Taste and see …

Peanut-butter blondies with milk chocolate frosting June 30, 2010

Filed under: Cookies,Desserts — F. Penner @ 8:29 PM
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I think just about everyone I know likes the combination of peanut butter and chocolate – in almost any form.  I decided to make these as a thank-you to one of my friends for filling in for me in our church nursery.  (She’s not a regular nursery worker, so don’t anyone start getting the idea that if you switch nursery days with me, you’ll get something yummy.  Not gonna happen.)  And coincidentally, another friend also happened to be having a party the same weekend, so I brought the remaining blondies to his place.  I love it when I bake, and I don’t have to figure out who else is going to eat it besides me!!  And then, while at this party, one of the guests came up and told me he needed to have the recipe because they were apparently that awesome.  So make this recipe.  The blondies are a bit dense and rich, but seriously – they’re wicked good!!  There were none left over (except for the few corners I had kept at home for myself just in case – thank goodness I did!)  Oh – and the frosting is amazing – I’d totally use it on a cake at some future point.

Peanut butter blondies with milk chocolate frosting

  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13-inch pan, line with parchment paper if you have it on hand, then grease the parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment paper, these blondies will be just fine.  *I used parchment paper because I had it – but I think it was probably unnecessary.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until the butter is just melted.  Remove from the burner and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the peanut butter.  Stir until incorporated.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.  You want the sugar, butter and peanut butter mixture to be cool enough that the eggs won’t begin to cook when they’re added in.

Whisk together salt, flour and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients.  Stir until just incorporated.  Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth out.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Milk chocolate frosting

  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cocoa powder and salt.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar followed by 1 tablespoon milk.  Beat well.  Add another cup of powdered sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons of milk.  Melt milk chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler.  Add melted and slightly cooked milk chocolate the frosting and beat to incorporate.  Add the final 1/2 cup of powdered sugar if you need a bit more thickness.  Spread evenly over peanut butter blondies.  *I don’t own a stand mixer, so I just used my hand mixer – it still turned out fine.  And I added the full 2 cups of powdered sugar.  I also melted my chocolate chips (Hershey’s milk chocolate chips, which do not taste like a Hershey kiss – I recommend them over Nestle’s milk chocolate chips) over a double boiler because I have a tendency to make the chocolate seize when I melt it in the microwave.  I know it’s fixable, but I prefer to just avoid that whole scenario.


Cheese danish June 5, 2010

Filed under: Breads,Desserts — F. Penner @ 4:41 PM

Several weeks ago now, I finally had the time to make cheese danish – all the way from scratch!  I’d had the recipe sitting around for months – it was in a Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I think possibly one of their Christmas baking issues – and I finally had a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do.  So I got everything I needed and set to work making the danish.  In between letting the danish dough sit in the fridge, I also made a couple loaves of bread, but rest assured that I’m not usually that ambitious – I don’t normally set out to make 2 time-consuming things in the same day, at the same time.  It just happened to work out that while I could go back and forth between the two, so I went for it!  (The bread will not be on here, sadly, although it was pretty tasty 🙂 )

So the danish… time consuming and somewhat frustrating for non-pastry chefs…  You have to blend butter and flour together, then mold it into a 5-inch square.  And the dough… I do not like sticky doughs… I’m never sure how sticky is too sticky, when I need to add that last 1/4 cup of flour, etc.  I think that having to scrape the dough off of the plastic wrap it was wrapped in is an indicator that I should have a) greased the plastic wrap somehow or b) added more flour.  I also think that I really wanted to get to bed at a decent-ish time and I might not have let the dough chill as long as I should have… so consequently I think it was a little heavier/denser than it’s supposed to be… However, it still tasted pretty good, and people seemed to like it, so that’s really all that matters, right? 🙂

