May 21, 2012

Pin It Homemade Nutter Butters with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

Taken from Cookies and Cups

Week 20/21
I know I am supposed to make a new recipe every week but the next couple weeks are going to be a bit of a challenge (two back to back vacations: Kauai and Napa!) so I’m going to tweak time a little to cover all my bases. And technically I was making these Nutter Butters on both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend so that still counts, right? Plus I think I've made more than 20 new recipes this year so far, so let’s just gloss over the fact that a new post probably won’t come until week 23 J

So, I started out making these cute little cookie sandwiches on Saturday evening as I wanted to bring them as a Bay to Breakers snack on Sunday.
Bay to Breakers: Tom got to meet his hero, He-Man.
This recipe is very simple, and you end up with a really chewy, delicious peanut butter cookie (if you want to use the recipe just for that aspect).  The instructions on Cookies and Cups tells you to make 1 inch balls of dough, which I totally missed and I used ~1 Tbs.  Not sure if that is the same amount as a 1 inch ball but see below for what worked for me (not 1 Tbs).

As a heads up the post does involve “pinching logs” language. Shelly made a comment about it in Cookie and Cups, and I tried to think of another way to put it to avoid this potty humor, but once it’s in your hear to call the dough “logs” you just can’t think of any other word.  Cylinder, I guess I could have called them cylinders, but that seems too technical. Logs it is!

For my first batch I used my mini ice cream scoop to create balls (probably 1 Tbs.) that I then rolled into little logs and rolled in granulated sugar. After creating hash lines with a fork and pinching the dough to give it a peanut shape, I baked them for 8 minutes.  They turned out nicely (i.e. tasted really good and were soft and chewy) but they had totally lost their peanut shape and were way too big! Especially when you are making a cookie sandwich out of them, so you are essentially eating two cookies at a time. Portion control can be a good thing J
First batch using 1Tbs dough logs.
Pinching my peanuts, but not tight enough...
It looks like a peanut now, but was a sad oval after baking.
What they looked like going into the oven.
What they looked like coming out.
Fear not as all was not lost on these misshapen peanuts. Check out the chocolate PB frosting and vanilla ice cream sandwich.
So for my next batch (which I made Sunday morning) I made my dough logs small, using 2 tsp. of dough per log.  This seemed to work out to be just the right amount.  After rolling the logs in sugar and flattening them out with a fork, I pinched the dough to get that peanut shape.  Since my last batch lost their peanut shape, I pinched them much tighter this time to make sure they would still have their hourglass shape after baking.
Dough logs rolled in sugar.
Flattening with a fork.
Adding iconic peanut hash marks.
Pinching the peanut.
I know he looks abused but in order to get the peanut shape you need to really squeeze these little guys. 
Sheet full of peanuts.
Baked and still looking like peanuts!

For the frosting, I decided to mix it up a little.  In my cupboard I had chocolate peanut butter made by Peanut Butter & Co. They have a shop in NYC and make all sorts of different kinds of peanut butter.  The cinnamon raisin swirl is my favorite so far. The chocolate is delicious but I wasn’t going through it very quickly, and thought it would compliment the cookie in this recipe nicely. I substituted in the chocolate peanut butter for the regular peanut butter in the frosting recipe and it worked out well.  The only thing I don’t like about homemade frosting is that it is essentially just a ton of powdered sugar.  In the end, the frosting tastes more like creamy sugar than anything else, but I knew the chocolate PB was in there so it was ok with it.
Peanut butter for cookies (left) and chocolate peanut butter for frosting (right).
For frosting. PS, I halved this whole recipe (cookies and frosting) which is why this in a 1/2 cup.
I frosted the cookies and tried to find nicely matched buddies for the other half of the cookie sandwich.
Creamy chocolate PB frosting.
Nutter Butter cookies sandwiches!
These turned out great and were a perfect Sunday treat.  I'm still not a huge PB cookie fan (except these that I made from Smitten Kitchen) but they were fun and make super cute cookies.

May 14, 2012

Pin It Mini Blackberry Pie

Week 19
The final thing I needed to whip up for Tom’s birthday was a blackberry pie (his favorite). Instead of making a whole pie, I found these on amazon and decided a mini pie would be more fun.

Originally I wanted to make hand pies for everyone, like this Smitten Kitchen recipe, but it was a little too involved and I just didn’t have the time. So a mini pie it would be!

I used my friend Emily’s pie crust recipe, and halved it for the mini pie plate. Below is her recipe for a half butter, half Crisco pie crust (enough for a top and bottom crust).

2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
7 T. unsalted butter/7 T. Crisco
1 t. salt
6-8 T. ice water

For mini pie use:
1 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
3 T. + 1.5 t. unsalted butter/3 T. + 1.5 t. Crisco
1/2 t. salt
3 T. ice water

Chill butter in the fridge and Crisco in the freezer. Only freeze Crisco for 15-30 minutes.
Sift then measure the flour. Then re-sift with the salt into a large bowl.
Cut the butter into the flour/salt mixture with 2 knives or pastry cutter. Then cut in the Crisco. 
Add water by sprinkling in one tablespoon at a time, and toss with a fork to combine. The amount of water needed will depend on humidity. You want it to be just enough to hold the dough together when you squish it between your fingers.
Divide the dough in half, flatten a bit, and refrigerate the dough disks. (I refrigerated the dough for ~1 hour).

