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)!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

M&M Doozies

One thing I used to love about shopping at the mall was strolling by the delightful display of Great American Cookies. Tempted by the sweet aroma, luring me closer, it would take all my will power to re-direct my eyes forward and continue on my merry way. (Until I'd come upon a stand of Auntie Anne's pretzels, and then, well... that's a whole other craving!) Last year, I tried my hand at a homemade chocolate chip cookie cake -- simply delicious! It was every bit as tasty as the ones you would buy from the mall, and it was such a hit with my hubby that he requested his own cookie cake for his birthday this year. And I gladly obliged... :)
There is one other taunting treat in those Great American Cookie displays that can catch my eye from twenty feet away... the Double Doozies! Oh my heaven, how I love the sweet divinity of a Double Doozie! Since the cookie cake was such a success, I decided to use the same recipe to recreate the doozie sensation right here in my own kitchen. Hooray, another great success!
My preference is always the M&M doozie, so I subbed the bittersweet and white chocolate chips for a bag of plain M&Ms and 1/2 cup of mini chocolate morsels. I baked them at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Once the cookies had cooled, I topped half the batch with my favorite buttercream frosting and sandwiched them together with the other half. Perfection!
Of course I could not leave all these sitting on my counter, screaming for my affection. No, that would not do so well for my waistline. :) Instead, I piled them up in a sweet little cookie jar and escorted them over to our friend's housewarming party. Treats like these are made to be shared, and I think they made the tastiest gift!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

And I'm back by popular demand -- popular amongst me, myself and I -- demand from my taste buds and my sweet tooth!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I've been off enjoying the summer. :) How about you? Are you staying cool in this insane heat?

I thought these cupcakes would be a good way to ease back into blogging mode. I made them for Matt's co-worker's birthday, and I must say, they were yummy! When Matt said the birthday girl liked strawberry cake, I was ecstatic! It just so happens that strawberry cake is my absolute favorite cake flavor!! I discovered this about myself a few years ago when I was trying to master my grandmother's strawberry cake. I absolutely love it! This recipe is nothing like my grandmother's cake, but I've wanted to try some sort of strawberry cake to pair with the delightful strawberry frosting I made a couple months ago. I was drawn to this recipe because of the fresh chunks of berries mixed into the cake batter. I must say, these are delicious! They remind me of a strawberry shortcake, but in cupcake form. Most definitely a refreshing treat!
Yields 30 Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin pans with paper liners, set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine both flours, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and mix well. Adjusting the mixer to low speed, gradually add half of the flour mixture, milk and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until combined after each addition. Gently fold in strawberries with a spatula.

Fill prepared muffin pans with batter, filling each liner 3/4 full. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy! Click here for strawberry frosting recipe. 

Source: cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes, recipe found on Annie's Eats

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turtle Brownies

I have had a dire need to bake something! I feel like I have neglected my kitchen for the past couple of weeks because work has been super busy. I have been so mentally exhausted by the time I get home that I cannot fathom doing anything else that involves using my brain. Do you ever have those moments? Well now, my brain is screaming for some baked stimulation! Work is going to be a bit insane for the remainder of the month, so I need some fuel to recharge and stay focused. Plus Matt has literally asked me five times this week to bake something. How can I say no to the man I love so dearly? :)
These brownies were just what I needed to top off my weekend. They are phenomenal!!! I had no trouble deciding what I wanted to bake... I wanted to recreate the sweetness of a turtle candy into the form of a brownie. I stumbled upon a few recipes for caramel brownies that were recently adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. I do not have this book, so I have not seen the original recipe, but I might have to run out and buy it tomorrow. :) These brownies were definitely some of the best brownies I have had in a long time, and I'll make sure to keep this recipe handy because I sense that I might have future cravings for these sweeties. Delicious!!

Yields 9-12 brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
7 oz caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp light cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of overhang along two sides. Grease parchment and sides of dish with baking spray; set aside.

Cut butter into 6 cubes and combine with chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until completely melted. Transfer chocolate mixture into a medium size mixing bowl, and whisk in both sugars, eggs, and vanilla until incorporated. Stir in flour and salt just until combined. Evenly spread half of the batter in the prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place pecans in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine caramel candies and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in half of the pecans, and immediately spread caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer. Carefully pour and spread the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer. Top with the remaining pecan pieces, and bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lift the brownies from the pan and remove parchment paper. Cut into squares. Store brownies in airtight container.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Corn And Black Bean Salad

As the weather starts to really heat up outside, I felt it was time to share with you this refreshingly cool, tasty salad. Black beans and corn tossed with a little cider vinegar and cilantro... this salad is delicious and addicting! Matt and I love this dish, and I love to make it during the summer months. It is the perfect side for any backyard cookout; and if you serve it with a bowl of baked scoops, you'll have yourself a perfect appetizer that your friends and family will love to munch on.
Try it... and I'm certain you'll love it as much as we do! :)

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 cans of corn (White, Yellow and Mexicorn), drained and rinsed
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Ground red pepper (or paprika) to taste

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cilantro, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add corn, beans, onion and red pepper; gently mix to combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Can be stored up to three days in the refrigerator.

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