Friday, March 29, 2013

Peanut Butter Rolo Blondies w/ White Chocolate Chevron.

Peanut butter blondies + pastel Easter Egg stripes. I mean... really. Could Friday get any better? 

It could. Because Rolos!

So far 2013 has been about combining my favorite flavors into something else entirely... and in totally unexpected ways. Brown butter and bourbonChocolate chip oatmeal cookies and s'moresOreos and white chocolate raspberry. I literally get inspired (and make it through my work day) by thinking of two things I love and dreaming up ways to smash them together. 

Like peanut butter and caramel and white chocolate M&Ms. 

I knew about chocolate and peanut butter. Seriously... trust. And I knew about peanut butter and marshmallows (obsessed/in love). Peanut butter and spoons is also a true thing to appreciate. But peanut butter and caramel? Get into this immediately/where have I been living!

Like oatmeal and brown butter, bourbon and chocolate, these two rich, honey-sweet flavors complement each other in an even sweeter, richer, meant-to-be flavor.

The best part about these blondies? They're a buttery, sugary-sweet blank canvas for all kinds of cookie doughs, flavors, and add-ins. Chocolate chip cookie dough, sugar cookies, all-chocolate cookies, or fudgy brownie batter mixed with chocolate chips, nuts, candy bars, crushed cookies (Thin Mints! Oreos!) M&Ms,  or marshmallows. The oven's the limit.

For these, I went with a peanut butter blondie batter and Rolo candies (you could also use Hershey's caramel kisses). These peanut butter cookie bars start with a simple peanut butter cookie dough base that's pressed into a pan for quick baking. They bake up extra-thick, soft, and chewy, studded with bursting pops of bite-size chocolate caramel chunks and couldn't be any easier to throw together.

Also: let's discuss how those pops of bursting caramel could easily be miniature peanut butter cups.

Next: the chevron stripes. We're going to need some some Easter egg colors! 

I used pastel-colored white chocolate (Easter seasonal) M&Ms. For these stripes (and to make sure I had enough of each color), I needed three bags

You could also use regular M&Ms, dark chocolate M&Ms, or Reese's Pieces. Mix up the colors for the holidays! Red, white, and blue chevron stripes in July or orange, yellow, and white candy corn stripes in October are simple ways to make any cookie bar instantly impressive. Or look like an Easter egg.

First things first: get organized. Separate your colors. The Type-A in me loved this step a little too much. 

Then gently press the M&Ms (with the "m" facing down) into the cookie dough in a chevron stripe. You can use a knife to trace stripes into the cookie dough to guide you, but we're just making blondies here! It doesn't have to be perfect. 

It all starts with three triangles. Easy. We're doing this.

Keep adding triangles facing in alternate directions...

Take your time. Totally stop to eat some Rolos. It's a necessary thing.

And... done. Fifteen minutes later.

And that's it. They're ready to bake! 

These peanut butter cookie bars stuffed with chocolate, gooey caramel, bright pops of colors, and crispy white chocolate Easter egg stripes are all I'm thinking about this Friday... and how quickly I can bake these bars again (... and what new things I can smash into them) for Easter Sunday. Trust me... after making these chevron stripes you will feel like you can do anything. Look what you did with just M&Ms! You totally just made candy art. 

Happy Easter!

Peanut Butter Rolo Blondies w/ White Chocolate Chevron

Printable Recipe

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Rolo candies (whole or chopped)
White chocolate M&Ms (for these stripes, I needed 3 bags)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with baking spray and set aside.

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the creamy peanut butter until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

When the peanut butter is cool to the touch, stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the Rolo candies, either whole or halved (I used a combination of both... the whole Rolos had a bigger burst of caramel which I loved, but the smaller chunks made it easier to press the M&M candies on top of the dough.)

Transfer batter to prepared baking dish and spread evenly. To make the chevron design, separate your M&Ms into each color you want to use. Make sure you have enough!

Gently press M&Ms into the cookie dough ("m" side facing down) in chevron stripes (you could also trace lines in the cookie dough with the tip of a knife to help guide you). It doesn't have to be perfect! 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the edges are slightly browned. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Cookie bars from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brown Butter Oatmeal S'mores Cookie Cups w/ Graham Cracker Frosting.

