Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

BLOG_July 29, 2014

Two of my favorite things in one decadent dessert, alright alright alright. These are BIG brownies, so they are meant to be cut into small squares, but if you want to eat the whole pan I won’t judge you.

The peanut butter top is made with cream cheese (I used reduced fat – in case you’re also inclined) so it’s actually not overwhelmingly sweet, but a mild creamy peanut flavor that pairs perfectly with chocolate. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Brownies
Author: Q&DK
Cook time: 1 hour 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 box Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate brownie mix
  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I used 1/2 of a 4 oz. Ghirardelli baking bar)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Bake the brownies according to the box instructions in an 8×8 pan. Let cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and peanut butter until combined. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Using a spatula, spread the mixture over the brownies and smooth evenly.
  3. In a heat-proof bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Add the whipping cream and stir until smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and let cool. Drizzle the cooled melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Place in the refrigerator and let chill until firm. Cut into bars and serve.

 

How to Make Crepes

Crepes are one of those things I just assumed must be difficult to make, so even though I LOVE them, I always ordered them out. But thanks to America’s Test Kitchen great recipe, I finally made them at home and was shocked at just how easy they were to make. Easier (and faster) than regular pancakes in my opinion.

I devoured almost the entire batch (10 crepes!) with fresh squeezed lemon and a dusting of sugar – so delicious! You could, of course, fill these with anything – fresh fruit, jam, chocolate, nutella … the list goes on.

If you follow the instructions carefully these are really so simple. But this is not the type of recipe you can leave for any amount of time, they cook in a matter of seconds so you need to be at the stove at all times.

How to Make Crepes

Author: Slightly adapted, America’s Test Kitchen
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • Any desired toppings/fillings
Instructions
  1. Place oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over low heat for at least 10 minutes. Prep your butter by melting over stove top or in the micro (I suggest 10 sec increments so you don’t overdo it); set aside and let cool.
  2. While skillet is heating, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add half of the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in remaining milk mixture until smooth.
  3. Using a paper towel, wipe out skillet, leaving a thin film of oil on bottom and sides. Increase heat to medium and let skillet heat 1 minute. Test the heat by placing 1 tsp of batter in the center and cook for 20 seconds. If the mini crepe is golden brown on bottom, the skillet is properly heated; if it is too light or too dark, adjust heat accordingly and retest.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup batter into one side of the pan and tilt/shake gently until batter covers the bottom of pan evenly. Cook without moving until the top surface is dry and crepe is starting to brown at edges, about 20 seconds. Loosen one side with a rubber spatula and flip, using your fingertips to help if needed. Cook about another 20 seconds unitl the second side is lightly spotted. Transfer crepe to a wire rack to cool and continue cooking until batter is gone, letting the pan reheat for about 10 seconds in between crepes.
  5. To reheat, stack on a plate and invert a second plate over the crepes. Microwave until warm, about 30 seconds. Top crepes with desired fillings and fold into quarters, roll, or stack flat like pancakes. Serve warm.

 

Chewy Oatmeal Bars

BLOG_July 09, 2014-3

I am eating one of these as we speak … or in between typing to be more exact and they are freakin’ delicious! I’ve always loved oatmeal cookies and these take it to another level with intense, sweet spice flavor and soft, chewy texture.  I’ve been eating these for breakfast, snacks, and dessert – they are that good.

I’m not surprised because the recipe comes from Cook’s Country, which is from the same people behind America’s Test Kitchen and I absolutely love their recipes. I know it’s still July, but some of us may be thinking about back to school mode – teachers, parents, and maybe? kids. These are definitely going in my bag of tricks for school snacking and eat-in-the-car breakfasts. I already see these making a great accompaniment to my morning smoothie. If your kids like oatmeal cookies and granola bars, these are a beautiful marriage between the two and they will love ’em. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Chewy Oatmeal Bars
Author: Cook’s Country
Serves: 24 bars
Ingredients
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon/leveled)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 8 tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup molasses (regular, not blackstrap)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use instant)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
  • GLAZE
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 350 degrees. Prep two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and set aside. Beat the shortening and sugar together on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, and mix until just combined, scraping bowl as needed. Add oats, raisins, and nuts if using and mix until incorporated.
  3. Form 2 dough logs on each baking sheet (for a total of 4) – place them 3 inches apart (at least) and make them 9 by 2-inches, about 1 inch tall. It helps to put cooking spray or flour on your hands when doing this because the dough is very sticky. They will spread a lot and become large bars like pictured. Bake until lightly browned and set, 16 to 19 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool on the sheets and them move to a cutting board and cut into bars. Let cool completely and add the optional glaze.
Notes
*Use fresh, good quality cinnamon to get the best flavor. I love King Arthur’s Vietnamese Cinnamon – it is decadent and smells amazing. [br]*I did not use nuts in my recipe, but I’ve included options in the recipe if you prefer nuts in your sweets. [br]*This recipe includes a glaze, which I made for the pictures, but I don’t think these need it at all because they are already so sweet. I would bake them and taste, and then decide if you want the glaze. [br]*Make sure not to use instant oats (I used a generic grocery brand old-fashioned oats and they were great) and do not use blackstrap molasses, which is too strong.

 

Ultimate Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies {and tips for baking chocolate chip cookies}

soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

I’ve been a cookie-making machine lately. For someone who has really never LOVED cookies, this is crazy. But, I seem to have collected a large assortment of chocolate chip cookie recipes and that got me started on a quest to find the best of the best.

