Peanut Butter Blondies (Small Batch)

June 27, 2008

When it comes to bar cookies, I’ve rarely ventured outside the realm of the brownie. It’s just that brownies are my favorite baked good — they’re so easy to make and the payoff is great. It doesn’t get much better than the warm, gooey chocolate goodness of a brownie.

Funnily enough, I don’t have a brownie recipe posted here. (I’ll tend to that soon.) In fact, the only bar recipe I’ve posted is French Toast Blondies. I’ve wandered into blondie territory again, only this time chocolate has been replaced by it’s best friend peanut butter. The result is an extra small batch of peanut butter blondies baked in a loaf pan.

What, exactly, constitutes a blondie? No idea. Labels are always fuzzy. To me, a blondie is a bar cookie with the texture of a brownie, but no chocolate. Cakespy’s recent blondie article might shed a little more light, if your still curious.

Um, a loaf pan? Yep. If you look at my other recipes, you’ll notice that most are small (or smallish) batches. A loaf pan is perfect for a small batch of bar cookies. (The only problem is that you don’t get any middles, if you’re a crust-loather.) If you don’t have a loaf pan, or just want a larger batch, double this recipe and bake in a 9×9 inch dish for about 30 minutes.

To chip, or not to chip? For comparison, I spread half the batter on one side of the pan, added chocolate chips to the remaining batter, and spread that into the other half of the pan. If you’re in it for the peanut butter, leave out the chocolate chips… or better yet, use peanut butter chips. The bars with the chocolate chips were ooey, gooey, and delicious, but void of the peanut butter flavor I was looking for.

Peanut Butter Blondies
adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 20-22 minutes
Yields: 9×5 inch loaf pan (8 bars)

Ingredients
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. peanut butter or chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions
– Cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt, just until blended. Stir in the chips.
– Spread the batter into a loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Notes
– This recipe can be doubled for a 9×9 inch dish.


Whoopie Pie vs. Oreo Cakester

June 17, 2008

This is an addendum to yesterday’s Whoopie Pie post.

A while back I posted a recipe for chocolate sandwich cookies, which were basically homemade Oreos. Katie asked if they were like the Oreo Cakesters, which I thought were more like Whoopie Pies at the time. So when I made the Whoopie Pies, I bought a box of the Cakesters for comparison.

They taste nothing alike, and the texture’s not very similar either. The Cakesters taste just like an Oreo, but are softer. They’re still a little chewy though, and not nearly as tender as the Whoopie Pies. They’re somewhere in between the cookies and the pies, I think. (Katie, you were right!)

The Cakesters are a lot smaller than I expected too. The picture above is comparing it to the smallest Whoopie Pies that I made. They come two cakes to a package for a total of 250 calories.

I wasn’t too crazy about them. I ate one cake and gave the rest of the box to my brother. But really, they taste just like Oreos. If you like those, you’ll like these.

Nabisco also sells Oreo Chocolate Creme and ‘Nilla Cakesters.


Chocolate Whoopie Pies

June 16, 2008

Two discs of chocolate cake sandwiched around a cloud of frosting. Is it a cakewich? A frosting burger? No! It’s a Whoopie Pie. I seem to be on a pattern of baking things with goofy names.

Whoopie Pie

Soo… is it a pie or a cake? Actually, this recipe is from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. So I’m classifying it as a cookie. Though, really, I consider it a cookie-shaped cake. On the other hand, cookie supposedly means little cake, soo… I guess that’s the problem with labels, eh? Let’s not think too hard about it.

When I got the King Arthur Flour book for Christmas, this was one of the recipes that leaped out at me. I’d heard of Whoopie Pies, but I didn’t know what they were. Actually, I thought they were the same as Moon Pies, which I’ve never liked. (Though that could be because my grandma always had the banana flavor.)

It seems that Whoopie Pies are a New England tradition, which explains my ignorance, being a Gulf Coast dweller myself. I haven’t been able to dig up too much history on the treat, but according to What’s Cooking America, they originated with the Pennsylvania Amish. Not wanting anything to waste, they used leftover batter to make these pies. Appreciative children cried “Whoopie!” and thus, the Whoopie Pie was born.

Traditionally, Whoopie Pies are humongous things, but I made mine in three different sizes. See the notes for more details.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 13-15 minutes
Yields: 4 large (4 inch) pies

Ingredients

Cake:
4 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. beaten egg
1 c. flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Filling:
6 tbsp. butter
2/3 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. marshmallow fluff
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Instructions

Cake:
– In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the milk and vanilla.
– In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and egg. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk mixture, adding the dry ingredients in three installments and the milk mixture in two. (It should go dry-wet-dry-wet-dry.)
– Drop the batter by the 1/4-cupful onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven until they are firm to the touch. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Filling:
– Beat all four ingredients together until light and fluffy.

Assembly:
– Spread half of the cookies with about 1/4 cup of filling, then top with the remaining cookies.

Notes
– When portioning out the cake batter, you may want to spritz your measuring cup or other scooper with a little non-stick spray to get the batter out more easily.
– To make about 8 medium sized pies, spoon two tablespoons of batter per cake layer and bake 11-13 minutes.
– To make about 16 small pies, spoon one tablespoon of batter per cake layer and bake for about 10-12 minutes.
– These are best stored individually wrapped.


Snickerdoodles

June 13, 2008

I don’t know what took me so long to make these.

Well, actually, I do. Most Snickerdoodle recipes call for shortening, and that’s just an ingredient that I never have and don’t use. Eventually, I decided to ignore the shortening and use all butter, because I have a Snickerdoodle-loving friend. After watching her eat Pepperidge Farm Snickerdoodles, I felt that I owed her a homemade version.

