Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Treats.

Earlier this week I got lost in San Francisco.

Not the I-took-a-wrong-turn kind of lost. The I'm-not-even-supposed-to-be-in-this-city sort of lost. 

The only thing that kept me from completely melting down on the Bay Bridge was knowing I had a tray of peanut butter cup cookies in the backseat in case I was really and truly stranded in this city of one-way streets, impossible parking, and suicidal pedestrians darting in front of my car on their bikes and skateboards.

That and having my boyfriend on speakerphone, Google-Earthing me out of this terrifying city. 

Turn-By-Turn Boyfriend. The most handsome app ever.
These bite-size peanut butter cookies with a chocolatey Reese's cup center are one of my family's Christmas favorites. I plan on gaining at least five pounds every December thanks to these (and my addiction to all things chocolatey-peanut butter). And since they're baked in mini-muffin tins, they couldn't be easier to make.  They're perfect for parties.

Or breakfast. 

... or getting lost in big cities. 

Peanut Butter Cup Treats

Printable Recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1 egg
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1 bag of miniature peanut butter cups
Combine butter, sugars, egg, peanut butter, and vanilla in mixing bowl; beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture. Cover dough and chill. (I chilled my dough for about half an hour).

Preheat oven to 375°F.

When cold enough to handle easily, roll in small (walnut-sized) balls; place each ball in greased miniature muffin tin. Bake for 8-9 minutes.

Remove from oven; gently press one peanut butter cup into each cookie. Cool in pan at least 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Store in a cool place until serving time.

Makes about three dozen cookies.
Source: Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars, January 2008.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites.

Every Christmas, my dad makes his legendary peanut butter cup treats... peanut butter cookies baked bite-size with a Reese's cup in the middle. And if I have it my way, he bakes them wearing a Santa Claus apron, because it's festive and it makes me giggle.
They're tradition. 

And addicting. 

But I was feeling a little rebellious today, which for this particular baker means I just couldn't make up my mind between peanut butter cookies and brownies. And since I was in no mood to make a decision, this happened:
Sometimes you shouldn't have to choose. 

Unless it's which one to eat first.  

The peanut butter cookie base is still my favorite, but the rich chocolate brownie base was bite-size heaven. 

I'll post the recipe for the peanut butter cup cookie treats in a few days. For now, it's after 1 AM and I have no idea why I'm still awake, let alone why I was baking muffins less than an hour ago.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

Printable Recipe

1 box of brownie mix (I used Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 bag of Reese's peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Grease a mini-muffin sheet and set aside.

Prepare brownie mix according to box.

Using a cookie scoop, fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way fill. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until brownies are done. Immediately press a peanut butter cup into the center of the brownies. Allow to cool in pan before removing.

Makes 30 brownie bites.

Source: Adapted from Savory Sweet Life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monkey Bread.

When I first heard of monkey bread, I thought it'd be something involving bananas.

Or maybe peanut butter. Peanut butter and bananas. Mmm. 

That's just how my brain works.

But then my mom patiently explained that it was like a cinnamon roll pull-apart cake, with buttermilk biscuit pieces rolled in cinnamon-sugar, stacked into a bundt pan with raisins and walnuts, with a positively sinful mixture of melted butter and brown sugar poured over the top.

Um, yes please. Immediately. 

(As to why it's called "monkey bread", Google has several theories, but my favorite claims that the act of hungry humans pulling apart the biscuits resembles monkey-like behavior.)

Also, thank you, Jessica, for this awesome award! 
I'm supposed to tag 15 people, but anyone who wants to, consider yourself tagged. 

The guidelines for accepting this award are:
Thank the person who gave it to you.
Tell 7 things about yourself.
Pass the award on to 15 bloggers whom you have recently discovered and think are fantastic.

1. People are always surprised that it's my goal to work in a police department instead of a bakery. For me, baking is yoga. It de-stresses me and helps me think and ensures I don't leave a path of destruction everywhere I go. Except, you know, in the kitchen.

2. I can't pass a fountain without making a wish.

3. Every time I sing in the car, I wonder if someone's secretly installed a spycam on my dashboard and is streaming me singing Katy Perry to their computer.

4. Despite being the most accident-prone person you'll ever meet, I've never broken a single bone.

5. Things that make me happy: dating my best friend, rainy day reading, eating cheesecake, the scent of water on Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride, white zinfandel wine, elephants, hazelnut candles, Converses, and M&Ms in my popcorn. Peanut butter, please. Or dark chocolate. Oh, and elephant pancakes!

6. I think the best cookies in the world are those soft sugar cookies you find in the grocery stores, the kind with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

7. My most favorite song in the world is "Boy With a Coin" by Iron & Wine. I have no idea what this song is about. 

Monkey Bread

Printable Recipe
                1/2 cup sugar
                1 teaspoon cinnamon
                2 cans (16.3 ounces each) Pillsbury Grands! Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
                1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired (we used pecans)
                1/2 cup raisins, if desired
                1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
                3/4 cup butter, melted

                Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a bundt pan.

