Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

Hi! Remember me? I’m sorry for being MIA the past few weeks but lots of exciting new things have been happening! Well, maybe not lots but it feels like lots!

This fall, yours truly, will be attending UCLA to finish up my environmental studies/geography degree!

Every day since I received the lovely news, I wake up and think to myself “hey remember that time you got into UCLA?” and then I smile REALLY big. You’ll even find me smiling at really awkward times. I’m just…happy. So I have been off smiling around town. I know that doesn’t really seem like an excuse for being so absent…but it’s true.

So stay tuned, Thursday Night Baking is moving to Westwood! Woohoo!

I also went to Chicago to visit my Granny with my Mom! We did some site seeing, ate food, took pictures – it was a lovely mini vacation, despite the 40 degrees and raining weather.

The pretty Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

So in honor of my exciting news, I made you guys something super good. This recipe has been bookmarked and drooled over for many months and now that I’ve made it I can’t believe I waited so long!

My oh my, these bars are little bites of sugary goodness! The buttery shortbread can stand proudly on its own, but wow add the gooey caramel, chocolate coating and oh of course the fleur de sel and this will leave you with a huge smile on your face.

Oh fleur de sel, you steal my heart. I’m having a hard time figuring out what doesn’t taste good with fleur de sel on top.

This recipe makes an entire 9×13 inch pan which means lots of goodies to share with friends! And trust me, this is an impressive recipe that you’ll want to show off to your friends.



Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Happy Pi Day everyone. I thought about making a pie, I really did, but I’ve been craving cheesecake for weeks, so forgive me. Cheesecake is kind of like pie, right? Forgiveness shouldn’t be too difficult after I show you how amazing these cookie dough cheesecake bars are.

Let’s start at the bottom, with a buttery graham cracker crust scattered with mini chocolate chips that lends itself beautifully to the creamy layer of cheesecake, topped with some delicious cookie dough. At first I was kind of bummed about the small amount of cheesecake that was in the bar, but once you take a bite you won’t even care anymore. It is perfection.

What I loved about these bars was that it didn’t require all of the time spent in the oven and then in the refrigerator. Normally, cheesecake requires almost an hour in the oven and then a good 6+ hours to refrigerate. This does not work in my book. These guys only need 30 minutes in the oven and then just an hour or so in the fridge.

The one thing that upsets me about this recipe is that it doesn’t make nearly enough for how much you’re going to want to eat. Next time, I’m doubling this!



Pistachio Walnut Bars with a Citrus Glaze {And My Obsession With Cookbooks}

It’s hard to believe that before my sister-in-law came into the family, I didn’t own any of my own cookbooks. I pretty much just went off the internet and printed out recipes. I know the internet now has pretty much every recipe that is printed in books, but there is something really comforting about holding a cookbook in your arms and looking at all of the post-it notes of opportunity in sticking out at you.

About three years ago, my brother and sister-in-law gave me my first cookbook – Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. To this day, it still is one of my favorite cookbooks because it gives you a huge variety of desserts, breads, pastries, and even some savory baked items. Over the following year I received a few more from them, The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, Desserts By The Yard, and The Craft of Baking. Each one filled with amazing recipes so different than the book before it. I don’t think either of us realized what that one Martha Stewart cookbook would kickstart for me.

I have a routine when I get a new cookbook. I see it at some cooking store/bookstore and instantly am sucked into it’s cover. I flip through the pages to see if there are pictures, because for me if there are not pictures it gives me a bad first impression. (Except for cookbooks like Betty Crocker’s Joy of Cooking & The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. It is just common knowledge that these are going to be awesome recipes, no picture necessary to entice the tastebuds.)

Once the cookbook has passed my picture approval stage, then I find at least 5-10 recipes in it that I know I’m going to make. When you first look at a cookbook, you’re not going to love every recipe. But as I have learned over time, those recipes that at first glance sounded bizarre or too difficult, will soon sound delicious and attainable. I’m not inclined to buy a cookbook that is full of basic recipes, a little challenge is good in the kitchen.

Then I take my new beautiful cookbook home with me and whip out the stack of Post-it notes. I go through each page, look at the picture (if available) and read through the ingredients & instructions. Sometimes I will make a note on the Post-it of an idea that I want to add on to the recipe. After about an hour or more of serious scanning, the cookbook is covered with little yellow (or pink) Post-its bursting out of it, begging for me to open to their page and start cooking.