These cookie cups combine just about everything I love: s'mores, brown butter, swirls of frosting, crushed graham crackers, all things cupcake-shaped, bite-size marshmallows (that taste like Lucky Charms!), and all the flavors of my favorite soft, chewy, love-inspiring chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

No... really. Love-inspiring. Because this is a s'mores/cupcake twist (go with it!) on the "I Want to Marry You" cookies. You know... just one of the best cookies I've ever made. Totally not a big deal/put them in your life already!

Basically: we're combining oatmeal cookies, s'mores, and cupcakes today. We're making cookie cups!

Cookie cups = thick, chewy cookies pretending to be cupcakes. They're totally a thing.

Reasons to bake these oatmeal cookie cups immediately...

❤ Brown butter. Obviously. See the golden specks? That nutty, caramel flavor pairs perfectly with the oatmeal, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and crushed graham crackers in an unbelievable way. It's a meant-to-be situation.

❤ I know. It's hard to get excited about an oatmeal cookie when there's brownie-swirled mint chip cookies and cake batter cookies and in the world, but these aren't just oatmeal cookies baked up in a muffin pan, pretending to be lazy day cupcakes. They're also packed with s'mores flavor.

❤ Chocolate. White chocolate chips and semisweet chocolate chips, because I'm indecisive, and mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top because... well, because they're cute.

❤ Crushed graham crackers. I replaced 1/2 cup of the oatmeal that would normally go into these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with 1/2 cup of finely crushed graham crackers (in s'mores math, that's just 4 sheets of grahams). Oh man. This was such a good decision. I'd had my doubts about combining oatmeal cookies with s'mores, but not anymore.

Next stop: actually smashing an oatmeal cookie between two graham crackers, a square of chocolate, and a perfectly burnt marshmallow. Try and stop me.

❤ Still not done! Have you tried these teeny, tiny marshmallow bits yet?

They taste exactly like Lucky Charms. And these sugary, vanilla bite-size morsels are both baked into these cookies and sprinkled on top. Because... do it. They're like marshmallow sprinkles... and I love everything about those words.

❤ Nothing could be easier than pressing fat scoops of cookie dough into a muffin pan.

❤ And look how thick they bake up!

❤ Graham cracker cream cheese frosting. Sugary, cream cheese frosting + crushed graham crackers. I can't even.

Honestly, this is probably the only bulletpoint I needed on this list of reasons to bake these. Of everything that went into these cookies, as adorable as I thought the mini marshmallows and chocolate bits looked sprinkled on top, this frosting got the biggest reaction from my cookie-tester.

... and then I was told in no uncertain terms that it needed to immediately be put on top some kind of chocolate cake. 

 And finally... two-bite cookie cupcakes are just infinitely cuter than regular scooped-and-baked cookies. Fact.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal S'mores Cookie Cups

Printable Recipe

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers (about 4 sheets of crackers)
1/2 cup vanilla Jet Puffed Mallow Bits
1 cup chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup semisweet chips & 1/2 cup white chocolate chips)

Graham Cracker Frosting
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups crushed finely crushed graham crackers
Mini chocolate chips & Jet Puffed Mallow Bits for sprinkling

First, brown the butter by melting it in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until golden brown (for more information on browning butter click here). Pour browned butter into a small bowl and place in the refrigerator until cooled. 

When butter is cooled, place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together with the sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until smooth and fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, oats, and crushed graham crackers. Add all at once to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. 

Stir in the marshmallow bits and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a regular-sized muffin pan with baking spray. Scoop two heaping tablespoons of cookie dough into each muffin cup and gently press down (cups should be filled about 2/3 of the way).

Bake for 15 minutes, until edges begin to turn golden. The cookie centers will appear under-done and gooey, but will set as they cool. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around the edges so they'll be easier to remove when cool. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat the softened butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar. Mix in the vanilla extract, then beat at high speed until the desired consistency (Too thick? Add a tablespoon at a time of milk. Not thick enough? Add 1/4 cup more of powdered sugar. Too sweet? Add a pinch more of salt.) Fold in the crushed graham crackers.

