Tag Archives: baking

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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Pie Week: Black & White Coconut Tart

The Theme Weavers are ringing in the holidays with PIE WEEK. Wahoooooo! I love pie. Love, love, love it. It’s my favorite of all of the Food Groups – Pie, Bacon, Cheese, Chocolate & Booze. If only we could all be in one room so we could face plant into all the glorious pies to be featured this week, it would be a dream come true. Also dreamy, this gorgeous Black & White Coconut Tart.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Banners

It starts with Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses’ pie dough recipe, pre-baked into the perfect vessel. Then it gets a schmear of hot fudge sauce (it’s okay… just breathe) and a luscious layer of coconut cream. Finally, it’s crowned with glorious mounds of whipped cream and toasted coconut. Have I mentioned that I love pie?

Let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start. Pie dough. When I say this one is easy, I’m not joking. Made in the food processor, it’s ready in a flash and flawless every single time. It’s the only recipe I use.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Kirsten's Pie Dough

For this tart, I chose to use a vintage 8″ square baking tin I found while antiquing with Kirsten last May. Using the pan reminds me of her and proves two points – 1. food = love and 2. blogging friends are real (and are lots of fun).

Black & White Coconut Tart - Fitting Dough to Pan

One of my favorite pie tools – a pizza cutter. I love a good sharp edge when working with pie dough. There’s no better example of that than this next shot, where I decide to make a fancy braided edge for my tart. Curse you, Pinterest!

Black & White Coconut Tart - Braid Collage

Did I just hear you say “Whatever!”? Oooo… I’m gonna… Ha! Not really. Truth is, this trick is not as complicated as it looks. I found the key is pinching the ends together and pressing them into the countertop to anchor the strands. From there, it’s just a regular braid. When you’re done, pinch the other ends together to seal the deal, then apply it to the tart with a little egg white as glue.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Egg Wash Glue

Once applied, press gently to make sure it’s stuck, then pop then entire thing into the freezer for half an hour. Why? Because a frozen pie shell bakes much better than a room-temperature pie shell. More flaky layers; less shrinkage. After 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, line it with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from falling into the pan while it bakes. My tip: cut two paper strips to create a sling instead of trying to fold parchment into the corners. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Before (L) and after (R) - the beans keep the dough in place.

Before baking (L) and after (R) – the beans keep the dough in place.

Bake in a hot oven until it’s a light golden brown, then allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes with the beans still in place. After 15 minutes, you can lift out the beans and allow the tart shell to cool completely. If you plan to put your dried beans back in the pantry for soup later, be sure to let them cool completely before you seal them into a container. If you don’t, they’ll create steam in the container which will cause them to mold later.

While my tart shell was chilling, I made a batch of coconut custard from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I chose this filling because it used coconut milk for extra flavor, which was a good call – it’s dreamy. Cooked on the stove, it comes together quickly. The hardest part is resisting the urge to eat it while it cools. Once it’s done and slightly cooled, the trick is to cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t get that tough pudding skin layer on top. Two words that should never be used together – pudding & skin.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Coconut Custard

So now you have a baked & cooled tart shell and a cooled custard. What’s next? Assembly! First up is a layer of your favorite fudge sauce, then a thick layer of coconut custard, and finally a piped dome of whipped cream sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut. Licking the spatula is highly recommended.

Black & White Custard Tart - Filling Collage

Days like this make me happy to be one of those people who plays with their food. This one was fun to put together. Have you ever made anything that turned out so perfectly you thought, “Man, I hate to cut this!” Yeah, me neither.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - A Slice

NANABREAD’S BLACK & WHITE COCONUT TART:

One recipe of No Excuses Pie Dough (use half, freeze half for later)
One batch of America’s Test Kitchen Coconut Cream Pie custard:

  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar (divided in half)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold & diced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

One batch of stabilized whipped cream topping:

  • one pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon instant vanilla pudding powder

One cup of your favorite hot fudge sauce (at room temperature)
One cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

To make the pie shell:
Roll the pie dough out and place in a lightly sprayed pie or tart pan. Flute or attach a decorative edge, then freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, line the pie shell with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until the edge is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool 15-20 minutes, then lift out the paper & beans and allow it to cool completely.

To make the custard:
In a heavy saucepan, bring the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of sugar and salt to a gentle bubble, stirring often. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot custard into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Once combined, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pan of custard and whisk to combine. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the custard begins to thicken. Whisk in the vanilla extract and turn off the heat. Move to a cold burner and allow it to cool for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow it to cool, covered, until it comes to room temperature.

