Tag Archives: baking recipes

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars for a Cure

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Cookies for Kids Cancer 2015

Each year, OXO does the most wonderful thing – they donate a great deal of money to Cookies for Kids Cancer. And each year, they invite bloggers to bake for the cause by donating $100 for every original recipe created and posted using OXO products and cookies for the cure. This year, bloggers were offered an opportunity to receive one of three baking sets: cookies, brownies or cupcakes. I applied for the brownie set and was thrilled to learn I was selected. Once I learned it was in the mail, all I could think of was caramel pear or apple blondies. Day and night, night and day, I dreamed of caramel and fruit and crumbs.

OXO Brownie Set Collage

The OXO Brownie Set Included:
OXO Non-Stick Pro 9×13 Cake Pan
OXO Brownie Spatula
OXO Baker’s Dusting Wand

The non-stick pro baking pan is amazing. It’s 13″ by 9″ and super sturdy, with double wall construction for extra insulation and a cool diamond pattern textured bottom for extra browning surface which paired really well with the copious quantities of butter and brown sugar in these caramel pear crumb bars. Have you seen the new gold-tone iPhone6? It’s got nothing on this sexy pan.
I’m sure you can tell where my priorities lie. (with the cookies)

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO 13x9 Pan

But let’s get to those sweet bars before the drool shorts out your keyboard. They actually started with another of my favorite OXO kitchen tools – the mandolin.
I used it to shave a big, fat, juicy pear into even slices.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Mandolin

From there, I lined that pretty pan with parchment paper and gave it a light spritz of baking spray. The dough for these bars comes together quickly in a food processor, so it only takes a few pulses until your pressing it into a pan. Oh, how I love easy. Just press the shortbread base into the pan, then top with sliced pears (or apples), drizzle with half a jar of caramel (yes, half a jar) and dot with the crumb topping like this.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO - Ready for the Oven

Once they’re baked to a gorgeous golden brown and your neighbors are clawing to get in because they smell so amazing, pull them out and let them cool.

Caramel Pear Bars - Ready to Serve

When they’re mostly cool but still a little warm and gooey, drizzle them with more caramel. YES, MORE CARAMEL! I love this thick goat’s milk cajeta.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - Cajeta from HEB

Using this slick OXO Brownie Spatula made serving a breeze. It has a beveled edge that cuts the bars as well as serves them. I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it again – I love OXO’s devotion to smart design.

Caramel Pear Bars - OXO Server

Mmm… I wish you could smell the butter, brown sugar, pears and caramel. If I could bottle this as a cologne, I’d be filthy rich. To serve these, I mixed cinnamon with powdered sugar and sifted it like fresh fallen snow over those glorious craggy crumbs. Have mercy.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Sifter - Cinnamon Powdered Sugar

That little sifting wand is nifty. Twist the handle to open; twist to close; shake. It’s a lot of fun. And versatile. It also doubles as a tea infuser. Fill with loose leaf tea, twist to close, and dunk it in your mug. Hey… a cup of tea would be perfect with these bars! (heh heh…see what I did there?)

NanaBread’s Caramel Pear Crumb Bars
(makes one 13″ x 9″ pan or 12 large bars)

Shortbread Base:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour

Fruit Layer:
1-2 large pears (or apples), peeled & thinly sliced or chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick of cold butter, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
4-5 tablespoons buttermilk (or regular milk)
One jar (10 ozs.) of your favorite caramel, cajeta or dulce de leche
3 tablespoons powdered sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment, then coat lightly with baking spray.

In a food processor, add the butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and flour for the shortbread cookie base. Pulse until it forms large crumbs that press together well. Press the crumbs into the pan in an even layer.

Slice or chop the pears or apples into even pieces and toss or sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon for the fruit layer. Spread evenly across the top of the cookie base. Drizzle with half the jar of caramel sauce.

In the food processor, combine the topping ingredients and pulse until it forms a thick dough. Pinch into marble-size chunks and scatter them over the fruit.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the top starts to brown around the edges and you can see the caramel bubbling. Cool until barely warm to the touch before drizzling with additional caramel. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon (optional).

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Cookies for Kids Cancer Recipe

Not pictured but also fabulous – serving these warm with vanilla ice cream.

And now, a word from our sponsor. Just kidding, but this bears mentioning.

– Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.
– OXO will be donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for each blog post dedicated to this campaign in October (up to our $100,000 commitment*.)
– *In 2015, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through product proceeds, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts

Cookies for Kids Cancer Logo

Special thanks to OXO and their Blogger Outreach Program. This post is not a paid advertisement. I am not compensated for this recipe or blog post, but did receive the Brownie Baking Set at no charge to play with. All opinions are my own, and my opinion is that I will never stop loving OXO and their remarkable products. OXO rocks.

