House For Six

dessert

Chocolate Toffee Caramel Bars & Our Holiday Dessert Round-Up!

Deme CrinionComment

We just finished our final round of holiday baking and boy did we save the most addictive for last.  These Chocolate Toffee Caramel Bars are no joke.  They have the ability to ignite some primal survival mode in which you will lie, hoard, and drop kick smaller persons in order to preserve them for yourself.

My friend's aunt sent a care package with these on our first deployment.  My gracious and clearly delusional friend said we could grab one from under her cot where she stored them "whenever we wanted".  A ridiculous scene followed in which a handful of us would attempt to sneak over to her area and steal a piece (or five) without being noticed by the others. Those suckers were gone as fast as they came.

We begged her for the recipe and have been making them ever since.  And the best part is they're surprisingly easy to make.

Wanna try some for yourself?  Of course you do. 

(If you want to spare yourself the 10 extra pounds you will inevitably gain from this recipe, you can skip it and scroll down to our holiday dessert round-up!  Which also won't help in the waistline department, but your tummy will be happy.)

You'll need all this good stuff and few other things....

Ingredients:

1 package Moist Supreme Butter Cake Mix (I've also used a yellow cake mix)

1/3 cup oil

2 eggs

12 oz package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

3/4 cup Heath chocolate covered toffee bits

1/2 cup butter

Approx 32 soft caramels (I buy one bag of Worther's)

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (heavy cream works too)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 baking pan.  In a large bowl combine the cake mix, oil and eggs.  Blend well.  Stir in chips and candy bar pieces - the mixture will be very thick. 

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan and bake for 10 min.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, caramels, and cond. milk in a medium saucepan.  Heat on med-low stirring continuously until melted and smooth. Slowly pour the caramel mixture evenly over the partially baked crust. 

I prefer a thinner caramel center, so I only use half of this mixture and save the other half for another batch.

Place the remaining dough on top of the caramel layer.  This is the toughest part because the sauce is hot and it's hard to spread anything over it without messing up the bottom layer.  So, the best way I've found is to dip my fingers in a bit of flour and then flatten small chunks of dough at a time.

I place the flattened piece of dough on top of the caramel and continue this until the caramel is covered. 

It's fine to have a couple of small gaps.

Then it goes back in the oven for an additional 20-25 min or until the top is set and the edges are golden brown

Gently run a knife around the sides and cool for 45 minutes.  It's easiest to cut these into bars once they are completely cool and set, so we put the pan in the fridge for an additional 30 min or so and then cut. 

Then, we devour them.

You can download a printable version right here.

And just in case you missed any of the sugar-laden holiday yumminess from the past couple weeks and the archives, I've got a round up of our favorite holiday treats.  Time to get your bake on!

Yummy round up of easy holiday desserts!

These Chocolate Mint Cookies are a holiday staple around here.  You can find the recipe at allrecipes.com.  The only change we made is instead of breaking off a piece of Andes chocolate and placing it on the hot cookie to melt, we melt a cup of these baking chips in a bowl and spoon some over the top.  YUM.

We shared our family recipe and top tips for getting soft, chewy, melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies that still keep their shape.

This Classic Apple Crisp recipe from my aunt is just the absolute best....and totally flexible to your tastes/preferences.

If you love pecan pie but have an issue with large nuts in your dessert, or you just love pecan pie, then this recipe for Pecan Bars is for you.

Looking for something on the lighter side?  These Lemon Bars are a childhood staple at our home and a refreshing after dinner treat.

I don't think you can ever go wrong with a coffee flavored dessert.  This recipe for Cappuccino Cake looks and tastes uber fancy without all the fancy work.

This Salted Chocolate Shortbread recipe is something a little different, and completely divine.

And last but not least, these Orange Chocolate Chippers give a little zing to your average chocolate chip cookie. And they are the softest in the land.

Whether you're baking, wrapping, traveling, or resting, I hope you enjoy this last weekend before Christmas!

Tips For Getting the Perfect Cake-like Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Deme Crinion2 Comments

My sister-in-law makes the best sugar cookies.  And I mean the BEST.  She was kind enough to let me share the recipe here awhile back (find the post here and a printable version of the recipe here)

I thought with her secret recipe in hand, I would just whip up a batch and soon be basking in the abundance of chewy frosted goodness.  But that's not exactly how it went down.

My shapes were more like indiscernible blobs and they were far more crunchy that her melt-in-your-mouth version.  What did I do wrong? I followed the recipe to the letter!

