The girl bakes! Peanut Butter Cookies, Small Batch

January 31, 2008

I haven’t posted many recipes lately, but it’s not for lack of baking. In fact, I’ve been baking more than usual. This is because I’ve started baking almost exclusively in small batches. The goods get consumed faster, and I can move on to the next project.

However, I can’t always just halve or third a recipe. The math doesn’t mesh with my measuring cups. I’ve had to get a little creative, adjusting to my own tastes. The results aren’t always tasty, but sometimes I get it right. This is one of those times.

This is based off a peanut butter cookie recipe that my grandma gave me years ago. I’ve adjusted it many times since, but this is the first time I’ve reduced it. The regular recipe makes 48 delicious chewy cookies; however, my adjustments yield 18 sandy cookie with their own merits. They are reminiscent of store-bought cookies.

They aren’t perfect, but darn close. A couple more trials should get it there.

Chipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 12 min. per batch
Yields: 18 two-inch cookies

Ingredients
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. beaten egg
1 tsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 c. peanut butter chips (optional)

Instructions
– Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar, then add the egg, milk, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients and chips.
– Scoop tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. For crunchier cookies, flatten with a spatula or fork. For softer cookies, leave the dough as balls/lumps.
– After baking, let stand on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: They are supposed to have both peanut butter and chocolate chips. I didn’t have any peanut butter chips, so I used all chocolate. It was too much. Stick with 1/4 cup, like the recipe says, even if you don’t have peanut butter chips. That’s what I get for making substitutions to my own untested recipe. However, I do think you could use all peanut butter chips.


Cadbury Fruit and Nut

January 30, 2008

I eat a lot of fruit and nuts. All that healthy goodness – it’s how I rebound from all the candy. But I’m not delusional; I don’t think that adding fruit and nuts to candy suddenly makes it healthy. Still, nuts are some of the best compliments to chocolate. I generally don’t do chocolate with fruit, with a few exceptions. I like fresh fruit dipped in chocolate (strawberries, bananas). I also like Raisinets, but those are more about the raisins than the chocolate.

This is my first fruit and nut bar. Apparently, in the Cadbury-Hershey world, fruit and nuts are limited to raisins and almonds. Somehow, I feel cheated. Isn’t that nuts in the plural? I guess I should have read the fine print.

The almonds are great. They are fresh, crunchy, and abundant enough to add a rich nuttiness to the classic dairy-heavy Cadbury chocolate.

The raisins, on the other hand, aren’t really working for me. They add an unpleasant chew and, if you get a big enough piece, an unpalatable burst of searing sweetness. I have a high tolerance for sweetness, but it applies mostly to sweet chocolate, not the super-sugary sweetness of sugar-coated dried fruit.

So, fruit and nut bars probably aren’t for me. However, trying this made me realize how much I would love to try a mixed nut bar. I’m not sure what the best mix would be… almonds, peanuts, and cashews would probably go well together, but I would love to find a way to work in pistachios and hazelnuts. Mr. Goodbar Extreme, anyone?

Ingredient Watch: PGPR alert.

Nutrition Breakdown: Serving size is 10 pieces, or about one-third of the bar. Each serving contains 200 calories, 10g of fat, 22g of sugar, and 4g of protein. It also has 8% of the RDV of calcium.

Rating: 5/10

Name: Cadbury Fruit and Nut
Brand: Cadbury (by Hershey’s)
Store: Walgreens
Price: $1.50


Choxie Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffle Bar

January 29, 2008

This is the last bar from the Choxie gift sets that I bought around Christmas. It’s a dark chocolate bar with “the intense, yet sweet flavor of espresso beans.” That’s an accurate description – a deep chocolate flavor with a kick of coffee. It’s pretty sweet for dark chocolate, but that makes for a nice contrast with the bitter coffee.

Like all the Choxie truffle bars, this has a lovely meltaway center. It’s slightly grainy, which I attribute to the ground espresso beans.

I think this is another hit with Choxie’s coffee bars. The three varieties offer a little something for everyone. Kona Coffee is very sweet and dessert-like. Coffee Toffee has a mocha thing going on. This Espresso bar is appealing for dark chocolate fans.

Ingredient Watch: Clear.

Nutrition Breakdown: Serving size is 1/2 a bar. There are 180 calories, 12g of fat, 15g of sugar, and 2g of protein per serving.

Rating: 8/10

Name: Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffle Bar
Brand: Choxie
Store: Target
Price: $1.66 (in a set of 3 for $5.00)


Choxie Coffee Toffee Truffle Bar

January 28, 2008

Chocolate + Coffee = Happiness

I have many favorite combinations, but chocolate and coffee are high up. I’ve already had great luck with Frey’s Café and Cacao and Choxie’s Kona Coffee Bar. I’m pleased to report that this is another great coffee bar to add to the list. Yes, my preference for the flavor contributes to the high ratings, but that’s just the way it works!

This bar is milk chocolate with a creamy chocolate-espresso filling and bits of almond and toffee. Choxie’s other truffle bars have been seriously lacking the bits and pieces. This bar improves in that department, but is still inadequate. There are a few almond and toffee bits, though they are concentrated in the center of the bar. The almonds add a warm nutty flavor that compliments the chocolate and coffee very well. I only wish there were more.

