Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Peanut butter cookies are among my favorites. But what if you don’t want to go through the process of making the dough, rolling it into balls, dipping them in sugar, then making that crisscross pattern in the tops? You make peanut butter cookie bars.

The original recipe for these bars came from the Nestle Very Best Baking blog and included chocolate chunks, but I substituted peanut butter chips instead for an extra kick of peanut butter flavor. Next time, I might also add some melted peanut butter chips in a drizzle on the top. You could very easily substitute my peanut butter chips for chocolate chips or chunks if you like; I’m sure it would be delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10-ounce package peanut butter chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

In a mixing bowl, combine light brown sugar, sugar, butter, and peanut butter; cream together on medium speed until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beating again until smooth.

Add flour mixture and beat to combine, then stir in peanut butter chips.

Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake for 18-22 minutes, until edges are light brown and a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs when inserted in the center.

Cool completely in pan; cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Coconut Dulce de Leche Brownies

As I contemplated how to use up some leftover dulce de leche, brownies came to mind. My friends Scott and Diana helped me figure out several aspects of this treat last week, but what they’ll likely be surprised to discover at the office tomorrow is the layer of dulce de leche buttercream between the brownie and toasted coconut.

Yes, dulce de leche buttercream. Between a brownie and toasted coconut, topped with chocolate drizzle. They kind of remind me of the Girl Scout Samoa cookie, minus the shortbread…but that would be a great idea for next time. I wish I could try them, but Mike says they’re delicious. I’ll take his word for it!

Ingredients

For the brownie layer

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the dulce de leche buttercream

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup dulce de leche 
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

For the topping

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening

Preparation

Begin by toasting your coconut so it’s cool by the time you’re ready to use it. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet (you can line the sheet with parchment if you like, but mine toasted better without). Toast for about 8-10 minutes, checking and stirring every 2 minutes to prevent over-browning. Allow to cool completely before using.

Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper over the sides; this will make it easier to lift the brownie out later.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.

In another bowl, combine vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla; beat lightly to combine, then pour into the dry mixture. Stir well to combine, but be careful not to over-mix. You want all of your dry ingredients to be absorbed, but your batter doesn’t need to be completely smooth; it will thicken and become shiny when it’s ready.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting and topping.

To make frosting, in a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add dulce de leche, then beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until very smooth and well-combined. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well between each.

Spread buttercream in an even layer over the brownies, then top with toasted coconut, pressing it gently into the surface of the frosting.

Lift brownies out of pan using parchment; peel parchment away from sides and cut into 24 squares. Place on a wire rack to drizzle with chocolate; it’ll be easier to manage the brownies if you follow this process, but you can certainly drizzle them in the pan then lift them out once the chocolate hardens.

Make drizzle: in a small saucepan, combine chocolate chips and shortening over low heat and stir until completely smooth and melted. Fill a zip-top bag with chocolate and snip off one corner, bearing in mind that the chocolate will be very liquid. Drizzle chocolate over brownies and allow to harden before serving.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature (if stacking, place waxed paper or parchment paper between layers) for up to 3 days.

Makes 24.

 

 

Candy Blondies

For most of my life, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were my favorite candy. Now that I can’t eat chocolate because of migraines, I’m delighted to see that Reese’s offers a white peanut butter cup. And while I’d never really been a fan of white chocolate, it’s a wonderful alternative for migraineurs like me.

The recipe below combines two of my favorites: white peanut butter eggs and miniature Reese’s Pieces. You could mix whatever candy you like into these blondies; the recipe is one of the best I’ve found, and I’ve made it with both peanut and regular M&Ms before. Next time I make these, I might melt some peanut butter chips and drizzle it over the top, just for an extra bit of peanut butter goodness, or include peanut butter chips in the batter. The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 Reese’s White Peanut Butter Eggs, chopped
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons miniature Reese’s Pieces

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan completely with foil and lightly spray with baking spray.

Reserve 1 cup of chopped peanut butter eggs and 1/3 cup miniature Reese’s pieces for mixing into the batter; save the remaining portions for pressing onto the top.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar; mix well to combine.

Add melted butter and stir to incorporate slightly; add eggs and vanilla extract and stir well to fully combine. The dough will be fairly dry, so you’ll want to use your hands to fully incorporate your ingredients.

Add 1 cup chopped peanut butter eggs and 1/3 cup miniature Reese’s Pieces and mix with your hands to combine well.

Press dough into the prepared pan, then sprinkle the top with the remaining candies and press them into the dough.

Bake for 23-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for about 10-15 minutes, then lift out by the foil and place on a wire rack; peel foil back slightly and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, remove foil entirely and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 24.