To make the whipped cream topping:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk on high until the cream just begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the instant vanilla pudding powder and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Scrape into a piping bag with a large star tip and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the tart:
Spread a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer of your favorite hot fudge sauce into the tart shell, spreading it an even layer. Gently spoon the coconut custard onto the fudge sauce layer and spread it into an even layer. Top with whipped cream and shaved coconut and chill until ready to serve. Makes four large servings or six smaller ones, if baked in an 8″ x 8″ square pan as seen above. Keep refrigerated.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - My Slice

Before you face plant into that last shot, be sure and check out these Theme Weavers and their crusted contributions to Pie Week:

Monday, Nov. 18:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Mile High Apple Pie
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Cranberry Cherry Ricotta Pie
Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks – Coconut Cream Pie
Katie @ The Hill Country Cook – New Mexico Apple Pie

Tropical Tuesday, Nov. 19:
Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Pineapple Pie
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya Pie
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Black & White Coconut Tart (that’s me!)

Wednesday, Nov. 20:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Chocolate Cream Pie
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Maple Sweet Potato with Swiss Meringue

Thursday, Nov. 21:
Shanna @ Pineapple and Coconut – Boozy Pumpkin Eggnog Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Sweet Potato Tartlets
Christina @ Buffy and George – Deep Dish Apple Pie

Friday, Nov. 22:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Sweet Potato Pie
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World – Refrigerator Pumpkin Porter Chocolate Pie with Toasted Pumpkin Porter Marshmallow “Meringue”
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Mini Butternut Squash Glazed Pie Stacks with Marshmallow Frosting

Saturday, Nov. 23:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Biscoff Pie with Whiskey Mallow Fluff
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Berry Cherry Pie
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Persimmon & Pear Brandy Pie with Vanilla Bean Crumble

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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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Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies

This year’s Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s) was a great success, raising $1,680 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Wahoo! Great job and high fives to all the bakers, bloggers & bidders who participated!

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

My contribution to this year’s bake sale was these luscious Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies – so buttery and delicious! My winning bidder was Taryn from the Pacific northwest (Seattle area). To my surprise, she bid a whopping $60.00 for four dozen of my shortbreads. Thank you so much, Taryn! I hope you and your friends and family enjoy them!

Now that they’re baked and shipped, I thought I’d share them here so you can make them as well. And trust me – if you love buttery shortbread cookies, dried cherries and pecans, you ARE going to want to make them. This recipe has been doubled so that it makes approximately 5 to 6 dozen cookies, depending on how big you cut them. Mine were approximately 1 1/2″ squares and made 6 dozen.

NanaBread’s Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book (Classic Buttery Shortbread)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal (almond flour)
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, toasted
granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. While your butter is softening, spread the flour, almond meal and almonds onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the flour just starts to take on some light color and the almonds are fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Reduce your oven temperature to 325F.

In a food processor, combine the dried cherries and cooled almonds. Pulse until both are chopped into small chunks. Don’t pulse too long, or you’ll end up with cherry/almond paste. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the toasted flour and almond meal, the powdered sugar, salt and cherry/almond mixture; whisk to combine.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating just until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment or a silpat mat. Scrape the dough onto the pan and with lightly floured fingers or a flat spatula, spread the shortbread dough into the pan, working it all the way out to the corners. To get a nice even layer, place waxed or parchment paper on top of the dough and use a rolling pin.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Pressing Into Pan - Inside NanaBread's Head

If you don’t have a rolling pin, lay some waxed or parchment paper on top of the cookie dough then top with a second cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and press to form a nice even layer. Peel the paper off and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar, then pop the pan in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Next, use a bench scraper (my favorite tool) or a metal pancake spatula to score the cookies into squares. I like to hold the bench scraper vertically and press until I feel it hit the bottom of the pan. (Because the bench scraper has a fairly sharp edge, just be sure not to press so hard that you damage your silpat mat!)

