Friday, August 28, 2009

THESE are a keeper!

I try a lot of recipes (no surprise there, right?), but I don't repeat a lot of them. For one, there's just too many new ones to try, and often I like the finished product, but I'm content to leave it in the past and search for the next great thing. It happens with dinner and dessert recipes alike. Thank goodness for an in house taste tester (i.e. that very easy-to-please husband of mine) who doesn't mind trying new things for dinner on a very regular basis.
When I find a recipe that is just too good to eat once, well, than it's a keeper. It becomes part of what's in the back of my mind when it comes to making dinner or a sweet treat.
Well, my friends, I share with you here my most recent keeper. These peanut butter cookies have a great texture and they're doubly peanut buttery with the peanut butter and peanut butter chips. You could even make it a triple by using crunchy peanut butter. That's my plan for the next time I make them.
These are just a little bit crisp on the outside, and almost cakey on the inside. I'm a pretty tough, discriminating judge of new cookie recipes. It's not just about taste. The texture and appearance have to win me over too.
Just one thing: plan on a purpose for these little wonders. Save yourself a few (or freeze for later!) but I can guarantee that you'll just keep going back for one more (or two, or three...) if they're around.
Oh, and that taste tester I was telling you about...the same one who doesn't get excited at ALL when peanut butter and chocolate come together to make a treat...well, he loved them. They're that good.

Rolled in sugar and baked to perfection!

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth or chunky, it's up to you!)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Garlic (or Not) Knots

I say 'or Not' because I was bringing these to a fabulous dinner my mom made, and, while I'll never understand it, she's not a huge fan of garlic. So for her, no garlic. For the rest of us -- plenty. That's one of the great pieces of kitchen creativity. You can make adjustments to fit what works for you.
I have done rolls before using a number of recipes and 'styles' : Parker House, as croissants, and rounds, but never in knots. And I have to say that, along with Annie's awesome rolls, these are another favorite and definitely will be made again. I was so glad that there were plenty so I could throw the leftovers in the freezer and pull them out later for an occasional sandwich or to go with dinner.
One thing's for sure -- these will 'knot' disappoint!
Garlic Knots
adapted from

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

To the yeast mixture, add the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12-14 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a four to six-inch rope and form into a knot, tucking the loose ends into the center of the knot. Place on lightly greased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth (or greased saran wrap), and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for 12-13 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

For the garlic butter:

4-6 garlic cloves finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix butter and garlic together in a small bowl and let sit while making the rolls. Rewarm butter if needed or just keep on stove top after melting.

Immediately after the rolls come out of the oven brush the butter/garlic mixture (or just butter if you're baking for my mom) over the rolls. These are best eaten warm!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Have S'more!

I just got back from seven days in paradise. No, not Hawaii, this heavenly little place called Sea Ranch. Pure heaven I tell you. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I packed up my KitchenAid and took it with me. More on that on the family page at some point, but for now a new recipe.
Did you know today is National S'mores Day? I for one think a declaration such as this is pretty silly, but I'm also willing to participate and commemorate a day set aside to honor one of my favorite foods -- the beloved s'more. If something like National Jicama Day comes along, don't expect me to be celebrating. I happen to think it's a totally pointless food.
Anyway, back to s'mores. It's interesting how so many products out there have a s'more take to them: cereals, granola, protein and candy bars, some of them even claiming to be healthy. Come on, we all know when we eat a s'more, our pants aren't getting any looser.
One of the most recent s'more products I've seen is s'more ice cream and even ice cream topping. Oh, and there are even s'more cocktails.
I used to get suckered into trying a lot of these products, but it always ended in disappointment. Can you really replicate the goodness of a s'more in another product? I think not. So maybe I'm going against my own beliefs with this latest recipe, but I did find a way to incorporate the components of a s'more into a fudgy brownie. I'm more realistic these days too, I guess. I didn't expect to pull them out of the oven and have brownies that tasted just like s'mores. I was just hoping they'd have the flavors and hints of this sweet camping treat. And you know what? I think it worked. Not a s'more in the shape of a brownie, but instead a brownie that takes on the flavors of a s'more while still holding it's own as a fudgy square of deliciousness.
All of the ingredients are there...chocolate, marshmallows, and even crushed up graham cracker to be folded into the batter!

So if you've got some extra marshmallows laying around, or just want to try a new brownie recipe, this might be a good one for you. It got great reviews when I made it, including a reaction from a friend who said, "I don't even like brownies and I LOVE these!" You be the judge!
Happy s'more-ing!
Before roasting...

Sure a campfire is ideal, but in this case, the oven took care of the roasting perfectly!

S'mores Brownies
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 1991
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup graham cracker, roughly crushed with your hands
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 big marshmallows (I also diced 6 additional marshmallows and stirred them into the batter. These marshmallows dissolve when baked, so you can leave them out, or throw them in. Up to you!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9×13-inch baking pan with 2-inch-high sides. Combine first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Stir butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl over a heavy saucepan of simmering water. Stir chocolate and butter in this double boiler until melted and smooth.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Stir in warm chocolate mixture, then dry ingredients. Fold in graham crackers and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Dot with 12 large marshmallows. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30- 40 minutes minutes.

Marshmallows will be browned and puffy but will deflate as the brownies cool. Cool for at least 20 minutes than slice with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too messy and sticky. Serve or wrap individually in wax paper for storing.