Now I am going to let you in on my secret. Technically, I only own 8 or 9 cookbooks but recently I have discovered this amazing new way of getting cookbooks for free. Let me introduce you to the Public Library of Los Angeles County (& the Santa Monica Library). Seriously, I know this is weirding you out right now, and it did for me at first too, but the library is overflowing with every cookbook imaginable. These are just some of the ones I checked out today:

And my routine is the same, I go through and post it note them, and then probably a second round too. For library books I will either scan the recipes I want, or type them up. If the book turns out to be really good, I will go out and buy it, but usually I am only copying down a handful of recipes. This way I get to try out a ton of new books, without spending all of my money on cookbooks (although I would have a wall of them if that was an option).

This recipe today is coming from a new cookbook I picked up recently from of all places, Costco! Normally the book is about $35 and I got it for $18! I read about it online and put it on my list of books I wanted to pick up from the library. Then when I was making the trip to Costco for bulk amounts of sugar (yeah), I saw this cookbook sitting there and couldn’t resist.

The collection of recipes is so perfect for the kind of baker I am, it only made sense for me to own it. It is called Home Baked Comfort and has featured recipes from Huckleberry in Santa Monica (I have a post coming about them soon!), the amazing blog Smitten Kitchen, the famous Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and more! Don’t get me started on the beautiful food photography in this book.

The first recipe I tried from this book was the Pistachio-Almond Bars with a Citrus Glaze. I altered it to fit my kitchen, which was not stocked with almonds but with walnuts instead. Also, I personally am not a big fan of orange flavors in desserts so instead of lemon & orange glaze, I did a lemon & lime glaze.

I know it’s a pain, but you need to get the food processor & your mixer out for this recipe.

The nuts, sugar, and rinds will all come together into a sand like texture. To this you will add the flour, baking powder, and salt.

There is no saying this nicely, the batter looks baby food. Trust me though, a little green in your life isn’t bad.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. It was probably my fault for making these during lunch time.

I brought these little bars to a few people, and everyone had positive feedback. They are so moist but with a crunch from the nuts, and a little bite from the citrus in the glaze. The thing with these is that they really are not that sweet, but its the citrus that gets your taste buds craving more.

Can’t wait to share more of these recipes with you!



Dark Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats {Valentine’s Day Edition}

You know it was a good day when you have chocolate under your fingernails.

Today it rained and I wasn’t upset by it, except while walking to class while holding an umbrella and trying to eat one of these…I just wanted to stop and say “Can you hold on just one second so I can finish this, please?”

I use to really hate when it rained. I think I was stuck in that SoCal “oh my god this is not sunshine, what do I do” kind of mentality. Or maybe after all of these environmental classes I’ve finally realized that rain is good and it’s sole purpose isn’t to ruin our day. Or maybe I just like wearing rain boots. Whatever the reason is, I like the rain now. Progress.

I completely forgot that I was given a whole bunch of different chocolate transfer sheets to play around with from the head pastry chef at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, so I decided now was a better time than any to give that a try. Chocolate transfer sheets are sheets of acetate paper that are printed with fun designs in cocoa butter. When you spread the chocolate onto the sheet and let it cool, it picks up the design onto your chocolate. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can find them on Amazon.

Pardon the quality. Taken with iPhone.

They look really impressive, but don’t require a huge skill set to master it. The key to making it look nice is spreading it as evenly as possible (unlike mine above). I used a little heart cookie cutter to make the hearts, but you could also use a knife and score whatever shape you want into it.

Pile ’em up, pile em up!

I cut them into squares and then dipped them into the chocolate. You could also leave them in the pan and pour the chocolate on top, but then you’ll have harsh lines on the sides when you cut into it. It’s just a matter of preference.

More things should be dipped in dark chocolate. You know we have come a long way when chocolate dipped bacon is now considered acceptable, but theres always room to grow. 

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day fellow sugar lovers,


#62 S’mores Bars

Honestly, who doesn’t love s’mores? I’ve been thinking about making these bars for weeks, and now that I think of it, I dont know what took me so long. I made a version of this a few months ago but it didn’t turn out the way that I wanted it to, so I decided to do some research and make it better.

My perfect s’mores bar: thick layer of a graham cracker crust, a chewey chocolate layer, topped with lots of marshmallows that are lightly toasted in the oven.

