stollen bars

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This time last year when I was a million months pregnant, I got the wildest craving for Stollen, the yeasted spiced Christmas cake that has a bunch of tasty mix-ins (most notably, marzipan). This craving came out of nowhere because I don’t think I’d even ever had Stollen before?! I guess I wanted all of the warm spices and a cake with not too much sweetness, and, obviously, marzipan. Because, spoiler alert, I am approximately 75% marzipan during the holiday season. But then when I started looking for recipes, I realized I wanted something with a little more instant gratification because I was too impatient to let stuff rise. I also wanted a softer moister denser texture than a yeasted cake could give me. After searching high and low, I came across Dan Lepard’s Stollen bars!! They are a stroke of genius and delivered everything I was looking for: a buttery soft blondie-like consistency, loads of flavor, hidden surprises like chewy dried fruit and toasty pistachios, not too much required in the way of time or energy, and gigantic chunks of marzipan. GIGANTIC CHUNKS OF MARZIPAN!!! They were SO GOOD!!! I made multiple batches and gifted them all over the place. My only challenge was that the recipe was written in British and required a lot of Googling and trial and error to figure out suitable equivalents to “mixed spice” and strong white flour, as well as the meaning of “sultana.” I also ended up throwing in some dried cherries because I’m in a dried cherry phase, and some orange zest and almond extract because they tie all of these flavors together soo nicely. 

So here is my version of Dan’s bars and, ugh, I am obsessed with these. I love the earthy understated look. They’re sturdy, reliable, low maintenance (make them ahead! they last for a few weeks!), and all around delicious. The cream cheese in the dough adds a sparkle of tang and melted butter brushed on top combines with a storm of powdered sugar for a wintery rustic alternative to glaze. If colorful frosted sugar cookies are the fancy sequined holiday party dress that you’ve been planning on wearing for months, these bars are the very comfortable jeggings and oversized sweater that you decide to wear at the last minute with absolutely no regrets!

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Stollen Bars

Makes 25 squares

Ingredients

2 c (260g) all-purpose flour

2/3 c (75g) almond flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

A pinch of ground cloves

A pinch of allspice

3/4 c (168g) unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature

4 oz (112g) cream cheese, room temperature

1 c (200g) sugar

Zest of 1 orange

1 large egg

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/3 c (53g) dried cherries

1/3 c (53g) golden raisins

1 c (112g) roasted pistachios

8 oz (227g) marzipan, chopped into 3/4” pieces

1/3 c (40g) powdered sugar

Clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease an 8” square pan and line with parchment paper so that 1” wings come up on two sides. Set it aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, cardamom, cloves, and allspice. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together 1/2 cup of the butter, the cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest on medium high until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until combined. Reduce the speed to low and then beat in the dry ingredients followed by the cherries, raisins, and pistachios. Fold in the marzipan pieces by hand. Scrape into the pan and spread it out evenly with your hands or a rubber spatula. Bake until golden around the edges and lightly browned on top; begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes. 

Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of butter all over the top while it’s still hot out of the oven so that the butter melts and then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let cool in the pan and then cut into squares and enjoy! Keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

Choose Your Own Adventure Granola Bars

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One of the questions I get most these days is how my cooking has changed now that Bernie is around. The answer is that I have a whole new appreciation for quick one-bowl recipes, recipes that require minimal chopping or actual heating, and anything that can sit nicely and well-behaved for 10 minutes if at any point I need to drop it and feed Bern. This is because, unless Bernie is having Grandma or nanny time, she is most likely attached to me. Her bouncer and play pads are cool and stuff but she is often over them after like five minutes so I have to use that time strategically and schedule it for the 10 seconds when I need to put something in the oven or chop up an onion. Or another scenario is that I plan to do all of my vegetable chopping for the next few days while she’s napping so that when she’s awake and on me, I can sail through salad assembly without the use of a knife. 

Logistics aside, cooking has also gotten way more exciting because have you ever seen a baby smell a piece of freshly baked pita for the very first time?! Or stick her face in a pluche of basil for the first time?? The facial expressions are solid gold. I also sometimes try to explain everything I’m doing to her, which kills two birds with one stone: I can rehearse my Girl Meets Farm lines and also encourage her communication development beyond singing Baby Beluga over and over

Some other things I’ve learned include that the sounds of the stand mixer and blender are soothing to her, the site of the water running is fascinating to her, if she’s ever a little fussy I can step outside to get some herbs from the garden and that immediately calms her down, and that she wants to hold anything that has a crunchy wrapper. So if I need to carry a lot of things from the fridge to the counter, I can put the bag of spinach in her hand while I carry the lemon and parmesan, and 50% of the time the spinach will actually make it to the counter!

