Januarys can be rather dull; while September ushers in bushels of apples, cider and doughnuts, October pays homage to the pumpkin. November we plan menus around family and turkeys (albeit there are times when one cannot make a distinction between the two) and December conversations center around words like: ho-ho-ho, hanukkah, cookie, celebration, party, gifts and cocktails among others. And after the letdown of ‘Happy New Year’ on January 1st . . . well . . . January can be rather dull.
This January The Professor and I were puppy-sitting so those first couple of weeks into the new year were anything but dull: early morning outings in frigid air, playing tug-of-war until a stuffed toy lost and ear or nose, moving cat dishes upwards in an effort to keep said puppy out of the feeding dish, scooping poop, house-breaking, afternoon walks (otherwise known as forced marches) and loads and loads of wet noses, snuggles and puppy breath. We managed to lose only one corner of the coffee table to chewing so we count that one as a win. The puppy went to her new owners mid-January where she will have a grand life – playing with kids and another dog as well as being trained for Search and Rescue.
Needless-to-say, we didn’t have much time to spend creating in the kitchen but when the last of the kibble had been swept, the puppy crate had been tucked away and toys were packed and sent off to the new owners, I grabbed the new book from Abby Dodge and spent a couple of afternoons perusing the delicious mini confections she’s created – ‘No forks . . . no plates . . . no kidding’ is the opening line of this sampler of 100 favorite sweet shop treats – and don’t let ‘mini’ in title fool you – they may be mini but they are mighty.
Right at home on a dessert party table as well as packed for picnics on the beach, Mini Treats & Hand-Held Treats is filled with fun and familiar sweets – cookies, beautiful, gift-giving candies, hand-pies, ice cream sandwiches and meringues are just a few of the recipes you’ll find in this delightful book. New to baking? No worries – Abby instructions allow even the beginning baker the confidence to achieve great results – and she gives variations for personalizing each treat.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Abby in real life and we ‘converse’ on Twitter as well as Facebook; she is warm, funny, generous and an incredibly talented pastry chef. Her desserts are simple and easy to bake – all are delicious, some have sophisticated twists while others might leave you feeling a bit nostalgic – homemade Whoppie pies anyone?
Abby calls these lovely bite-sized brownies ‘Triple Threat Chocolate Squares’ – I call them fantastic . . . seriously. Baked in an 9×13 pan, they’re cut into 2-inch squares with a specific note to keep them small as they are rich, and she’s right. The problem is that they’re so delicious, ‘I bet you can’t eat just one!’ (You get an extra brownie if you can name that commercial). In fact, after shooting the photos, we took the remainder to our Cincinnati family because if left to our own devices, we’d have polished off the entire pan by ourselves.
I’ve converted Abby’s recipe for gluten-free baking, added a couple other twists of my own and sprinkled a bit of Maldon salt to the tops . . .
Dang, these are good!
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of the book at no cost to me – however, all opinions are strictly my own.
GLUTEN-FREE TRIPLE-THREAT CHOCOLATE SQUARES
Slightly adapted from Mini Treats & Hand-Held Sweets, Abby Dodge
Makes 54 Squares
FOR THE FILLING:
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 1 yolk from large egg, room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons espresso, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
FOR THE BROWNIE LAYERS:
- 187 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
- 1.5 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder (sift if lumpy)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 16 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 12 ounces granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- Maldon salt for finishing
TO MAKE THE FILLING:
- Put mascarpone cheese in a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth – about 2 minutes. Add melted chocolate, yolk, espresso, vanilla and salt and beat until just blended; set aside.
TO MAKE THE BROWNIE LAYERS:
- With oven rack in the center, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides; lightly butter the bottom and sides – set aside.
- Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until well blended; set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended and smooth – 3-4 minutes. Add 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.
- Spread one-half of the dough/batter into the prepared pan and using an offset spatula, spread evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the filling over the batter and spread evenly; once the filling has been evenly distributed, place the entire pan into the freezer for about 10 minutes – this will allow you to add the top brownie layer easily. Drop chunks of the remaining dough onto the filling layer and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean – about 30 minutes (you’ll have a few crumbs sticking – and that is a good thing!). Move pan to a rack and cool completely.
TO MAKE GLAZE, CUT & SERVE:
- Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring with a silicone spatula until smooth.
- Pour the glaze onto the top of the brownie and spread evenly with an offset spatula; place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, remove and sprinkle with flakes of Maldon sea salt – DO NOT substitute regular kosher or table salt.
- Using the foil handles, remove the entire brownie from the pan onto a cutting board. Carefully peel or tear away the foil and throw it away; cut crosswise into 6 equal strips and then cut each strip into 9 pieces. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; serve slightly chilled.