Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Bars

If you've never browned butter before, you are about to discover a source of incredible deliciousness. Browning makes butter nuttier, more intense, and can give baked goods a chewier texture. It's not difficult, for me the key is no distractions and the use of a light colored pan. There's a great tutorial over at Simply Recipes, if you'd like to see some photos.

Yesterday, I wanted to make something new for a team treat, but I was also short on time. I'd had this recipe from Food & Wine bookmarked for ages, I knew the combination of chocolate, salty pretzels, and blondie batter would be a hit.  And indeed they were, as there were very few left in the tin when we returned home.

Baker's Notes: You don't have to brown the butter, but the flavor will be much better if you do. To save a pan to wash, I brown the butter in the metal bowl of my stand mixer, set it aside to cool to room temp, then add the remaining butter and proceed with the rest of the recipe. I may play with the ratio of browned to solid butter in the future. The pretzels I used were the little sticks, I ended up with about 3 ounces or 1¼ cups, after chopping. I used chocolate chunks because I have several bags in the pantry, regular chocolate chips will work well.

Chocolate Chunk Pretzel Bars
adapted from Food & Wine

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chunks (or chips)
  • 1 ½ cups mini pretzels, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with foil, allowing overhang on the 2 short ends. Spray the foil lightly with non-stick spray.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt and then brown ½ stick (4 tablespoons) of the butter. Scrape into large mixing bowl and let cool completely. Add the other stick (8 tablespoons) of butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients. Stir in the chips and pretzels.

Spread the batter in the pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes, until golden; the center will still be a little gooey. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or freeze for 20 minutes; this allows the bars to firm up enough to slice the bars cleanly.

Run the tip of a spatula around the side of the pan and lift the bar out using the foil. Cut into squares, peel off the foil, and serve.

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