If this all sounds fine and dandy, trust me, it was a learning curve! Remember the first thing I baked after Bernie was born? Making those cakes required 5,000 breaks, hours and hours, and I still had to forego my obsessive desire for perfect ganache drips. Which is fine. This is still one of my favorite cake photos ever. But slowly I learned this new way of doing things and I’ll continue to learn, especially as Bernie becomes old enough to help in the kitchen (or to decide that she wants nothing to do with helping in the kitchen)!

One of my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite pieces of baby gear during this adjustment to life with Bernie has been my Solly Wrap. I’ve been looking forward to this partnership with them for forever because, well, if you follow me on Instagram you know that she practically lives in it. For her first few months, it was her guaranteed happy place. I wouldn’t leave the house without it because if ever she woke up in her stroller a little cranky, I knew that I could put her in the wrap and calm her right down (even when she wasn’t in it, I’d wear it on me to the grocery store so that I could plop her in it at a moment’s notice). For a while during maternity leave, I would go walking with her at the gym every single day and she would nap the whole time while I listened to Unorthodox. I loved those afternoons sooo much. And then where was she when I made my first postpartum loaf of challah? In her wrap. 

Once we discovered this wrap, time in the kitchen got so much smoother and more enjoyable for both of us! I just love having her on me and she loves it too. I honestly can’t sing enough praises about this thing. It’s become my new go-to gift for new parent fronds. 

So today I’m sharing a recipe that I have made countless times with Bernie in her wrap. It’s a one-bowl, lightning fast recipe for granola bars that can be made with whatever nut or seed butters, dried fruit or nuts, chocolates, seeds, and other mix-ins that you have on hand. And they’ve got oats and flax to aid in lactation! All of the ingredients are easy to keep in your pantry for whenever you get a free moment to throw these together, and these bars keep for a while in the fridge or freezer. They’re nutty, chewy, filling, and perfectly sweet. I’ve eaten so many of these and Eggboy has too! (Think he’s started lactating? Lol) The only steps I obviously don’t do while Bernie is in her wrap are putting them in and taking them out of the oven and then chopping them into bars. But everything else is wildly easy and after making these one or two times you’ll probably memorize the ingredient amounts. And by the way, this recipe is page one of her cookbook

My favorite combos are: cashew butter + dried apricots, almond butter + a broken up white chocolate bar, tahini + roasted pistachios + crumbled marzipan or halva, and peanut butter + dark chocolate. For these pictures I couldn’t decide, so I added all of the nuts! And candy coated chocolates.

So for all of the new parents out there who just want to bake a darn thing, this one is for you!! 


Choose Your Own Adventure Granola Bars

makes 18

Ingredients

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed dairy milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk

1/2 c (128g) unsweetened nut or seed butter (I love cashew butter, almond butter, and tahini the best!)

1 tb vanilla extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 1/2 c (280g) quick cooking oats

3 tb (45g) flax seeds, or a mix of different seeds (chia, millet, sunflower, etc)

1 c (112g) roasted salted nuts

3/4 c (120g) dark chocolate chips or candy coated chocolates

Dried fruits, optional

Clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8” x 8” baking dish with enough parchment paper so that it comes up the sides and hangs over by 1”. 

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the condensed milk, nut or seed butter, vanilla, and salt. Add the oats, seeds, and nuts* and mix to combine.

*Alternatively, you can add the nuts in the next step by pressing them into the top of the granola bars when you add the chocolate chips. This is what’s pictured and it’s just a different lewk!

Scrape into the baking dish and spread it out evenly. Press the chocolate chips and dried fruits (if using) into the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a rack to cool completely. Chop into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a few months.

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-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

Thank you SO much to Solly Baby for sponsoring this post and also just for existing. You guys are the best and I love you. Fronds, here is a discount code for 15% off anything on the Solly site: MollySolly15 (code expires November 4th)!

Homemade Snickers

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We had a very big weekend! Bernie had her first solid food!!! Our apple trees were ready for their first little harvest, so we zipped up in our matching green hoodies, I strapped her in her carrier, and together we walked outside and picked a basket of apples. Then we peeled them, chopped them into pieces, and simmered them with a little cinnamon as we sang that we like to Oat Oat Oat Opples and Banonos. The apples were still a little tart (I’m pretty sure they’re Gala apples but they don’t get that sweet until the first frost) so I added a chopped Honeycrisp to the mix. Once they got very soft, I pureed them with a stick blender and then poured them into her cute baby blocks. Then we fed the apple cores to the chickens!

