Peach Pie Crumb Bars

What can you do with overripe peaches? Since I haven’t learned to make jam (yet), I decided to bake these fun peach pie crumb bars. I found this recipe at Just So Tasty and adapted it just slightly, omitting the icing on the top and using a combination of yellow and white peaches.

Since I don’t like cooked fruit, I actually didn’t try them, but Mike assured me that they were delicious. I suspect that these bars would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or perhaps some fresh whipped cream. Next time, I think I’ll cut back on a few of the peaches and stir some raspberries or blackberries into the filling.

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 6 small (or 4 large) peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the crumb topping

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper over the sides.

In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Add melted butter and mix well to form a soft dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes, until edges are golden.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling and crumb topping. In a large bowl, combine peaches, sugar, cornstarch, and water, tossing to coat completely. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter; stir until the mixture looks like wet sand.

Remove crust from oven and pour filling over top, then top with crumb mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes 12 bars.

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Octopus Cut-Outs

A few summers ago, I made some adorable octopus cookies based on a treat I saw at Starbucks. They used an enormous octopus cutter, but I recently found a smaller one that reminded me very much of something my goddaughter Mo and her little sister Margaret would like. Since frosted cut-out cookies don’t ship so well, I decided to tint the dough purple (octopuses can be purple, right?) and add some candy eyes for some fun summer treats.

For a richer color like the purple I used in these treats, I recommend gel food coloring instead of liquid. Most craft stores have a variety of gel colors in the baking section, but you might be able to find it at Target or your regular grocery store. I tinted my dough with the mixer running to fully incorporate the color; you can also mix it in by hand, but this way is less messy.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons princess cake and cookie flavor
  • Purple gel food coloring
  • Small candy eyeballs

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla, princess cake and cookie flavor, and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour.

Note: if your dough is too crumbly, you can add just a bit of water or another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three cookie sheets with parchment or foil.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into octopus shapes. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart and press candy eyeballs into each cookie.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are firm. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets for about 3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 2 dozen.

Patriotic Sugar Cut-Outs

Sugar cookies are easy to embellish, and this time I chose to add some princess cake and cookie flavor into my standard dough. The results were delicious; these cookies tasted more like bakery-style sugar cookies, with a rich vanilla flavor and just a hint of citrus. I think this is going to be my go-to sugar cookie flavor from now on.

To make these cookies patriotic, I whipped up a double batch of my grandma Zella’s icing and swapped out the almond extract for more princess cake and cookie flavor, then tinted one-third each blue and red. I’m not much of an artist when it comes to piping, so I went with some basic stars. Once your cookies are frosted, let them stand for a few hours so the icing can set before storing them between sheets of waxed paper. The designs might smudge a bit, but no one will remember once they take a bite.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons princess cake and cookie flavor
  • Double batch Zella’s icing, with 1-2 teaspoons princess cake and cookie flavor substituted for the almond extract
  • Red and blue food coloring

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla, princess cake and cookie flavor, and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour.

Note: if your dough is too crumbly, you can add just a bit of water or another ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into circles.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Make Zella’s icing and divide into thirds; keep one portion white, and tint the others red an blue. Frost and decorate as you like, then allow the icing to set before storing between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Little Lemon Almond Cake

Last week, my mom turned 73, and she and our nephew Roman, who was in town visiting for the week, came over for dinner. Roman got his own batch of chocolate cupcakes, but since Genny isn’t a chocolate fan, I decided to whip up this little, four-serving lemon almond cake for her. I’m pleased to say she really enjoyed it.

This makes one single-layer, 6-inch cake, so you could easily double the recipe for a two-layer cake. The cake itself is a denser cake that is better paired with drizzle-style icing than a buttercream frosting, but you could still frost it with buttercream if you prefer. This cake would also be great with some whipped cream and fresh berries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Zest of 1/2 one medium lemon
  • About 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4-5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Toasted flaked almonds, for decorating

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 6-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add egg, almond extract, and lemon zest and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the drizzle icing, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a small bowl. Mix until smooth, adding more lemon juice as necessary to reach a thick but pourable drizzling consistency. Pour over cake and spread with an offset spatula so drizzle just starts to drip down the sides of the cake. Add toasted flaked almonds, if desired.