Dough disks ready to chill for a bit.
I was one tablespoon away from being done with my dough and I turned my back for a second to get my camera.  As I did, my recipe book slipped and this happened:
The book knocked my bowl of dough on the floor and I had to start all over L Quite a bummer.

I used my Mom’s berry pie filling recipe and ~halved it for this pie. Below is the recipe for a full pie.

4 C.  fresh berries
7/8 to 1 C. sugar
4 T. flour
3-4 t. quick cooking tapioca
½ t. cinnamon
1 T. butter or margarine, cut into pieces

For mini pie use:
2 C.  fresh berries
1/2 C. sugar
2 T. flour
1-2 t. quick cooking tapioca
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 T. butter or margarine, cut into pieces

Directions for full pie 
Use fresh ripe berries.  Rinse gently in colander and remove any stems and hulls.  Drain well, shaking gently, and put ½ of the berries into the pastry-lined 9 inch pan. Blend four and sugar in a bowl.  You can increase or decrease the amount of sugar in accordance with sweetness of fruit (up to 1 ½ C. sugar to 4 cups berries). Sprinkle ½ of the flour-sugar mixture over berries.  Sprinkle 1 t. (or more) of the tapioca over this first half of berries.  Add the rest of the berries, sprinkle with the remaining flour-sugar mixture and sprinkle the last of the tapioca over the top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and dot with butter. If fruit is dry sprinkle with 1 to 2 T. of water.  Cover with top crust.  Be sure to seal the top to the bottom well so it doesn’t bubble out.  Cut a few slits in top crust.

Bake in hot oven (450) 10 minutes, then in moderate oven (350) about 30 minutes, until crust is nicely browned and berries are cooked through. 

For the mini pie I cooked it for 8 minutes at 450 and then for ~20 minutes at 350, watching the crust to figure out when it was done.

The crust turned out great but I did have a couple issues with the pie filling. Since blackberries aren’t really in season yet, the berries were not super juicy.  My mom’s recipe says to add a little water to the berries if they are dry, which I probably should have done.  Because there was not a ton of moisture in the filling, the tapioca balls did not dissolve all the way (you can see this in the close up photos of the pie innards).  It tasted ok but was a little tart and lacking in flavor.  The bright side was that it was totally solid and not runny at all (hard to accomplish with berry pies). I told Tom next year that I would make him a pie with something that is actually in season J

I did feel really good about the crust though.  It turned out really well and I following all of Emily’s directions.  I even sifted all the flour twice, enough though the only sifter I have it not really meant for flour since it’s so small, but it is really more for dusting things with powdered sugar. It took me awhile but it was worth it.
Bottom crust ready for berries.
2 layers of berries with flour/sugar/tapioca in between layers.
Topped with more flour/sugar/tapioca and cinnamon.
Dotted with butter.
Top crust on and pinched to look pretty.
Baked golden pie.
Birthday boy and his pie.
Tom had no room for pie on his birthday so he ate it for breakfast the next day.  He sat down and I handed him a fork, assuming he would just eat the whole thing.  He asked for a knife He still took down half of it but I guess the whole thing in one sitting would be a lot.

Pin It Guacamole Hummus

Taken From Shutterbean

Week 19
To continue with the theme of "eating" for Tom’s birthday, I made this recipe.  I’ve been wanting to try this out for a while but have always held off because I don’t have a food processor.  After buying a Costco sized bag of tortilla chips and kettle chips, I decided that these giant bags of saltiness needed a tangy green companion. 

I used my immersion blender to make this hummus.  I started off by using the chopping attachment to grind up the cilantro and garlic first.  My immersion blender came with a couple attachments, one which is essentially a tiny food processor, and occasionally comes in handy.
After that I added all the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and used my immersion blender to smooth it all out.
Cilantro, garlic and avocados.
Mid-blend, trying to grind up all those pesky garbanzo beans.
As smooth as it was going to get. Immersion blender motor was heating up pretty good so I decided to call it quits.
I’m sure a food processor would work much better (and would be easier on your arm) but if you don’t have one and want to make you own hummus, an immersion blender does do the trick. I tripled this recipe to make sure I had enough.  In hindsight this was waayyy too much, but it’s been keeping quite well and has not turned brown.

For this recipe, you can use the following to serve 8:

3 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove
1 15oz. can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Coarse salt & fresh ground pepper

Combine garlic clove with cilantro leaves in the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the chickpeas & avocado and continue processing. While the processor is running, slowly pour a steady stream of the olive oil into the mixture. Add lemon juice and continue until smooth. Season with salt & pepper. 

This was really tasty and super easy to make.  Making your own hummus is so simple!  I’ll definitely have to try it again with other combos.  This sweet potato hummus sounds really good. 