Danish dough

  • 1 3/4 (8 3/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Butter square
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-Tbsp. pieces and kept cold
  • 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. For the dough: Whisk 1 1/2 cups of flour with sugar, yeast, and salt in medium bowl.  Place milk and egg in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.  Add flour mixture and knead at low speed until smooth ball of dough forms, 7-8 minutes. (Dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to sides of bowl than to itself, add remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.)  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. For the butter square: Mix together butter and flour and mold into even 5-inch square.  Refrigerate butter square until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly dust work surface with flour.  Roll dough into 9-inch square.  Place chilled butter square diagonally onto dough.  Fold corners of dough up over butter square so that they meet in middle and pinch ends of dough together to seal.  Using rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from center of dough and going outward, until square becomes larger and butter begins to soften.  At this point, start gently rolling dough into 11-inch square, checking often to make sure dough is not sticking and dusting with additional flour as necessary.  Do not let butter square break through dough.  Fold square into thirds to form long rectangle, as if folding business letter.  (This method of folding is called a “turn.”)  Starting at narrow ends, fold rectangle in thirds again to form square.  You have now given dough 2 turns.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Repeat step 3, giving dough 2 additional turns (for a total of 4 turns) and chilling again for at least 4 hours.

Danish braid

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On large sheet of parchment paper, roll chilled dough into 14-inch square.  Spread filling (recipe below) onto center third of dough and form braid by using a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut the outer thirds into 3/4 inch strips (so that cuts are at an angle to the filling).  Stop cuts 1/4-inch shy of filling.  Alternating sides, fold strips over filling, crisscrossing strips over center and pressing ends to seal, until entire Danish is braided.  Transfer braid, still on parchment, to large baking sheet.  Cover braid loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.
  3. Bake until braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, turning halfway through baking time.  Place braid on wire rack and brush with glaze (recipe below) while still hot.  Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Using soupspoon, drizzle braid with icing (recipe below).  Slice crosswise and serve.
Cream cheese filling (makes about 1 cup, enough for 2 braids)
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) sugar

Using spoon, mix all ingredients together thoroughly in medium bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.

Danish glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 5 tsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Whisk ingredients together in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until needed.

Danish icing
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. milk

Whisk ingredients together in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until needed.


a few recipes – but no pictures… April 21, 2010

Filed under: Cakes,Crock pot,Desserts,Dinner,Soup — F. Penner @ 8:57 PM

Wow – it’s been a while.  I’ve actually cooked (and baked) a decent amount, just haven’t bothered telling y’all about it for whatever reason.  I know I got side-tracked with Easter (which was awesome, btw!!) and then just got lazy.  Oops.  So what have I been cooking over the last month?? Stuff… that usually involved veggies and cheese, among other things.  I actually went through all my cooking magazines that I’ve collected over the last several years and pulled out just the recipes that sounded good, and threw the rest out.  My living room looks, well, about the same, actually.  But instead of a large stack of magazines, I’ve got a much smaller stack of magazine pages.  I’m going to have to organize those at some point.  Anyway, I decided to share a couple of my favorite recipes from the last month, and presumably next week sometime I’ll be back to one recipe per post, or at least more frequent postings than once a month.

Recipe #1

“BLT” Pasta

from Kraft Food magazine (available here as well)

  • 3 cups (8 oz.) penne pasta, uncooked
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut up
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Cook the pasta as directed.

Meanwhile, cook cream cheese, milk and Parmesan cheese in a large skillet on medium-high heat for 3 min. or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently.  Add remaining ingredients; cook and stir 5 min. or until heated through.

Drain pasta; return to pan.  Add sauce; toss to coat.

I love this recipe – it’s got bacon, cheese and pasta – yummy! (and I use an extra slice or two of bacon – just FYI)  However, it’s not as yummy as leftover lunch the next day.  It tastes fine, it’s just not as good.  Maybe it’s just me.

Recipe #2

Jane’s potato soup

(From Cooking with Paula Deen)

  • 1 30 oz. bag frozen hash-brown potatoes
  • 3 14 oz. cans chicken broth
  • 1 10.75 oz. can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

In a 6-quart crock pot, combine potatoes, broth, soup, onion, and pepper.  Cover, and cook on low for 5 hours.  Stir in cream cheese; cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until combined.  Garnish with green onions, if desired.

