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May 15, 2008

Chocolate Swoon Bars

I usually save the baking isle for last when I go grocery shopping. There's something about that isle that seems special and so I savor it. My gait becomes noticeably slower and what ever muzak might be playing becomes just a bit more singable. And if there are other shoppers in the isle, I feel a little territorial as though the isle is mine and only mine. These are all signs that I probably need an intervention.
Last Friday afternoon my new friend and fellow baker/food-pusher, Emily, made pound cake as a going away gift for a colleague. It was honestly one of the best I had ever had. It had such a classic "Sara Lee" pound-cake flavor, I almost didn't believe she had made it. When I asked her about the recipe she revealed to me how she used something called "vanilla butter nut extract" to make it. What was this? An extract I had never heard of? Could it be? Surely it had to be exotic and difficult to find. I mean, I had never heard of it or ever seen it in my baking isle! I was intrigued.
On the way home I stopped by the store to, you know, pick up something for dinner (wink, wink) and I headed straight for the extracts. To my surprise, in between "vanilla" and "almond" was a bottle of "vanilla butter nut", patiently waiting for me. I picked up the box to inspect it and found a very small recipe, in paragraph format written on the back. I knew immediately upon reading it that I'd be making it or at least a version of it within the few days. The recipe's first step involved a molten caramel which I had never seen before.

I LOVE how this recipe came out! While it was baking, layers formed inside the bar, creating a cookie crust, then a layer of chocolate brownie, and then a second layer of crust. I'm not sure how that happened but it's pretty neat! Plus, the flavor is really something to swoon over. Both my husband and son said "Awesome!" at the same time after they took a bite. I almost considered calling these "Awesome in Stereo" Bars!

Chocolate Swoon Bars
Yield: I'll probably get about 40 bars about of this pan so it will feed a bunch of people, but a normal serving size would probably yield about 20 bars. It's all in how you cut them.

2 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla butter nut extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 12 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder together and mix well with a fork. Set aside.

If you have a stand mixer, have the metal bowl and paddle attachment ready to go. If you're using a hand mixture, get your mixer ready to go. Set up a metal or glass head proof bowl and have a towel or oven mit close by.

In another small bowl, mix the eggs and extract together as so as to break the yolks. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, over medium heat, combine the brown sugar and butter together, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes very think and starts to bubble. Once it starts to bubble, continue stirring constantly, scrapping the sides and bottom of the pan for an additional three minutes or so. Do not increase the heat. (Note: you're not looking for a caramel here, but you want the mixture to almost be to the point where the sugar is dissolved, but not quite).

Remove the pan from the heat and continue to mix by hand for about a minute. Pour the hot mixture into the metal stand mixer bowl and mix on low speed for three minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for two minutes, stopping once a minute to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. By now the mixture should still be warm, but not molten.

Return the speed back to medium and slowly add the egg/extract mixture. Add a little at a time to avoid the egg scrambling. The batter should get very shiny and turn a pretty shade of light brown. Continue mixing until all the egg is incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the flour in two batches, mixing until it's just incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and mix for about 30 seconds on low until the chocolate is combined. The chocolate will melt and that's okay.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove it from the oven and scatter a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. You may need to add more chocolate chips to fill in any bald areas.

Let cool completely and cut into bars.


  1. AnonymousMay 16, 2008

    Julia says she thinks this is nothing special, because "it's just chocolate".

    Just chocolate!?! You might as well say that a treasure chest full of brilliant-cut diamonds is "just jewels".

    With melted chocolate on top that didn't solidify even after the bar underneath it cooled, and a very subtle level of chocolate in the bar underneath it, these were as good as the heaven-and-hell brownies (the standard by which all brownies and bars are measured), but with a bit more heaven and not quite as much hell.

  2. if the pictures alone make me swoon, i can't even imagine what the taste would do. talk about an appropriate name! :)

  3. The best part of baking are people's reactions!! This is why I love it!

  4. Oh yeah...oh yeah! I will be making these! They look scrumptous!

  5. I totally wish I had one right now!

  6. That picture with the melting chips is just cruel. What kind of nut does the extract smell most like? I've never seen or heard of that before either!

  7. AnonymousMay 16, 2008

    came to you via tastespotting...and of all the 8 billion photos there, this is the only one i clicked on. will have this. will have it.

  8. Happy (aka hubby) - hi honey! Thanks for leaving me a comment! (He almost never does!)

    Grace - Thank you! "Swoon" is my new favorite word and after I made these I knew they had to be in the name of these.

    cakewardrobe - seriously, I know. I don't think I'd ever bake if it wasn't for all my friends and family to are always around to eat some. I LOVE their reactions, even more than money.

    leslie - you will not be sorry! Please let me know how they turn out!

    tarah - aww! I still have two left... come on over :)

    Maggie - it doesn't really taste like any nut in particular...nor does it taste like butter... it's just really unique. The best I can come close is to imagine the taste of Sara Lee pound cake and that's what it smells like.

    Kelly - oh my goodness, you have no idea how much that pleases me. You should see the smile on my face! I almost thought that Tastespotting was going to give me the stink-eye. I submitted the photo shortly after midnight PST and they didn't post it until after 3pm. Thank you for clicking!

  9. I've never heard of this mystery extract either! Those bars sound wonderful though!

  10. I'll be on the look out for this unique extract in my grocery isle too. Sounds decadent!

  11. I'll have to look for that extract next time I go grocery shopping.

    Those bars are definitely "swoon-worthy"!

  12. ohhh, i swooned alright! these sound amazing! my husband would love them... maybe with some PB chips in them, too... his fave combo

  13. AnonymousMay 21, 2008

    These sound wonderful chocolatey-rich and delicious! This sounds like one worth breaking the diet briefly for!! :) Thanks for a great share!

  14. AnonymousMay 24, 2008

    Those look killer! Never heard of vanilla butter nut extract before. What brand was it...McCormicks... or another? Thanks

  15. Oh my, don't those look good.

  16. AnonymousMay 28, 2008

    These look amazing.. too bad I'm DYING because my oven has stopped working. It's like I'm missing my heart.

  17. Hi,

    I came across your blog via Bakerella's. I was intrigued by the recipe photo and title but when I saw the recipe called for the vanilla butter nut extract I knew I had to try it. I have seen the extract many times and have passed it by because it is an "artifical" one. With a recipe in hand that I could actually use it in I rushed to the grocery store and was NOT disappointed. I made this on Memorial Day for a BBQ I was going to and everyone LOVED them.

    Thanks for a easy and great recipe!

    Ingrid :)

    PS I'm gonna try your lastest post, the coconut whipped dream trifle! Wish me luck!!

  18. What a lovely blog! And these look DIVINE.

  19. I love looking at all your pictures. They all look so yummy, I want to make them all. The chocolate swoon bars look so good. I can't wait to make them. I wanted to know if I added carmel pieces in between the batter if it would still turn out just as good. I love carmel but I didn't want it to mess up the recipe.

  20. Hi Brooklyn - thanks for your comment! Although I think caramel pieces would be yummy, I don't think it would work as well with this recipe. It might work, but I think there is the potential that the caramel would sink to the bottom of the batter and create a big sticky mess. Butterscotch chips might work though. It's not caramel, but it's close?

    If you're stuck on the caramel, maybe you could substitute the chocolate chops that go on top of the bars with melted caramel drizzle it over the top instead?

    If you make any recipe variations, please let me know. I'd love to know how they turn out.

  21. I love this recipe. It was perfect. I used carmel bits and mixed it in with the batter. It was really good, it would have been great even without the carmel. I can't wait to try more of your recipes.

  22. These look diving. I will be making these very soon.


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