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cutting into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once the cookies are scored, place the baking sheet into the oven on the middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes (time may vary depending on how hot your oven gets – each oven is a little different). When the shortbread is firm to the touch in the middle of the pan and the cookies are a light golden brown, they’re done. Remove from the oven and allow then to cool 15-20 minutes, then use your bench scraper or spatula to re-cut the cookies along your score lines.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Out of the Oven - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once they are completely cool, you can remove them from the pan and layer them with parchment or waxed paper into an air-tight container. These will stay fresh for about 2 weeks at room temperature, or up to one month in your fridge.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cut into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Love chocolate? Then why not dip them? For that first Bake Sale glamour shot, I dipped a few cookies in dark chocolate. For Taryn, my winning bake sale bidder, I created a variety pack of white, milk and dark chocolate dipped (1 dozen ea.) as well as one dozen plain so she could enjoy them in their pure just-baked form.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Dipped in Chocolate - Inside NanaBread's Head

Have mercy – the dark chocolate coated are my personal favorite. What a winning combo! Now I just have to hope they make it to the west coast without all that gorgeous Guittard chocolate melting. I packed them in an insulated lunch cooler with those blue ice freezer packs, so keep your fingers crossed.

Note to Self: Next year, don’t dip anything in chocolate. It’s summer, dummy.

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It’s time! Bake Sale for Beka time!

Bake Sale logo courtesy of Megan @CountryCleaver

Bake Sale logo courtesy of Megan @CountryCleaver

Update: The Bake Sale for Beka is now closed. I’d like to thank Taryn L. from the Seattle area for placing the winning bid on my Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies – a whopping $60! This year’s Bake Sale raised almost $1,700 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Unbelievable, and completely impossible without the support of our friends, family and bake sale bidders. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us help Beka reach her goal!

We’ve waited so patiently and it’s finally here! The Bake Sale for Beka, also known as Cookies for Crohn’s, kicks off this morning and I’m so excited to be participating! As I mentioned earlier, I’m donating four dozen Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies dipped in chocolate. What kind of chocolate, you ask? Well, whatever chocolate the winning bidder chooses, of course!

Win my cookies, and you can pick whichever rich Guittard chocolate enrobes them – white, milk or dark. But wait, did you just say you’d pick all three? Well then, place the winning bid on my cookies and tell them you’d like them as a ‘variety pack’ and that’s exactly what you’ll get! I’ll stop at nothing to raise more money for Beka and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America!

To recap – that’s four dozen handmade shortbread cookies chock full of toasted almonds, dried Michigan cherries and real butter, dipped in the chocolate of your choice. Heck, I may even throw in a jar of homemade jam for the lucky winner. It’s insanity! So what are you waiting for? Go bid on these beauties!

Cherry & Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

To browse the mouth-watering line-up of goodies donated by 35+ food bloggers from across America, visit our hostess with the mostess – Megan at www.countrycleaver.com. Her Bake Sale for Beka post outlines the on-line bidding guidelines and instructions you need to make sure a box of baked goods arrives on YOUR doorstep. You do want fresh-baked cookies on your doorstep, right? So let’s DO this and help put Crohn’s & Colitis in our rear-view mirror.

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Random Thoughts Thursday

It’s early Thursday morning and I desperately need coffee. So while I’m making a cup, feel free to browse a few random things that came up this week.

1. Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s)
My friend Megan from Country Cleaver is hosting this amazing on-line bake sale benefitting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America for the second year running. I’m participating again by baking four dozen of these Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies dipped in dark Guittard chocolate. Holy yum!

Cherry & Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

Made with flour & almond meal, dried Michigan cherries, toasted almonds & real butter these shortbread cookies stand on their own without any chocolate. But what fun is that? Seriously, when things can be dipped in dark chocolate, they absolutely should be. If these beauties have captivated you, you can bid on them! If you win, I’ll ship 4 dozen directly to your home, dipped in whichever type of chocolate you prefer – white, milk or dark. Winner’s choice.

To bid or browse the other selections generously donated by a plethora of fabulous food bloggers go to Megan’s website THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2013. That’s right, folks… this is a one day on-line auction benefiting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and celebrating Beka’s first half-marathon for the cure. For the record, on a scale of 1 to 10, Beka is a 15 kind of amazing. So mark your calendar and drop in on the Bake Sale for Beka to watch the bidding shenanigans. And if you end up with the winning bid on my cookies, I might just throw in a jar of homemade jelly. It’s been known to happen.

2. The Complete Package went to the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally in Austin and all we got were photos & disco light sabers.
Okay, that’s true but not entirely true. TCP (my beloved) DID attend the ROT Rally in Austin where his girlfriend (if I may brag a bit) took first place in the Metric Customs category. Yes, I refer to his motorcycle as his girlfriend. Here’s a snap in case you’re curious about her. Meh; she’s okay I guess. :)

TCP's Honda Fury

Each year, on Friday evening, participants in the motorcycle rally ride from the Austin fairgrounds into downtown in a bike parade that stretches more than 10 miles. MILES, people. And each year, My Baby and I take the grandkids downtown to watch the parade so they can see their Papi ride in. They get the biggest kick out of seeing him in the parade. It’s his rock star moment.

