Monday, June 24, 2013

White Chocolate S'mores Sugar Cookie Bars.

Today I wanted to bake the thickest, chewiest, richest sugar cookie bars ever... and smash a layer of white chocolate s'mores inside.

Because it's summer. And because white chocolate s'mores

In the perfect summer I've dreamed up inside my head, I would eat nothing but s'mores, margaritas, giant slices of banana bread, and kettlecorn... especially s'mores. Two graham crackers, a burnt, crispy, gooey marshmallow, and melty milk chocolate = love. What, you put peanut butter cups in your s'mores? Just stop it. I can't even think about it/how amazing would mini peanut butter cups taste sprinkled inside these cookie bars?

And yes... I will forever be that girl who set her s'mores mallows on fire. On purpose.

In my real-life summer, I'm trying to be about my new Couch to 5K app I've downloaded for absolutely no reason (peanut butter cupcakes) onto my phone. I'm two weeks in and I'll be honest and real with you: this writing is just pure and simple me needing someone, anyone, to know about it, and maybe high-five me a little... because it means bright purple running shoes (not ashamed), just... just a whole lot of running, waking up early, and running

Oh and daydreaming about all the buttery, sugary things I wish I was eating. 

Like s'mores. And white chocolate. And sugar cookies.

Another confession? I love sugar cookies, almost more than any other cookie... because they usually come with buttercream frosting, twinkle lights, red and green sugar sprinkles, and Christmas trees. In fact, I think this is the first time I've ever baked sugar cookies outside of December. Just the smell of these sugar cookie bars baking, even on a hot June day, made me stress out a little... like I had some presents to wrap or some shopping to do. 

Calm down. Cookie bars. 

These cookie bars could not be any easier... and it all starts with a thick, sugary cookie dough base.

 I made the biggest batch ever (5 cups of flour!) of rich, chewy, buttery-soft sugar cookie dough, pressed half of it into the bottom of a 9x9 pan, layered it with squares ofgraham crackers, mini marshmallows, and white chocolate chips, and pressed the remaining cookie dough over the top of everything ever. It felt a little bit like baking a pie. A cookie pie. Be about it.

Sugar cookie + graham cracker + marshmallows + white chocolate chips  + sugar cookie = a blonde twist on the traditional chocolatey campfire treat.

Could you cut corners and use pre-made dough from the store? Of course. It's summer. Less whisks and spoons = more time at the pool. Live your life.

The thickest cookie bars ever. Two hands totally needed. Tip: I think if I made these again, I would bake them in a 9x13-inch pan for thinner squares and easier cookie bar-handling... and drizzle some kind of white chocolate/vanilla bean/caramel icing on top of everything. Let's definitely do that.

Summer baking = the best thing ever. Smash a s'more in it!    

White Chocolate S'mores Sugar Cookie Bars

Printable Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 1/2 graham cracker sheets
1 (10-ounce bag) white chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9-inch baking dish with foil, making sure the foil extends over the sides and spray with a non-stick baking spray; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. 

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. 

Divide cookie dough in half. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the baking dish. Layer graham crackers side-by-side on top of the cookie dough. Sprinkle with marshmallows and white chocolate chips. Top with the remaining cookie dough, pressing down gently. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cookie bars tests clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. When cooled, use the foil to lift bars from the pan, cut into squares, and serve. 

Source: Inspired by Picky Palate's white chocolate s'mores cake bars

Monday, June 10, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream.

Things I have to tell you:

These are the first cupcakes I've baked since last July.

These are the first homemade vanilla cupcakes I've ever made. 

These are the first vanilla cupcakes I've ever loved.

This is exactly what I imagine my wedding cake will taste like (just let a girl dream!).

More things in life need peanut butter cup centers.

Peanut butter + vanilla = dreams. 

And these three words: PEANUT BUTTER BUTTERCREAM.

I've moved on from golden brown butter specks to black vanilla bean specks... because I've just decided: vanilla beans are the new brown butter.

