Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies

A few months ago I got a craving for peanut butter cookies. I had not had any in a while, and I craved a cookie that would yield a crunch of peanut butter in every bite. Doesn't that sound yummy!

Once a craving knocks on my door, it tends to make itself at home until my taste buds are sufficiently satisfied. I browsed through lots of recipes, and tried one that I thought might fit the bill... but the end result was not that exciting. I mean, they were great for a sweet fix throughout the week, but my peanut butter craving still lingered. So, I continued to keep my eyes peeled in case something popped up that might help me shake this hunger. A month or so later, I stumbled upon these cookies from Brown Eyed Baker and knew that I had to try them. Raise your spatulas -- the results were delicious and my taste buds were happy!

I highly recommend this recipe to all you peanut butter lovers out there; whether you have a craving or not, you won't be disappointed. These cookies are full of crunchy goodness! Such a treat. :)
*Note: I baked mine for a minute or two longer than the original recipe indicated because they seemed like they still needed to bake. You may want to pull them out earlier than what's noted below if you're trying to retain a softer center.

Yields about 40 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, separated
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter chips 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat unsalted butter and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add light brown sugar and 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition; scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Reduce speed of mixer to low and gradually add your dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in peanuts and peanut butter chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar into a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop, roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Roll balls of dough in sugar to coat and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, press down on each ball to flatten rounds; press down twice in opposite directions to make a crisscross indention.

Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 11-13 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to sit on baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then transfer cookies to wire cooling racks. Store in air tight container.

Source: slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Monday, October 10, 2011

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

One of the only ways I know how to say "Happy Birthday" is by baking. I'm terrible about sending cards. I always battle internally over whether or not I should spend $4 on a greeting card, and most of the time I just buy from the 99 cent stack, but those cards are never as cute or clever. And as opposed to spending money on a gift for someone which they may or may not like, I'd rather apply my time and money towards baking something I know the birthday guy or gal is sure to enjoy! Baking is thoughtful, full of heart, and sings yummy goodness. :) So if you don't care for sweets, then you don't leave me much choice and you'll likely get a birthday card that's really not that funny and even less cute... sorry, but now I've warned you!
I baked these salted toffee squares for Matt's co-worker's birthday. Lane (who I absolutely adore) loves to sample my baking, so I thought she might appreciate a birthday gift from my oven. :) I was really struggling over what I should bake for her... I wanted it to be something good! I flipped through tons of recipes over several days. Finally, I opened my inbox one morning to see Martha's Cookie of the Day email, and low and behold, there sat these salted toffee-chocolate squares. "This is it!" I thought to myself.
These bars were so delicious! I could have happily eaten all of them on my own. The sweet and salty balance was superb, and the crunch of the toffee and pecans was delectable! I think these would make a delicious dessert for a pot luck or cookout. One thing I'll change next time is chopping blocks of chocolate instead of using morsels. I found that the morsels didn't melt that much. I think chopped chocolate will melt easier and help seal in the loose peanut butter chips and pecans once it hardens. But the flavor was perfect, and this recipe could easily be adapted to suit your palate. Go make a batch and have fun with it!

Yields 24 bars
13 graham crackers
1 bag (8 oz) toffee bits
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place graham crackers on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the edges of the crackers touching. Sprinkle toffee bits and pecans over graham crackers.

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy. Immediately pour the mixture over the graham crackers. Bake until sugar topping is bubbling, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire cooling rack and immediately sprinkle chocolate, peanut butter chips and salt over graham crackers. With a sharp knife, carefully cut into 2-inch squares. Let cool completely after separating.

Source: slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bridal Shower Cake

What do you love most about a bridal or baby shower? I love the details! Themes, invitations, decor... refreshments, games, gifts... I love it all! So much thought and preparation goes into planning a shower, and I love to soak up every little detail. :) The baker inside me loves to check out the dessert table. Whether there's cake, cupcakes, petit fours... cookies, brownies, tarts... pass me a plate and shower me in sweetness!
I made this cake for a wedding shower at my office. Just so happens, both the bride and groom work in my department - two wonderful people, therefore twice the celebration!! I couldn't resist signing up to make a cake. I love baking for special occasions... it gives my flour and sugar a more meaningful purpose. :) I made a traditional vanilla cake with a hint of almond, and topped it with a classic buttercream frosting. Yum! It tasted delicious, and it seemed to be a big hit amongst my co-workers.

Cheers to the bride the groom (who have since wed)!

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