Scoop frosting into a ziploc bag, snip off the end, and pipe frosting swirls on top of the cups (I used a Wilton #1M piping tipe). Sprinkle with marshmallow bits and mini chocolate chips.

Keep cookie cups refrigerated.

Makes 16 cookie cups.

Source: Cookie cups a Bakergirl original recipe. Graham cracker frosting from The Cupcake Project.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Zebra Bundt Cake.

Gingerdoodles, "I Want to Marry You" cookies, zebra bundt cake. All things I've baked now entirely because of their name. 

This soft, fudgy, chocolate-swirled cake is my first attempt at baking a "zebra" cake... a stunning, intricate, black and white striped pound cake with thin, zig-zagging ribbons of vanilla and chocolate. At least... it's supposed to be thinly striped, but I have no patience with when it comes to spoonfuls of cake batter. Don't be like me.

See the three thin wavy stripes of chocolate?    

Perfect zebra stripes. The rest... dense, slightly-sweet, extra-chocolatey marbled cake covered in thick chocolate ganache. Real life: things don't always turn out how you want them to, but if means marble cake slices  and baking more bundts, embrace it! 

My favorite part of this cake? Cutting into it. Those swirls! I mean, let's just rename this post How to Make Cake and Impress People. Honestly.

This cake is a little different than other bundt cakes I've made because it uses 3 cups of cake flour, making it bake up so thick, dense, and soft, with just the right amount of moist and tender crumb. We're making pound cake!

And it all begins with a floured bundt pan and vanilla cake batter... batter that looks like pancake batter and smells like birthday cake. Off to a good start.

2 cups of the vanilla batter is scooped into a second bowl and whisked together with cocoa, sugar, and water. It's like chocolate art!

And that's it. That's your chocolate layer.

Next, the stripes.

The stripes are made by alternately spooning chocolate and vanilla cake batter one over the other into the center of each. Start with a scoop of vanilla, then spoon a scoop of chocolate batter directly into the center of the vanilla. Allow each layer to spread a little on it's own and alternate back and forth. The best method I found was using two separate scoops: an ice cream scoop for the vanilla batter and a small cookie scoop for the chocolate batter (or a separate ice cream scoop for each). 

Can I break down the mistakes I made? 

The ice cream scoop creates uniform, round scoops, making the layers even. Using two scoops keeps everything separate. Trust me. See how my vanilla layers have lighter swirls of chocolate in them and the chocolate scoops have vanilla? I used one scoop... and it got real messy and real marbled real fast. 

Second, I used a spoon. The three uniform zebra stripes above were made with an ice cream scoop... the giant chocolate center was made using a spoon. With a spoon you're not getting equal amounts of cake batter and it's difficult to pour it just in the center of the previous layer.

See the difference? 

The cake is baked for 50-60 minutes, cooled, and then covered in thick chocolate, fudgy ganache. There's what dreams are made of... and then there's just ganache. I can't even deal.

Another baking tip: leave off the ganache, dust with powdered sugar or leave plain, and just like that... you're 100% getting away with eating cake for breakfast.

This bundt was so simple and easy to bake and a total showstopper, with just the right amount of not-too-sweet vanilla and chocolate stripes and every slice uniquely swirled. And I'm already ready for round 2 of perfecting my zebra striping. 

Because yes: chocolate art. It's totally a thing. 

Zebra Bundt Cake

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (1/2 cup for the chocolate batter, 2 cups for the vanilla batter)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Ganache Icing
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray and dust with flour.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. 

In a separate medium bowl, place cocoa powder and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and whisk in the water until smooth; set aside.

Place melted butter and the rest of the sugar (2 cups) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium high until blended, about 1 minute. Add in vanilla and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Once all eggs are added, beat mixture until light and fluffy.

Turn mixer speed down to low and add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in two additions and mixing until just blended (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour).

Add 2 cups of the vanilla cake batter to the chocolate mixture and stir until blended.