To learn more about the OXO Bloggers Outreach Program, OXO Blogger Outreach Program.
To learn more about Cookies for Kids Cancer and how you can participate, Cookies for Kids Cancer Foundation.

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Honey Oat PB Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread - Sliced

Warm cinnamon-scented carbs… is there anything better?

I finally got back into the kitchen this week and baked up a recipe for my friends at Peanut Butter & Co. This time, they challenged Yum Squad members to see what we could come up with given any two jars of their peanut butter and a bag of Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats. Two of my favorite things. My first instinct was a cookie, but I made a pledge to overcome my fear of killing yeast doughs by facing them head-on, so I tackled a sticky, yummy yeast bread with a cinnamon raisin peanut butter swirl.

I decided to use oatmeal in the dough, so I started by heating milk, water, salt, honey, butter and oats on the stove. The oats are not really cooked, just softened.

Plumped & Softened Oats - PB Swirl Bread

Once the milk & oats mixture was cooled, I added the yeast and let it sit until it was foamy and fragrant. When yeast blooms, it is fabulous to see and smell.

Growing Yeast - PB Swirl Bread

Once we had a full-blown yeast party, I blended in the eggs and added bread flour with a secret twist – Peanut Butter & Co. powdered peanut butter. I used their chocolate version. If you’ve ever wondered if you can toss powdered peanut butter into baked goods, the answer is yes! Just 3 tablespoons sifted into the flour added the perfect hint of peanut butter flavor to compliment the filling.
Do you have to use it? No. But if you can, do.

Liquids with eggs & PB flour added - PB Swirl Bread

Dough is ready! - PB Swirl Bread

Finished Dough ready to rise - PB Swirl Bread

Once the dough was mixed, I covered it in plastic wrap and a towel and let it nap in a sunny window. When it was doubled in bulk, I divided the dough into two equal rectangles, smeared half a jar of cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter over each, sprinkled them generously with a raw sugar and ground cinnamon mixture and rolled them cinnamon roll style.

Divide & Roll - PB Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin PB Layer - PB Swirl Bread

Look at that gorgeous cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter layer. I could almost eat it just like this. Next, sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon.

Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle - PB Swirl Bread

Instead of individual rolls, I dropped them into buttered loaf pans and let them rise again. All I could think was “slice it, butter it, and toast it on a griddle” so I went with loaves. Two gorgeous, pillowy loaves. I wish you could smell them.

Rolled & In The Pans - PB Swirl Bread

Finally, just before I popped them in the oven, I rubbed on a little softened butter, sprinkled on some additional oats (oh, how I love these oats!) and finished with a drizzle of local honey. Just because.

Dressed & Ready to Bake - PB Swirl Bread

Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Yeast breads are hard. Yeast is too easy to kill. Yeast bread recipes take too long to make.’ I feel ya’ and I was with you until very recently. The truth is, yeast breads DO take longer to make due to all that rising, but don’t be fooled – they are EASY to make. I swear it.

NanaBread’s Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread:
(makes two 10″ loaves)

1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup raw sugar (or brown sugar)
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 of those little foil envelopes of rapid-rise yeast
4 whole eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Peanut Butter & Co PB powder (optional)
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 jar (16 ozs.) Peanut Butter & Co cinnamon raisin swirl PB
1/2 cup raw sugar + 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, blended

Topping:
1/2 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
2-3 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill oats
2-3 tablespoons local honey

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, water, salt, honey & raw sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often to keep the honey from burning, until the mixture begins to bubble and foam around the edges. Add the old-fashioned oats and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Give them a stir, remove from the heat, and add the stick of butter. Allow this mixture to cool to 110F.

While the liquids are cooling, sift two cups of flour with the peanut butter powder and set it aside. Measure an additional 2 1/2 cups of flour and have it standing by.

When the milk and oat mixture is cooled to 110F, add the yeast and allow it to sit for at least 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and frothy. With your paddle attachment on and your mixer at low speed, blend in all four eggs.

Start adding the flour with the powdered peanut butter first, about 1/2 cup at a time, until almost blended. Switch to the bread hook attachment and start adding additional flour until the dough is thick but not dry and tries to climb over the top of your dough hook. I used 4 1/2 cups total, but you may need more or less.

Once blended, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixer and dough hook. Place the dough in a buttered or oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and set it in a sunny window to rise.

