August 24, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Levian is apparently a famous bakery in some podunk place called New York City. I have high hopes to visit NYC to see all the important things like the September 11 memorial, Ellis Island, the Statute of Liberty, Central Park and such and taste many of the delicious things as well that I see all these food bloggers praise. But, I have extremely low hopes for the crowds and masses of people and creepy crawlies that I get thinking about all those people.

I'd rather be able to experience all those things without thousands of my closest strangers surrounding me. Thankfully, with this recipe from Bake at 350, I got to do exactly that with these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies that are based off Levian's famous cookies.

These cookies are huge ... 6 ounces of dough, which is I believe twice as large as the other ridiculously large cookies I've made. It's gotten to the point that I'm not sure I know what a normal-size cookie looks like, and I'm pretty sure I'll be disappointed when I remember.

These cookies are almost like a cakey brownie in some sense for texture. They're not overly chewy or crispy edges, but somehow they are perfect for themselves. The flavor is rich chocolate and delicious. I shall make these again.

And great news if you're watching calories. There's only 8 cookies in a batch. That's not enough to over-indulge, right? Just ignore the fact that each cookie is about the size of 6 normal cookies. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
14 Tbsp. butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
10-ounce package peanut butter chips
1 cup peanut butter-filled chips (or more peanut butter chips)
Whisk the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Cream the butter with the sugars until combined and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. In three additions, add the flour mixture, just until combined. Stir in the chips.
Pressing the dough together, measuring out 6-ounce portions. (You'll have one that is around 4 ounces.) Place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Break each portion in half, pressing the smooth sides together well and leaving the rough edges exposed. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 1-2 hours.
Place one oven rack in the center of the oven and one on the bottom rack. Put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Line another sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 

Place 4 cookies on the lined cookie sheet. Place the cookies on the center rack, while pouring a cup of ice on the cookie sheet on the bottom rack. Quickly close the door to trap the steam.

Bake the cookies for 19-22 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies feel done, but the insides are still soft. Remove from the oven, and place on a wire cooling rack to cool. (The smaller cookie can bake for 17-19 minutes.)

Serve warm. For room temperature cookies, heat in the microwave for 10 seconds, if desired. Makes 8 substantial cookies.

Proof of deliciousness.

August 18, 2016

Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Biscoff is something I eat by the spoonful, delicious spoons of cookie butter. The Europeans are crazy not to like peanut butter, but they are pretty intelligent when it comes to smashing cookies into a spreadable form.

Brown Eyed Baker converted cookie butter into ice cream, so I had to give that a spin (or churn to be literal). This is a good, creamy ice cream, although it won't take my top spot. My favorite part is the crushed cookie bits. (I'll be honest, I top the whole thing with more cookie crumbles before I eat the ice cream.)

Cookie Butter Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cookie butter, divided
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped speculoos cookies, about 12 cookies

Warm the milk, sugar, 1/2 cup of cookie butter, 1 cup of the heavy cream and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the cookie butter has melted. Continue cooking until the mixture comes to a slight simmer, bubbling around the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl, and place a fine-mesh sieve on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.

Place the saucepan over medium heat, and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula, a few minutes. The mixture should register 170 to 175ºF on a candy thermometer.

Pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve, and stir it into the cream. Stir in the vanilla extract, and place the bowl over an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the mixture is cool. Cover, and transfer the custard to the refrigerator until completely chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prior to churning the ice cream, melt the remaining 1/2 cup cookie butter. Set aside to come to cool slightly while churning the ice cream. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, stirring in the chopped speculoos cookies immediately after churning. As you remove the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, drop dollops of the melted cookie butter over each layer of ice cream. Once all of the ice cream and cookie butter has been placed in the container, use a butter knife to gently swirl the mixture. Store the ice cream in the freezer. Makes about 1 quart.

August 16, 2016

White Cake

Gosh, the title sounds boring. I swear this cake really wasn't boring.

