Count on me to un-simplify something. On my trip to Missouri, my friend Courtney whipped up, before I even got out of bed, a treat that turned out to be a major problem for me. By that I mean, it was amazing and rich and sweet, and I couldn’t keep my hands off of it. Every time I walked by the kitchen I would cut off a tiny sliver of it.
And, it is a perfect complement to coffee. Exceptional, actually.
As it was presented, it was what I call a “throw-down” recipe. To wit, the base was a box cake mix with a few add-ins that formed a cookie crust base for a gooey cream cheese mixture which was then baked. Oh, my goodness. Don’t kick me for retro-fitting it to the non-box recipe. I’ll make a note of how to do it the box way at the bottom. But, whereas some folks find boxes convenient, I never have them on hand. But I always have flour and sugar on hand. And in this case I had powdered milk on hand too, because I actually use it here and there (like in my Hot Chocolate Mix).
So, I had all the makings of the non-box version in my pantry and I played around a bit and found a parallel version for the non-boxers. There is a time and a place for both. I will keep both versions handy.
Things to consider: I used weight measures and volume measures here. Truly, weight measures are easier and will lead you to an outcome that is more like mine. A cup of flour is very different in weight depending on who is doing the scooping. But the 250 grams of flour is always 250 grams, no matter how tightly you pack it into a measure. It is the pound of feathers vs. a pound of rocks thing. They weigh the same. So, if you are a person who says “I can’t bake!” one issue may be that you are a heavy scooper and you are adding 20% more flour to your recipes than everyone else and that can make a significant difference. My pipe dream is to go back and convert all of my baking recipes to weight measures…don’t hold your breath, though. This will take a while. On the same note, box cake companies tend to monkey with the net weight of the cake box mixes. The brand and type of box mix that worked in a recipe 5 years ago might have 3 ounces less in it now…enough to affect the outcome of doctored mix recipes like this one. Beware.
Don’t even get me started, actually…I’m on a thinking journey about flour and protein contents between brands of All Purpose Flour. What professional bakers know and what they rarely tell we (even avid) non-professionals is that flour protein content between brands of the same type of flour can vary enough to change results between bakers. If I use King Arthur APF, which I usually do, and you use Gold Medal, our cookies or cakes could turn out differently even though we follow the same recipe to a T. I will be consulting with several really great bakers in town (yes, I’m talking about you Meaders, Jan, and Lori) to get to the bottom of this mini-cookie-crisis. I’ll get back to you folks on it. These things just must make sense. I need them to make sense. Because baking is about a lot of LOVE, but it is also science plus an irreplaceable ingredient…your time. Recipes need to work. And we all need to be on the same page.
A great sweet treat to prepare ahead of time. Travels like a dream and tastes wonderful for several days…if it lasts that long…which it probably will not.
250 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
150 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
165 grams (3/4 cup) brown sugar
70 grams (1/2 cup) non-fat powdered milk
14 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked
142 grams (10 tablespoons) butter, melted
226 grams (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
500 grams (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan by spraying it with non-stick spray. You can also line the pan with parchment if you need to be able to lift out the dessert to cut it for a crowd.
2. Place the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered milk, baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix briefly to combine the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and melted butter and mix until it is fully combined and of a crumbly consistency. Stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly before proceeding.
3. Pour the dough into the baking pan and press it into the bottom of the pan, distributing it evenly around the pan. Set aside.
4. Clean out the mixing bowl and dry it thoroughly. Add the cream cheese to the bowl and cream it for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and add the confectioners’ sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Mix slowly (to avoid the white cloud) until it comes together and then increase the speed of the mixer to medium. Mix until smooth and silky, about one minute more. Stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly before proceeding.
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the cookie base, spreading with a spatula so that it covers the cookie base evenly.
6. Bake for 40 minutes. If the bars are not yet golden and crackly on top, you may bake for up to an additional 5 minutes. But, be sure that the edges do not become overly browned. Remove the bar from the oven and allow them to cool and rest for at least an hour before serving.
Notes: These are even better on day 2, so if you are traveling or planning, consider making these a day ahead. They are still amazing on day 3. The cookie base puffs up around the side of the dish making this a hit for those who love brownie edges!
Throw-down version: If you have boxes of cake mix on hand, try this. It is pretty spectacular.
1 box golden cake mix (18.25 oz.)
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces cream cheese
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Mix the cake mix, butter, 1 egg and pecans in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13. Mix cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, 2 eggs and vanilla. Pour over crust. Bake for 45.
This version is from “Blonde Brownies” which appears in the Gourmet Our Way Cookbook, a community cookbook of Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A really great cookbook.