When doubled in bulk, divide the dough into two equal portions. On a piece of buttered parchment paper, shape each half of the dough into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan. Spread on half the jar of peanut butter, working it out close to the edges. Sprinkle with half the raw sugar & cinnamon mixture, then roll like a jelly roll and place into your buttered loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until doubled again.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Rub the top of each loaf with softened butter, then sprinkle with oats and drizzle with honey. Place the loaf pans on a parchment-covered baking sheet (in case of spillage during baking) and bake for 15 minutes uncovered. After 15 minutes, tent the loaves with foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the loaves are risen, browned and make a hollow thump noise when you tap them. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to finish cooling (at least one hour).

I’m embarrassed to admit I avoided yeast dough for too long. So if you like hot buttered carbs as much as I love hot buttered carbs, promise you’ll tackle a yeast bread soon. Today, maybe. You can do it. I believe in you.

Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread - CloseUp

Note: As a member of the Peanut Butter & Co Yum Squad, I am occasionally given jars of peanut butter (and sometimes additional products like the Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats in this recipe) to play with. What I choose to do with them is up to me. I am not compensated for the recipes or the posts.
If I like it, I share it. It’s just that simple.

YumSquad-Banner-Oatober-02

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Sweet Potato Buns (two ways!)

Sweet mother of billowy buns – these have my head spinning! Made with a freshly baked sweet potato & a touch of honey, these orange-tinted beauties will leave you craving more. Even better? They’re easy to make.

Flaky Buttery Sweet Potato Rolls

It’s rare that I decide to make homemade sandwich buns, but when I saw this recipe I knew I would give it a shot. That one lonely sweet potato in my pantry was just begging for it. The fact that they’re naturally sweetened with honey sealed the deal. What do I love most about these? Everything.

Baked Sweet Potato Buns - CloseUp

Soft on the inside. Flaky on the outside. Slightly sweet. Gloriously eggy. And as dough goes, versatile. First up was sandwich buns. Cutting this gorgeous dough into strips, I tied them into knots and smeared them with softened butter.

Buttered Sweet Potato Buns - CloseUp

Baked to golden perfection, they were perfect for grilled chicken sandwiches.
To make, we marinated boneless breasts in lime juice, garlic and olive oil then cooked them on the grill. Layered with lettuce, tomato, purple onion, a little mayonnaise and a slice of provolone, it’s one of our favorite sandwiches.

Sweet Potato Buns in Action - Grilled Chicken Sandwich

That’s not all this dough can do. It also makes perfect cinnamon rolls. Using half the dough for sandwich buns, I reserved the other half for these breakfast beauties – Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with orange cream cheese frosting.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls - Glazed

If you thought this dough made a great looking sandwich bun, wait until you take a bite of these cinnamon buns. Without a doubt, these are the best buns I’ve ever made. Here’s how you can make them for your family.

NanaBread’s Sweet Potato Bread Dough:
1 medium sweet potato (roughly 14 ozs.)
1/2 cup warm water (115F)
6 tablespoons honey
2 envelopes (or 1/2 oz.) active rapid-rise yeast
1 cup mashed sweet potato (from the sweet potato above)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole large or jumbo eggs, plus one additional egg yolk
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, sifted
1/2 softened butter, to finish (instructions below)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon (for cinnamon rolls)

Cinnamon Roll Frosting (optional):
1 package of cream cheese (8 ozs.), softened to room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2-3 drops Fiori de Sicilia orange essence (optional) OR 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

To make the bread dough: wash the sweet potato and prick the skin all around with a fork to create steam holes. Wet two paper towels and wring them out, then wrap the sweet potato in the damp towels. Microwave on high until the sweet potato is soft inside (roughly 3-5 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave). When done, set it aside to cool.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water and honey. Give it a quick stir with a spatula and add the rapid-rise yeast. Give it another quick stir, then walk away for at least 10-15 minutes so the yeast can bloom.

Remove the skin from the cooked sweet potato and mash it with a fork until mostly smooth (a few small lumps are okay). Sift the bread flour and set it aside. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolk with a fork until well blended.

When the yeast is ready, add the sweet potato puree, melted butter, salt and eggs and mix on low just until blended. Start adding the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough becomes sticky and clings to the dough hook (may take 3-5 mins.).

Note: this makes a soft, sticky dough. Humidity plays a part in how much flour you may need to achieve the proper texture. I’m in Houston, where the humidity was 75%, so I used all 4 cups of flour. You may use less, depending on your climate. Start by adding 3 cups of flour (one cup at a time) and slowly add more until you get a soft, sticky dough that clings to that dough hook.