But… where are the peanuts, caramel, and chocolate? Snickerdoodles have popped up a couple times on my Google Reader recently, and a lot of bloggers originally thought the cookie to be a variation of the Snickers bar. That’s a perfectly reasonable assumption, and one that I probably would have made myself had I not had Snickerdoodles since I was a kid. Snickerdoodles actually aren’t related to the Snickers bar at all. They’re just sugar cookies coated in cinnamon and sugar, sometimes with a little nutmeg thrown in.

The verdict? These cookies are really tasty, though they don’t fit my schema of a Snickerdoodle. These are flat and chewy, but I think a Snickerdoodle should be puffy and soft. This is probably due to my using all butter in place of a combination of butter and shortening. But I like chewy cookies, so I’m not complaining.

Also, these cookies were sweet, which was fine by me and everyone else who ate them, but you could probably cut the sugar down for a less sweet cookie, as noted in the recipe.

Snickerdoodles
adapted from AllRecipes

Oven Temp.: 375°
Approx. Bake Time: 10 minutes
Yields: about 20 small cookies

Ingredients
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. sugar (OR 1/3 to 1/4 c. for a less sweet cookie)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tbsp. beaten egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. flour
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

Instructions

– Cream the butter, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour and cinnamon. Chill the dough in refrigerator for one hour.
– Combine one tablespoon each of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Form a tablespoon of dough into a ball, then roll in in the cinnamon-sugar to coat. Place the dough on an ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly with a spatula.
– Bake in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Let cookies stand on baking sheet for one minute before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


Classic Cheesecupcakes

May 12, 2008

Ah, neglect. Sorry guys, but the semester just ended, and between exams, papers, graduation(!), and seeing off friends, I totally neglected to post. But I’m back with something very yummy. :D

I was calling these New York Cheesecakes, but I’m really not sure what constitutes a cheesecake as New York. According to Wikipedia, there are dozens of types of cheesecakes. These are what I consider classic mini-cheesecakes with a graham cracker crust. I don’t have a mini-cheesecake pan, but muffin liners do the trick just fine.

Perhaps the best thing about these babies is freeze-ability. All I have to do to reach Cheesecake Heaven is pluck one out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter for a few minutes. You’ll find notes on freezing at the end of the recipe.

Also, amidst everything, my computer ate a batch of photos — I guess it has a sweet tooth too! As such, I don’t have any pictures of these cheesecakes.. so here’s a picture of my cat instead. Isn’t he cute?

Classic Cheesecupcakes

Baking Temp.: 325°
Approx. Bake Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 6 mini-cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust:
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 4.5 whole crackers)
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. beaten egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream

Instructions

– Mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Line a muffin tin with 6 paper cups. Spoon two tablespoons of the mixture into each liner. Press crumbs into the bottom and partially up the sides of the liner. (I press down with my tablespoon to make a little well.)
– Beat cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. By hand, whisk in the beaten egg and vanilla extract just until combined. Whisk in the heavy cream.
– Spoon the batter over the crust, filling the cups to the top.
– Bake in a water bath. Place the muffin tin inside a larger (and deep) pan. Using a kettle, fill the larger pan with very hot water so that it reaches halfway up the muffin tin. Move to a preheated oven.
– The cheesecakes are done when they are set but still springy. The batter may jiggle, but it shouldn’t slosh.
– Let the cheesecakes cool in the muffin tin for 30 minutes. Next, remove them from the tin and let cool on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before eating.
Notes
– I like to crush my graham crackers between the two halves of a folded sheet of wax paper, with a rolling pin.
– To freeze: Place cooled, uncovered cheesecakes into the freezer for one hour. Remove from freezer, then wrap each cheesecake in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Stash them in a freezer-safe bag or container, and eat as you please. They should be eaten within a month, so date the container.


Citrus Sugar Cookies

April 25, 2008

Sugar cookies fall under two categories in my kitchen — cut-out and drop. Cut-out sugar cookies are fun to decorate but don’t excite my taste buds. Drop sugar cookies, on the other hand, may not be much to look at, but are delicious in the simplest way.

These cookies fall into the latter category. They have crispy edges and chewy middles, but a few seconds in the microwave will turn them into soft and chewy discs. The addition of citrus juice and zest do wonders for the flavor. I’ve tried these with lemon, orange, and lime. Lemon yields a classic sugar cookie, if that’s what you’re going for. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, as all are delicious!

Citrus Sugar Cookies

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 11-13 minutes
Yields: about 18 cookies

Ingredients
3/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. citrus zest
2 tsp. citrus juice
2 tbsp. beaten egg
extra sugar for dusting

Instructions
– Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter for about 15 seconds. Cream butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in juice and egg. Stir in dry ingredients.
– Roll level tablespoons of dough in extra sugar. Place on greased or lined baking sheet and flatten slightly.
– Bake in preheated oven. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for one minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


Zesty Corn Muffins

April 9, 2008

This recipe doesn’t contain as much sugar as most things I cover here, but it is a sweet cornbread. They’re “zesty” because of the addition of orange or lemon zest (or both!). I love using citrus in recipes as the weather gets warmer.

I eat these for breakfast with a smear of butter. Well, actually, I eat them anytime with a smear of butter.. or without the butter. Really, I’m not picky. These are just good.

Zesty Corn Muffins

Oven Temp.: 400°
Approx. Bake Time: 9-12 minutes
Yields: about 18 mini-muffins

Ingredients
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. orange or lemon zest
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. beaten egg
1/2 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. orange blossom honey (optional)

Instructions
– Using your hands or a whisk, combine sugar and zest well. Whisk in flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine egg, yogurt, oil, melted butter, and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined — it will be lumpy, and that’s OK.
– Distribute batter into a greased mini-muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven until a tester inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.