Butterscotch Pie II

Some time ago, I made butterscotch pie, and my filling didn’t set well. I suspect that I didn’t cook it long enough, but then again, I was pretty much a pie-baking amateur at the time. I’m pleased to report that this recipe from Trisha Yearwood at Food Network delivered a wonderful, fully set filling.

While Trisha’s recipe calls for a meringue, I decided to leave the meringue out; you can use your three leftover egg whites to make meringue cookies or almond clouds (adapting the recipe to account for the extra whites in each of those recipes), or make a meringue for your pie if you like. Personally, I’m more of a whipped cream/whipped topping-on-pie kind of gal, but whatever floats your boat. I also have to admit that I used a store-bought pie crust for this, but as I’ve mentioned in previous pie posts, sometimes you just want to focus on your filling, and such was the case with this pie.

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Pre-bake pie crust and allow to cool completely before filling.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, heavy cream, and butter. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils; continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and turns darker in color. Remove from heat; reserve 1 tablespoon milk and slowly pour remaining milk into the sugar mixture.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved 1 tablespoon milk, cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla extract; whisk together until smooth. Return the sugar/milk mixture to medium heat and add the cornstarch mixture, stirring well to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens; Trisha’s recipe says this takes 3 minutes, but my filling took at least 10 minutes to get thick. Large bubbles will appear in the pan when your filling is ready.

Pour filling into baked pie shell and immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the filling. Refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours or overnight.

Remove plastic wrap and top with whipped cream or whipped topping before serving.

Store in the refrigerator.

 

Chocolate Chip Meringues

What do you do with a leftover egg white? You make a small batch of meringue cookies. I had a leftover egg white from this weekend’s M&M cookies and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I cut down a standard meringue recipe, stirred in some miniature chocolate chips, and pow: chocolate chip meringues.

Meringues are both easy and tricky at the same time. They require few ingredients, but a very long mixing time. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to make them by hand; get yourself a mixer so you can put it on high speed and tidy up your kitchen while the egg whites whip themselves into a cloud of deliciousness. When folding in chocolate chips or coconut or whatever strikes your fancy, do so very gently to preserve the volume of air in the batter.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon cream of tartar*
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips

*One-sixteenth? Yep, just fill your 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon 1/4 full. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg white, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form (soft peaks curl over). Slowly add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form (stiff peaks stand straight up). Gently fold in miniature chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag without a tip, or place in a large zip-top bag and snip off one corner. Pipe meringue in circles, making them as large or as small as you like. My batch yielded 8 medium-small cookies.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until meringues are set and bottoms are very light brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Pecan Oat Muffins

My Better Homes & Gardens cookbook (the one with the red and white plaid cover) has a great basic muffin recipe that you can easily enhance with different mix-ins and flavors. I used that recipe as the basis for today’s pecan oat muffins, and I may have gone a bit overboard with the pecans.

The next time I make these, I’ll probably scale back my pecan quantity in the batter to 1/4 cup instead of the 1/2 cup I used today. While they are very tasty, they didn’t rise as much as I wanted them to, probably because the pecans weighed down the batter – so they’re a bit on the heavy side. No worries! This is one of the things that I love most about baking – the trial and error, which leads to great ideas for next time.

Ingredients

For the pecan oat streusel

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons rolled (old-fashioned) oats

For the muffins

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the drizzle

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 – 2 1/2 teapoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 18 muffins.

Make the streusel: in a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs; stir in pecans and oats; set aside.

For the muffins: in a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Make a well in the center.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, milk, and cooking oil. Pour into the well in the dry mixture and stir until just combined, then add pecans and stir until no dry streaks remain.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared pans, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Divide streusel mixture among the muffins; I used very generous teaspoonfuls.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove muffins from tins and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the drizzle, combine powdered sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Add water, one-half teaspoon at a time, mixing well until you reach a medium-thick drizzle consistency. Pour drizzle into a zip-top bag, snip off a corner, and pipe drizzle over muffins.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

M&M Cookies

Easter is just around the corner, and I’m sending a little treat package to my goddaughter Maureen and her family. In it are these M&M cookies, a classic recipe that’s probably been made for many a school bake sale, church picnic, and holiday.

How does one get the M&Ms to look so perfect on the top of each cookie? One places them there immediately after removing the baked cookies from the oven, that’s how. You can certainly add a few to the top before the bake (notice the cracks in the purple and yellow M&Ms in the photo at left- those were ones I’d placed on the raw dough before baking), but to get that pretty food stylist look, you need to press them gently into the tops of the cookies the moment they come out of the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup pastel M&M candies, plus another handful for decorating

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat to combine.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until dough is completely combined. Stir in M&Ms.

Cover and chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with parchment.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart; press a few M&Ms into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press more M&Ms into the top of each cookie. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Store at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 26.