chocolate bars

I was recently on Twin Cities Live and made the chocolate bars pictured. They are based on a recipe from my cookbook: chocolate brownie base, buttercream filling, then topped off with chocolate ganache. Indulgent, but delicious. I made them for Valentine’s day with edible rose petals, which made them pretty and terribly precious, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, plain tops will work just fine. You can watch the video of me making them here.

I’ll have some chocolate hazelnut bars for you later this week, and hopefully the lemon pull-apart bread I had on Instagram that so many of you asked about. I’m still tweaking that recipe just a bit. And the rectangle cake, too! So many recipes, so little time.

I hope your weekend is full of good things. I am currently watching the snow fall down and trying not to think of my parents headed to the east coast for weeks on end while I pine for spring. I did start reading I Capture the Castle yesterday and can’t put it down; it’s delightful. xx

Chocolate Bars

Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.

Brownie base

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, cold

4 ounces (113g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons (13g) Dutch process cocoa powder

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (80g) all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

¼ cup canola oil

¾ cups (149g) granulated sugar

¼ cup (50g) packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1 cup (2 sticks | 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2-1 teaspoon flavored extract (whatever you prefer! I like mint)(optional)

2 cups (226g) confectioner’s sugar

A few drops of food coloring (I used pink) (optional)


4 ounces (113g) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1/2 cup heavy cream

Edible rose petals and chopped cacao nibs, if desired

For the brownies

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8 by 8-inch baking pan and line a parchment sling (a 9 by 9-inch pan will work, too).

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and the bittersweet chocolate until both are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 22 to 27 minutes, until the sides of the brownies have set, the top is beginning to crackle and look glossy, and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out with crumbs. The batter on the skewer should not be wet, but should have a good amount of crumbs clinging to it. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Place in the refrigerator and chill for an hour.

For the filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the vanilla, mint, and salt. Mix on low until combined and then beat on medium for 1 minute. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, a little at a time, mixing until combined, and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 6-8 minutes until light and fluffy.

For the ganache

Place the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is simmering and just about to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the plastic and whisk until completely smooth. Let cool to room temperature before using.

To assemble the bars

Spread the mint filling evenly across the chilled brownies. Return the pan back to the fridge and chill for 1 hour.

When the filling has chilled, pour the cooled ganache over the top, and using an offset spatula, spread the ganache in an even layer (decorate with edible rose petals and cacao nibs, if desired). Put the pan back in the fridge for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the fridge, and wait 10 minutes before cutting, to allow the glaze to soften slightly. Cut the squares and serve.


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Frost Nouveau









Finding beauty in the cold. I bundled up and took my camera out for a walk but the fresh window frost seemed to hold the most intrigue. It is lovely too, along the river’s edge where the water moves so fast that the cold can’t hold it still. It seems like a good time to make soup!


© Karen McRae, 2017

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On drying clementine slices

Yesterday, we went to the basement and looked through our Christmas boxes. Candles holders, zinc, gold, silver, ceramic. A basket with my favourite vintage glass ornaments wrapped in torn newspaper and packed in egg cartons kept closed with rubber bands. A couple of straw julbock [Yule goat]. Many adventljusstakar [Advent lights]. Four paper stars with their cables all tangled and their light bulbs wrapped in kitchen paper.

To the sound of Emmit Fenn’s Painting Greys, we hanged them, one by one, to our windows. And when we lit them, their soft glow reflected in the foggy glass not unlike a frosted mirror.

Later at night, we took a tray of dried clementine slices out from our oven. We left them cool down on our kitchen table where their translucent flesh glistened under the light of the white and gold star we’d hanged a few hours earlier. The same one we’d tied to that small hook by our kitchen window a year ago to the day too!

I think I will make a garland: dried clementines and the pinecones we picked under the snow a few weeks ago now, a bit like this one, although ours might look a lot more… rustic.

These dried clementine slices are also delicious to nibble on, much so in fact.

Dried clementine slices

Preheat oven to 110°C/fan 90°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Slice the clementines into 4-5mm slices and arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking tray. Generously dust with icing sugar.

Bake until the slices are dry and the flesh looks translucent, about 2 to 3 hours.

I find it easier to remove the slices from the paper while they’re still hot. You can do so and place them onto a plate to cool down. Store in a paper bag, in a dry place.

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