baked apples remind me of the simple delights of childhood. Try them as a variation on the never-gets-boring baked-apple theme. The soft flesh of the McIntosh apple starts to dimple and round with the crisp, buttery weight of the filling while it bakes. The contrast of the warm apple sitting in a shallow pool of cool, unsweetened cream is irresistible, pretty and loved by all.

6 McIntosh apples
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup currants
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Whole cream


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cut the top off each apple (about 1/4-inch-thick), and set the tops aside. Using a soup spoon, core the apples, removing a bit of the flesh to create a 1/2-inch-thick shell around the perimeter of the apple; discard the cores. Arrange the apples in a small roasting pan, cored side up. (If the apples are wobbly on the bottom, trim their bottoms to flatten).

Combine all the remaining ingredients except the cream in a medium bowl, stirring well to combine. Fill each apple generously with this mixture, packing firmly. Top each apple with one of the reserved tops.

Bake until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the apples. Serve hot out of the oven in a shallow bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of cool whole cream.


Makes 6 servings.

 

 

Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies

Published by Ten Speed Press

Hickory Nut Pie

Hickory nuts are only available in a few areas of the country, and the South is one of them. They’re usually sold in their shells, which are extremely thick and hard. But if you’re a hickory nut lover, this pie will inspire you to do the hard work of shelling them. If you can’t find hickory nuts, pecans are in the hickory family and make a great substitute. A shot of bourbon enhances the flavor — and makes it even more Southern. For a crisp bottom crust, parbake the shell before filling it. For a crunchy pie, go with the larger amount of nuts.

1 (9-inch) pre-made pie crust
1 to 1-1/2 cups hickory nuts or pecans, broken
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the rolled-out crust and pour the nuts into the crust.

Combine the corn syrup, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is entirely dissolved, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes.

Beat the eggs, vanilla and salt in a small bowl, then add to the sugar mixture and beat well. Spread the filling evenly in the crust.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the center is set and doesn’t jiggle when the pan is tapped. Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This pie can be served warm or cold.


Makes one 9-inch pie.

 

Original Coconut Cream Pie

1 9-inch pre-made pie crust
3 eggs yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
3 cups milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Mrs. Rowe’s Meringue (recipe below)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stir together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and just enough of the water to make a smooth paste. Heat the milk in a double boiler set over simmering water. When the milk begins to steam, gradually whisk in the egg mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut, the butter and the vanilla.

Pour the filling into the crust and top with the meringue, sealing the edges well. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup coconut over the meringue.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown and it’s firm to the careful touch. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before slicing. Serve the pie at room temperature or, for a special treat, serve it warm — pop a slice in the microwave for about 10 seconds.


Makes one 9-inch pie.

 

 

 

Mrs. Rowe’s Meringue

4 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a chilled bowl and beat with an electric mixer on slow to medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and continue beating on slow to medium speed until the whites form stiff peaks but aren’t dry. The meringue is now ready to pile lightly over pie.

Makes enough to cover one 9-inch pie.

 

 

Vegan Cookies: Invade Your Cookie Jar
100 Dairy-free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Treats

Published by Da Capo Press

Carrot Raisin Spice Chewies
Carrot cake in cookie form, perfect for lunch boxes or mid-blogging snacking. These sweet treats are best eaten the day they’re made, when the edges are crisp and the centers are soft. After that, they’ll get chewy and moist all over, but still yum. Enjoy them naked, fancied up with a light drizzle of lemon glaze, or even smooshed together with a little vanilla, dairy-free ice cream. These are easy enough to make healthier by substituting half whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose.

1/3 cup nondairy milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canola or peanut oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange zest
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely shredded carrots, lightly packed
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Lemon Glaze (see below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the nondairy milk, ground flax seeds, oil, brown sugar, sugar, orange zest and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Stir to moisten ingredients, and fold in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and raisins. Dough will be sticky and moist.

Drop generous tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes until the edges are brown and the tops are firm. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to wire racks to complete cooling.


Makes 2 dozen cookies.

 

 

Lemon Glaze

1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest


In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients using a fork or a wire whisk until smooth. Combine to form a glaze that’s thin enough to drizzle from a fork or to be easily piped from a pastry bag with a small round tip.

If the glaze is too thick, whisk in 1 teaspoon at a time of either nondairy milk or water. If it’s too thin, whisk in more powdered sugar by the tablespoon until a desired consistency is reached.

 

 

 

Gingerbread Biscotti

Candied ginger and molasses make ‘em chewy in the center, and the traditional double baking gives them that necessary biscotti crunch on the edges. These are lovely served naked or sussed up for the holidays with a drizzle of Lemon Glaze (recipe above) or melted white vegan chocolate.

1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces candied ginger, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat together molasses, sugar, flax seeds, oil, nondairy milk and vanilla with a wire whisk until smooth.

Sift in the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to form a smooth dough, then knead in the chopped, candied ginger, pushing any bits that pop out back into the dough.

