Peanut Butter Cookies

April 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s something so classic, so simple, yet so complex about peanut butter. And it’s such an American thing. When I lived in Italy, only specialty markets sold them. A small jar of Skippy cost over four euros (five or six dollars!), while here, we pay just three dollars for an EXTRA large jar. Oh, America. You’re so good to me.

A staple in our PB+J sandwiches, this creamy goodness is oh so versatile. It can be so lowbrow (gimme a spoon and the jar), yet so highbrow (peanut butter ganache in a chocolate truffle? Salted peanut butter caramels?).

Don’t tell me you have a peanut allergy. Because your soul wouldn’t be complete without The Peanut Butter Cookie. Here, what’s the secret ingredient to keeping it crunchy on the outside and mouth-wateringly, succulently moist at the center? Honey. Honey, I tell you. So cheers. Eat up.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter, egg, and honey in large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Add dry to wet, mixing to combine.
  4. Refrigerate for a couple hours, or pop in freezer, until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  6. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and slightly press with heel of your hand. Place on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet, at least 2 inches apart.
  7. Use a fork, dipped in sugar, to further flatten cookies, making criss-crosses into each ball.
  8. Bake 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and place on wire rack. Enjoy!

Adapted from dearest Betty!

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Banana Loaf

April 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are four bananas, overripe and lonely for my stomach, sitting on the counter top, crying. They feel abandoned and depressed in their inability to do something about it. All their brothers and sisters have been happily devoured, but these four were forgotten, left by the wayside in my distraction for the pears, the grapes, the pink ladies. It’s a sad, sad thing. Their brownish yellow skin expresses the melancholy state of their mushy, brown souls. And I’ve got to help. I’ve got to do something.

4 ripe bananas (the more ripe, the better!)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash four ripe bananas. Add sugar and melted butter, mixing well. Add egg (beaten in a separate bowl beforehand) and mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, stirring to combine.
  4. Add dry to wet, and beat. Add raisins, and anything else you’d like (walnuts? apple chunks?)
  5. Pour batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake about 50 minutes, or until knife comes out almost-clean. (I like mine gooey!)
And now, the bananas feel purposeful. They’ve come together with the butter, the sugar, the flour, all to create something truly magical. Thank you, my dear bananas. I will enjoy this bread in your honor.
Adapted from a Cookie recipe.

Peanut Butter Delight

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oh, peanut butter. You’re so bad. But so good.

Here, we’ve got the sweet-crunch of a sugar cookie, and the smooth-osity of Skippy, and the crunch-melt of Reeses, all in one bite. WHAT a foodgasm.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more, room temperature, for pan
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
10 regular-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
1/4 cup peanut butter (you choose: creamy or crunchy?)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with buttered parchment paper, leaving a couple inches of overhang on all sides.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Add dry to wet, stirring well. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.
  4. Arrange Reeses Cups as you please and gently press down into pan. Between each Reeses, drop dallops of peanut butter.
  5. Bake until top is golden brown for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick just comes out clean.
  6. Cool for 20 minutes before lifting your peanut buttery goodness (with your parchment paper overhang) onto a serving platter and cutting into bars.

adapted from Yumsugar’s original recipe.

Sunny Snickerdoodles.

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Less than two months until I graduate from college. After that, no more academia. No more lectures. No more homework. No more assignments. No more professors. I will be a real adult. [Really?] And what a bizarre thing it is to really become conscious of that. It’s beginning to set in.

But let us not dwell on what is to come, but instead on what is. Today, Evanston is warm, and the trees are in full bloom. The sun is out. The grass has grown in. The birds are chirping. My last Midwest spring. Let us celebrate with Sunny Snickerdoodles.

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
your favorite sprinkles

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add dry to wet and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine 3 tbs sugar and 3 tbs cinnamon in a bowl. Prepare a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  6. Roll dough into one-inch balls and ever-so-slightly press down in center with thumb. Roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture, place on cookie sheet, and sprinkle with sprinkles!
  7. Place on cookie sheet, at least 1 inch apart, and bake about 8 minutes (depending on how crunchy you like them. I like them chewy, so I baked them for only 8.
  8. Allow to cool five minutes before transferring to a rack or serving plate.

Adapted from Food.com’s original recipe.

Ideal Cookie Dough + ?

April 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Without a strong foundation, a building crumbles. Without its roots that reach deep within the earth, a tree falls. Without a stable family life, a child is more likely to fall behind her peers. It’s the same with cookies. Without a sturdy, strong base – the dough that holds everything together – all is lost and the cookie will not only taste bad, but it will look bad.

Here, this is not the case. After many a moment spent in front of my computer, web recipe perusing, and after many another moment staring at the many inhabitants of my baking shelves, an ideal cookie dough has been achieved. I say “an” and not “the” ideal cookie dough because, as we all know, there is always room for improvement. Do you know of one, already? Let us know. In the meantime, try this very simple but abnormally delicious recipe.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 tablespoon. vanilla extract
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, cream sugars and butter. Add vanilla and eggs, mixing thoroughly.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and add, in two or three parts, to the creamed mixture. Mix well. (Use your hands! )
Done with Part 1: the foundation. NOW comes the fun part. Add whatever you like. I divided the dough into two parts and added butterscotch chips to one and large bittersweet chocolate chips to the other. Amend step 1 of Part 2, below, as you see fit.
  1. Divide dough into two parts and add butterscotch to one half, kneading to incorporate chips into dough. Do the same with remaining half of dough and chocolate chips.
  2. Line two baking pans with parchment paper. Roll dough into smooth, small balls and place at least one inch apart from each other on pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Best with vanilla ice cream!

Nutella Sandwich Squares

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Nutella is the ultimate happiness generator.

Imagine. You’re sitting in a chair at your kitchen table, a large jar before you, a spoon beside it. It’s been a long day. You place your hand over that plastic white top and twist, the cover effortlessly unscrewing and falling to the tabletop. Your head tilts forward and your eyes gaze into the chestnut-colored depths of the Nutella jar. Whiffs of chocolate and hazelnut swirl up, through the air and into your nostrils, overtaking your air streams and electrifying your mind. The spoon goes in, in, in, and around, around, around, happily twirling in viscous goodness. Your spoon comes out, and like a jet, zooms into your open mouth and onto your tongue. Your lips envelop the spoon and your eyes close. Everything else melts away. It’s just you and your ‘tella. What a magic moment.

Nutella was created in the 1940’s by Italian chocolatier Pietro Ferrero (delicious drugstore Ferrero Rocher, anyone?). During World War II, food rationing caused a scarcity in cocoa…which meant a shortage of chocolate. This was not acceptable. What to do? The Big Aha came to Ferrero: Hazelnuts, always in abundance in his native region of Piedmont, would be the perfect ingredient to add to cocoa and thus stretch out cocoa rations. Well, I guess we can trace Nutella back to cocoa shortages. Thanks, food stamps.

Here’s a delicate, crunchy Nutella confection that very much delivers.

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Nutella!

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in flours and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla extract and stir. Add dry oat mixture; beat until blended.
  4. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours).
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into one gigantic spread, about 1/8 inch thick, over a large sheet of parchment paper. While rolling, dust lightly with flour as needed.
  6. Move parchment paper, with cookie spread on top, to a baking pan.
  7. Bake until cookie dough spread is golden around edges, about 8-10 minutes.
  8. As SOON as you take sheet out of the oven, cut cookie dough length-wise, into strips approx. 1-2 inches thick, with a sharp, non-serrated knife. Next, do this horizontally so squares form. Perform this step as quickly as possible, as cookies harden fast.

Allow to cool (at least 1 hour) before spreading Nutella between two cookie squares and sandwiching. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Delish!

inspired by Martha.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

April 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s quite amazing how the simplest of ingredients have the potential manifest into something so magical. This is a rapid recipe for a bodacious dessert that will most definitely delight your eating companions.

Best served with fresh whipped cream (i.e. heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar whipped up with an electric mixer on high). This cake is so chocolaty, so dense, yet extremely smooth. Refreshing yet satiating. Chocolate lovers, prepare yourselves!

4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper and butter pan (including paper).
  2. Set a metal bowl over a saucepan or pot of water (flame on medium), and add butter and chocolate. Slowly stir until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove bowl and whisk in sugar. Add eggs. Whisk. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Whisk.
  4. Pour batter into pan and place in middle of oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a thin crust/shell has formed on surface of cake.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a platter.
  6. Once cake has cooled, dust with cocoa powder (and/or confectioner’s sugar, if you so desire). Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. (Don’t refrigerate it!)

Adapted from Gourmet Mag’s 1997 original recipe.

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