After he gets downtown and parks, we all walk Congress looking at the motorcycles and snapping photos. Here are a few from last Friday night. This first one is of Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug with ‘The Cat Lady’. She’s really popular.

ROT Rally 2013 - Jonah & Lilly with Cat Lady

ROT Rally 2013 - Strolling on Congress

ROT Rally 2013 - State Capitol

3. I took the kids back to Springdale Farm.
Remember last week when I mentioned I had the privilege of visiting Springdale Farm for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance dinner as part of the BlogHer Food conference? It was a wonderful, magical night under the stars and trees.

Springdale Farm - US Farmers & Ranchers Dinner

I enjoyed it so much I vowed to bring My Baby and the kids for a visit, and last Saturday we did just that. Despite the heat, the kids had a great time and enjoyed walking the farm, spotting fresh vegetables, and picking out some to take home. In case I haven’t been clear in past posts, I L-O-V-E a good farmer’s market or farm stand and Springdale Farm is now one of my favorites. If you’re in Austin, please visit and support a local farmer. Food doesn’t get any fresher.

Lilly & The Chickens - Springdale Farm

Jonah & Lilly - walking the herb garden at Springdale Farm

Farm Stand at Springdale

Ever wondered what an artichoke looks like when it’s left to bloom? Well now you know. You’re not going to see that in a grocery store, folks!

Artichoke Blooms - Springdale Farm

We also attempted to take Jonah & Lilly on a mural hop around Austin. More on that later, but here’s a glimpse of what we did before we died of heat stroke.

Lilly & Jonah at Austin Mural

4. Nothing rocks summer like the glitter polish.
It started with pale pink glitter polish over raspberry red and it has now morphed into pale teal glitter over a dark teal base. For a girl who doesn’t usually paint her nails, I’m totally digging the disco glitter. Hello summer!

The Megan - Teal Sparkle Nails

5. Don’t forget this weekend’s Bake Sale for Beka on-line auction!
I mean it, people. Buy my cookies and I’ll make it worth your time & money. We’re talking FOUR DOZEN HANDMADE FROM SCRATCH COOKIES and homemade jam or jelly. If I could ship a puppy, I would. I’m not above bribery. Whatever it takes. Just bid. It’s for a good cause and there are cookbooks & cookies to be had. LOTS of cookies. For a preview, CLICK HERE.

BakeSale4Beka

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It’s a girl & a cornbread!

Today I’m guest posting over at Mommy Notes for my friend & fellow Texan, Sarah. We’re celebrating her beautiful new baby girl, grandmotherhood, Mother’s Day and our mutual love of Texas comfort foods. Please drop in to say hello and congratulations, and while you’re at it you can get my mother’s recipe for Mexican Cornbread. Stuffed with ground beef, cheese and green chilies, it’s rib stickin’ and delicious! To see it, click here. Congratulations & hugs, Sarah!

Mexican Cornbread for Sarah

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Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

Chocolate Alfajores for Caramel Week - Inside NanaBread's Head

Definition: Alfajores (Al-fa-ho-res) are a South American type of shortbread sandwich cookie that are filled with dulce de leche (caramel filling). These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin.

Caramel Week Logo

To celebrate Caramel Week, I tried a new twist on a traditional favorite – a chocolate version filled with homemade salted vanilla bean caramel, both in the traditional scalloped round shape and a less traditional square.

Chocolate Alfajores Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Chocolate Alfajores: The Cookie Dough (makes 3-4 dozen)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
Dulce de leche caramel (recipe below or store-bought)
powdered sugar & cocoa for dusting

Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition, then beat in vanilla bean paste or extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cocoa; sift to remove all lumps. Turning the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour and beat until it just starts to come together; turn the mixer to medium and beat 10-15 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball; pat into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or board. Using a 2″ cookie cutter (round & fluted is traditional), cut out the cookies and carefully transfer them to the baking sheets, about 1″ apart.

Place the cookie sheets into the freezer and allow the dough to chill for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm. Once firm, pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

You can save time by buying a jar of dulce de leche caramel (Trader Joe’s has a great one) but if you want to tackle it from scratch, here’s mine.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel: (makes approximately 2 1/2 cups)

2 cans ( ozs. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream, as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk until it comes to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it turns a golden tan color. If the mixture starts to thicken, add heavy cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to cook until the caramel turns a light brown shade, adding cream to thin it out some as needed. The finished caramel should coat a spoon thickly, but still pour from the spoon easily. When it reaches that stage, remove it from the heat and add whisk in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using.