Form a log about 11 inches long by 4 inches wide, using a rubber spatula to even the edges and flatten the end sides of the log. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes until the log is puffed and firm but not too brown. It will spread a little, and some cracking is okay. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack, turn off the oven, and allow the log to cool for at least 45 minutes. If any edges of the log are too browned, gently trim them off with a sharp, heavy knife.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very carefully, slide the log off the baking sheet and onto a cutting board. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut log into 1/2-inch-thick slices, using one quick and firm motion, pressing down into the log. Very gently move slices to the baking sheet, standing them on their bottom edge if possible. Rebake the slices for 22 to 24 minutes. The slices should appear dry and slightly toasted, but do not allow them to get too browned. Allow the biscotti to cool 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then carefully move them to wire racks to complete cooling (warm biscotti may be fragile). Store in a loosely covered container.


Makes 18 biscotti.

 

Baking Unplugged

Published by John Wiley & Sons

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
A lot of upside-down cake recipes offer a delicious, caramelized fruit over a dense, sturdy cake, but that’s just not my cup of tea. I want my cake to be moist, tender and buttery — the perfect foil for tart fruit like cranberries. If cranberries aren’t available, use whatever fruit is — halved and pitted fresh cherries or apricots, pineapple slices, or thinly sliced apples or pears. This cake is best served the day it is made, preferably within an hour of coming out of the oven. Though it’s commonly served for dessert (with ice cream), I also serve it for brunch.

1 cup unsalted butter, soft (divided)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Butter the sides of a round cake pan that’s 9 inches in diameter and at least 2 inches tall. Place 1/4 cup of the butter in the pan. Heat in the oven until the butter melts, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle the cranberries over the sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the remaining 3/4 cup of butter, the sugar and the egg yolk until blended, about 20 seconds. Whisk in the whole eggs, one at a time. Whisk until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda directly onto the batter. Whisk until smooth and lump free. Spread the batter evenly over the cranberry mixture in the pan.

Bake until the center of the cake springs back when touched gently and a skewer inserted near the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging, 50 to 55 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving plate over the top of the cake; invert the cake pan to unmold onto the plate. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Best served warm.


Makes 12 servings.

 

 

Lemon Coconut Cloud Cake
This cake appeals to my inner grandma — an old Southern woman who loves a good butter cake filled with super-tart lemon curd and topped with a cloud of lemon-scented whipped cream. Oh yes, and don’t forget the coconut.

Lemon cake layers:
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
1-2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 recipe Lemon Curd, divided (recipe below)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted, divided
1 recipe White Chocolate Whipped Cream (recipe below)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs and then the egg yolks, beating for about 20 seconds after each addition. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, starting and finishing with the flour. Stir in the lemon juice until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when pressed and a skewer inserted near the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely.


Makes 12 servings.

 

White Chocolate Whipped Cream
White chocolate whipped cream is really a form of whipped ganache — just a bit heartier than whipped cream. White chocolate whipped cream is only as good as the chocolate you use, so be sure to taste before you start. I’ve listed my brand preferences below.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (3.5-oz.) bar Lindt or Rainforest white chocolate, coarsely chopped

 

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours. Whip with a whisk until just past the soft-peak stage or until the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape and be spreadable. Do not overbeat as it will make the cream hard and dry.


Makes about 2-1/4 cups.

 

Lemon Curd

This lemon curd is tart, perfect for serving with a slice of chiffon cake or a cream scone. Try spreading a thin layer of blackberry preserves on a yellow cake layer, then topping it with lemon curd — serve the cake with fresh blueberries and blackberries. My favorite way to enjoy lemon curd is to make a light mousse out of it by folding in whipped cream.

 

3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks

 

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, butter and lemon zest until combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks. Slowly pour half of the hot lemon into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan; reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap and chill until set before using, about 1 hour.


Makes 1-3/4 cups.

 

Best of the Best Cookbook Recipes
The Best Recipes From the 25 Best Cookbooks of the Year

Published by Food & Wine Books


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Cream Cheese Filling

Pastry chefs have had fun reinventing the whoopie pie over the past few years, but this version — made with pumpkin and cream cheese instead of chocolate and marshmallow — is a true original.

 

For the pumpkin whoopie pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon cloves
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups thoroughly chilled pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the cream cheese filling:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

Make the pumpkin whoopie cookies:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add the pumpkin purée and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

Make the cream cheese filling:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the filling, or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.)

Assemble the whoopie pies:

Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).

Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

Makes 12 whoopie pies.

 

 

Triple-Chocolate-Toffee Brownies

Some brownies are dense and fudgy, others — like these — are more fluffy and cakelike. Mushet sprinkles store-bought toffee bits on top, which melt in the oven to form a deliciously crisp, caramelly crust.

 

 

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup toffee bits (if necessary, crush up a standard or chocolate-covered toffee bar and pulse in a food processor until the pieces are about the size of chocolate chips or put the bar in a heavy bag and crush it with a mallet or rolling pin)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to hang over the edges.

In a medium glass bowl, microwave the semisweet and unsweetened chocolates at high power in 30-second intervals until melted, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Scrape down the side of the bowl.

Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated. Beat in the milk and vanilla at low speed. Beat in the flour mixture, then beat in 2/3 cup of the toffee bits and the mini chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of toffee bits. Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Set the brownies on a rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cutting. Use the parchment overhang to lift the brownie out of the baking pan; cut into squares and serve.

The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 24 brownies.