Have you ever baked with vanilla beans before? It's such an easy way to infuse your baking with an extra rich vanilla flavor that you just can't get from teaspoons of vanilla extract... and since spontaneously ordering a handful of bourbon Madagascar vanilla beans from Beanilla last month (... because who wants to spend over $6 for one bean at the store?), I've become completely obsessed with all things vanilla. 

These vanilla cupcakes are perfectly soft, light, and spiked with vanilla beans... like fat, fluffy vanilla bean-infused wedding cake cupcakes.

They almost taste like they're baked from a box mix. Except, you know... better.

Because I stuffed peanut butter cups inside!

They baked up into soft, molten chocolate-y peanut butter centers. 

They were nearly baked into my favorite chocolate cupcakes... because the only thing better than peanut butter and chocolate is peanut butter, chocolate, and more chocolate, right? Who knew that white vanilla cake and peanut butter were just as much a match made in heaven as chocolate and peanut butter?

 It's simple and subtle and just as rich... if not more: the vanilla cake makes the peanut butter and chocolate flavors really pop. 

Do we have to bake peanut butter cups inside? Always, of course, but I baked a few without the extra shot of chocolate and peanut butter... because sometimes a simple, classy cupcake is just the way to go.

You could even put an Oreo in there... or a scoop of chocolate ganache. 

Could we just bake these vanilla bean cupcakes, slice them in half, and turn them into a strawberry shortcake situation? I think you just figured out summer living.

And then, because let me just live life, I topped them with thick, rich soft serve-looking swirls of peanut butter buttercream. If you've never had peanut butter frosting, I'm 100% sure you've never lived. I'd never even imagined it until four days ago, when I stood in my tiny apartment kitchen shame-eating it off a spoon. 

This frosting is almost exactly the same as my go-to vanilla buttercream recipe... except, you know, for the 1/2 cup scoop of creamy peanut butter.

Would it be wrong to be put peanut butter buttercream on top a red velvet cupcake? Because it's all I can think about today.

This is one perfect cupcake and I can't even deal.

This summer, let's get into vanilla beans, turn cupcakes into shortcakes, and fall in love with peanut butter + vanilla. Let's also eat four of these for dinner with a glass of wine... because yeah, been there/done that/just a normal day.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream 

Printable Recipe


1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sour cream (or vanilla yogurt)
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from 1/2 a split vanilla bean
12-15 peanut butter cups

Peanut Butter Frosting

3/4 cups butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or milk)
4-5 cups powdered sugar

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Melt. Melt the butter in the microwave in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar until combined. Stir in the egg whites, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. 

So... what do I do with this vanilla bean? Using a sharp knife, cut one vanilla bean in half length-wise, from top to bottom. Set aside one half for later (store in an airtight container). Use a knife or spoon to gently scrape all the black seeds from the other half into your butter mixture (it'll look like wet black sand). Be sure to break up any clumps with your spoon or spatula.  

What if I don't have vanilla beans? No big deal. You can substitute the vanilla bean with 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 3/4 teaspoon ground vanilla beans or 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract. 

Make your cupcake batter. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain. 

Scoop. Fill cupcake liners halfway with batter (tip: use a cookie scoop!). Place a peanut butter cup in the center of each, then place another scoop of cupcake batter over the top to cover the peanut butter cup completely.

Bake. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake tests clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting. 

Frost. To make the frosting, combine softened butter, shortening, peanut butter, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Add in four cups of powdered sugar. Add 1/4 cup of the whipping cream, mix until combined well, then beat on high speed until fluffy. Continue adding the remaining powdered sugar and whipping cream until the frosting is the consistency you want... then frost your cupcakes!

Makes 12-15 cupcakes

Source: Cupcake recipe adapted from The Cupcake Project. Peanut butter frosting from Love From the Oven

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Brown Butter & Everything Ever.

It's no secret that I am absolutely in love with/cannot stop talking about/am totally obsessed with brown butter. What's so special about those golden specks of butter and why bother taking the time to "brown" it? 

I'll totally make you a list... because I'm in Lake Tahoe! And you just can't bake anything when you're staring at snow-covered mountainscabins in the woods, and fruity rum drinks all day. 