It turns out that cut-out sugar cookies are a bit of an art form....at least if you're picky about how you like them. It starts with a great recipe, but there are some key steps that will ensure you get soft, chewy shapes every time.

Looking back, I made a few newbie mistakes (like cutting the time the dough spent in the fridge). So after a few more attempts at this recipe and a few more tweaks, we now have a tried and true method that's an easy family favorite.

Now when I say "perfect", I don't mean those impeccably frosted masterpieces you almost don't want to bite into because they're so pretty.....although that's never stopped me in the end.   You're always going to get the unmistakably home-made looking variety around here.  But I promise you, they will taste amazing! 

Here's how we get soft, chewy sugar cookies (in identifiable shapes) every time....

1. Don't Overwork The Dough

I think this goes for most cookies/baking, but avoid over mixing and over working your dough.  I stop my mixer as soon as all the ingredients come together but are well integrated.  Since you're going to be rolling and handling this dough even more, do your best to avoid over mixing it in the bowl.  I work any lingering flour in by hand.

2.  Don't Skip The Fridge

Most sugar cookie dough needs to be chilled.  This not only helps the cookies keep their shape once cut out but it also prevents the cookies from being too crunchy.  So don't cheat!!  Our recipe calls for the dough to be chilled one hour.  If you're short on time, pop it in the freezer for 30 min, but DO NOT skip this step!  And also do number 3....

3.  Flatten the Dough Before Chilling

I used to just pop the dough into the fridge in a giant ball.  It took longer for the dough to fully chill and made it really difficult to roll out.  Now I lay out a long sheet of Press N Seal, dump the freshly mixed dough on top, then spread it out to a rectangular shape about 1 inch think. I make sure it's all wrapped up (usually needing one more sheet of Press N Seal) and pop it in the fridge.

  It chills much faster and more evenly...and it's much easier to roll out when it's time to bake!

4.  Not Too Thin

When it's time to roll out the dough I break off about a 1/3 chunk from my chilled rectangle and place it on a well floured cutting board or mat. 

 Roll out the dough as evenly as possible but not too thin.  The cookie will keep it's cut shape much better with a thicker dough and it will also give them that to-die-for cake like quality.  I aim for 1/4" thick

5. Dip Your Cutters In Flour

If you find your dough sticking to your cutter or having to wrestle it out, dip the cutter in a bit of flour first.  

6.  Maximize The Dough Space

Try to get your shapes as close as possible and use as much of the dough as you can the first time around. 

After that, ball up the extras, add some more flour, and roll out again.  I try not to do this more than 2 times with each piece of dough.  The more you work the dough the softer and warmer it gets....meaning the more likely it is to end up a flat cookie.

7.  Chill The Shapes In Waiting

Our recipe makes a pretty large amount of dough.  If I'm baking it all the same day, I will place the cut shapes on a sheet of parchment or wax paper and keep them in the fridge until I'm ready to pop them on the tray for the oven.  I have two insulated baking sheets that I swear by for cookies.  So, when I'm cooking large batches I often have to reuse a warm cookie sheet.  I wait until the very last second to put the shapes on from the fridge so the dough doesn't start to warm up or spread.

8.  Do Not Over Bake!!!

For a soft, chewy cookie, this is the most important tip!  And it took me awhile to figure out the right time on my oven for a cookie that was "just" done but not raw in the middle.  I promise to update this post with a pic of this but in the meantime, here's what I look for:

Wait until the center of the cookie no longer appears wet or shiny but do not let the edges brown

.  If I check the cookies and the center is still uncooked, I check it every minute after that and pull them as soon as the center is done. Smaller cookies will take less time and larger/thicker shapes take longer.

Once they have cooled completely you can frost away or save the frosting for another day.  Just be sure to store them in an air tight container.

9.  Break It Up

If even the mention of making sugar cookies from scratch feels completely overwhelming, try breaking up the steps over a few days.  We used to set aside a day for baking, but now I try to save myself some time and sanity.  I usually make a quick batch of dough the day before and store it in the fridge....the next day we'll cut out the shapes and bake....and the following day is for frosting.  It can be a messy job, especially if you get the littles involved, so spacing it out might just be the ticket to everyone living through the process.  And hey, you get delicious sugar cookies at the end of it! 

*I would love to hear from you veteran sugar cookie bakers!  What are your best tips?  I know some swear by certain baking sheets/pans/etc or maybe you have a special ingredient that makes your cookies out of this world.  Let's hear it! 

