|© 2012 The Taunton Press, © 2012 Miki Duisterhof|
Today I will be talking to you about Abby's newest book, Mini Treats & Hand-Held Treats. When her publisher, The Taunton Press, asked me if I were interested in doing a book review of Abby's new book, of course I said Yes! :o)
As soon as the book arrived in my mailbox, I browsed through it page by page. The color photographs in the book are just gorgeous, and almost every recipe has one. The front and back cover of the book are just as gorgeous!
Another thing that caught my attention immediately is that the recipes have volume measurements as well as weight measurements. I'm a big proponent of accuracy in baking and weighing your ingredients is the best way to achieve that with the added benefit of repeatable results.
Abby offers one or more tips for every recipe in her book. She calls them finishing touches, twists, and do ahead's. I like that she offers alternatives to some of the ingredients in her recipes such as flavorings or different frosting or nuts. I'm particularly fond of the "do ahead's" because it's not always possible to bake everything in one day.
Across the entire book you will find various tidbits of information called Kitchen Wisdom. In these sections Abby shares wonderful baking insight with us that she has learned over the years, to make our baking experience a success. One example that stood out to me is her Kitchen Wisdom on how to clean up your pot after making caramel. For those of you who've made caramel before, you know how after the leftover caramel cools, it turns into a cement-like consistency and attaches itself to the inside of your pot as if its life depended on it. Who thinks of including that in their cookbook? It's genius!
This book has something for everyone who likes to bake, whether you're a beginner or an avid baker. It has six main sections: Cookies, Mini Pies, Mini Cakes, Bite-Sized Treats, Frozen Treats, and Candies. I just love the variety of recipes in this book and couldn't be happier that Abby included a whole section on candy making. I could literally make every recipe in that section that's how wonderful they are. And with the holiday season around the corner, these make wonderful treats and gifts.
Last but not least, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book was "Printed in the United States of America". This is something I don't see as much anymore so kudos to Abby and The Taunton Press :o)
Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets with its 100 recipes and color photographs is definitely a keeper. Whether you're a passionate baker or would like to become one, this book should be on your wish list. It makes for a great gift too. At a reasonably price of $22.95, it doesn't break the bank either. And at Amazon you can get it for even less than that.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets from the publisher, The Taunton Press. All opinions expressed in this blog post are mine.
The book review was easy. Choosing only one recipe to blog about was not :o) After narrowing it down to seven recipes, I eventually picked the Triple-Threat Chocolate Squares. What intrigued me the most about the recipe was the different components and textures the chocolate flavor was weaved into. Basically, this dessert is a chocolate cheesecake layer that's sandwiched between two brownie layers, smothered in a luscious chocolate glaze. This recipe should have been named Death by Chocolate, that's how much of a chocolate punch it had :o)
Since this recipe yields 54 bite-sized squares, I decided to make a batch and take it to work. Due to nut allergies, I left out the chopped pistachios (they were optional). I ended up cutting them a little smaller which resulted in 60 squares. Needless to say, these treats received rave reviews. The first feedback I received multiple times was "You're awesome!!!" :o). When I asked for specific feedback on the treats, I received a multitude of positive feedback. Here are a few of them:
- "Yummy! Uber-moist, nice cheesecake flavor, and the chocolate is strong and balanced."
- "Excellent! One complaint; cut bigger pieces, I had to take 2".
- "Excellent. I detected a hint of nut in the 3X Chocolate Squares. Am I correct?" (I personally think it's the espresso in the cheesecake that prompted that).
This is the recipe I will be sharing with you today. I have no doubt your reviews will be equally favorable or better.
I have included step-by-step pictures at the bottom of this post. I hope you find them helpful :o)
Now, without further ado, here's how you enter the giveaway. It couldn't be easier:
Triple-Threat Chocolate Squares
from Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets by Abigail Johnson Dodge
(reprinted with permission from The Taunton Press © 2012)
Like my love affair with all things ginger, I am obsessed with chocolate of all kinds. This cookie speaks volumes about the depth of my love. Riding the line between brownie and cake, it’s packed with cocoa and bittersweet and semisweet chocolates. Add cream cheese, butter, and a few other supporting characters and you’ve baked up a superstar dessert that will satisfy a crowd. I know you’ll be tempted to cut these into larger bars but don’t—the small two-bite version is just the right amount of chocolaty richness to cure whatever ails you.
For the filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (see p. 7)
1 yolk from a large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee, coffee liqueur, or water, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt
For the brownie layers
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Glaze
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) pistachios, lightly toasted and chopped (optional)
Makes 54 small squares
Make the Filling
Put the cream cheese in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer (hand held is fine for this job) until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate, yolk, coffee, vanilla, and salt. Beat until just blended.
Make the Brownie Layers
1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a
9x13-inch baking pan (I like the straight-sided kind) with foil, leaving about a 1-inch overhang on two sides (see p. 5). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the foil.
2. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well blended and no lumps remain. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended between additions. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half (each half weighs 1 pound, but eyeballing it is fine).
3. Scrape one half of the dough into the prepared pan and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the filling evenly over the batter and spread evenly. If the filling is still soft, pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes until it’s firmer; this will make it easier to spread the top layer. Drop small chunks of the remaining dough evenly over the filling and carefully spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean (a few crumbs sticking is good), 27 to 29 minutes. Move the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Make the Glaze, Cut, and Serve
1. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside. Scrape the glaze onto the top of the brownie and, using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Sprinkle the pistachios (if using) evenly over the chocolate. Slide the baking pan into the refrigerator until the glaze is set, about 20 minutes.
2. Use the foil “handles” to lift the entire brownie from the pan onto a cutting board. Carefully peel or tear away the foil and toss it out. Using a ruler as a guide (or by eye) and a large knife, cut crosswise into 6 equal strips and then cut each strip into 9 pieces. Cover and stow in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serve slightly chilled.
Top each square with a chocolate-covered espresso bean or a candied violet.
These bars can be prepared and baked, then covered and frozen for up to 1 month before glazing and serving. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding with the recipe.