I was in a hurry when I made this – I got home later than I was planning and didn’t want to wait the 5 1/2 hours it would have taken to cook, so I cooked it on high for 2 1/2 hours or so instead.  It tasted just fine, but the onions were still a little crunchy… I think the faster cook time didn’t cook them all the way?  I’ve only used my crock pot a couple of times, so I just sort of assumed that putting the heat on high instead of low would just cook everything twice as fast.  Oh well…

And of course there has to be a dessert in here…

Recipe #3

Lemon Pound Cake

(from Cook’s Country)


  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten


  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

*3 lemons gives you more than enough zest and juice for the whole recipe

For the cake:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl.  Stir sour cream and lemon juice together in a second bowl.

Using fingers, toss lemon zest and sugar together in large bowl until clumps are gone.  Add butter and beat with electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and light, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add beaten eggs in three additions, mixing until smooth and scraping down bowl after each addition (mixture will begin to look curdled).  With mixer on low, add one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of sour cream mixture, stopping as necessary to scrape down bowl.  Repeat, ending with flour mixture.  Scrape down bowl, then mix on low until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Use rubber spatula to give batter final stir.

Pour batter into pan and smooth top.  Gently tap pan on counter to release air bubbles.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 55 to 70 minutes.

For the syrup:

While cake bakes, stir sugar and lemon juice together in saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves.  Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside.

Cool cake in pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.  Brush top and sides of still-warm cake with syrup and cool completely, about 2 hours.

For the glaze:

Whisk confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in bowl until smooth.  Spread glaze over cake, allowing some to drip down sides.  Let glaze set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Funny story about this pound cake… I initially made it on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that I would have enough time before Bible study to get through the syrup step.  However, I had taken a nap and didn’t realize that the cake took an hour just to bake until after I had already put it in the oven.  So I turned the temperature up, thinking I would just see what happened – I needed to leave by a certain time.  Now, I don’t think I have a 9×5 pan, I think I have the next size down, because when I poured the batter in, it came pretty close to the top of the pan.  But I didn’t know until after this experience that I don’t have a 9×5 – I thought I did – so I just put the pan in the oven with all the batter in it!  Not a good idea… it overflowed a bit.  I was going to put a cookie tray under it once I realized there was batter all over the bottom of my oven, but then I realized I had to leave in like, a half hour, and the batter on the floor of the oven was starting to burn, and yeah, it was just not good.  I ended up just pulling the pan out of the oven and throwing out my partially done cake – it was pretty messy!!  And my oven is still burning off the batter, I think, because every time I’ve used it since I can smell it burning.  mmm!! 😛  At any rate, I still really wanted to make this, so I gave it another shot another day when I actually had the time to bake it properly.  And I also made myself a little mini-loaf with the extra batter so I didn’t overflow again – it was wicked good!! 🙂


Cupcake or muffin? March 23, 2010

Filed under: Breads,Cakes,Desserts — F. Penner @ 7:37 PM
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I’m not really sure what to call what I baked tonight, hence the title…  The original recipe calls it a cake, so I guess they’re cupcakes?  Except that they haven’t got frosting, and they’re maybe a little healthier than your average cupcake, and you could possibly eat one for breakfast.  So maybe they’re muffins?  Regardless, they’re yummy :).

Today was the second rainy day in a row, which normally wouldn’t be too bad, except that we had absolutely gorgeous weather over the weekend.  I was in short sleeves and flip-flops Saturday and Sunday – it was awesome!!  And now it’s back to normal spring weather, including lots of rain.  So after sitting at my desk all day, staring at my computer and wishing it were the weekend again, I decided I need to bake something.  I realized while I was eating my lunch that I had an extra container of vanilla yogurt at home, and got to wondering whether or not I could substitute the vanilla yogurt for plain yogurt in this one recipe I have for banana bread/cake/whatever.  It’s also got chocolate and cinnamon and walnuts in it, at least in the original recipe – I changed a couple of things around…  I thought maybe making cupcakes/muffins would be better than making a whole cake – they’d be easier to freeze, share, etc. – and I’m really not a fan of walnuts (except when they’re in baklava) so I opted for almonds instead.

My revised version of Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake

adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup almonds (3 ounces), toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.  Line muffin tins with 18 liners.

Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).

With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.  Place about 1 good-sized spoonful (just a regular spoon) of batter in each liner – you should go through half of the batter – then half a spoonful or so of the chocolate mixture on top of that (again, going through about half of the mixture).  Divide the rest of the batter evenly on top of the chocolate mixture, smoothing the batter to cover the chocolate in the middle.  Spoon the rest of the chocolate mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake for 24-27 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

*Alternately, you can also pour half of the batter into a buttered 9-inch square pan, sprinkle half of the chocolate mixture over that, pour the remaining batter over than, sprinkle the top with the rest of the chocolate, and bake for 35-40 minutes.

After writing this, eating one, and thinking about it, I’m still not sure whether these should be muffins or cupcakes… although I’m leaning towards muffins, because then if I end up eating one for breakfast, I won’t feel as guilty!  And just FYI – this recipe (cake or cupcake/muffin) tastes better warm – the chocolate gets nice and melty and gooey.


a rainy Saturday… and two recipes March 13, 2010

Filed under: Cookies,Desserts — F. Penner @ 6:13 PM
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It’s been raining here since yesterday, and apparently it’s supposed to keep raining through Monday.  Quite a change from the beautiful sunny weather I was enjoying earlier in the week!  My Saturdays are generally low-key – I’ll do my grocery shopping, clean (maybe), hang out with people… just generally veg and enjoy a day of not having to do anything specific.  All through this past week, I was trying to figure out what I could make with some leftover lemon juice & zest I had from another recipe.  I was initially thinking lemon curd, and then make a cake roll with that as my filling.  But then the yolks that I had frozen were a bit rubbery when they thawed – ew! – so I decided to hunt for something else, and found a recipe for Lemon Whoopie Pies.  The only whoopie pies I’ve had recently are what you normally think of – two chocolate cakey cookies, with a fluffy buttercream frosting in between, courtesy of my uncle, who started Chococoa Baking Co. a couple of years ago.  So I was intrigued by the idea of a lemon cookie with with lemon frosting – it sounded amazing!  I make the cookies, went shopping, and sat down to wait for the cream cheese and butter to come to room temperature for the frosting.  But then I became impatient, so I decided to help them along by sticking them in the microwave for about 10 seconds… and then I made the frosting.  It seemed a little softer than it should be (probably because I decided to help the butter & cream cheese soften :)), so I followed Joy the Baker’s advice and put it in the fridge for a little bit.  Not all of my cookies were the same size, although I thought I had used the same amount of batter for each one, so while I was waiting for the frosting to harden up a little, I went through and matched them up.  Yes, I am just that particular.  I dolloped the frosting on half of the cookies, placed the other half on top, and voila!

They are awesome.  And with a cream cheese frosting in the middle, you really can’t go wrong.  Soo! good.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with the leftover frosting.  It seemed a shame to just get rid of it, so I saved it.  But I’m not really sure what I can do, other than sneak spoonfuls of it occasionally over the next week… that might have to suffice. 😛

I was going to just let it go at the whoopie pies, and do something more productive with the rest of my afternoon, but I had seen a recipe in a recent issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine for milk chocolate cookies with a peanut butter frosting in the middle that I really wanted to make – the recipe claimed to taste like a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  Who can resist that??  So I got everything set for recipe #2.

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups (15 ounces) milk chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, and divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium, microwavable bowl, melt together 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter on medium power until almost melted, about 1 1/2 minutes; stir just until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla at high speed until thickened and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the melted chocolate at medium speed; whisk in the flour mixture. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough until firm enough to scoop, but still soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Onto each prepared pan, drop 12 rounded tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart. Bake, switching and rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cookies appear bubbly and still soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat together the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the peanut butter. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; beat until fluffy. On the flat side of each of 12 cookies, spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the peanut butter mixture; sandwich with the remaining cookies.

I never actually follow recipes when they tell you to put 2 sheets in the oven at the same time – the couple times I’ve done that, it just doesn’t work out for me!  I wasn’t as impressed with recipe #2 – it tasted good (and somewhat close to a Reese’s cup) but the cookie was a little too chewy, and not in a good way.  Maybe I overbaked them – but when I pulled the first sheet out after 12 minutes the cookies looked underbaked so I put them in for a couple more minutes.  They weren’t soft like the recipe said they should be, although I don’t know that I’ve ever really had much success at baking a truly soft cookie.  I get paranoid that they’re not done, especially when I’ve never made the recipe before, and end up baking them a minute or two longer than necessary.  You’d think I’d learn…