❤  It adds a rich, nutty hazelnut flavor (and beautiful golden specks) to your baking that'll make you instantly fall in love. I mean, in French, brown butter is known as beurre noisette... it literally means "hazelnut butter"! 

❤  It's that extra something special that turns those cookies or cinnamon rolls into the best thing you've ever baked.  

❤  It complements and adds depth of flavor... which is a fancy way of saying it pairs perfectly with all those flavors you love: cinnamon, oatmeal, brown sugar, caramel, chocolate, pumpkin, bananas. In my experience, brown butter is some kind of baking magic that makes those flavors pop

❤  It's versatile. Put it everything ever! Cupcakes, cookies, frostings, cakes. Can we put it in banana bread? Yes. Drizzle it on our popcorn? Do it. Our coffee creamer? It's already a thing

❤  The best part: it's easy. It's one extra step... that only takes about eight minutes.

I browned butter for the first time last summer... and since then I've posted fourteen recipes full of those golden specks. Brown butter for days!

I'm ready to jump into some new and exciting things this summer (summer just seems like a good time for that!)... but in the meantime, here's every brown butter recipe ever. 

How to Brown Butter // ... this just seems like a good place to start. A how-to situation just for you. P.S. it's easier than you think.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies // my favorite go-to chocolate chip cookie... and the perfect base for M&M cookies.  

Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing // Three things: this is my first (and favorite) bundt cake I ever made, it's never too early for pumpkin cake, & brown butter icing is unlike any icing ever. It also belongs in your life.

Brown butter toffee & macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies // These cookies were inspired by dreams of Hawaii and eating nothing but chocolate-and-toffee-covered macadamia nuts. Cookies inspired by real life living? It doesn't get any better than that!

Brown butter snickerdoodles // For a girl who hasn't fallen head-over-heels in love with snickerdoodles yet, let me just tell you: these are the best cookies I have ever made. They taste like hazelnuts and cinnamon rolls and rich, sugary snickerdoodles, all with crispy edges and buttery soft centers. It's true love.

Brown butter berry cheesecake muffins // Cakey brown butter vanilla muffins + fresh raspberries and blueberries + a scoop of cheesecake + brown sugar-cinnamon streusel = all things that belong in your life. 

Brown butter white chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies // The most irresistable oatmeal cookies I have ever tasted. Sprinkled with sugar and sea salt, bursting with that dark brown sugar and brown butter flavor, and studded with huge chunks of rich white chocolate... no chocolate chips or raisins here! 

Brown butter oatmeal M&M cookies // It's summertime. Let's bake colorful cookies with ice cream scoops.

Brown butter-peanut butter truffle chocolate chip cookies // These were one of the first brown butter cookies I ever made... and to be honest, brown butter doesn't really add anything extra or rich to the flavor of peanut butter. It's a nutty flavor on nutty butter situation. But the swirls of peanut butter truffle in these cookies? I can't even deal/I would put it in everything if I could.

Pretzel-crusted brown butter bourbon blondies // Boozy blondies full of chocolate, white chocolate, bourbon, and brown butter... all baked onto a sugary pretzel crust. Just look at that cookie math!

Brown butter, brown sugar chocolate chip shortcakes // Fat cakey shortcakes studded with mini chocolate chips, sprinkled with brown sugar, and baked with brown butter. Strawberries + whipped cream totally optional.

Buttermilk banana bundt cake with brown butter icing // The best thing about bundt cakes? You can totally pass them off as a breakfast thing. The best about this bundt cake? The brown butter icing. It pairs perfectly with the soft buttermilk banana cake. You have to try it.

Brown butter oatmeal s'mores cookie cups with graham cracker frosting // The only thing better than brown butter and oatmeal is brown butter and oatmeal with s'mores sprinkled on top.  

Brown butter bourbon chocolate chip cookies // Three things I love about these chocolate chip cookies: the brown butter, the bourbon, and the giants discs of baking chocolate. This is one unforgettable chocolate chip cookie.