Once the dough clings, stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the dough hook. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly just until it forms a smooth ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and place the bowl in a sunny window to rise until doubled in bulk. Once doubled, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll or press into a rectangle roughly 8″ x 20″.

To make sandwich buns: cut the dough into 1″ x 8″ strips (I use a rolling pizza cutter). Tie each strip into a knot, tucking the cut end underneath, and place them on a parchment or silpat mat lined baking sheet. Gently run the top of each bun with softened butter. Cover with plastic wrap and a lightweight towel and allow to rise again for at least 30 minutes, or up to one hour.

To make cinnamon rolls: combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon. Liberally coat your rectangle of dough with softened butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Roll the dough, working along the long side of the rectangle, then pinch the seam to seal it. Roll it over until the seam is facing down on the floured board, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Using a sharp blade (I use my bench scraper), cut the dough into pieces 1 1/2″ wide and place them cut-side up on a lined baking sheet, at least 2″ apart. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow them to rise one last time, for 30 minutes.

To bake: Pre-heat your oven to 375F. Once hot, bake your rolls one sheet at a time on the center rack of the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, or until golden brown. A good way to test sandwich buns is to gently press the center of one bun with your finger. If it feels soft and depresses easily, leave them in a little longer. If they feel firm, they’re done. Remove from the oven, place the pan on a cooling rack, and allow the buns to cool completely.

To make the cinnamon roll frosting: soften the cream cheese and butter to room temperature. Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and orange essence or concentrate in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until the mixture holds its shape when you drag your whisk through it. Scrape the frosting into a quart ziploc bag. Press the air out and seal the bag, then twist it to work the frosting into one corner of the bag. Snip the corner off with a pair of scissors, and frost the cinnamon rolls. I used a criss-cross pattern, but you could also start in the center and pipe a spiral or make the frosting thinner and use it as a glaze.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls - CloseUp

This recipe made 16 buns – 7 sandwich and 9 cinnamon rolls.

Baked buns can be frozen for future use. For the sandwich buns, place them in a freezer bag and press out as much air as possible, then place into a second freezer bag. For cinnamon rolls, leave glazed rolls on a baking sheet and place the pan into the freezer. Freeze cinnamon rolls for 2-3 hours, or until the frosting and buns are firm. Remove frozen rolls from the baking sheet and double bag them in freezer bags, just as you would the sandwich buns. Double-bagged buns should last up to 2 months in the freezer, if they last that long.

This recipe is adapted from a sweet potato roll recipe posted on the Tasty Kitchen website by Deana at Country Mom Cooks. I doubled the amount of sweet potato puree and yeast, and added more honey, melted butter and an additional egg yolk for a richer dough. Click the underlined link to the original.

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Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut Bars & Pan

The Polar Vortex killed our papaya tree. Poor little guy. We just planted him last summer, so we barely knew him. To make matters worse, we’re having trouble finding another papaya tree to replace him. Not that we’re interviewing or anything, but the nursery doesn’t have any. Which is a round-about way to say The Complete Package bought a fresh papaya last weekend that was bigger than my head so he could germinate the seeds in an attempt to grow papaya trees. That’s great, but it left us with a gallon of diced papaya. Thatza lotta papaya.

What does one do with a gallon of fresh papaya? Not much, apparently. I searched the internet for ideas, but recipe choices were mainly limited to smoothies. After two or three of those, I was done. Then I saw a recipe for papaya jam, and that really got me thinking. Surely I could so something with papaya jam, right? Enter Papaya Cheesecake Bars.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - In the Pan

Sometimes I come up with an idea that actually works. Surprising, I know.

NanaBread’s Papaya Cheesecake Bars:
(makes two 8″ x 8″ square pans or one 13″ x 9″ rectangle)

For the papaya jam:
4 cups fresh papaya – peeled, seeded & diced
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (optional, or add to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the fresh papaya, marmalade and orange juice. Simmer over medium-low heat until the papaya is soft and the mixture begins to thicken a little. Taste to determine if sugar needs to be added. If so, add up to 1/4 cup of sugar (to your taste) and cook until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Place a strainer over a mixing bowl, and pour the papaya mixture into the strainer. Using a flexible silicone spatula, press the papaya mixture through, straining out any fruit fiber or lumps. Allow the strained mixture to cool completely. While it’s cooling, you can start your shortbread crust.

