This award-winning baking bible includes more than 120 fast, easy recipes for everything from quick breads (like Almond Tea Loaf and Chocolate Zucchini Bread) to delectable desserts (make mine Country-Style Peach Pie, please).
Besides delicious recipes, Pat shares some of the baking secrets she's picked up over 20+ years as a food consultant and cooking teacher. Intended to help you get it right the first time, they include a wealth of ah-ha tips such as:
Plus, this gorgeous second edition comes loaded with color photos of dishes like Chocolate Monster Cookies, Gingerbread Nectarine Cobbler and Peach Melba Upside Down Cake that'll tempt and inspire you.
I went straight to the chapter on "Brownies and Bars" and found these two terrific ideas (recipes below) featuring family favorites like chocolate (always a hit with Bob) and cherries (my long-time love).
Both these easy-to-make delights earned high marks in our house. In addition to being right up Bob's alley, the Zebra Brownie Squares are great for entertaining. I made them for my Bunco buddies in March and was thrilled with the results.
Now, you might call me crazy for chancing it with something new when hosting a large group for dinner but this sure-to-please recipe was a resounding success. Involving store-bought brownie mix, refrigerator chocolate chip cookie dough and prepared vanilla frosting, the pretty bars were super simple to fix but looked like I'd worked all day. I knew I had a winner when the girls raved, took second helpings AND asked to take some of the tasty treats home to their husbands. Score!
All that and Bob and I still had leftovers to enjoy for several meals. We give these double-chocolate inspirations four forks up because they're easy to prepare, taste incredible, look impressive and can serve a crowd.
When it came time to make the Chewy Cherry Squares, however, I stumbled first time through. Moping over the fact that our one-and-only son Cole wouldn't be home for Easter (major bummer!), I broke one of Pat's top rules for successful baking and acted before reading all the instructions. Cherry preserves were listed with the other crust ingredients so I dumped them in the bowl; then realized I should've spread them on the crust AFTER it baked.
Regardless, the Chewy Cherry Squares were well worth the do-over. They came together easily once I paid attention to the recipe. (Duh!) And we (especially me) absolutely LOVED the taste of the shortbread-cookie crust lightly layered with cherry preserves and topped with a chewy, praline-like brown sugar-coconut-pecan medley. They were so good, in fact, that we shared the bounty with Bob's dad John and rated them a must-repeat-and-soon.
These brownies were awarded first place when Pat's daughter entered them in an office contest. Be sure to purchase a box of brownie mix that makes a 13 x 9-inch pan of brownies. Pat says chocolate chip cookie dough is her family's favorite, but you can use any flavor dough. Swirl the cookie dough into the batter so it isn't just sitting on top. They're named "Zebra Brownies" because of the black-and-white stripes on top.
Preheat oven to 350ºF with oven rack in the middle. Line bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil about 2 inches beyond pan on each long side. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Prepare brownies as directed on box for fudgy brownies. (You will need eggs, water and vegetable oil.) Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until center seems set when touched lightly with a finger. Brownies will also start to pull away from the pan edges. Cool in pan, on wire cooling rack.
Spread cooled brownies with white chocolate frosting.
Sift powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa into a small bowl. Add butter, milk and vanilla and stir until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl once or twice. Add a little more milk if frosting is too thick for drizzling.
Place chocolate frosting in a resealable food storage bag. Snip off a corner of the bag, and drizzle chocolate over the white frosting, creating zebra stripes.
Baker's Note: Soften the cookie dough slightly at room temperature so that it is easier to crumble.
If the cookie dough is very sticky, spray your fingers with nonstick cooking spray while crumbling it.
While living in Florida, Pat's mom got this recipe from a Canadian friend. Pat especially likes the chewy coconut and nut topping with cherry preserves, but says you can use seedless raspberry jam or strawberry jam. When she's asked to bring bars, she often brings these because everybody else usually brings brownies.
Preheat oven to 350ºF with oven rack in the middle. Spray bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Press crust evenly in bottom and slightly up sides of pan.
Bake 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.
Spread preserves over the warm crust.
Beat brown sugar, butter and vanilla in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.
Add egg and mix well. Stir in coconut and pecans. Drop topping over the preserves, leaving some preserves uncovered.
Bake 23 to 28 minutes or until topping is browned. Cool on wire cooling rack. Cut into squares.
Baker's Note: You can bake these square bars in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. The baking time remains the same.
All recipes from Baking Basics and Beyond, Second Edition*
Author: Pat Sinclair
Publisher: Surrey Books, an Agate Imprint
Penned: December 2011
Other Works: Pat Sinclair is a food consultant and cooking teacher with a master's degree in Foods and decades of professional experience.
Time Out: 312 pages
Available: $19.95 at Amazon and most book retailers
* Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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