Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

In my neck of the woods, it snowed ten inches yesterday. Naturally, there’s only one thing to do when the flakes are falling down from the sky at such a steady pace… Bake! I created these beauties yesterday afternoon as an idea for a super versatile dessert – whether giving to your kids in a bagged lunch, serving at a party, or just having on hand around the house when your sweet tooth comes knocking!

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This recipe turned out perfectly to make 8 bars, but feel free to double it to make more!

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees and spraying mini loaf pans with cooking spray. I have a nifty set of 8 that are all connected, kind of like this one.

Like most cookies, these start by prepping dry and wet ingredients separately. In a medium bowl, combine 1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. Then, in a stand mixer bowl, cream together 1 stick of softened butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Remember that “creaming” together butter and sugar should be done at a high speed for at least two minutes! Start at a low speed to get things starting to break down, and then kick it up to medium-high until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg. Reduce the mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in the flour mixture. You’ll probably need to use a spatula at the end to fold in the last bit of flour and make the dough into a nice ball.

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Fold in a heavy 1/2 cup each of dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries until they are distributed throughout the dough. Divide the dough evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and then bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

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Once they come out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for a minute or two before using a metal spatula to help remove them cleanly from the pan. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely… but feel free to enjoy while they are still warm!

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These are perfectly sweet, so one bar should be plenty enough for one person! You may want to cut them in half for the kiddos.

Oh, and you’ll DEFINITELY want to serve these with some cold milk!

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as my house did – 24 hours later, they are already gone!!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

Yield: 8 bars

Ingredients:

1 & 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Heavy 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Heavy 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 and spray 8 mini loaf pans with cooking spray.

2) In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3) In bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on with paddle attachment medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.

4) Scrape down sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg to butter and sugar.

5) Reduce mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in flour mixture a little at a time. Turn off the mixer and remove paddle to allow you to fold in the last bit of flour by hand at the end and create a neat dough ball.

6) Fold in chocolate chips and cranberries until well distributed throughout the dough.

7) Divide batter evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan slightly before using a metal spatula to remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Triple Chocolate Brownies

If you are not a chocolate lover, please feel free to leave this blog post. I won’t be offended, I promise.

Now that I have the full attention of the remaining chocoholics: You. Will. Love. These. Brownies.

They are RICH.

They are DECADENT.

They are CHOCOLATEY.

And they are NOT AT ALL good for you. (Diabetics, beware!!)

Best part? They’re EASY!

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There are a few things that make these extra awesome, so pay close attention!

Start by preheating your oven to 375 and coating a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray. Next comes the first deviation that makes these extra delicious – a sweet “crust” that goes on the bottom of the brownies! Crush up 4 graham cracker sheets and 15 Nilla wafers and add them to a medium bowl, along with 4 tbsp of melted butter and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir this all together and then dump it into the baking pan.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: It’s best if there are crumbs mixed in with bigger chunks, so don’t use a food processor! Crushing with your hands works great.

Level it out with your hands, and then use a drinking glass to tamp the crumbs down to form a firm, even layer.

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Once the oven is preheated, bake the crust BY ITSELF for 10 minutes.

Now, if you’re feeling a little lazy, you could totally skip this step and just bake the brownies on their own in the pan without the crust. But for real, I think the crust is definitely worth it!

While your crust is baking, get the batter together:

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 1 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar.

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Say what? Cream cheese? That’s right. Cream Cheese. Another one of the things that makes these brownies extra awesome. Not butter, not oil. The fatty component necessary for any brownie recipe comes from the amazing kitchen wonder that is cream cheese. And boy does it make them rich!

After you’ve creamed this together, beat in two eggs until well combined.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Scrape down the sides of the bowl FREQUENTLY. As in between each and every addition of anything. It’s super important!!!

Once you’ve beaten in the eggs, melt 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds, stir, 30 more seconds) and then stir an additional 1/4 cup of room temperature dark chocolate chips into the melted chocolate to temper it. Turn your mixer on medium-low and use a spatula to scrape the chocolate slowly into the mixing bowl. This is chocolate #1!

Once the melted chocolate is mixed in, lower the mixer speed to “stir” and add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder a 1/4 cup at a time. (Chocolate #2!)

Once the cocoa powder is combined, add 3/4 cup of flour (while the mixer is still on) 1/4 cup at a time.

At this point, it should look like brownie batter:

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Brownie batter is notoriously thick, so don’t let that concern you! Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and then fold in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. (Chocolate #3!)

Spoon the batter into the pan on top of the crust, spreading it carefully so you don’t pull the crust off the pan. (The batter is really sticky!) Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out MOSTLY clean. There should still be some crumbs sticking to it, but no visibly wet batter.

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Using all of the self-restraint you can muster, allow the brownies to cool for at LEAST a half an hour before attempting to cut into them!

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If you’ve REALLY got a sweet tooth, it’s great served with ice cream, too! I used Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream, in keeping with the graham cracker crust and cream cheese content of the brownies – but just about anything would be fabulous!

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Full Recipe:

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Yield: 16 brownies

Ingredients:

4 graham cracker sheets, crumbled
15 Nilla wafers, crumbled
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 and coat the bottom and sides of a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray.

2) In a medium bowl, stir together crumbled graham crackers and Nilla wafers with melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Pour this into the baking pan and then level out and tamp down with a drinking class until a cohesive, firm crust is formed. Bake crust for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

3) Using a stand mixer, cream together cream cheese and 1 & 1/2 cups sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in two eggs. (Scrape the bowl again.)

4) Melt 1/2 cup of the dark chocolate chips in the microwave, and then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips to temper. Turn the mixer on medium-low and scrape the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl.

5) Once the chocolate is mixed in, scrape the bowl again, and lower the mixer speed to “stir” and add cocoa powder, 1/4 cup at a time. (Scrape the sides of the bowl!) Then, add the flour 1/4 cup at a time. Once all the dry ingredients have been mixed in, turn the mixer off and remove the bowl from the stand. (Batter will be thick.)

6) Fold in 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon, then pour batter on top of the prepared crust, carefully leveling it out to the sides and corners without pulling the crust from the bottom of the pan.

7) Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some crumbs still stuck to it. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.