I first described this as rich hot chocolate with a shot of coffee, but it’s more balanced than that. There’s little competition between the two flavors. Instead they enhance each other so that you get the full body of each. Like the other Choxie truffle bars, the creamy center lends a great melt-in-you-mouth texture.

More almonds and this would get a near perfect score.

Ingredient Watch: Clear.

Nutrition Breakdown: Serving size is 1/2 a bar. There are 200 calories, 15g of fat, 15g of sugar, and 2g of protein per serving.

Rating: 8/10

Name: Milk Chocolate Coffee Toffee Truffle Bar
Brand: Choxie
Store: Target
Price: $1.66 (in a set of 3 for $5.00)


The Weekly Bite

January 26, 2008

Is Snickers and Red Bull your ideal combination? Check out Candy Blog’s review of the limited edition Snickers Charged; it might be right up your alley.

Breanna at Candy Addict has a rave review of BonBon Confections. I’ve been dreaming of that malt bar!

Bake or Break has a Giandua Souffle that is certainly sinful, and possibily illegal in several states.

If you’re looking for something a little more wholesome, Baking Bites has replicated several Girl Scout Cookies: Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, and Tagalongs.


The girl bakes! Chocolate Chunk Cookies

January 25, 2008

When it comes to baked goods, the chocolate chip cookie is about as classic as it gets. They’re well loved, though everyone has their favorite style. I love the chewy variety — golden brown, flat, with a slightly crispy edge. Puffy, cakey cookies can keep their distance, thanks.

There are several different recipes I use, though I often find myself defaulting to Toll House. My favorite recipes are high in sugar, low in flour, and loaded with chocolate. This recipe for Blue Chocolate Chip Cookies at Smitten Kitchen fit my criteria, so I decided to give them a try.

I did make some adjustments. I baked the first batch as instructed. 300° for 18 minutes yielded lovely crispy cookies with slightly chewy middles. For the following batches I increased the temperature to 350° and baked for 12 minutes. These had chewier middles, which I preferred.

Also, I used chocolate chunks, because that’s what I had. Then I sprinkled in a bit of cinnamon — a crucial ingredients for my chocolate chip cookies.

While these aren’t quite perfect, they are darned good and could become my new default chocolate chip cookie.


Ritter Minis Assortment

January 23, 2008

I love assortments like this because I get to try a bunch of different flavors without having to buy full-sized bars. This assortment of Mini Ritter Sport bars contains nine bars in seven flavors – there were two Yogurt and Knusperflakes. Each mini bar is 2×2 for a total of four squares, or one-fourth the size of a regular Ritter.

Vollmilch / Milk Chocolate:
This is the base for most of the other bars in the assortment. It’s a sweet, rich milk chocolate with strong dairy notes. I’m pretty fond of it. Rating: 7/10

Hazelnuss / Hazelnuts: Here we have chopped hazelnuts in milk chocolate. Sweet and nutty; simple but effective. Rating: 8/10

Knusperflakes / Corn Flakes:
This is milk chocolate with corn flakes. In the US, crisped rice candy is very common, but corn flake bars are rare. That’s odd, considering we are the biggest corn producers. It’s also too bad, as corn flakes add more flavor and crunch than crisped rice does. I’m really like this, but I’m already a big fan of corn flakes with sweets – I love corn flakes in ice cream. Rating: 8/10

Knusperkeks / Butter Biscuit:
This is a butter cookie/cracker covered in milk chocolate. There is also a layer of chocolate creme, but it didn’t stand out from the chocolate coating. The soft flaky cracker goes well with the chocolate. Rating: 7/10

Marzipan / Marzipan: This is the only bar in the assortment without a milk chocolate base. Instead we have semi-sweet chocolate filled with marzipan. I’d never had marzipan before, but I love almonds, amaretto, and anything made with almond extract. Marzipan seems right up my alley, but alas, I didn’t enjoy this. It has strong alcohol flavor and an unpleasant sandy texture. I only detected a hint of almond after the alcohol taste faded away. I’m not sure if I don’t like marzipan, or if I didn’t like this marzipan. Rating: 4/10

Nugat / Praline: This is not what I was expecting – it’s not what I would call nougat or praline, but on second thought, praline is often used to describe European filled chocolates. Anyway, this is milk chocolate filled with a thick hazelnut creme. It’s quite nutty, a little sticky, and perfect for hazelnut nuts like me. Rating: 9/10

Joghurt / Yogurt: This is interesting: milk chocolate filled with a dense yogurt creme. I was prepared to dislike it. I love plain yogurt and eat it almost daily, but chocolate seemed like a bad combination. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked this. It’s tangy and a little sour, like plain yogurt. Not for everyone, but I quite enjoyed it. Rating: 7/10

Ingredient Watch: Clear. Ritter uses quality ingredients – “Quality in a square.”

Nutrition Breakdown: This is approximate, depending on which bars you eat. Serving size is 2 bars. Each serving contains 180 calories, 11g of fat, 19g of sugar, and 2g of protein.

Name: Ritter Sport Minis
Brand: Ritter Sport
Store: World Market
Price: $3.49