Archive for the Category ◊ Sweets ◊

24 Mar 2017 Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

 

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This recipe is from the back of the bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips (see picture below).  The cookie is fabulous.  It’s like a peanut butter cup in cookie form.

My daughter made these cookies for a “Back of the Box” themed Cookbook Club meeting.  She loves peanut butter.  She saw the chips.  She read the recipe on the back of the bag.  She made the cookies. Everyone swooned. End of story.

Well, not quite the end of the story because now I’m posting the recipe, as is, lifted right off the back of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip bag. You’ve just read the recipe and my swooning review. You are going to go out to get a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. You are going to make the cookie. You and yours will swoon. You’ll go down as one of the best cookie bakers EVER!

End of story.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural baking powder-like Hershey’s, NOT Dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 10 oz. pkg REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips – divided use
  • 1 1/4 cups butter (2-1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well.
  6.  Stir in most of the  peanut butter chips. Hold out some peanut butter chips to decorate the tops of the cookies before baking.
  7. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased, preferably parchment lined, unrimmed cookie sheet. If desired, press 2, 3, or 4 peanut butter chips onto the top of each cookie.
  8. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. (Do not over bake; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling.)
  9. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
  10. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, but depends on the size of your cookie.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

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20 Mar 2017 B.O.B. Brownies

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Google “Back of the Box” recipes and you’ll get lists such as 10 Best Back-of-the-box recipes from Epicurious, or Buzz Feed or The Daily Meal.  Never 20 best back-of-the-box recipes or 100 best back-of-the-box recipes.  Nope. Just 10. Because there are only about 10 really good back-of-the-box recipes 🙂

In my (albeit, limited) experience, it seems most back-of-the-box recipes sound good but in reality are quite plain and quite bland.  There are 10 good ones though!  Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, Philadelphia Cheesecake, Alber’s Cornbread, Rice Krispie Treats, Lipton Onion Dip jump to mind.  Pssst…! And now I have found another one! It’s on the back of the bag of Dutch Process cocoa powder that I purchased at Costco (brand name: Rodelle Organics).

These brownies are delicious, and just my type of brownie.  Everyone seems to have their own preferred brownie type, right? This is mine.  Slightly crunchy top, oh-so-chocolately flavor, dense-but not fudge, light-but not cakey.  These are just right!  AND, they’re easy-to-make, and one batch fills a 9×13 pan!  The brownies slice well, too. What more could one want?

B.O.B.* Brownies

*Back of Bag (Rodelle Organic Dutch Process Baking Cocoa, sold at Costco)

  • 1 cup plus 2 T. butter
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (yes, 5. I was shocked, too)
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. flour
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. Dutch Process cocoa powder (no substitutions)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat.
  4. Let the mixture slightly cool and transfer to a large bowl. Beat well.
  5. Add eggs, gradually, mixing well.
  6. Add vanilla extract.
  7. Sift dry ingredients together.
  8. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally.
  9. Stir in chips and nuts.
  10. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake approximately 35 minutes. Do not overbake.
  11. Cool before cutting.
  12. Cut into squares and enjoy.
03 Mar 2017 Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

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Weekend Cake!  Isn’t that a delightful subcategory of dessert? According to Dorrie Greenspan it’s a French concept. Weekend Cake is good for anything from breakfast through late night snacking.  Weekend Cake travels well, is long lasting and is best if left to sit a day before eating.

This recipe for Double Chocolate Marble Loaf, a “weekend cake” is from her cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi” . I’ve never been much for Marble Cake, often finding it to be dry and muddled.  Not this one! It’s truly delicious.  I’ve only made the orange chocolate-white chocolate version, but I am dying to make the mocha-cardamom version and the chocolate-mint version.

Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (272 grams)
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (Lindt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange or peppermint oil (I used a bittersweet chocolate-orange chocolate bar, so no oil)
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pull out an insulated baking sheet or stack two regular baking sheets one on top of the other. Line the (top) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out the excess; set it on the baking sheet(s).
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
  3. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, scrape sides. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each one goes in. The batter may curdle, but you needn’t worry.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the vanilla. Still on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until each addition is incorporated.
  5. Scrape half of the batter into another bowl. Using a flexible spatula, gently stir the white chocolate into half of the batter. If you’re using the orange oil, stir it in as well. Stir the dark chocolate into the other half of the batter.
  6. Using a spoon or scoop, drop dollops of the light and dark batters randomly into the prepared pan — don’t think too much about the pattern — and then plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag it across the pan. It’s best to move forward and not to backtrack. Don’t overdo it — 6 to 8 zigzags should suffice.
  7. Bake the cake for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. (My cake was done in 70 minutes, and I might have taken it out 5 minutes sooner.) Check the cake at the halfway mark, turn it around and, if it’s getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes, then unmold it, turn right side up on the rack and let come to room temperature.
  8. Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days. It can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost it in its wrapper.