We also made squash puree! Peeling a butternut squash with a five-month-old takes half a day but we did it and steamed some for Bernie food to stick in the freezer and used the rest for grownup supper.

I’m inspired by Bringing Up Bébé to try to serve Bernie the same foods that Eggboy and I eat, so on Monday night we sat down for supper and all ate apples! Apple squash hotdish for us, applesauce for Bernie. Sitting down to our first real family dinner was a dream come true. And, ok, Bernie’s reaction to the applesauce wasn’t exactly the same excited reaction that she had after slurping up grape flavored Tylenol back when she got her four-month shots, but she went back for a second bite! And almost a third. And then made a face that said you overdid it on the acidity, mommy, you’re chopped. I’m pretty sure the apples were just too tart for her. Oops. I think I’ll add another Honeycrisp next time. Anyway, it’s all just going to get better from here and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she’s opining on my cake textures and soup seasoning! Wouldn’t it be funny if her first word was “moist.”

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We have another very big weekend coming right up: Bernie’s TV debut along with the debut of season four of Girl Meets Farm on Sunday!! Not to give away any spoilers but the season premiere is hella cute. Because Bernie. And also because it features one of my new favorite dessert recipes, homemade Snickers!! Ugh they are so dangerously good and easy to make. Really surprisingly easy. When I think of Snickers bars, I think of nougat and caramel and when I think of nougat and caramel I think of candy thermometers and time-sensitive things and too many pots and then having to scrub too many pots of sticky stuff and it strikes fear! But it turns out that there’s a perfect hack for the nougat, which is marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff + nut butter + sugar = Snickers nougat but better because you can use any nut or seed butter you want and you just mix it up in one bowl, no thermometer needed. And with the caramel thing, I’ve decided I’m probably only using store bought caramel from now until Bernie and any future younger siblings of hers go off to college. Another thing that’s fun with these is that you can change up the nuts, as long as they are salted and roasted since they need to balance out the sweetness of the nougat and caramel. Over the summer, my mom and I made tahini snickers with pistachios, almond butter snickers with macadamia nuts (that’s what’s pictured here), and the classic peanut butter with peanut scenario. It’s truly a Choose Your Own Adventure recipe. You could also theoretically use different types of chocolate with these but I’d recommend sticking with dark because, again, the nougat and caramel are indeed quite sweet. These little guys come together really quickly, they might be my new favorite no-bake dessert, and they keep really well in the fridge. So yeah, I can’t stress enough their element of danger because of how good they are, but if you learned anything from your halva bars, just keep them next to the carrots. Carrot, Snickers, carrot, Snickers, balance. 

Homemade Snickers:

Makes 16 Candy Bars

ingredients

3 c (720g) dark chocolate chips, divided

1 tb refined coconut oil, divided

½  c (128g) unsweetened nut or seed butter

2 c (192g) marshmallow fluff

3 c (360g) powdered sugar

2 tb whole milk or almond milk

3/4 c (84g) roasted salted nuts

11 oz (312g) caramels

2 tb heavy cream or almond milk

Flaky salt, for topping

clues

Spray the bottom and sides of an 8” x 8” square pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper that hangs over the edge of the pan by an inch on two sides.  Add 1 ½ cups of chocolate chips and 1 ½ tsp of coconut oil to a glass bowl and place the bowl over a simmering pot of water. Stir the chocolate until it has melted completely, about 5 minutes.  Pour it into the pan and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly in a thin layer all over the bottom. Place in the freezer to set.

Meanwhile make the filling.  In a large bowl mix together the marshmallow fluff, nut or seed butter,  powdered sugar, and milk. Mix well until it becomes a soft dough-like consistency (this mixture is incredibly sticky and you may need to use your hands).  Remove the pan from the freezer, wet your finger tips and press the fluff filling down over the chocolate in an even layer. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press lightly into the fluff.  

Add the caramel and cream to a small sauce pot and cook over low heat, while stirring.  Cook until the caramels are melted, 5-8 minutes. Spread the caramel over the fluff and place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the remaining chocolate and coconut oil. Spread the chocolate over the top of the caramel and sprinkle with flaky salt. Place back in the refrigerator until chocolate is fully set and hardened, about an hour or up to overnight.

Using the parchment, pull the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Run a sharp knife until warm water and then cut 16 bars. Enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the fridge. These should keep for a week or even longer, if they last that long.