For the shortbread crust:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill coconut meal
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
6 tablespoons brown sugar
a pinch of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold & cubed

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. In a food processor, combine all of the shortbread ingredients. Pulse until well combined and the texture of course sand. Line your baking pan(s) with parchment and add the shortbread mixture (it will be crumbly). Shake the pan to distribute the crumbs, then tap it flat on the counter a few times to help settle them in an even layer. Cover with a sheet of parchment and use a rolling-pin or heavy glass to roll the crumbs into a solid, compact layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. While the crust is baking, mix up your cheesecake filling.

For the cheesecake layer:
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheesecake ingredients. Whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour over the baked shortbread crust, tapping the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Pop it back into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or just until you can shake the pan gently and the cheesecake doesn’t jiggle. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, top with papaya jam, spreading it into a smooth even layer. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut

Truth in Marketing Moment: I dusted mine with powdered sugar, but it really served no purpose other than adding texture to the photographs. The sugar dissolved almost immediately into the papaya jam and vanished. Feel free to skip that step unless you’re also photographing your papaya bars, in which case it’ll look pretty and everybody loves pretty desserts.

That papaya jam? It’s supremely tasty, so I’ll be canning more of that.

Remember when people used to ask “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” I’m changing my answer. It used to be Cornflower Blue, but now it’s Papaya Orange. That color just screams SASSY.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Horizontal

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31 Days of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter? Let’s make that 32.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter. It’s the stuff dreams are truly made of, especially if you love chocolate and peanut butter like I do. Peanut Butter & Co makes one that blows my skirt up every single time I crack the lid. I’ll eat it on anything – crackers, toast, bagels, cake, waffles, a spoon, or even my finger. (Hi. My name is Jeanne, and I’ve been a peanut butter addict since forever.)

Keep reading all the way to the bottom, people. This is going to get good!

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter Close-Up

Oh, baby. This is the good stuff. It’s my super-duper favorite. For real.

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter - One Glorious Spoonful

This week Peanut Butter & Co released a new cookbook titled 31 Days of Dark Chocolate Dreams‘. As a newly minted member of Peanut Butter & Co’s Yum Squad, I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy as well as a 28-ounce jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams to play with. Man, I love these guys. Great company, great products, and always such fun to work with. (Hi, Adam!)

Dark Chocolate Dreams Box - Instagram

The cookbook is amazing. As I flipped through it, I kept squealing “Oooo! I’ll make that! I’ll make THAT, too!” So many drool-worthy recipes to choose from. I’m seriously thinking of trying the dark chocolate peanut butter flourless cake first. Then maybe the marble pound cake. Or maybe ALL OF THEM.

First, though, I jumped in to make a batch of my new favorite peanut butter cookies. They’re made with coconut oil instead of butter (I know… I know… I love butter, too) but the coconut oil adds great flavor and I love the texture of these. Even better, you can stuff them with Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Gelato and BAM! – ice cream sandwiches to die for. Let’s start with the cookies first.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB & Coconut Oil Cookies - Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter & Coconut Oil Cookies
(Original recipe credit to AverieCooks.com)

3/4 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter
1/2 cup organic coconut oil, softened to room temp
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 jumbo or large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Make sure your coconut oil is softened to the consistency of softened butter (I had to microwave mine for 12 seconds). It sounds insignificant, but making sure your coconut oil is not too firm or too melted is key to the texture of these cookies. When you’re there, combine the peanut butter and coconut oil and beat for 3-4 minutes with an electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla extract, and beat for 30 seconds more.

Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch & baking soda and whisk to combine. Add the flour in one batch to the peanut butter mixture, then on LOW speed, mix until flour is starting to incorporate and then turn the speed up to medium and beat just until the flour mixture is well combined and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should look like this:

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookie Dough - Perfect Consistency

If the mixture is too dry and crumbles easily, add a little more coconut oil and beat it again. If it seems too sticky and doesn’t easily form into a ball, add more flour – 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time – until your dough is the consistency of a new can of Play Dough. When it’s ready, grab a medium ice cream or cookie scoop and your baking sheets. I recommend using silicone baking mats for most baking projects. They guarantee your hard work won’t stick to the pan, causing violent bouts of cursing or childish hissy fits (or so I’ve heard).

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookie Dough - Perfect Scoop

That, my friends, is a perfect scoop. To get it, I simply drag the scoop through the dough then scrape it up the side of the bowl as I remove it. See how the dough presses perfectly into the scoop? That’s when you know it’s the right consistency. Scoop onto lined baking sheets, 2″ apart so you can press them.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Perfect Scoops

Note: if you don’t want to press these cookies flat for ice cream sandwiches, you can leave them like they appear in the above photo. They will take 2-3 minutes longer to bake, but result in a thicker, brownie-like cookie. For ice cream sandwiches, I pressed them with the bottom of an old glass candy dish.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Pressed

I love the pattern this makes in the cookies. If you don’t have a fancy cookie press, I highly recommend flipping over old decorative bowls or glasses. If there’s a great pattern in the bottom, it can be used as a cookie press. Be adventurous and try it!

Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the pans. Because I was making ice cream sandwiches with mine, I let the cookies cool completely on the pan, then popped the entire pan in the freezer to make sure they were super cold.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches - Close-Up

For ice cream sandwiches:
Grab a pint of your favorite ice cream or gelato and let it sit out on the counter until it starts to get nice and soft (about 5 mins). I happened to have a pint of Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Gelato in my freezer (lucky girl!), but Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz, or any flavor you love will work.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - When the Magic Happens

Using the same scoop I used for the cookie dough, I placed a row of cookies ‘bottoms up’ on my tray, then placed a scoop of softened gelato in the center of each. With a flat metal spatula, aka pancake flipper, I flattened each scoop of gelato into a smooth, even layer.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Topped with Gelato

Top with a second cookie and immediately wrap in plastic wrap. Pop them back into the freezer for at least 2-3 hours, or until they are frozen solid. To eat, just unwrap and dig in. If you plan to nibble them one at a time, place the wrapped ice cream sandwiches into an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. They should keep for at least 4 weeks in your freezer. This recipe makes 16 individual cookies approximately 3″ in diameter, or 8 ice cream sandwiches.

Of course, you can also use a small cookie scoop and make these more bite-size for portion control. Or you can double the recipe and keep the baked cookies in the freezer in an air-tight container so you can enjoy them plain or build ice cream sandwiches on demand. Or just eat the cookies and wash them down with a glass of milk. That works, too. But I recommend the ice cream sandwiches. Because more is more, or something like that.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches - Stacks & Jar

Now for the best part of this post – Peanut Butter & Co has generously offered to ship a copy of ’31 Days of Dark Chocolate Dreams’ and a 28-ounce jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter to one lucky reader. To participate, simply leave a comment. It could be “I love peanut butter!” or “Peanut Butter & Co is awesome!” or even “I’m a cookbook hoarder.” One reader will be chosen at random, and Peanut Butter & Co will ship this tasty prize pack directly to their door. The deadline for this drawing is Friday, February 7th at 12:00 midnight, Central Standard Time, so jump on it now. Right now! What are you waiting for?!

Dark Chocolate Dreams Cookbook

If you don’t win or can’t wait to get your hands on the cookbook, you can purchase it online by clicking HERE, along with other Peanut Butter & Co goodies and peanut butter products. The Cinnamon Raisin Swirl blows my mind and Mighty Maple is both creamy and dreamy.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Peanut Butter & Co sent me an advanced copy of the cookbook and a jar of peanut butter to play with, as stated above. I am a member of their Yum Squad, which is also unpaid. Put simply, I love their products, and they have occasionally sent me peanut butter to experiment with. For example, check out my ‘The Heat is On’ Spicy Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies made with their spicy chili-laced peanut butter. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way by the company. I just love the quality of their stuff, and enjoy sharing that joy with you.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Linda (comment #4), winner of the Peanut Butter & Co prize pack giveaway. Thanks to all who participated, and high five to Linda. You’re going to love the cookbook AND the peanut butter! -jeanne

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“The Heat is On” Spicy PB Shortbreads

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads -Title Shot

I love peanut butter. This one time, in high school, a friend’s dad got me to run 5 miles for a giant jar of it on a dare. It was 1980, and there was a peanut butter shortage. I did what I had to do.

Fast forward to June of this year, when I attended the BlogHerFood conference in Austin. I had the best time and met so many fabulous food bloggers, but I was also fortunate to meet some really nice people from companies represented at the event like Adam Shapiro from Peanut Butter & Co.

Adam & I sat at the same breakfast table the first morning of the conference, but didn’t get a chance to talk. Later that weekend, I bumped into him again and got a chance to strike up a conversation and share how much I love their peanut butter (most especially their Dark Chocolate Dreams – it’s sin in a jar). Adam asked if I’d heard about their new flavor – The Heat is On. It’s a crazy blend of peanut butter and spicy chilies.

When I say crazy, I mean crazy genius. We talked about the standard things that came to mind, like using it in a peanut satay or in a dipping sauce for egg rolls or dumplings. But as we were talking, I kept thinking about what it would be like in a cookie. Specifically, a peanut butter shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate.