Spiced Mocha Variation: add 1 tsp. ground cardamom into the white chocolate portion and 2 ½ tsp. instant coffee or espresso mixed with 1 T. hot water to the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

Mint Chocolate Variation: stir ¼ tsp. peppermint oil into the white chocolate portion and use only regular semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

29 Sep 2016 Pumpkin-Chocolate Cake

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This is the BEST cake to serve at this time of year (or any other time of the year, actually)!  It’s a good chocolate cake – a very, very good chocolate cake; it’s moist, and nicely chocolate-y, and made richer with some pumpkin puree added.  The cake doesn’t taste of pumpkin, it just tastes well-rounded and delicious and the frosting tastes like Fall! There is a touch of cinnamon in the frosting, then the ganache topping is smoothed over the top and dripped down the sides which sends this cake into the realm of ‘One of the Best Cakes EVER’! My daughter, Abby, has been making this cake since she was in high school.  Her friends would ask for it for their birthdays (even for Summer birthdays)!

It goes without saying that this cake takes a bit of time to make and decorate, but if you are thinking of making this cake then you are thinking of making it for a special occasion, right?  The time and effort are worth it and there’s nothing complex or confusing about making this cake, it’s pretty straightforward. And you won’t be serving up a box mix and a can of chemicals to your friends and family, either 🙂

Now, your cake is going to look a bit different than the one above, since this cake was decorated for my witch themed Halloween party. Abby used candy, cupcake toppers, and Pinterest inspiration [to decorate the cake in the picture below] for my Halloween party last year.  Isn’t it cute?

Witches 2013 dessert abby's witch cake

The original recipe came from a Good Housekeeping magazine about, oh, 20 years ago?  I still see pictures from that recipe dancing around.  Don’t believe them!  For some reason in the picture the frosting under the ganache is orange.  I tried to do that and there is no way that I know of to turn a cocoa powder frosting bright orange.  I tried. Many times. It. Can’t.Be.Done. Sigh…

Not all recipes in magazines, cookbooks, newspapers and the Internet will work.  Mine will.  I only post recipes that I’ve tested and have been verified “Delicious!” by a multitude of family members and friends.  Many of my treasured recipes, like this Pumpkin-Chocolate Cake, I have made time and time again. You can do it, too! Make it once for Halloween, and I KNOW you’ll want to make it again for your Thanksgiving potlucks!

PUMPKIN-CHOCOLATE CAKE

For Cake

1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s Special Dark is good)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
3 eggs plus one egg yolk
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly butter (or spray with Pam for Baking).
  • Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  • In another bowl stir together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then the egg yolk.
  • Reduce speed to low and beat in 1/3 flour mixture, and then 1/3 pumpkin mixture.
  • Repeat until all ingredients are used.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake until cake passes the toothpick test, about 35 minutes.
  • Cool, frost and glaze as directed below.

For Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), softened
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 – 3 T. cream (or milk)
  • Beat cream cheese and butter together until well blended.
  • Stir in powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and enough cream to make a stiff spreading consistency.
  • Spread 1 cup frosting between the two layers, and use the remaining frosting for the tops and sides.
  • Chill cake for a minimum of 30 minutes before glazing.

For Chocolate Glaze

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 T. butter
3 T. corn syrup
1/2 c. heavy cream
  • Place chopped chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small bowl.
  • Heat heavy cream until boiling.
  • Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture in bowl.
  • Let sit for 3 minutes then blend with whisk until smooth.
  • Let glaze sit for  FOR AT LEAST 5 minutes to thicken slightly (it might be 15-20 minutes–better the glaze be on the thick side rather than the thin side)
  • Pour the glaze on top of the chilled and frosted cake. Smooth out glaze to edges, and then let drip down the sides.
  • Refrigerate to set glaze.
29 Mar 2014 Caramel and Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

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It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad few days around here. We are all fine, but there was a family brouhaha that just didn’t sit right. We were all out of sorts, and, truth be told,  a bit afraid of what the future will bring, too.  So what to do? Make the all time favorite family comfort food, of course!

This recipe is rustic and quik, and it’s done in 20 minutes.  So it’s great just to start on this and put some of that pent up adrenaline to good use. But then there’s the cooling off period. Once made, these bars have to  sit in the refrigerator to harden up a bit. Again, another good thing.  A cooling off period is needed after a big family brouhaha.  Then comes the peace and contentment, sitting down with a good cup of coffee, some rustic chocolate covered graham crackers and reflecting on what went right and what went wrong, and figuring out how to right the wrongs and ultimately, bringing peace back to the family.

In August of 2005 my friends Sharon and Margie, from Lake Arrowhead Retreats, gave me a recipe for Saltine Toffee Cookies which they had found on AllRecipes.com.  Truth be told, the recipe didn’t sound very good.  Saltine crackers, brown sugar, butter, and melted chocolate?  Just say no.  But they insisted I try it.  They insisted the recipe was good.  I trusted them, they make some great food, so I tried it. It WAS good. VERY good.  Then I came to find out this recipe is sort of an Internet sensation and I might have been the last person on the planet to know about it!

Years pass, and one fine weekend, I took a chocolate making class.  The instructor of the class talked about how her mother used to make a ganache and pour it over crumbled up graham crackers as a bedtime snack for her and her siblings (I know, I know, what a Mom! I never did that for MY kids…).  Then the gears started churning.  Chocolate covered graham crackers are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, but I had never made them.  The chocolate covered graham crackers from Starbucks are the best, but they are a bit too rich with a bit too much chocolate. OH!  The light bulb popped!  Could I make chocolate covered graham crackers for my kids, too?  I could one-up that other Mom, as well!  I could make chocolate covered graham crackers and with caramel!  Never mind that she was using a fancy ganache and I was just melting giant chocolate bars, LOL! What if I use the Saltine Toffee Cookie recipe but substitute graham crackers for the saltine crackers.  What if???

So I did it.  Many times.  My son says these are the best things I make. The last tin I made, hidden in the refrigerator behind the lettuce, lasted only three days.

Turns out, I am not the first person to think of this!  Lots of people on the Internet have used graham crackers instead of saltines with this recipe. Again, why am I one of the last people on the planet to know about this?! 🙂 Anyway, here’s my recipe.  You can find lots of versions all over, but this is the one that works for me.  Keep these Caramel Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers refrigerated, when they are not being eaten…  If these cookies sit out too long at room temperature the graham cracker starts to soften and loose it’s crunch 🙁 My 2005 copy of this recipe (with saltines rather than graham crackers) specifies that the recipe makes 35 servings. ROFLMAO!!! That’s so funny 🙂

Caramel and Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

  • approx. 2/3 a box of graham crackers (two wax covered packages out of a box of 3 packages)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large sized (4 or 5 oz) chocolate bar, chopped (I like a Symphony Bar or a Cadbury Bar, if you like dark chocolate, the Hershey’s Special Dark Bar is good)
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (if you like nuts.  I have never added nuts) OR, if it’s December, crushed candy canes! (I loooove this option!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with graham crackers.  Place the graham crackers as close together as possible. You will need most of 2 waxed covered packages. Set tray aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and sugar and stir constantly, over medium heat, until sugar is melted.
  4. Raise heat slightly, to bring mixture to a boil.  Boil vigorously for 3 minutes, without stirring–shaking the pan occasionally is OK (the original directions said to “stir constantly” but I have found this to make a grainy caramel layer).
  5. Immediately pour caramel over graham crackers.  Use an offset spatula to quickly spread the caramel evenly over the crackers.
  6. Place tray in hot oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove tray from oven and sprinkled chopped chocolate evenly over top.  Let chocolate just sit on top of caramel for 5 minutes.
  8. Spread the now melted chocolate evenly over the caramel.  Sprinkle with nuts (if using).
  9. Let tray sit until chocolate has hardened.  This make take a few hours.  To speed things up, put the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.
  10. When chocolate is set, break bars into uneven pieces. Sneak a piece or two.  Serve or cover and hide in refrigerator until needed.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  If there is a brouhaha in your family, I hope it’s over quickly and sweetly!

08 Mar 2014 Kipferls (Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies)

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I had never, ever heard of Kipferls before.  Then, in two weeks they came into my life twice!  First, my friend Priscilla made some in the Culinary School Pastry Arts program she is enrolled in. I didn’t try one because I don’t like nuts.  I dislike nuts so much that the name of the cookie didn’t even register.  Then I read “The Book Thief” and Kipferls are important in one chapter.  Since I was hosting book club this month and since the author had contributed his mother’s recipe for Kipferls to “The Book Club Cookbook” that my friend Kayte  gave me for my birthday last year, I decided to make the cookie. I had to do a Google image search to see what they looked like! Then came the hunt for Hazelnut Flour.  It’s out there. I found it at Sprouts.  I was shocked by the price.  I told the cashier that there must have been a mistake.  She said she doubted it.  I asked her to call for a manager for a price check.  YEP.  She was right.  There was no mistake.  It’s $16.95 for a 14 oz. packet of Hazelnut Flour (aka Hazelnut Meal). After creating such a fuss, and with my book club in less than seven hours, I bought the dangblasted expensive and pitifully small bag of Hazelnut Flour. BTW, you don’t have to buy this flour to make these cookies.

How to avoid using expensive Hazelnut Flour:

1. Make your own.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) of shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the hazelnuts are fragrant and brown. Remove the nuts from the  oven and let cool slightly. While still warm, though, fold the nuts inside a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove their skins. Place skinned nuts in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, and process until they are finely ground.

2. Substitute Almond Flour or Almond Meal for the Hazelnut Flour.  Almond Meal is about one-third the price of Hazelnut flour.  My German friend Karin said she always makes her Kipferls with Almond Meal, but her German relatives grind their own nuts.

To continue with my saga…Upon returning home with my $16.95 package of Hazelnut Flour, I got out the recipe and got started.  No! Two vanilla beans?  TWO?  For 36 cookies?  It is now clear to me that I am making World’s Most Expensive Cookie and I am thinking these better be good.  (They were, thank goodness. So good I might have to make them again, and again, and again…)

This recipe is based upon Markus Zusak’s recipe for Kipferls as published in The Book Club Cookbook.  I made some changes to the method and to the ingredients.  Mr. Zusak’s mother mixed her dough by hand, I tried it for a bit, then resorted to my electric mixer.  I split the use of the vanilla beans, putting one in the cookie and one in the powdered sugar, Mr. Zusak put both in the powdered sugar. I had to quadruple the amount of powdered sugar to cover all the cookies, and I covered the cookies with the powdered sugar while the cookies were still warm* so get a crackly, almost melted sugar coating on the cookies. (*Let the cookies cool a little, to firm up a bit.  If you toss hot cookies in powdered sugar, the cookie will break.)

Kipferls

Crisp German Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies

For the cookies

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups Hazelnut Flour or Hazelnut Meal or alternative (see above)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split in half, and insides scraped off with a knife.  Discard the outside of the vanilla bean

For the vanilla sugar

  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (different preparation than above)
  1. Make the vanilla sugar first.  Place the powdered sugar with the chopped up vanilla bean in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process until the vanilla bean has been incorporated into the powdered sugar, several 10 second bursts.  Place a fine meshed sifter over a small bowl and sift the powdered sugar to remove the unblended pieces of vanilla bean.  Pour vanilla sugar into a large Ziploc bag. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets lightly with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  3. Combine all purpose flour, hazelnut flour/meal, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour mixture. Scrape the inside out of the split vanilla bean and add to bowl.  With an electric mixer, mix dough for 3-4 minutes or until a soft dough is formed.
  4. Pinch off small pieces of dough (1 T; 1/2 oz; 15 grams) and mold gently between your palms to form 3-inch ropes, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends.   This took a bit of doing to master.  I rolled the dough to the length of my three middle fingers.  I rolled the dough a bit more firmly with my ring and index finger so the ends of the dough would be thinner. Fashion each piece of rolled dough into a crescent shape and place onto the prepared trays, see picture above.
  5. Bake in preheated 350º oven for 15-20 minutes or just until the cookies are beginning to turn brown.  Mr. Kusak says that once the Kipferls are brown, they are over cooked.
  6. Remove cookies from oven.  Cool just slightly and then toss into the Ziploc bag with the vanilla sugar–tossing the cookies while they are still hot creates a slightly melted-on, and truly special coating.  Toss  cookies in vanilla sugar.
  7. Remove cookie to a cooling tray and repeat with remaining cookies and vanilla sugar.  If you have vanilla sugar left over, you can re-coat the cookies.
  8. Let cool completely before eating. The cookies will crisp up as they cool.

 Yield: About 3 ½ dozen cookies

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I hope you enjoy the World’s Most Expensive Cookie!  They ARE good and worth the cost and the effort. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

PS…I am making another batch of these cookies to take to a Tahoe retreat this weekend.  One bag of that dangblasted expensive Hazelnut Flour does make three batches of these cookies…AND, Costco sells vanilla beans now.  Note my friend Sally’s point, put the vanilla beans in the powdered sugar as soon as you get them.  Once you are ready to make the cookies, remove the beans and use as outlined above.  The benefit is that some of the essence of the vanilla beans will have soaked into the sugar…yummmmm.