Bake sales were a staple of my youth, but I haven't come across one in some time. Still, I crave the excitement and the selection of homemade treats.
So what do you do when you can't find a bake sale? Make your own -- right in your own kitchen!
These treats are portable and tasty, perfect for on-the-go parents and kids' lunch boxes. And they range from downright healthy to deliciously decadent.
Granola bars can be deceiving, masquerading as a healthful snack, but too often delivering only a sugary wallop. The recipe below makes for a wholesome treat, with just enough sweetness to entice the kids and plenty of nutrients, thanks to wheat germ and rolled oats. They also get a burst of chewy flavor due to the dried blueberries.
And the muffins are a cinch to put together -- just mix and bake.
Easy chocolate-chip bars are just that -- wonderfully simple to prepare. If you keep a well-stocked pantry, you can make these at a moment's notice.
And when you want to pull out all the stops, nothing impresses like a homemade whoopee pie. Don't be intimidated by the long recipe; there's a lot of detail, but putting it together is quite simple.
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsps. brown sugar
2 Tbsps. butter
2 Tbsps. peanut butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup dried blueberries
2 oz. white chocolate (optional)
Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with baking spray. Set oven to 350°.
Combine the oats, wheat germ, walnuts and sunflower seeds in a small bowl.
Spread in an even layer in a baking dish and toast until golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.
Add to the oat mixture; stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and press down to spread in an even layer. Refrigerate until cold and set, about 1 hour. Cut into 16 bars.
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler. Arrange the bars on a wire rack, spaced at least 1 inch apart.
Drizzle white chocolate over the bars and leave to set at room temperature.
Wrap individually and refrigerate in an airtight container.
Makes 16 bars.
From the book "One Cake, One Hundred Desserts" by myself and Greg Case. Feel free to make smaller circles of cake for mini "pies."
baking spray with flour, or butter and flour for the pan
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, whisked to remove lumps
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter, cut into two pieces
11/2 tsps. vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla
To Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350° and position a rack in the center.
Grease the bottom of an 11x 17-inch jelly-roll pan, line with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and grease and flour the paper.
Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder in a large bowl.
Set the bowl aside.
Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepot over low heat. As soon as the butter is melted, remove from heat and add the vanilla. Set aside.
Using the whisk attachment on your mixer (or if you're using a hand mixer, the regular beaters), whip the egg yolks, eggs and sugar on high for 3 minutes.
The mixture will triple in volume and turn a very pale yellow. Reduce the speed to medium and continue mixing 3 minutes (if using a hand mixer, keep speed at high and continue mixing). The mixture will continue to increase in volume and thicken.
With the mixer on the lowest setting, slowly sprinkle 1/4 of the flour mixture over the eggs and mix until no trace of white remains. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture, reserving the empty flour bowl. Transfer half of the batter to the flour bowl and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave (you can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and then transfer it to a large bowl). Add the warm milk and butter to the chocolate and stir until combined, then add the chocolate to half of the batter. Stir quickly, but gently, until the chocolate is evenly distributed.
Gently fold the chocolate batter into the remaining batter until completely combined and no streaks remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan and place on the center rack.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the surface springs back when poked with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs but is not wet. Set the cake on a rack to cool.
When cool, run a knife along the perimeter of the pan and immediately turn the cake out onto a large cutting board. Remove the parchment paper and cut out 12 rounds, about 31/2 to 4 inches in diameter each.
To Prepare the Filling: Combine sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until mixture is melted. Bring to a boil and cook until syrup reaches the softball stage; when you drop a bit in some cold water, it should not dissolve.
Cover and remove from heat.
Whip the egg whites and salt at high speed to soft peaks.
Turn the mixer off and add the syrup. Mix at high speed until cool; the frosting will be thick, stiff and fluff-like.
Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
To Assemble Pies: Arrange 6 cake rounds on a serving platter. Divide filling evenly among the rounds (about 1/2 cup each). Top with remaining six rounds. Press the top of each whoopee pie down gently so that the filling spreads to the edge.
Makes 6 pies.
Pumpkin-Apple Muffins With White-Chocolate Glaze
Use whatever apples you have on hand for this recipe.
21/2 cups flour
11/2 tsps. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
11/2 tsps. baking powder
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 oz. white chocolate
1 Tbsp. cream cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease two standard muffin tins.
Combine the flour, spices and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apples; toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the sugars, pumpkin, oil and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. Divide the batter among 18 muffin cups.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs. Set on a wire rack to cool.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler.
Add the cream cheese and stir vigorously until smooth.
Add the milk and stir until combined. Add the confectioners' sugar and stir until smooth.
Spoon the glaze over warm muffins, letting some drip over the sides.
Allow the glaze to set before serving, about 15 minutes.
Makes 18 muffins.
Easy Chocolate-Chip Bars
21/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. (one package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray a 9-by-11-inch baking dish with spray grease.
Combine all ingredients, except the chips, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until combined and smooth, about 1 minute.
Add the chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed.
Pour the dough into the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer.
Bake until golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.
Cut into 16 bars.
Keri Fisher is co-author of One Cake, One Hundred Desserts. E-mail: [email protected] .