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-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

P.S. Don’t forget to tune in to Food Network this Sunday at 11a/10c for the season premiere of Girl Meets Farm! Here are some pics from this episode!

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Nick, Molly & their baby pose with Nick's parents and Molly's Mom before outdoor movie night.jpeg
Molly's BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos, Radishes with Smoked Butter, Individual Candy Bar Salads, and Nick’s Favorite Grilled Orange Soda.jpeg
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ick stops by to help Molly in the kitchen. Molly puts him to work helping squeeze the oranges for Nick’s Favorite Grilled Orange Soda.jpeg
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Molly poses with her Individual Candy Bar Salads.jpeg

halva magic bars

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Hello from my first week back to blogging life after seven weeks of filming and three months of maternity leave! Season 4 is officially in the bag (and scheduled to premiere on September 8th!), and after a one-day trip to New York earlier this week to make turkey on the Today Show, I am home and ready to figure out this whole test-noodle-kugel-recipes-while-Bernie-is-singing-Baby-Beluga-with-Grandma-in-the-living-room thing. It’s gonna be great! I’m gonna squish her cheeks anytime I want!

The Season 4 shoot was so much fun. It really was like summer camp: we had movie night under the stars, a wiener-fueled bonfire, bourekas in a wheat field, and a dance party with backstreet boys and a disco ball and everything. On the weekends we sat on the beach and invented new uses for the word gourmet. (“Are you wearing a Juicy velour robe? That is so gourmet!” “Did you just get very extravagant nail art? How gourmet!” Basically: fancy but not trendy, and nothing at all to do with food.) On the last day, I got Iced and that was that. I miss the crew so much already.

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One of my faaaaavorite recipes from this season were the Halva magic bars that I made for an episode that’s an ode to Midwestern potlucks. Every potluck around here has to have a bar- a brownie, blondie, lemon square, cookie bar, etc. I grew up calling these desserts by their specific names but here they’re all just lumped into one big geometrically pleasing category that is the centerpiece for my go-to sample of a Midwest accent (“Are you going to bring the bars, Marge?” where the “ar” sounds a little pirate-y… aim for the back of your mouth and you’ll see what I mean.)

Magic bars, or 7-layer bars (tomato/tomahto), are one of the top three bars of all time. They are dangerously delicious and they’re magic because you make them by just piling everything into a pan. You don’t have to mix anything in a bowl or soften butter or commit any real effort, they’re so easy and the return is so great that it honestly feels like you’re cheating the world. 

The classic magic bar has butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, sweetened condensed milk and shredded coconut, but in a painfully predictable move, I’ve subbed out the butterscotch for crumbled halva and the pecans for pistachios. And of course the condensed milk was just begging for some rosewater (it gets topped with coconut, can you blame me?!). Listen, one day I’ll make something that doesn’t feature the holy combination of coconut + rosewater + pistachio + halvah but, like, today’s not that day. And neither is tomorrow. 

The result is a bar that’s just as chewy and gooey and amazing as the original, but with a little more color: nuttiness and flakiness from the halvah, greenery and saltiness from the pistachios, floral notes from the rosewater, and pretty pops of pink from the optional rose petals on top. It’s a Midwestern/Middle Eastern mashup that was bound to happen at some point because all of these flavors work so darn well together. Proceed with caution because you will want to eat the whole batch immediately. Luckily storing them in the fridge makes them even better because it makes them chewier, so hide them in the back behind the carrots and just eat a carrot every time you go in for a bar. They’ll cancel each other out.


Halva Magic Bars

makes 20

ingredients

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter

9 graham cracker rectangles (1 package)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 c (175g) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

1 1/2 c (226g) crumbled halva

1 c (120g) roasted pistachios

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk

1 tsp rosewater

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 c (160g) sweetened shredded coconut

2 tb dried rose petals, optional

clues

Preheat oven to 350ºf. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and line the bottom with parchment. Add the butter and stick it in the oven for a few minutes so the butter melts. Meanwhile, crush the graham crackers by putting them in a large ziploc bag and smashing with a rolling pin or blending in a food processor. When the butter’s melted, swirl it around the bottom of the pan and scatter the graham cracker crumbs evenly all over (you’re not actually making a full on graham cracker crust, don’t worry about packing it down or anything).  Sprinkle with salt, then sprinkle the chocolate chips, halva, and pistachios all over. Pour a little of the condensed milk on top and then add the rosewater and vanilla to the remaining condensed milk and mix it in. Pour it evenly all over the pan. Sprinkle the coconut on top and rose petals, if using. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool fully (ideally overnight or for a few hours in the fridge) before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a good few days.

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-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen