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.

 

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

Directions:

  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…

 

Easy chocolate cake (and it’s not from a box!) March 4, 2010

Filed under: Cakes,Desserts — F. Penner @ 10:10 PM
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I always put any uneaten bananas in my freezer because that way when I want to make banana bread, I don’t have to go to the store and try to find bananas that are ripe enough.  I just have to take a couple out, thaw them, and then I’ve got the beginnings of yummy banana bread.  So the other night when I wanted to make banana bread, I figured I’d be good to go.  I had the bananas, the flour, the sugar, the chocolate… but I didn’t have plain yogurt! (which this particular recipe calls for).  And it was after dinner, and I didn’t really feel like putting shoes on and going to the store just for some plain yogurt.  But at this point I had already gotten myself in the mood for baking something, so I went looking through my recipe tin to see what I could come up with.  And found an easy recipe for chocolate cake.  Score!  Easy and chocolate.  And the recipe said it freezes well.  I decided to use cake flour in place of the all-purpose, even though I’d never made it before, just to see how it would turn out.  It came out pretty good!  (but apparently I should have subbed an extra couple tablespoons of the cake flour for the all-purpose – I found that out today when I was looking for the difference between cake and all-purpose flour.  oops.)

Just a few more notes… Maybe because I used cake flour instead of all-purpose (or maybe I’m just paranoid that my cake is never done) but I ended up baking it for about 40-43 minutes.  I started with 35, and then kept adding a few minutes.  I also only had miniature chocolate chips on hand, so I used those.  They made a little crust on top, which is good, but I think the regular chocolate chips would have been better.  All in all, though, I thought this was pretty close to that light, fluffy, moist cake you get from a box mix – except better :).  And with a chocolate chip ‘frosting.’