For my grandpa's 94th birthday, I wanted to make a cake that wasn't over-the-top sweet, so I decided to try the Ultimate Vanilla Cake recipe from Cupcake Project. The cake worked well, so I wanted to note it for future projects.

I layered my cake layers with a strawberry sauce ... which was really a strawberry jam that failed to set. It was perfectly delicious, with the right balance of sweet and tart from lemons to complement this cake.

One cake I frosted with whipped cream, and the other with the Cupcake Project's vanilla bean buttercream frosting. I actually preferred the whipped cream, but both were tasty.

July 28, 2016

Key Lime Pie Cones

The other week we tried to replicate a Key Lime Pie Martini. It was close but not close enough to use all our supplies making them, which meant I had a partial can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge. Rather than wasting it, I decided to try this recipe from Sweet ReciPEAS that I had a seen a few weeks earlier. Let's just say that those martinis weren't a waste because these Key Lime Pie Cones are amazing!

The recipe includes no eggs, so they only require a short baking time that doesn't burn the ice cream cone. The cones do get a bit chewy as they sit, so these would be best served the day they are made ideally as soon as they are thoroughly chilled. By the second day, the cones are all chew with no crunch. I simply put cool whip in a piping bag to make them pretty, but you could easily make homemade whipped cream or simply dollup on some cool whip if that's how you roll.

These will be made again. They might even be better than real key lime pie with meringue, and they're definitely easier. (That says a lot considering how easy key lime pie is to make.) I think they'd be perfect for a gathering of friends because they're individual portions, cute and delicious!

I'll share her measurements, although I tweaked them down to use just the sweetened condensed milk I had left. I'm guessing this recipe would yield about 16 sugar cones and use a container of cool whip. If you could find mini sugar cones, you could probably shorten the bake time to about 5 minutes and have plenty more as minis.

Key Lime Pie Cones
Sugar cones
2 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cover a bundt pan tightly with aluminum foil. Poke a hole in the foil, and insert a sugar cone into the hole. Repeat as needed with the other cones. (The foil holds them in place for baking, so they don't tip.)

Combine the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream and lime juice together until evenly mixed. Distribute evenly among desired amount of cones. (The mixture will not rise, so you can fill them to the top.) Bake about 7 minutes, until set. Cool completely, and then chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving. Top with cool whip immediately prior to serving. Makes about 16 cones.

June 26, 2016

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

We planted strawberries last year, and we fortunately have plants loaded with fruit this summer. Since I've been a single parent for the week while my husband is gallivanting around Europe for work (I'm sure you can't sense my jealousy), I kept tucking my berries in the fridge with sugar to keep them until I got around to doing something with them. My mother-in-law kindly kept the kiddos for a night, so I could get some things done including making deliciousness out of my berries.

I made a batch of strawberry vanilla jam, which ended up as strawberry vanilla sauce. I'm cool with that. I'd much rather have a jam that doesn't set versus a jam that is like eating glue, if you can scrape it out of the jar. (I've had a few batches like that, so I tend to err on the side of a looser jam). I also tried this jam recipe from Food in Jars.

This is like a grown-up version of strawberry jam, one that would play well with savory foods. It only makes a small batch, so I used mostly 1/4 pint jars for mine. And this one turned out with a perfect consistency.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
1 1/2 pounds strawberries (about 4 cups chopped berries)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 3 half pint jars. Chop the strawberries. Place them in a non-reactive 12 inch skillet, and add the sugar. Stir to combine, and let the berries sit until the sugar looks damp the fruit has started to weep liquid. Place the pan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring regularly, until the berries soften and the liquid bubbles and thickens. It should take between 15 and 20 minutes of cooking.

Towards the end of cooking, stir in the balsamic vinegar. The jam is done when you can pull a spatula through it, and it doesn't rush as quickly to fill the space. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the black pepper.

Funnel the finished jam into the prepared jars leaving a half-inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner, and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. Makes 1 1/2 pints.