Adam was intrigued by the idea. Enough so that he offered to send me some peanut butter to play with. This was truly one of the greatest and most unexpected pleasures of attending my first food blogging conference – connecting with fascinating people you’d never have a chance to meet otherwise and sharing a passion for food. True to his word, here’s what Adam sent:

PB&Co Box

Not just one jar, but an entire box of various Peanut Butter & Co flavors. I was simultaneously stunned and thrilled. He even included a jar of the Dark Chocolate Dreams. What a guy! Lilly Bug (our granddaughter) immediately fell in love with the dark chocolate peanut butter. She’s a girl after her Nana’s heart. Jonah Bear (our grandson) loved the maple. He’s a pancake kind of dude, so that’s not really surprising. Personally, I went into that jar of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl with a spoon and almost didn’t come back out. I’m officially obsessed with it.

PB&Co The Heat is On

But this spicy The Heat is On is what inspired these cookies. This richly roasted peanut butter combined with a spicy blend of heat is as bold as it is fun. It’s just spicy enough to feel the burn spread across your palate, but not so spicy you’re running for a glass of water. It’s a party in a jar, and now it’s a party in a cookie. And all because I stepped out of my comfort zone and initiated a conversation with a super guy who just happened to work for a peanut butter company that I love.

The Heat is On Peanut Butter Shortbreads – for Adam
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup ‘The Heat is On’ spicy peanut butter
1/4 cup plain crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and peanut butter, beating with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the brown sugar, honey or agave nectar and vanilla extract, beating until combined. Sift together the flour and salt and add it slowly to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is fully absorbed.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Pressed with a Glass

To press with a glass for a decorative cookie:
Scoop enough dough into the palm of your hand to form a ball roughly the size of a golf ball. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Space the balls of cookie dough about 2″ apart and press with the bottom of a decorative glass. If the glass tries to stick to the dough, dip it in granulated sugar.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Slice & Bake style

To use the slice & bake method:
Shape the cookie dough into a log and roll in plastic wrap, twisting the ends to seal them shut. Refrigerate at least one hour, then unwrap and slice into 1/4″ slices. Place the cookies 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet.

To bake:
Pre-heat your oven to 275F. Place your oven rack in the middle portion of the oven, and bake the cookies for 40 minutes. Remember – everyone’s oven is different and some run hotter than others. Start checking the cookies at 30 minutes. If you gently press the center of the cookie and it gives a little, let them stay in a few minutes longer. I baked mine for exactly 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. If you want to kick it up a notch, consider dipping them in chocolate. I did. #NoRegrets.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Dipped Close-Up

To dip in chocolate:
I let the cookies cool overnight to make sure they were completely cooled. Next, combine 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips with 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips and set them over a double-boiler to melt. Once melted, whisk until the chocolate mixture is perfectly smooth, with no lumps. Scrape the chocolate into a small glass or ramekin and dip each cookie individually, placing them on waxed paper to set.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Drizzed in Chocolate

In a rush? You can scrape the melted chocolate into a zippered plastic food storage bag, press it all down to one corner of the bag, and snip the corner off. Using a quick back & forth method, drizzle the cookies until all are decorated. Then squeeze some into your mouth for good measure, and throw away the used bag. After that, it’s just a matter of waiting for the chocolate to set up, if you can wait that long. I’ve never been good at waiting, especially with cookies.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Final Close-Up

Tip: If you live in a warm, humid climate like I do (hello, Houston), spread your waxed paper onto a cookie sheet before you dip or drizzle your cookies with chocolate. Once done, you can pop the entire pan into the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes to help the chocolate firm up.

Note: This recipe is adapted from a shortbread recipe at Living Tastefully. This post is not sponsored by Peanut Butter & Co. As stated above, the company provided me with a box of product to sample. All opinions (and drooling) are my own. Special thanks to Adam Shapiro of Peanut Butter & Co for his generosity.

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Berry Week: Annie’s Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake - InsideNanaBreadsHead

Hooray for summer berries and Berry Week! Fresh produce from the farmers market is one of my favorite things about summer and each year I look forward to hitting all the fruit stands. Fresh berries, peaches, watermelon and all those glorious veggies make me happy to my core.

This week, our Theme Weavers band of bloggers is taking on summer’s bounty with Berry Week. Contributions include pies, cakes, cocktails and breakfast treats so stay tuned and plan to visit all this deliciousness.