To Assemble the Alfajores:

Lay the cooled cookies out in rows so you can work quickly. I like to place one row ‘bottoms up’ and the next ‘face up’ so I can keep my pairs matched. Scrape the caramel mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and twist it until the caramel is compressed into the bottom of the bag. Pipe a generous layer of caramel onto the bottom side of half of the cookies. Using the remaining cookies, put a lid on each alfajor and gently press to make sure it’s seated. Once all cookies are filled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar or, as I did, a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Then try not to eat them all at once.

Chocolate Alfajores by Inside NanaBread's Head

If alfajores have piqued your interest, please drop by my friend Kirsten’s blog at Comfortably Domestic. She baked up a batch using her favorite shortbread recipe and a deep, dark caramel that will make your mouth water. Pinky swear.

Recipe Source: The caramel shown is my own recipe. The alfajor cookie dough was adapted slightly from Vianney Rodriguez at Sweetlifebake.com, who used the recipe from The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando. If you’d like to see Vianney’s traditional vanilla alfajor dough, CLICK HERE.

Chocolate Alfajores with Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel - Inside NanaBread's Head

For more Caramel Week goodies, visit our other Theme Weavers:

MONDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Crock Pot Dulce de Leche Caramel

Madelyn at La Petite Pancake – Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Rebeka at Kvetchin Kitchen – Caramel Apple Pie

TUESDAY:
Allison at Decadent Philistines – Salted Caramel Pork Loin with Shaved Brussel Sprout & Apple Salad

Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – Chewy Milk Dud Brownies

WEDNESDAY:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head – Chocolate Alfajor Cookies (that’s me!)

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Vanilla Alfajor Cookies

Haley at The Girly Girl Cooks – Almost Famous Fairground Caramel Sauce

Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – Dulce de Leche Milkshakes

THURSDAY:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – Caramel Popcorn Crunch Sundae

Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Christina at Buffy and George – Butterscotch Pudding

FRIDAY:
Megan at Country Cleaver – Pear & Caramel Mini-Cheesecakes

Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – Caramel Cake

SATURDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – DIY Dulce de Leche Caramel Coffee Creamer

Katie at The Hill Country Cook – Salted Caramel Pie

Caramel Week Logo

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Almond Joy Granola

Almond Joy Granola - Title Shot - Inside NanaBread's Head

Hi – me again; back with more dark chocolate. Forgive me, but I’m on a bender. Last week it was flourless peanut butter, Biscoff & dark chocolate cookies. This week it’s dark chocolate, coconut & almond granola, which is at least healthier. Stop laughing! It’s good for you, right? Okay, you be the judge.

NanaBread’s Almond Joy Granola:
4 cups old-fashioned oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
2 cups raw whole almonds
3 cups unsweetened coconut, the large flakes
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Start by lining two large baking sheets with parchment or Silpat mats. Spread the oats, almonds and coconut on baking sheets in a thin, even layer and toast at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown and the oats & nuts are fragrant. Remove from the oven and scrape the oats, almonds & coconut into a large mixing bowl; toss to combine.

In a saucepan, combine the agave nectar, honey, canola oil and butter. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder & salt, whisking until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the hot liquid mixture over the oat mixture and toss until everything is coated. (This smells SO GOOD the entire time you’re making it.)

Almond Joy Granola - Freshly Baked - Inside NanaBread's Head

Spoon the mixture back onto the lined baking sheets and pop them back into the oven (still at 350F) for 15 minutes. Stir or flip the mixture around and bake an additional 15 minutes, for a total baking time of around 30 minutes. It’s done when the edges are toasty and the mixture is only slightly sticky but very fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Almond Joy Granola - Baked - Inside NanaBread's Head

Options:
1. Nut allergies? Go Mounds and omit the almonds & almond extract.
2. Not a chocolate fan? Omit the cocoa and add dried fruit like cranberries or blueberries. Dried apricots & candied ginger would also be a great combination.
3. Grab a straw, because the chocolate almond milk left behind is delicious.

AJ Granola - Final Shot - Inside NanaBread's Head

Note: This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest which was adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook; her version calls for cinnamon & granulated sugar and uses less coconut & nuts. But those are my favorite parts of granola, so I upped the volume of almonds & coconut, substituted agave nectar for the granulated sugar, added almond extract, and doubled the butter. I gotta be me.

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