And although cookies have not traditionally been on my top dessert list, I have ALWAYS LOVED cookie dough. I’m blaming it all on the dough. Gooey, sticky, sweet, delicious cookie dough. You devil, you. I’ve become swept up into a cookie making frenzy that includes eating several spoonfuls of heavenly cookie dough before any actual baking occurs. This could become a problem.

I’ve found my favorite crispy chocolate chip cookie. My favorite soft & chewy cookie. And next I will be posting a vegan version that is unlike anything I’ve tried before, but so so yummy.

But let’s discuss these beautiful cookies all dolled up for the upcoming Easter holiday. These cookies are thick, soft, and seriously delicious. These are lofty and pillow-like, so are perfect for adding holiday candies for decoration. The batter is much more fluffy than most batters I’ve used and it translates into super soft, pillow-like cookies that melt in your mouth. This recipe is adapted from my favorite food blog’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. By far, these are my favorite soft-baked style chocolate chip cookie. I think you will love them.  🙂

Some tips for amazing chocolate chip cookies:

*Follow the butter instructions exactly. This recipe uses a particular butter method that helps to create the soft texture. Cookies are often ruined by incorrect butter temperature.

*Use parchment or baking mats to prevent sticking. I absolutely love my silicone baking mats which are easily available on Amazon. I use those only, no cooking spray or butter.

*Up the vanilla. I always increase the vanilla in cookie recipes and I am convinced it leads to better tasting cookies.

*Use a variety of chips. If you want chocolate spread consistently through the cookie, chocolate baking bars are best. Finely chop those and use in place of chips. I substitute one bar per bag of chips listed in a recipe.

*Don’t put dough on warm sheets. In between batches I always stick my dough in the fridge.

soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

Ultimate Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Adapted, Pinch of Yum (see link in post)
Serves: 4 dozen
Ingredients
  • 14 tbsp. butter (1 stick + 6 tbsp.)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 bags chocolate chips (I use a mix of milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chunks)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter in an oven proof bowl (glass works great) and stick in the oven. Keep an eye on the butter and let melt about 1/3 the way. It should take about 5 minutes. Don’t let the butter melt more than 1/2 down, 1/3 is ideal. You will still see the stick of butter and it will be surrounded by melted butter. Take the butter out and let come back to room temp, about 30 minutes. It will be a soft solid. Turn the oven off.
  2. Once cooled, place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugars and vanilla. Cream with an electric mixer until well-mixed and lightly fluffy. Stop when it becomes fluffy so you don’t overbeat the butter. Add the eggs and beat just until incorporated.
  3. Add the baking soda and salt to the dough. 1/2 cup at a time add the flour to the dough, beating just to incorporate after each addition. After you have added all the flour, the dough should pull away from the bowl and cling together. If it is too sticky, add a tbsp. of flour at a time until it forms a large ball and will easily pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl when stirred.
  4. Reserve about 1/2 cup chocolate chips and pour the rest into the dough; stir to incorporate. I like to use a variety of chocolate chips. For chocolate crumbs throughout, you can also chop a semi-sweet baking bar and add that in place of chips.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 and adjust racks to the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet, about 1 inch between cookies. I use a cookie scoop that I spray with cooking spray, but a regular spoon works well too. Top each cookie with a few chips. Bake about 8-10 minutes; rotate and switch the baking sheets halfway through (move top to bottom, vice versa, and rotate the sheets front to back). Take them out when they are puffy and just beginning to brown on the tops and edges. They may look undercooked, but they will continue to brown and firm up once removed. Let cool a few minutes and then transfer to cookie racks to cool completely. They won’t be as puffy as they were in the oven, but they should be soft, lofty, and hold together well.
  6. Try not to eat the entire batch.
 

 

This is what your butter should look like after melting in the oven.
This is what your butter should look like after melting in the oven.

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

choc chip cookies

For most of my life I never really cared for chocolate chip cookies. I know, crazy. But I was always in love with brownies and felt no need to dabble in cookies. I’m fairly convinced that I know the absolute best brownie recipe, but I’ve been playing around lately with a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes.

Once I realized I could literally make dozens of different types of chocolate chip cookies I became more interested in this classic dessert. The last recipe I worked on was the crispy cookies and I was surprised by how much I loved them despite my tendency to under-bake everything because I love gooey, doughy sweets.

This recipe has a chewy, soft texture similar to soft-baked cookies you might buy at the grocery. I used mini chocolate chips because I had a bunch, but I highly recommend either chopping baking chocolate or mixing a variety of sized chips (mini, chunks, etc) to ensure a nice spread of chocolately goodness. If you like a soft texture, I highly recommend these light, browned butter chocolate chip cookies also!

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Adapted, Dorie Greenspan
Serves: 3-4 dozen
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups mixed chocolate chips or 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped into chips
Instructions
  1. Center one of your oven racks, put the other at the next level down, and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter and sugars on medium speed for 3 minutes until well blended. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
  3. Reduce mixer to low; add dry ingredients in three portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated (15 seconds should be fine).
  4. On low speed, or by hand, mix in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon dough in rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each. Place a few chips on the top of each cookie.
  6. Bake cookies – rotating sheets and switching from bottom to center rack at halfway point – for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown in center. Remove from heat, let rest 1 minutes, and then transfer (using a spatula) to a wire rack to cool completely. Let baking sheets cool and then repeat with remaining dough. If dough starts to get too warm, place in fridge or freezer while you wait.