Using an ice cream scoop, pour 2 scoops of vanilla batter into the bundt pan. Using a second scoop, pour a scoop of chocolate batter on top of the vanilla mixer. Allow to spread a little on it's own. Alternate between vanilla and chocolate layers until all batter is used.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cake tests done in the center. Cool cake on wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto rack and allow to cool completely.

When cooled completely, make the glaze. Place chocolate and cream in a pan over low heat and stir until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before pouring over the top of the cake. 

Let glaze set, about 30 minutes, then cut and serve. 

Source: Bakers Royale

Monday, March 4, 2013

Oreo-Stuffed White Chocolate Raspberry Kiss Cookies.

When I think of Valentine's Day and all its romantic flavors (and yeah, we're going there. If it makes you feel better, I still have a candy cane bark I never posted from December.), I don't think of chocolate or red velvet. I don't think of champagne or strawberries or peanut butter cookies stamped with chocolate peanut butter hearts... although yes... I totally made all three of those things happen this year.

I think of these three sugary, knee-weakening words: white chocolate raspberry. 

Specifically, are we going on a halfway-fancy date, does it start with fried calamari and rose-colored wine, and will it end with a shared slice of with Oreo crust white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, with chocolate curls and piped swirls of whipped cream.

Rolled in sparkling sugar, stuffed with mini Oreo cookies that bake up cakey-soft for a rich, chocolatey surprise center, and topped with white chocolate raspberry Hugs... I can't even.

These fat, puffy vanilla cookies are are everything I love about Valentine's Day and combine at least four of my favorite things: pink, white chocolate raspberry, crinkly edges (obsessed.), and Oreos.

Now if we could just bake them into a cheesecake.

One of my favorite types of cookies to bake (and eat for dinner) have always been chocolate kiss cookies. There's just something about pressing chocolate candies into thick, puffy, sugar-coated dough balls right out of the oven. Cinnamon cookies, chocolate cookies, peanut butter cookies... it doesn't even matter. I will stick a kiss in it. Those doughy centers, crinkly edges, and just-melted chocolates... stop it. And 100% get in my face.

Everything about these cookies are perfection, starting with the sugary, snow-white cookie dough. The base for these cookies is absolutely irresistible... because here's a secret: it's basically vanilla buttercream. Softened butter, powdered sugar, and extra vanilla are creamed together with an egg into a thick buttercream base. Flour, baking powder, and salt are whisked in, creating a dough that tastes like frosting and bakes up into puffy vanilla sugar clouds.

Just these vanilla butter cookie bottoms alone, without the hidden Oreo surprise inside, are one of the best-tasting things I have ever baked.

And nestled inside these sugar bombs?

A chocolatey, cakey-soft mini Oreo cookie!

I've made Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies before but these were even better.

Because raspberry kisses!

Any chocolate-raspberry candy will work if these pink Kisses have disappeared til next February. Why are the best things seasonal? I feel like raspberry kisses could totally be a March thing. Don't you?

There's cookies baked with love and then there's cookies baked with everything you love. I think this might be both. Get into it before everything's green and chocolate-stout-flavored!

Oreo-Stuffed White Chocolate Raspberry Kiss Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) package mini Oreos
Hershey Raspberry Hugs
Granulated sugar, for rolling cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray or line with a Silpat baking mat. Set aside. 

Unwrap Hershey kisses and place in a small bowl in the freezer until ready for use. (Make sure there's room in your freezer for a cookie sheet too.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and egg for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat an additional 1-2 minutes, until well combined. 

Scoop dough using a teaspoon: place a mini Oreo cookie on top of a teaspoon of cookie dough, then another teaspoon scoop of dough on top. Press dough around the edges until Oreo is completely covered, then gently roll into a ball, roll in granulated sugar, and place on prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press a frozen Hershey kiss into the center of each cookie, pushing down slightly until edges began to crack. Immediately place cookie sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until chocolate is set. (Tip: I moved my cookie sheets from the freezer to the refrigerator after five minutes to allow the cookies to cool completely without the Kisses melting). 

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Adapted from Recipe Girl.