Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt (Dairy Free!!)

ImageSo with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, today I attempted to make macarons for the first time ever. It was a huge disaster. Whenever I make something that doesn’t turn right, I feel so sad, like I have failed. I know macarons are extremely difficult to make, but I just couldn’t help it. Fortunately I’ve been sitting on this recipe adapted from Ambitious Kitchen for a while! These cookies are very very tasty and can definitely be a treat to make for your Valentine. There is nothing quite like the combination of sweet and salty goodness. My boyfriend, Matt, is allergic to dairy, so I made these dairy free so he could enjoy them as well. May you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

Ingredients:

  • Image11/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup earth balance, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain soy yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups carob chips 

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, mix the softened earth balance and peanut butter together until thoroughly blended.
  3. Add the sugars and beat until smooth.
  4. Next beat in the egg, honey, vanilla, and yogurt until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined.
  6. Gently stir in the carob chips.
  7. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes-1 hour, or place in freezer for 20 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Once ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  10. Bake for 9-12 minutes (depends on size of your cookie) or until cookies begin to turn a tiny golden brown and crisp up around the edges. Do not overbake!
  11. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes and sprinkle cookies generously with sea salt.
  12. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
  13. Devour!!!

Image

 

 

Goat Cheese Brownies

I have no excuse for how long it’s been, I have just been lazy!! But school is starting back up in just two days and I’m shaking off the laziness!  Some gooey chocolatey treats should help…

This recipe is from Une Gamine dans la cuisine, and it is fabulous.  These brownies have a regular chocolate brownie layer, a goat cheese layer, and then a melty frosting layer.  TO DIE FOR.  This one has a lot of steps, but do not fear!  They are worth it.

Ingredients:

For the brownie layer:

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the cheese layer:

  • 6 oz goat cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg

 

For the frosting:

  • 4 oz of goat cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (that’s 4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar (have at least one more cup on hand, just in case the frosting is too thin)
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1 Tablespoon of milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, butter the foil and set the pan aside.
  3. Prepare the brownie layer: Fill a saucepan with about 1-inch of water and bring to just a simmer. Place the chopped chocolate and 3 Tablespoons of butter into a heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan (be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water).
  4. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth. As soon as it’s smooth, remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside to cool.
  5. Cheese layer: In a medium-size bowl, beat the cheese and 2 Tablespoons of butter on medium speed for about 1 minute (just to combine).
  6. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat on medium speed until fluffy.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of flour, honey, and 1 egg. Beat well (about 2-4 minutes). Set the bowl aside.
  8. Back to the brownie layer: Beat the 2 eggs on medium speed till foamy.
  9. Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the cooled, melted chocolate. Beat till combined.
  11. Using a large spatula, stir in 1 cup of flour, baking Powder, salt.
  12. Spread half of the chocolate batter into prepared pan.
  13. Spread the cheese filling over the chocolate batter.
  14. Using large spoon-filled dollops, drop the remaining chocolate batter over the cheese filling.
  15. Drag a thin metal spatula through both the cheese and chocolate mixtures. Try not to overdo it, a few swirls here and there will go a long way.
  16. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the center is set.
  17. Remove the pan from the oven and onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
  18. For the frosting: In a large bowl, beat the softened goat cheese and butter together on medium-low speed till creamy.
  19. Add the confectioners’ sugar in 1/2 cup increments, beating well after each addition.
  20. Add the honey and milk. Beat on medium-high speed until creamy.
  21. Spread over the cooled brownies and cut into squares.

 

Mexican Brownies for Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!! I realize the name of these brownies could be seen as offensive, and I truly don’t mean to offend but they are a perfect dessert for Cinco de Mayo celebrations and let’s face it, the entire holiday is a little offensive to begin with.  But I promise the rich and complex flavor of these brownies won’t offend anybody’s taste buds! I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from Good Housekeeping’s June 2002 issue.

Ingredients for brownies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs

 

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder or granules
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease 13 X 9 inch metal baking pan.
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  3. In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in granulated sugar. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until well-blended; add vanilla. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture until blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  4. Bake brownies 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
  5. When brownies are cool, prepare coffee frosting. In cup, disolve coffee in vanilla and 2 tablespoons of water; set aside. In 1-quart saucepan, heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until mixture melts and bubbles, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. With wire whisk, beat in coffee mixture and the confectioners sugar until blended and smooth.
  6. Spread frosting over brownies then sprinkle some coffee grounds on top.
  7. Dig in!

Aunt Lucille’s Brownies

This is the only basic brownie recipe I will ever need or use.  It is simple, easy, delicious, and can be doctored to your liking in many ways.  I usually make them just like this, but in the past I have added chocolate pudding, which made them a bit fluffier/cake-ier, as well as chocolate chips which makes them more chocolatey!  You could also add nuts, or whatever else your heart desires to the recipe to personalize them.  This recipe makes a brownie that is moist, but not too rich.

I first experienced these brownies when I was only five years old… In 1997 my Grandfather, who us grandkids called Poppy passed away due to complications from a recent heart attack.  My younger brother, Matthew, who was only two, and I were deemed to young to attend an open- casket funeral ( I am now very thankful for this for several reasons) so instead we were sent to the house of my mom’s life-long friend, our “Aunt” Lucille to play with her kids who were around our age.  It was a strange and confusing experience.  I was dressed up in all black because once the funeral was over, my brother and I would be picked up and brought to the dinner that followed.  I knew Poppy had died, but I didn’t understand it- here I was being sent out for a play date!

