I really love brownies. I know what you're thinking: "Who doesn't?" But I sense my ardor might burn hotter than yours. You get all the fantastic chewiness of the very center of a cookie, plus nice crunchy edges. I like how nicely they freeze, and how they don't get stale but rather get more delicious on day two and three.
Blondies can be just as nice as brownies, but often they suffer from being far too sweet. Great blondie recipes are tough to come by; this one, though, is the very best.
When you move beyond the brownie/blondie universe, bar cookies tend towards the over-the-top and overly decadent. Think Oreo-studded chocolate squares, seven-layer bars, magic cookie bars stuffed with condensed milk and caramel, and so on. They're fun, but more than I want for a simple, satisfying, everyday dessert. (Let's agree to disagree, Sarah Jampel.)
Thus, today's recipe was a pretty thrilling discovery for me. (I lead a wild life, can you tell?) A rich cocoa layer, reminiscent of a classic brownie, tops a moist mascarpone base, reminiscent of a blondie. I adapted the bars from a recipe I found in the Vermont Creamery archives; I added a touch of almond extract to the base to give the bars even more flavor. The nuttiness plays nicely with the chocolate. Mascarpone cheese is used to such fantastic effect here: It makes the bars tender, chewy, and rich.
Lest you think a two-tone dessert bar is too fancy, keep in mind that this is a simple recipe using one batter. You mix it up and spoon three-quarters of it into your pan. To the remaining batter, you add a paste of cocoa and hot water and oil, and spread this over the top.
Nothing against brownies, or blondies, but I highly recommend you give these bars a chance. It will win over fans from both camps.
- 1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons hot water
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or melted butter)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) melted butter
- 1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (7/8 ounce) almond meal (optional, for a more moist bar)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt