Peanut Butter Blondies

What to do when you sweet tooth calls but you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen or go to the store for ingredients?? Make Blondies!!

I love Blondies!! It is no lie. They are so simple to whip up, use easy to remember measurements (no recipe card needed, yeah!) and can be easily doubled to serve a larger crowd. Best of all they taste great and are so adaptable to what ever ‘add-in’ ingredients I have on hand and can be changed to meet the preferences of pretty much anyone. (Anyone who has a sweet tooth that is!)

As any reader of this blog knows I am a BIG BIG fan of sweets that have Peanut Butter and Chocolate. I took the recipe for my Basic Blondies but decided to add Peaut Butter in place of some of the butter and of course added some chocolate chips. The result? MMMM Good. These have a light peanut butter flavor and are great warm or chilled. I enjoyed one warm with some vanilla icecream. Later I had one cooled with hot fudge and chopped Reese’s cups. Either way these satisfied my sweet tooth and cured my craving for a peanut buttery treat! Definately a keeper that I can’t wait to make again.

Next time I will add chopped Reese’s PB cups on top the last 10 minutes of baking for an extra burst of Peanut Butter flavor!1

I rate these bars an 8.5 (I think the addition of chopped Reese’s would make them great)

Peanut Butter Blondies with Peanut Butter Cup
4-5 TBS butter, almost melted
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used Creamy)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used a combination of Milk Chocolate and Semi-Sweet)
*Next time I will chop some Reese’s PB cups (maybe 4 or so) and press them gently on top the last 10 mintues of baking. Or substitute some PB chips for some/all the chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Preheat oven to 350.
Line an 8×8 pan with foil and lightly spray with PAM.
In a medium microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter for 20-30 seconds until almost/all melted. Allow to cool for 5 mintues.

Stir the peanut butter into the butter until creamy and smooth. Add the brown sugar to the butter/peanut butter and stir until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and stir to combine.  Add the flour, baking powder adn salt to the peanut butter mixtuer and stir just to combine. Gently fold in chocolate chips and any other additions (chopped nuts, chopped Reese’s cups, Reese’s pieces, etc).

Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until set in the middle. (I baked for 24 minutes)

Cool on rack before cutting.

For another version of PB blondies check out a fellow blogger who also made some yummy treats!!


Classic White Cake

As you know I bake tons of cookies and bars but very few cakes.  While I love to eat cake, I would much rather bake bars or cookies. The reason is simple: I like the versatility of bars/cookies and the ability to reduce/increase recipes easily without it negatively affecting the final baked good. Plus, I love to chill or freeze cookie dough for future use (something that you can not do with cake batter to my knowledge).

I was asked to bake cupcakes for a recent baby shower. Now, I know I could have taken the easy way out and use a boxed mix but I jumped at the chance to try a new recipe and not have to eat 24 cupcakes by myself!

I turned to the internet and found a great Classic White Cake Recipe from RecipeZaar. It was a snap to prepare, used ingredients I commonly have on hand and came out great. It was the perfect cake for those with little experience at baking cakes.

Using tips from my grandma,  I used ingredients that were all room temperature. I sifted together the flour, baking soda and salt and I creamed the butter and sugar very very well until it was light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed.  I had to change the original recipe a bit because I only had five eggs so I subbed one whole egg for two of the egg whites called for. What I ended up with was a cake with a subtle flavor and a light crumb. I did not think the cake was overly sweet so it was just perfect with frosting (I cheated and used canned, but next time I would make my own).

I will be using this recipe again. I think it would make a great layered cake (I will need to work on my decorating skills) I also would like to try this with flavored frosting or some lemon zest in the batter.

I would rate this recipe an 8.5

Classic White Cake
adapted from RecipeZaar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large egg whites (I used 4 egg whites and 1 whole egg)
3/4 cup milk (I used 2% milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2 1/2 teaspoons)

Preheat oven to 350.
Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
Butter two 9-inch diameter by 1 1/2-inch deep layer pans or 1 (13 by 9 by 2-inch) pan and line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper. (OR line muffin tin with cupcake liners)

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5-7 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Set aside.
Combine egg whites, (and whole egg if using), milk and vanilla extract.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then add half the milk mixture.
Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Scrape bowl and beater often.
Pour batter into prepared pan (s) and smooth top with a metal spatula.
Bake cake (s) about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Or bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness at 18 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack, remove paper and let cool completely before frosting.
*The frosting I used was Duncan Hines Classic HomeStyle Vanilla (with blue food coloring)
*Decorations are from Wilton that I found at the grocery store

The Best Brownies (again)

Sometimes you are just in the mood for a really good brownie.

You know, the no ‘special’ ingredients or fancy names. You just want a brownie that combines great taste and texture. While what defines a “great” brownie is highly subjective and varies greatly from person to person, for me these are very very good.

I love brownies with a light crumb, crossing ever so-slightly over the line towards fudgey and away from cakey. I prefer to not frost my brownies (just an unneeded sugar blanket if your brownies themselves are up to par). I prefer a crackly top, you know the kind you get from a boxed (gasp) mix. Well, these are lacking that but deliver in flavor and texture in every other way and more than satisfied my craving for great plain brownie.  I had made this recipe before but felt they were almost too fudgey and bordering on underbaked (which I feel I may have done).
While you don’t want to overbake brownies (a tester SHOULD have a few crumbs when testing the center of brownies for doneness) or they will be dry and crumbly; you don’t want to underbake them too much unless you are looking for them to sink in the middle and have a dense fudgey texture.

I am glad I gave this recipe another shot. I did change up the recipe ever so slighlty and have highlighted my changes in italics. I watched these brownies like a hawk the last ten minutes of baking to ensure that I did not under or overbake them in my oven.

I allowed to cool on the counter for 5 minutes, then I placed them in the fridge on a trivet for 30 minutes to cool before cutting. I read this cooling method in a baking book I thumbed through at a used bookstore. According to the book, cooling brownies more rapidly  produces an intesified chocolate flavor and fudgey light texture. I am not sure if this cooling method is to thank for wonderful flavor and texture or if this recipe just needed a longer bake time than I used in my previous attempt to really shine. Either way it produced a brownie that was phenomenal in texture and flavor. Now if it only had that crackly top……….even without it, these are a winner in my book.

I rate these brownies an 8.5

Hershey’s (Or in this case Ghiridelli’s) Best Brownie
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 TBS Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa (I used Ghiridelli Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup mini Milk Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line an 8×8 pan with foil and lighlty spray with PAM.
In large bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together butter and sugar. Add and stir in vanilla and syrup.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix well. Gently fold in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.
Cool brownies on counter for 5 minutes. Place brownies, still in pan, into the fridge for 30 minutes to cool. Remove from fridge and finish cooling on counter.
Once completely set and cooled, lift foil and brownies from pan. Peel back the foil and using a sharp plastic knife cut brownies.
Store coverd at room temperature.

Frosted Marshmallow Brownies

It has been a while since I have posted. That is what happens when work and life gets in the way of my time in the kitchen. I was lucky enough to spend some time with my family this past weekend and got some time back in the kitchen!!

This recipe is from my very own mother. It is one that she has been making for years as they are my sister’s favorite brownie. Who wouldn’t love a brownie with a layer of gooey marshmallows topped off with a layer of fudgey frosting? I have to say that these are very very good. The brownie layer is thin (relative to most brownie recipes) but sturdy and is not overly-chocolatey or sweet. It provides a great base for the marshmallows and sweet chocolate-fudge-like frosting.

The frosting measurements are estimates as my mom has made these so many times, she just “eye-balls” everything, ha ha. Well, in order to  blog about the recipe, I had her provide ‘estimates’ as she made the frosting. I have to say that I really love this frosting, it is rich and chocolatey, almost like a thin fudge layer. I hope you enjoy these as much as my sister and our family does!

I rate these an 8.5

Frosted Marshmallow Bars
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS baking cocoa
3-4 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350.
Lightly grease a 9×13 pan with PAM
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla beat until fluffy.
In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to creamed mixture. spread in greased 9×13 pan.
Bake for 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows, return to oven 2-3 mintues, or just until marshmallows are soft.
Remove from oven. Using a knife dipped in water spread the metled marshmallows evenly over bars.

3/4 stick butter
6 TBS Milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup mini marshmallows or 4-6 large marshmallows
1/2 cup Chocolate chips (maybe upto 3/4 cup depending how chocolatey you want it)

Combine ingredients (except marshmallows and chocolate chips) in medium saucepan and melt over medium low heat. Stir constantly until combined. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.
Add marshmallows and chocolate chips
Stir until marshmallows and chips are melted.
Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken slightly (can set in sink of cold water to speed up process). Pour and spread over marshmallows on bars.
Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

Vanishing Coconut and Oatmeal Cookies

Oh how I do love this recipe. I recently blogged about my love for the Quaker Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Recipe. It truly is one of the best oatmeal cookie recipes out there in my opinion. The last time I made the recipe I used raisins that had soaked in some vanilla and warm water (to plump up) and they were great (this coming from someone who doesn’t really care for raisins!).

Today I decided to whip up another batch of cookies using the Quaker recipe. This time I omitted the cinnamon, subbed Almond Extract for the vanillla extract and added some coconut. The results are Fabulous! The coconut makes these cookies a little sturdier and heartier. They have a lightly crisp exterior and edged but the interior is moist and bursting with flavor. The almond/coconut flavors play off of each brilliantly. Next time I might throw in some Milk Chocolate chips or chopped pecans/almonds not that these cookies need anything more, I just like to experiment. I suggest you make these sooner rather than later!

I rate these cookies an 8.5

Vanishing Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
adapted from Quaker
2 sticks margarine or butter, softened (I used butter)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) (I used)
2 1/2 cups Quaker® Oats (I used Quick Cooking)

1/2 -1 cup Coconut (more or less to taste and texture: You don’t want the dough too dry to stick together to form balls)

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
Add eggs and almond extract; beat well.
Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add oats and 1/2 cup coconut; mix well. Add more coconut up to 1 full cup until desired consistency (and taste is achieved).

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Throw Down Show Down! It’s Cookie Time

As many of you out there know Bobby Flay has a show on the Food Network called “Throw Down with Bobby Flay”. Each week he challenges cooks and bakers who are the “master’s” at a recipe or food to cook/bake-off against Bobby’s recipe to see who is the ultimate “Master” as deemed by guest judges. Last week he did a Throw Down for Chocolate Chip Cookies against New York City’s Levain Bakery. The Levain Bakery’s famous Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies come in at a whopping 6oz a piece! That is SOME cookie and made Bobby’s flat little cookie look like a pancake! Needless to say they won hands down.

Many home bakers watched the Throw Down and excitedly logged on the the Foodnetwork website in eager anticipation to copy the Levain cookie recipe and to recreate those monstrous winners at home. Sadly, the recipe was never released leaving the recreation of the recipe up to the home baker. Thankfully there is a wonderful blogger, sugoodsweets who created a blog post where a whole group of bakers out there who banned together to try and recreate this cookie. I took the recipe posted by Lisa, which seemed to have the most success at producing a close replica of the winning Levain Cookies on Throw Down. I did make some minor changes as reflected in my posted recipe.
I have never been to the Levain bakery nor tasted any of their cookies so I can not claim that these are a match. The outside texture of these cookies is slightly crisp and the inside produces a dense yet delicate crumb. It is not quite cakey, I would describe them as thick with a chew (thanks to the baking powder in the recipe). I am unsure if they will maintain their chewiness after a few days of storage.
The recipe I based these off of did not include vanilla. I added 1 teaspoon and would probably add a tad more next time as I felt the flavor was a little flat. I also did not have any nuts and find it hard to believe that a whole cup of nuts would fit into the batter along with the 2 cups of chocolate chips called for. I would go with your gut and not a measuring cup when adding in the chips and nuts. It was indicated on Throw Down that the Levain cookies are kind of “doughy” inside. If wanting the same texture I would suggest baking a test cookie and checking at the minimum baking time until the doneness you are looking for is achieved.
Will this cookie replace all other chocolate chip cookies in my kitchen. No. But, I doubt any cookie will ever be good enough to replace all others. That is what keeps me baking and creating! I would suggest others try this recipe and be the judge to their own Throw Down.
I rate these cookies an 8.5
Copycat Levain Bakery Throw Down Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (next time I would add more)
3 1/4 cups flour (use a tad more if dough seems too sticky)
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semisweet and half milk chocolate) (can use up to 2 cups, you be the judge)
1 cup walnuts (I omited)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour, salt, and baking powder and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Beat the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. The dough will be stiff and thick. Finish mixing by hand if needed until just combined. Gently fold in chips and nuts if using.

Use a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop out dough balls. Place dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. You can make smaller dough balls but be sure to adjust baking times as needed to prevent browning.
Bake 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies and your oven) or until cookies are pale brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy. I baked my cookies for 17 minutes exactly.
Cool cookies on cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack until cooled completly. Serve or store in airtight container.

Frozen Dream Crunch Bars

My FAVORITE non-baked dessert definately tastes like a pot of gold to me! My mom has been making this recipe for me for years. Each bite takes me back to childhood summers and to a world filled with munchkins (me and my friends), my childhood dog, and a yellowbrick road (our neighborhood street) that led us on many adventures.

I LOVE sherbert, especially Rainbow sherbert. You know the one with Lemon, Lime and Orange sherbert all swirled together. It is a light and refreshing welcomed change from Icecream when you are looking for a cool treat. Although the weather is in the single didgets I was craving this dessert. It is a true favorite of mine. This desert takes minimal time to prep and assemble but does require some chill time to firm up. But it is SOOOOO worth the wait.
You know I love recipes that you can tweak easily to make it your own and this recipe is no exception. A great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute any of your favorite ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbert flavor for the Rainbow sherbert. We have used vanilla and pecan ice creams served with warm carmel drizzled over the top of each slice for an impressive dessert for company.
However, I have to admit, with the toasted nutty sweet crust I find icecream too rich and much prefer my Rainbow Sherbert in this recipe. Feel free to play around with different flavors of icecream to suit your own tastes, you really can’t go wrong as the crust/topping will make it winner.
The crust and topping of this dessert take it over the top in my opinion. The perfect blend of brown sugar, butter, cereal, coconut and nuts perfectly toasted provide a droolworthy base and crubly topping for this dessert. I have been known to make extra crust/topping and eat with a spoon! It is THAT good. You could even make the crust/topping and store in an airtight container in your fridge and use as a topping for scoops of icecream or sherbert for a quick and tastey weeknight dessert.
I rate this recipe an 8.5 Perfect for summer!
Frozen Dream Crunch Bars
10 TBS butter, melted (1 stick plus 2 TBS)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 3/4 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup slivered almonds (or other favorite nut, like pecans)
3/4-1 gallon Rainbow Sherbert, softened (or other fave icecream flavor)
Preheat oven to 325.
Lightly spray a baking sheet with PAM spray. Place frozen Sherbert on counter or in fridge to soften.
Toast the almonds by spreading slivered almonds evenly over baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 mintues. Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 375.
While nuts are toasting, melt butter in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together butter, cereal, brown sugar, coconut and toasted nuts.
Spread mixture on a baking sheet.
Bake in oven 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes for even browning. Watch carefully and do not let burn. Let cool completely.
Press 2/3 of cooled mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Gently spread softened sherbert over crust. Sprinkle remaining mixture evenly over Sherbert layer, cover tightly and freeze until set.