Berry Week Logo

Monday:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Fresh Strawberry Pie
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Berry Sangria

Tuesday:
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Summer Berry Terrine with Mascarpone
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Annie’s Blackberry Cake (below)

Wednesday:
Lauren @ Grier Mountain – Vanilla Gelato with Peach-Blueberry Compote
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Strawberry Smash

Thursday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Strawberry Basil Sorbet Bellini
Haley @ Girly Girl Cooks – Strawberry-Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast

Friday:
Christina @ Buffy & George – Raspberry & Cherry Pie (gluten-free crust)
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – PNW75 Berry Cocktail
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya-Berry Crisp (gluten-free)

Saturday:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Cherry Clafoutis
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Raspberry Marshmallows (2 ways)

Blackberry Cake & Vintage Square Cakestand - Inside NanaBread's Head

Now let’s talk cake! I am a self-proclaimed Pie Girl. Basically, it’s because I despise dry, over-frosted cake. Yuck. I’d rather skip dessert all together than eat dry cake. Luckily, this is not that cake.

I first got this recipe from my dear friend Annie. We worked together in an elementary school front office for years and became soul sisters. She shared this gem with me and I shared it with my mom and sisters. Now it’s a family favorite. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make and absolutely packed with blackberry flavor. I know some people hate the M word (rhymes with hoist) so I’ll refrain. Just know that this cake is the furthest thing from dry.

Annie’s Blackberry Cake

For the cake:
1 box white ‘super moist’ cake mix (18 ozs.)
1 box black raspberry or raspberry Jell-O (3 ozs.)
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup milk
4 whole eggs
4 Tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
fresh blackberries for garnish

To Make the Cake:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. The original recipe called for three 8″ round pans for a layer cake. I used a vintage square tube pan I found at an antique shop last summer, but you could also bake this cake in a 13″ x 9″ rectangle pan (even easier). Generously grease & flour your baking pan(s) and set them aside.

Next, put the coconut & pecans into a food processor and pulse until both are well combined and ground into small pieces; set those aside, as well.

Combine the cake mix, dry Jell-O powder, oil, milk and blackberry jam in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gently fold in the berries, coconut and pecans until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into your pan(s) and spread it into a smooth, even layer.

Bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. My square tube pan took 40 minutes. A 13″ x 9″ square should take 25-30 minutes, and three round layers should take 20-25 minutes. As with all recipes, baking time may vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on it for the last 10 minutes and check it often with a toothpick. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans until cool to the touch.

To Make the Whipped Cream Frosting:

While your cake is cooling, place your mixing bowl and beaters in the refrigerator and chill for at least 15-20 minutes. Once chilled, remove from the fridge and add the cream, sugar, vanilla and jam to the bowl. Beat on medium-high to high speed just until firm peaks form.

If your cake is still warm to the touch, put your prepared whipped cream in the fridge and wait until the cake is completely cooled to prevent your cream from melting. Once the cake is cool, you’re ready to frost.

For my tube pan cake, I used a serrated knife to cut the cake into two even layers. If you use a 13″ x 9″ pan, simply top with whipped cream frosting and sprinkle with fresh berries. For a layer cake, stack one layer at a time onto a serving plate and fill with 1/2″ of the whipped cream, then top with last of the whipped cream and fresh berries. I had extra berries, so I tossed them with some sugar and used them between my layers as well.

Because of the whipped cream frosting, this cake must be refrigerated. It’s also best when eaten within 48 hours. That’s one of the reasons my family makes this for family gatherings. It’s a lot of cake to consume for two people in one weekend. If that’s an issue, you might consider baking this as cupcakes and freezing them un-frosted. Then when you need a cake fix, you can thaw as many as you want/need and make just enough whipped cream for those few.

If you’re thinking “I’m not really a blackberry fan” then try it with raspberries or strawberries. Don’t like pecans? Substitute toasted almonds. Allergic to nuts? Leave them out! I draw the line at coconut. It’s just too good to leave it out, but if you have to I promise to look the other way. It’s not brain surgery – just cake. Tweak it any way you like. Food should be fun, so play with it!

Now all that’s left to do is to dig in. My cake is going to Mom’s house. Luckily, she’s a good sharer. Speaking of sharing, here… I saved you a piece.

Blackberry Cake - A Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

Note: This recipe was adapted from a copy of a recipe taken from an old unspecified spiral-bound cookbook. It is credited to Billie Kendrick of Springdale, Arkansas. Her original recipe called for a heavy fudge-like frosting made with one pound of confectioner’s sugar. Since I’m not a buttercream fan, my family and I opt for a lighter whipped cream topping. I also took the liberty of adding blackberry jam to the cake batter for extra flavor. My heartfelt thanks go to Ms. Kendrick for her perfect summer berry confection and to my sweet friend Annie who was kind enough to share it. XOXO

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