Although I am certain the last thing anyone wants to think about today is eating, baking, desserts or the next big cooking holiday, this recipe will usher in what I hope will be a month peppered with ideas for gifty kitchen confections. I know a lot of people this time of year make small gifts bags of baked goods, or larger tins for parties, and while I typically don’t, this gives me a chance, too, to try out a lot of bookmarked recipes while also never showing up at a party empty-handed. Also, I finally have an excuse to buy a candy thermometer.
Of course, this recipe is nothing new. I’ve been making it for nearly two years now because it’s simple the tastiest and easiest — one bowl! — baked goods to whip up for a party. It’s denser than chocolate chip cookies, more complex than brownies and in the classic Minimalist style, you’ve can customize it anywhere from a cranberry almond coconut bar to the gunky atery-cloggers I’m best known for. I typically load up on whatever chocolate I have around — tonight it was milk, white and bittersweet — finely chop some walnuts or pecans, use dark brown sugar, European butter and in something you will probably sense is a theme with me, add a splash of bourbon to boot. Gild the lily? Oh, not me. Never.
Finally, I double the recipe, baking it in a 9×13 pan (though really, just because I don’t have an 8×8 — yet) and cut the pieces really small, almost like cubes so we can rest assured that we’re not overdoing it. Oh no, not us. Never.
Adapted from How to Cook Everything
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces or 113 grams) butter, melted
1 cup (218 grams or 7 3/4 ounces for light; 238 grams or 8 3/8 ounces for dark) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup (4 3/8 ounces or 125 grams) all-purpose flour
- Butter an 8×8 pan
- Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
- Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in any additions (below).
- Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. I always err on the side of caution with baking times — nobody ever complained about a gooey-middled cookie. Cool on rack before cutting them.
Further additions, use one or a combination of:
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts, toasting them first for even better flavor
- 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 teaspoon mint extract in addition to or in place of the vanilla
- 1/2 cup mashed bananas
- 1/4 cup bourbon, scotch or other whiskey; increase the flour by one tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons of espresso powder with the vanilla
- Stir 1/2 cup dried fruit, especially dried cherries, into the prepared batter
- Top with a vanilla butter cream or chocolate peanut butter cream frosting
New favorite combination of late (added 5/24/14): We’ve gotten on a kick making these again, but I’ve really wanted to increase the toasty butterscotch flavor and have done so by: browning the butter, using dark brown sugar but only 3/4 cup (I prefer these less sweet these days), increasing the vanilla to 1 1/2 teaspoons and the salt to 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or flaky sea salt, plus a few flakes crumbled on top. I use 1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans as the mix-ins. Hope this provides some inspiration!