                In a large Ziploc bag, mix cinnamon and sugar. Separate dough into 16 biscuits. Cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat.

                Arrange in pan, adding walnuts and raisins among the biscuit pieces.

                Mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.

                Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

                Source: Pillsbury.

                Tuesday, September 7, 2010

                Cinnamon Bread French Toast.

                The first time I made french toast was a complete disaster. The recipe had called for flour and the end result was not pretty and left me nearly in tears in because I couldn't make a simple thing like french toast

                This weekend I was determined to prove myself wrong, so, with a hungry boyfriend and a loaf of fresh-baked cinnamon bread, I tried again.

                French Toast

                Printable Recipe

                2/3 cup milk
                3 large eggs
                2 tablespoons granulated sugar
                1 teaspoon vanilla
                1/4 teaspoon salt
                1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
                A dash of nutmeg
                2 tablespoons honey, warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds
                1 1/2 tablespoons butter for melting
                Bread slices

                Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt with a fork.

                Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat.

                Dunk each slice of bread in the egg mixture on both sides before you add the bread to the frying pan. Cook until golden brown and then flip it. Let the other side cook until golden brown.

                Source: Adapted from Alton Brown.

                Monday, September 6, 2010

                Cinnamon Swirl Bread.

                Is it true that cinnamon is one of the most attractive, entrapping scents to men?

                Because my boyfriend will be here in the next hour and I have a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread in the oven.

                Making bread is a truly magical experience.

                Besides the smell of cinnamon and warm, freshly baked bread that I can promise you will permeate your entire home, there's just something exciting and yes, magical, about kneading dough until your arms cry, leaving it in a sunny patch of kitchen, and seeing it double in size in the time it takes you to carry laundry down the hall. 

                And, of course, cutting into it and seeing the swirly design.

                Cinnamon Swirl Bread
                1 cup milk
                6 tablespoons butter
                2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
                2 whole eggs
                1/3 cup sugar
                3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                1 teaspoon salt
                1/3 cup sugar
                2 tablespoons sugar
                Egg and milk, mixed together, for brushing
                Softened butter, for smearing and greasing

                Melt butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don't boil. Allow to cool until still warm to the touch, but not hot. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

                Combine flour and salt.

                In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.

                Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat/knead dough on medium speed for 10 minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and beat again for 5 minutes. (Or, if you've lost your dough hook as we have, knead on a lightly floured counter for 10 minutes.)

                Heat a metal or glass mixing bowl so it's warm (I filled a metal mixing bowl with hot water and let it warm up while I was kneading the dough). Drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm, hospitable place for at least 2 hours.

                Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you're going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon  together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.

                Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours.

                Preheat oven to 350°F.

                Mix a little egg with milk, and smear over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven.

                Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool. Slice and serve.

                Source: Pioneer Woman.

                Friday, September 3, 2010

                Graham Cracker S'mores Cookies.

                September 1st, I woke up thinking such thoughts as, "I can officially bake with pumpkin and make cinnamony apple pies and it's socially acceptable because it's fall." 

                Well, it's not officially fall. But for me, September signals the end of summer and the start of school, holiday baking, crunchy leaves, and autumn.

                Besides, Starbucks is selling their pumpkin spice lattes again. If that doesn't mean fall, then I don't know what does.

                So. What did I bake? Pumpkin muffins? A pecan pie? Something with maple or nutmeg or cranberries? Of course not. The most summery thing of all: s'mores cookies!
                And I regret nothing. 

                Because I also have cinnamon swirl bread rising in the kitchen as we speak. That smells like September.

                These are perfect for Labor Day weekend. Chocolate chip cookies with bits of Hershey bars and toasted marshmallows baked right onto a graham cracker. You know you want to.
                Graham Cracker S'mores Cookies
                2/3 cup shortening
                1 cup brown sugar, packed
                1/2 cup granulated sugar
                2 eggs
                1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                1 teaspoon baking soda
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                1 teaspoon cinnamon
                2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                1 package chocolate chips
                1 cup mini marshmallows, plus extra
                About 3 regular-sized Hershey bars, cut into pieces
                2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares

                Preheat oven to 375°F. On an ungreased cookie sheet, lay out 12 large graham cracker squares.

                In a large mixing bowl, cream together shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

                In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add flour mixture slowly to shortening mixture. Mix until combined.

                Add chocolate chips and marshmallows and stir together. Form into golf-ball size balls and place on top of graham crackers. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove and press Hershey pieces and an extra marshmallow or two on top.
                Return to oven and bake for 5-7 minutes more until cookies are lightly golden and marshmallows are slightly melted.

                Source: Barely adapted from Fahrenheit 350°.