Store, covered, at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 4 servings.

Molasses Snack Cake

Cake can be a snack, right? The folks at Little Debbie, Tastycake, and Hostess certainly think so, as do I. But my molasses snack cake is quite different from the cream-filled, waxy-icing-covered treats you can find at your local grocery store or quick mart. This snack cake, created from a “make-it-mine” recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens Baking book, is a delicious creation of tender spiced cake, crunchy pecans, and a gentle drizzle of icing.

“Make-it-mine” recipes are among my favorites because they lend themselves to such creativity. Reading over my options for flavor combinations, I decided on a molasses cake with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. You could leave this cake un-drizzled, but I think the icing adds a nice contrast of sweetness to the spices in the cake itself.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add molasses, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla and beat on low to medium speed for two minutes. Add eggs and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times; beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes; top with chopped toasted pecans and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes, until top of cake springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.

Once cake is completely cool, make drizzle; stir together powdered sugar and enough water to make a thick drizzling consistency. Use a spoon to pour drizzle over cake.

Store, covered, at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes 12 servings.

 

Paw Print Cookies

Last week I sent my favorite little Maryland girls two stuffed bobcat toys, and what better to accompany them than some paw print cookies? Not having a paw print cookie cutter – and not wanting to send frosted cookies through the mail – I got a bit creative. I’d seen charming polar bear paw cupcakes on Pinterest a while back that used chocolate chips and miniature peppermint patties, so I adapted that concept and just used chocolate candy melts for the main part of the paw print instead.

Cake mix is a great option for these cookies; I might try a scratch-made cookie next time, but these were quick and easy to bake. I went with milk chocolate chips and candy melts, but you could use dark if you prefer, or even white if you went with a chocolate cookie.

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Milk chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate candy melts*

*I used Baker’s Dipping Chocolate, which is available at most grocery stores and Target

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and almond extract. Mix until completely combined and chill for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chocolate chips in a small bowl and place them, along with the candy melts, in a cool place nearby (not right next to your oven).

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough and roll into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press 1 candy melt in the center of each cookie for the center paw pad, then press 4 chocolate chips above it for the toe pads. Move your baking sheet to a cooler place and allow cookies to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. The chocolate does take some time to set; you can pop the cookies in your fridge for a few minutes to speed the process if you like.

Once chocolate is set, store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Frosted Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Do bakers like me (read: people who usually do everything, and I mean everything, from scratch) use mixes sometimes? Absolutely. Today I discovered a bag of peanut butter cookie mix in my pantry and decided to whip up some frosted peanut butter cookie bars with it.

While scratch baking is great if you have the time and inclination, many people are just too busy to go about softening butter and whisking eggs and whatnot. Enter the bag, or boxed, mix: a convenient way to have home-baked treats in no time. You can always jazz up a boxed mix, which is what I did here; I added a scratch-made peanut butter frosting to these bars, but you could just as easily use a can of chocolate or vanilla frosting from the grocery store if you like. I sprinkled half of these bars, which Mike will take to work, with some chocolate chips once they were frosted, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 box or bag peanut butter cookie mix, plus the ingredients listed on the box/bag
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your cookie mix according to the package directions; I used Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix, which called for three tablespoons of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of water, and one egg. Mix dough and press into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan; bake for 18 minutes, until the top is just golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool bars completely before frosting; to make frosting, beat butter and peanut butter in a mixer for 2-3 minutes until smooth and nearly all the lumps of butter have disappeared. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating on low, then medium, then high speed for about 3-4 minute total.

Spread frosting over cooled bars; if desired, sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cut into bars; makes 21-24 bars, depending on how large you cut them.