Pin It Honey Dijon Potato Salad

Taken From Food Network, Rachel Ray

Week 19
Although I have made this recipe a few times in the past, it’s one I really like and wanted to share. Tom specifically requested I make this for his b-day BBQ as it’s one of his favorites.  It makes a really nice side to any summer picnic or BBQ and is especially nice because you don’t have to worry about it being unrefrigerated since there is no mayo in it. 

It’s a really simple recipe and you can make your own adjustments to the ingredients to fit your liking.  I’m not a huge fan of celery or parsley so I leave those out, but I do add in feta, because I love cheese and think it goes nicely with this recipe.

Here is what I use:

2 to 2 1/2-pounds small red skin potatoes, quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 radishes, sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese

Boil potatoes until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, combine the honey, Dijon, and vinegar in a bowl then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. To the bowl add radishes, capers, onions and hot potatoes. Using a wooden spoon break up the potatoes into large chunks. Toss the potato salad, adjust salt and pepper then serve. 

I doubled this recipe for Saturday's festivities which is why the quantities in my pictures look so big. It’s a great lighter take on the more traditional mayo heavy potato salad and a go-to favorite for me.
Boiled potatoes.
Honey, Dijon, cider vinegar and olive oil.
Added in onions, capers and radishes.
All mixed in with the potatoes and feta.

May 13, 2012

Pin It Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Brownie Bar

Taken From Kevin & Amanda

Week 19
In preparation for Tom's 30th Birthday on the 12th, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen...a lot! We had originally planned on doing a BBQ beach bonfire on Saturday up in Point Reyes, but because the weather was so bad (foggy, windy and cold, brrr) we ended up turning it into an abbreviated park BBQ.  Even though the party may have been shorter than the original plan, we still had enough food to feed the masses.

I started the birthday celebration preparation on Friday night after a really nice dinner with Tom’s family at Nopa.  Around 10pm I started on these bad boys.  I know they sound super intense, and they are, but very good.  And they actually aren’t as unbearably rich as they sound.  I’d say they are on the same level as any fudgy brownie.

I started off by making a solid chocolate chip cookie recipe. My chocolate chip cookie recipe is the following:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, browned and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

I browned my butter using the following instructions taken from this How Sweet it Is recipe that I made here:

"Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so. Set aside and let cool COMPLETELY. Note: It does not need to solidify at all, but it should not be warm to the touch."

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and sugars.
Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add vanilla.
Gradually add in flour mixture to the wet mixture.
Gently stir in chocolate chips.
Browned butter chocolate chip cookie dough.
After you’ve made your chocolate chip cookie dough, press into a wax paper lined and greased 9x13 pan.
CCC dough pressed into wax paper lined and greased 9x13 pan.
Then you layer on a single layer of double stuff Oreos.  I contemplated using regular Oreos (for health's sake?! I have no idea) but then I decided I may not get as good of a cross section so I stuck with the original plan.
I know, it's looking a little intense, but just wait, it gets better...
Who doesn't want Oreos hidden inside their cookie brownie?! Obviously a crazy person.
After that, make a single brownie mix intended for a 9x13 pan.  I used a Ghirardelli boxed brownie mix but made the mistake of using a mix that was only intended for a 9x9 pan. My brownie mix was really thick and not the best to use for this recipe.  I would recommend using the family size Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie mix (what the Kevin & Amanda recipe used).
Pouring the thick (probably too thick) brownie mix over the top.
After a little finagling, I managed to spread a brownie layer over the whole 9x13 pan, but I would definitely recommend finding a family sized mix.
I also made a baking faux pas as I ran out of vegetable oil while making the brownie mix.  I was about 1/8 cup short and given that it was almost 11pm and I was not about to make another trip to the store, I substituted in olive oil.  Not sure how bad this is but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I think you can see the difference in the top of my baked brownies as there are a couple different textures going on.  I think the regular looking flaky top is where the vegetable oil was (top and middle of picture below) and the moist/glossy looking bubbly part (bottom left corner and right side) must have been the olive oil part.
The only other change I made from the Kevin & Amanda recipe (besides using my own chocolate chip dough recipe) was that I didn’t add in hot fudge to the brownie mix.  I'm pretty sure this recipe does not need any more sugar or fat…plus I didn’t have any. If you are short on time you could also use the pre-made Tollhouse cookie dough instead of making it from scratch.

The recipe tells you to cover your pan with foil and bake for 30 min at 350, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 15-25 minutes.  I think I overbaked mine a little as I was misled by the different textured brownie tops.  My cookies ended up a little crispy so I’d recommend baking for ~18-20 after removing the foil.
Lining with waxed paper makes it super easy to lift out of the pan.
My mom made these on Sunday and didn’t cover with foil (not on purpose) and ended up baking them in her convection oven at 325 for 55 minutes. 
These were definitely a hit and the recipe made a ton!  The Kevin & Amanda recipe also says you can make it in a 8 x 8 pan by cutting the cookie dough recipe in half and by using a regular brownie mix.  These suckers are thick and I cut them so each square had its own Oreo, so it ends up being quite the hefty dessert.  Unless you are baking these for a large group, I’d probably opt for the smaller quantity.