And good luck to anyone taking on some holiday baking this week!

Pecan Bars: A Scrumptious Alternative To Pecan Pie

Deme Crinion11 Comments

I have some issues when it comes to food textures.   It was worse when I was younger (I could barely handle the sight of any "creamed" vegetable), but now that I'm technically an adult, I try not to be a picky toddler about foods that may have caused a gag reflex in the past.

I can now handle (and enjoy!) most dishes, but I generally don't prefer nuts in desserts.  Love them on their own, just not mixed in.  So, the thought of an entire pie made of nuts, say a pecan pie, has zero appeal.

One of the ways I

can

do nuts in my sugar indulgences is when they are finely chopped and part of a topping or crust.  So, when my mom passed on this recipe for Pecan Bars several years back, it quickly became a holiday staple in our house.  

Pecan Bars

She originally found it in a magazine (I think Country Living) and it's now part of our family recipe box. 

The best part is that it comes together in a cinch.  It's so simple but packed with all those amazing flavors of a pecan pie.

Here's what you'll need...

1 cup softened butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups flour

4 large eggs, beaten

1 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups chopped pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and salt at a medium speed until well mixed.  Gradually add flour, beating well to combine.

Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish

Press into the bottom of the pan.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Like this...

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined.  Stir in pecans.

Pour over baked crust. 

Then back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the topping is set.

Cool completely in pan, then cut into bars to serve.

Pecan Bars

Even my mini photo helper couldn't resist a pinch.

Pecan Bars

You can grab a printable version of the recipe right

HERE

.

Pecan Bars

Does your family have any different takes on holiday classics?   How about any fellow texture freaks?  #noshame

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!

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Classic Apple Crisp

Deme Crinion3 Comments

Every fall I crave apple crisp.  And not just any apple crisp. 

This

apple crisp.  It's my aunt's recipe and if I could eat only one dish for the rest of my life, this would be a serious contender. 

The best part is that it's pretty much fool-proof.  You can't do much to mess it up.  It's a super easy dish to throw together, and it's also a great base dish if you want throw on your Iron Chef hat and get fancy with it. 

classic apple crisp

Here's what you'll need:

2 lbs (around 5 1/2 cups) peeled & sliced apples

1/4 cup water

Lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup butter (softened, room temp)

Optional additions:  Oats, chopped pecans/nuts, dried fruit, caramel sauce....whatever you can imagine!

The only way you can really mess up an apple crisp is by using the wrong apples.  Fortunately, most will work fine but stay away from McIntosh and Red Delicious - they don't hold up well to baking and can be overly sweet.  Most others work great (you can even mix different kinds) but Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp are particularly good choices.  For the dish I photographed for this post I used Gala apples I had on hand. 

Start by adding 1/4 cup water and a squeeze of lemon juice to a bowl.  As you peel and slice the apples, place them into the bowl and occasional give them a toss.

classic apple crisp

Then place the apples and water in a 2-3qt casserole dish.  

In a separate bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon, salt and flour.  Then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork.

classic apple crisp

Once that's nice and crumbly.....

classic apple crisp

....spoon it evenly over the apples.

classic apple crisp

Place in a 350 degree oven and bake uncovered for approx 35 min.  Prepare for your house to smell like heaven.

classic apple crisp

Once it's done, allow it to set (5-10 minutes)

classic apple crisp

Then serve it with some vanilla ice cream..

classic apple crisp
classic apple crisp

Or just grab a spoon and hit the pan. #noshame

classic apple crisp

This is utterly delicious served warm with ice cream but it's equally divine to sneak it as a snack straight from the fridge.  I think it's perfectly acceptable for any meal of the day......especially breakfast. Because it's apples right?

I know a lot of people prefer more texture and crunch to their topping.  You could easily add oats, chopped pecans, or any other imaginable combo to create the perfect crisp for your taste buds.  You can also adjust the baking time based on how firm or soft you like the apples.  35min in a 3 qt casserole dish is the perfect time for my oven and preferences (soft but not too squishy). 

You can download a printable copy of the recipe right

HERE

.

classic apple crisp

This is an easy make-ahead dessert for a Thanksgiving meal too!  Has anyone else planned out their Thanksgiving menu?  We're not hosting this year - a relief since we don't have a dining room table at the moment - but I'll be sharing some of our favorite holiday dishes

between n

ow and Christmas

!

What dish makes it to your

holiday

table each year?

Thanks so much for reading! We would love to hang out!

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