Cousin Jack, Cousin Brian, Poppy, Matthew, Me, Meagan

Well, as we played, Aunt Lucille made us brownies from scratch.  I can still remember clearly how good they smelled coming out of the oven, and watching her cut them into perfect squares.  They were (and are) SO GOOD.  We were all allowed a taste, and then the next thing I knew I was leaving, paper bag full of brownies (and the recipe!!!) in hand.  Matthew and I were reunited with our big sister Meagan, parents, and the rest of the family at an Italian restaurant.  Everyone was dressed nicely, in dark clothes, and I knew something sad had happened and Poppy wasn’t there, but everyone seemed happy as they reminisced over Poppy’s life.  Needless to say, I did not understand what was happening, but I did understand that there was a bag of brownies waiting for me to gobble up later.

In psychology there is a lot of debate about so-called “flashbulb memories.”  The most common example used is September 11th.  Basically they are memories for emotionally impacting or important events, which people often have very detailed and vivid memories for.  There is empirical controversy over whether these memories are actually better than normal memories, and I haven’t formed much of an opinion myself, but the events of that January day fifteen years ago are still fresh in my mind, and the same brownies are fresh in my belly!  Though I wish Poppy had been around for more of my life, I will never be sad that I inherited this brownie recipe (Thank you, Aunt Lucille!!!).

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Grease an 8×8 pan with vegetable shortening and set aside.
  3. Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl, then add eggs one at a time.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, and baking powder together.
  5. Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture in even increments.
  6. Pour into greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
  7. Enjoy!!

Homemade Oreos

Got milk? You’re going to need some for these.

I have never been a huge fan of Oreos, but when I found this recipe at Smitten Kitchen, I had to try them as a sort of experiment.  Recently I went down the cookie aisle at my local Albertsons and could not believe how many different kinds of Oreos they make these days.  I don’t have TV service so I don’t see commercials, and I rarely go to grocery stores other than Trader Joes or Whole Foods so I don’t really know what is in your typical grocery store.  Even more astonishing and disheartening though, is the ingredients list on even just the regular Oreos…

I don’t know about you, but even though I can (almost) pronounce all of those ingredients, they certainly don’t sound appealing or good for me.  Why are there so many chemicals in our food? Are they really necessary?  I wanted to find out if you could have the taste of Oreos with a more wholesome ingredient list.  And so I began.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Wafers

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon bakingpowder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/3 cups sugar [see recipe note]
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
For the Creme Filling
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 Directions
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie.
I followed all of these instructions, but after my most recent experience with my pastry bag, I opted to instead put all of the creme into a ziploc bag and cut a corner off to ensure that it wouldn’t come billowing out of the top of the bag.  I realize now I should have taken pictures of this make-shift pastry bag, but will make a mental note to do so next time so you can see what I’m talking about.
For the first time EVER, I was happy with this recipe’s proportions- for once I didn’t have way more icing than I actually needed!
Also the results were as I hoped- they taste like Oreos, except that they actually taste like real food.  I brought some to work and everyone enjoyed them, and I mailed some to my sister (she should get them tomorrow) and can’t wait to hear her review of them.


Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

Happy New Year everyone!! I made these last night while awaiting the start of 2012.  I hope you all had a happy and safe holiday and that are looking forward to the new year!   I got this recipe from Amy Bites but instead of mixing in the chocolate chip cookies and chopped pretzels with a wooden spoon I did it the lazy man’s way with the beater attachment on my mixer on its Stir function.

I have always loved the combination of pretzels and chocolate, as well as chocolate chip cookies, so I had no choice but to try these out and they were great.  I also used the KitchenAid whisk attachment for the first time ever for these, which was exciting.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (8 3/4 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 oz. pretzels, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • Adorable measuring cups

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl and set aside for later.
  3. Heat 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons unsalted butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  5. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.
  6. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining,about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
  7. Using wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in chocolate chips and pretzels, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  9. Scoop dough onto cookie sheets using a cookie scoop.
  10. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

 

Heres a present I forgot to mention in my I am Thankful, Lucky, and Loved post… my mom got me a new apron with matching chef’s hat!

Ginger Molasses Men

For Christmas, my brother gave me all the items seen above: Ginger Molasses Cookie Mix, a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and christmas baking spatulas.  It was clear what this gift was for.  I was to make gingerbread men!  He loves ginger cookies so I made them on Christmas day when I would still be home at my mom’s house (hence why this kitchen may look different than where I usually cook) with him. This was a very easy mix which only required the addition of some unsalted butter and one egg.

So I set to work right after cleaning my new tools and getting the “factory” off of them- you never know what weird stuff might be on new items!  You can also see another of my new tools in the top right of the photo above- my new mixer (which I mentioned in my last post)!! After mixing the egg, butter, and mixture together as the box instructed, the dough had to refrigerate for a half hour while I relaxed and watched Bridesmaids with my family (if you haven’t seen it you need to).

In this photo you can see one of the really neat things about this mix- it contains actual pieces of crystallized ginger which I thought added a nice touch.  After a half hour of chilling out, I set to cutting out little gingerbread men.  Funnily enough, these things really expand when they are in the oven, and we ended up having Gingerbread Sumo Men instead of regular ones! HAHA!

But regardless of their silly size they were absolutely yummy, and I usually don’t even like gingerbread so I think that says a lot.  I would highly recommend this mix which is available at your local Williams Sonoma, and likely other places I don’t know of.