I used a flame torch (one that you would use for creme brûlée) to toast some of the marshmallows a little bit more. The recipe originally was a no-bake recipe, but one of the best parts of s’mores is the fluffy toasted marshmallow. The oven was already on at 350 so I popped the s’mores in for a little bit until they were fluffy and then finished off with the flame torch for that classic charred s’mores taste.

Verdict: Delicious. The chocolate layer is creamy because of the condensed milk in it, and compliments the chewy marshmallows and crumbly crust. If you’re craving s’mores, this will definitely satisfy. Be sure to grab a napkin when you’re eating these, they can be a little sticky! 🙂

Tip: Run a large knife under hot water before cutting into squares to try and prevent the marshmallow from sticking to the knife.



#56 English Toffee [Homemade Holiday Gift]

I love this time of the year. All of the wreaths, the little gingerbread men, and nutcrackers – I love it all. Christmas decorations just make the house look complete to me. Whenever it hits the new year, and the decorations get put back into their sad little boxes, the house just looks so cold and empty.

On the left is my baker nutcracker, he’s quite adorable. And on the right is my gingerbread man that I made when I was in Kindergarten. He’s looking a little ratty these days since he comes out every year. I think he use to have buttons on his eyes…poor guy.

Whenever my Granny visits she always brings with this amazing toffee. I sadly didn’t know how amazing this toffee was until a few years ago because my parents always told me that I wouldnt like it. Turns out that they were just trying to keep me away from it so they had more for themselves!

Since I had issues last time I made anything with a candy thermometer, I was a little apprehensive about making this. I used the holiday’s as an excuse to just go for it and I was surprised how simple it really was. All you really need is a candy thermometer! I have this cheap one from the grocery store, it isn’t great but it does the job well enough for how little I use it.

Break it up into pieces and put the toffee into little bags, voila! Makes a lovely home made gift for the holidays 🙂 and it’s quite delicious too.

Enjoy! I’ll be posting another home made holiday gift soon! 🙂


#49 Caramel Pecan Brownies

A friend asked me the other day what my favorite dessert is and instantly I float into this fake little dessert world. In this world, there is a big plate with a slightly undercooked brownie in the center of it, dripping with salted caramel, topped with toasted pecans, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Im melting into my chair as I think about that….give me a second…

Alright I’m back.

But really, how delicious does that sound?

So you know what, I made it! Well, a slightly less decadent version…but the taste has not been sacrificed, I assure you that.

Since we (sadly) don’t all have that time to sit down with that giant plate of dripping caramel, this brownie has a layer of caramel and chopped pecans on top. This way, you can chop it into a square and grab it as you go sink into the couch, under a warm blanket.

My favorite part of brownies - the wooden spoon!

Bubbling sugar

Let it get to an amber color (a little past this point)

Video of Bubbling Sugar. I just had to include this.

After you’ve made that caramel topping, you’re going to look at that pan and think “Oh man this is going to be a pain in the butt to clean”. Fear not, I have a great tip!

TIP TIME: Fill sugar encrusted pot, and any utensils covered in sugar, with water and heat to a boil. This will boil away the hardened sugar and make it easy to clean off.




PS: I apologize in advance for the future delay in posts. It’s college essay time! Bear with me 🙂





#24 Rice Krispie Treats with Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cups

I’m not sure why, but for the past week I have been craving Rice Krispie treats but felt it was too silly to make. Changed my mind.

Instead of making just regular Rice Krispies, I melted chocolate and chopped up Reese’s Peanut Butter cups on top. When I was a kid my mom use to make Rice Krispie treats with us and would always melt chocolate on top. These remind me of my a little bit of my obsession – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. So good.

Start with the butter and marshmallows

Melt it down and make sure you are constantly stirring

Add in the Rice Crispies and then immediately put into a pan, so it doesn't stick to the pan you cooked it in.

Melt some chocolate, spread over the top, and sprinkle chopped up candy on top.

Cut up into squares

Don't you just want to bite into it..



Rice Crispie Recipe


1/2 cup Butter

8 cups of miniture marshmallows

10 cups of Rice Krispie Cereal

3 cups of melted chocolate chips

A bunch of chopped up candy bars

Directions: (Have a 13×9 inch pan sprayed with cooking spray ready.)

1. Melt the butter in a large pan on the stove.

2. Add in the marshmallows and melt completely. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes.

3. Add in the rice krispies and do a few quick stirs. Then quickly transfer into a 13×9 inch cake pan and pat down with a metal utensil (I used a butter knife but you could use whatever).

4. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 1 minute intervals, stirring in between each. Pour melted chocolate over rice krispies. While chocolate is still warm, add chopped up candy on top.


I hope you all give it a try! It’s super easy and it takes about 10 minutes really. You’ll never want to use the Rice Krispie Box version ever again, trust me.




#22 Chewy Fudge Triple Chocolate Brownies

I always felt like baking was my escape from reality. When I am stressed, annoyed, frustrated, whatever -I go bake something. It’s therapeutic to me. In the same way that cleaning and organizing are my happy places. I dont need any music or any other distractions to keep my mind active, just give me the kitchen and my cookbook and I’m happy.

Clearly, that wasn’t the case Wednesday night. I have these great vanilla beans that my sister in law gave me from South Africa and I’ve been meaning to use them so I found a great Vanilla Bean Cupcake recipe. I had a lot on my mind and managed to mix and bake an entire batch of cupcakes – minus the 5 eggs. Needless to say, those cupcakes are sitting in a tupperware glaring at me from across the kitchen. I guess some things really do take priority in my head no matter how much I love baking.

The cupcakes have amazing flavor otherwise, so definitely be expecting those in the future. Just maybe when my head is cleared up so I dont forget major ingredients again.

Surprise Happy Vivi Picture!

In attempts to not feel defeated by the kitchen, I made some brownies tonight for a co-worker. We sneakily (is that even a word?) asked him what his favorite dessert was the other day and so I made some brownies. A simple amazing dessert. Always. Unless you forget, oh say, the chocolate or something.

Eight-year-old me and my cousin licking the utensils after making brownies.

As a kid, my mom and I would make the box mix of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownies and all you would need is a bowl, a spatula, and a wooden spoon. These days, when I bake it requires half of the kitchen appliances. But I must say, there is something seriously amazing about batter on a wooden spoon.

So chocolatey

I love this plate that Stephen gave me



Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1¼ cups (8¾ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated.  Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into squares as desired.


Recipe courtesy of the amazing Annie’s-Eats blog. If only I was 1/4 of as awesome as she is.



#21 Lemon Squares

I know I have been really awful with the whole “being consistent” thing but I actually baked this afternoon and I’m posting- all on Thursday.

I got in bed last night with 3 cookbooks, all ones that my brother and sister-in-law gave me, and was determined to decide on a recipe before I went to bed. I have these cookbooks post-it noted like crazy of things that I would like to bake eventually, but of course I went through the entire book and ended up picking the one that I didn’t have marked. If you haven’t been able to tell through what I have made in the past 20 posts, I gravitate towards chocolate. I love it. Love love love. I decided to be bold though and go with something different.

A few years back I made Lemon Bars for my mom, different recipe, and I thought they were weird and way too fruity. This time is a little different, I like them this time but I still want a big piece of chocolate cake. I think I have my mothers stamp of approval on this one, and maybe mine too.

The cookbook that this recipe is from is called The Sono Baking Company Cookbook by John Barriceli. It is a really diverse book which I really like, although I havent really taken advantage of that. It has a lot of relaly great pictures, which is a must when buying a cookbook. Honestly, I dont know why you would waste the time publishing a cookbook with no pictures unless you are Betty Crocker, which you’re probably not. And If you are,  I can’t believe you’re reading my blog…



“The Best Lemon Squares”

From The Sono Baking Company Cookbook



2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup toasted wheat germ (it sounds weird, but you can find it near the oatmeal at the grocery store)

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 tsp coarse salt

1 1/4 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.


1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbs Sugar

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup lemon juice

1 tbs lemon zest

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 large eggs, at room temp

1 egg yolk, at room temp


  1. Coat a 9×13 in glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or butter
  2. For crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add the butter, using your fingers work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles coarse crumbs. Make sure the butter is broken into small pieces.
  3. Press the “dough” over the bottom of the pan and slightly up the sides of it. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is in the fridge, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Then cook for 15-17 minutes until it turns an even blonde color and cooked evenly. Take out and set aside. Keep oven on.
  5. For filling: In a large bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour and salt. Add the lemon juice and zest, and almond extract.Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Pour over the warm crust.
  6. Bake the bars until the filling sets and the very center still jiggles slightly, 18-20 minutes
  7. Cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar, then cut into squares.
This entry was posted in bars.