Peanut Butter Bars

peanut butter barsThis week’s chocolate/peanut butter baking continues with these delicious, old-fashioned peanut butter bars. I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine, and they remind me of something you’d see at a bake sale or church picnic. You can leave them plain, but I chose to spread some melted milk chocolate chips on top for a peanut butter cup-type treat.

My only improvement would be to use chocolate frosting, rather than melted chocolate on the top, as the chocolate layer does separate from the peanut butter layer a bit when you bite into them. Next time, I’ll probably use this fudge frosting for my chocolate layer.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips

Preparation

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

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

In a mixing bowl, beat peanut butter, butter, dark brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add extracts, beating well, then add eggs, one at a time, beating until completely combined.

With the mixer running on low, add flour mixture and beat well, until completely combined; dough will become thick.

Press dough into prepared pan, flattening as best as you can with your hands.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely in pan; once cool, lift out and remove foil.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips, stirring until completely smooth. Pour over cooled bars and spread; allow to set completely before cutting.

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Peanut Butter Bacon Dog Treats

pbbacontreatsMillie’s appreciation for bacon rivals my appreciation for baked goods. She waits patiently as it cooks, laying on the floor and staring up at us with her best “I’m a good dog” expression. I don’t know why she bothers with the beggar face, because we always give in.

Dog treats, while available in many varieties in convenient boxes at your local store, are very easy to make at home. These treats have only five ingredients, many of which we have on hand in any given week (yes, that includes the bacon grease). There are healthier versions, for sure, but these make a nice occasional treats. I found this recipe at Hardly Housewives, and next time, I might add just a bit of crumbled bacon to make them extra-special.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease, in liquid form so it’s easy to mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

Preparation

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon, then knead together with your hands to form a soft dough.

Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour, until dough is firmer and easier to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes; I used a medium bone-shaped cutter.

Place bones on prepared baking sheets and bake for 20-22 minutes, until treats are golden brown and firm. Allow to cool, then serve to your favorite canine friend.

milliewtreatMillie sniffed her treat, then took it into our guest room to scarf it down in private. She reappeared a few minutes later licking crumbs off her nose. 

 

 

Peanut Butter Heart Cookies

pb heartsReese’s now makes a heart-shaped version of their miniature peanut butter cup. They are quite tasty on their own, and even better when placed on a peanut butter cookie. I always think of the classic peanut butter blossom, with its Hershey’s Kiss, as a Christmas cookie, and this is a nice alternative for Valentine’s Day.

A few folks have asked how I keep these cookies soft, and the key there is in the baking time. Most recipes over-estimate baking time, which yields a harder, crunchy cookie – especially with peanut butter cookies. If you’re after a soft cookie, under-bake them by a few minutes. When you pull them from the oven, allow them to sit on their baking sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool them – they continue baking, but won’t over-bake, that way.

The actual in-the-oven baking time for these cookies is 10 minutes, because you need the bottoms to be sturdy enough to hold the candy once you place it. Once you’ve placed your chocolates, move your cookie sheet to a cooler place, away from the oven, so the chocolate can start to set sooner.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • About 36 Reese’s peanut butter hearts

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.

Unwrap 36 hearts and set aside in a cool place, away from the heat of the oven so they don’t start to melt.

In a small bowl, measure out 1/4 cup sugar for rolling; set aside.

In another small bowl, measure out 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until smooth.

Add sugar mix and beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add flour and beat until well-combined.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar and place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and immediately press one heart in the center of each, then transfer the entire baking sheet to a wire rack away from the oven to cool for about 5 minutes. Remove cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

pb banana muffinsWhat’s the difference between a muffin and cupcake? A sweet treat like this one might hover on the border of being a cupcake flavor-wise, but what really divides muffins from cupcakes is their chemical makeup and preparation style.

Muffins, which are small quick breads, tend to rely on vegetable oil for their fat content. Their dry ingredients and wet ingredients are mixed separately, then incorporated all at once until they’re just blended to avoid gluten activation so they have a crumbly texture. Muffins can be sweet or savory, ranging from chocolate chip to bacon cornbread.

Cupcakes, which are small cakes, rely mostly on butter for their fat content. Cupcake batter is normally prepared by creaming butter and sugar together, then adding other wet ingredients like eggs and flavorings before finally incorporating the flour to activate the gluten and yield a fluffier, less crumbly texture. While cupcakes tend to be sweet, anyone who’s watched an episode of Cupcake Wars on Food Network knows that all sorts of savory ingredients have appeared in cupcakes in more recent years.

These muffins combine the great flavor friends of peanut butter, banana, and chocolate. They’d be perfect with a bit of peanut butter smeared on them, but they’re also delicious without any further enhancements.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very ripe mashed bananas (about 3 small bananas)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe yields about 20 muffins.

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

Add the bananas, milk, peanut butter, vegetable oil, and egg all at once, using a fork to mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 1/2 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are light golden and a cake tester comes out clean.

Serve warm or cool.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_1597I’ve been away from my oven for the past two weekends, first traveling for work and then sidelined with a cold. Today, I simply needed to bake something.

My health coach recently asked me what I love about baking, and I told her that I love both the structure and creativity of it. You can look at a recipe and know, with some certainty, how it will turn out, but you also have the power to add or omit or change a few ingredients and come up with something entirely different. This recipe is a good example of that creativity, as it blends two classic cookies, the peanut butter cookie and the chocolate chip cookie, and makes them into something new and delicious.

Just a few notes about these treats: while they’re baking, you want to keep a close eye on them, because they over-bake very quickly. Check them around 10 minutes in the oven, then give them another minute or two, but make sure you pull them when they’re golden brown at the edges and still just slightly raw-looking in the centers. Don’t worry about under-baking them; they’ll continue to bake for a few minutes while they cool on the cookie sheets anyway, but you won’t be able to achieve the soft, chewy texture you’re after if you bake them too long.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 12-ounce bag milk chocolate chips
  • About 1/4 cup sugar, for pressing onto tops of cookies before baking

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line several baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together white sugar, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla, scraping sides of the bowl frequently.

Add egg and beat well.

Add flour mixture in two batches, mixing until well-combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Butter the bottom of a glass and dip it into sugar, then press onto each scoop of dough to flatten. You’ll need to dip the glass into the sugar before flattening each scoop of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes and check progress; cookies are done when their edges are golden brown but the centers appear just slightly raw. Average baking time is 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove cookies from oven and cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Bars

pb cup cookie barsAs far as peanut butter goes, I’m a Jif loyalist. My mom was one of the choosy moms who chose Jif in my childhood, and as such I find pretty much every other brand inferior.

Jif introduced its creamy peanut butter in 1958 and the extra crunchy variety in 1974. Why there isn’t just “crunchy” peanut butter, I’m not sure, but you can use either smooth or crunchy for this recipe. I had a jar of extra crunchy on hand, so I decided to use that, along with chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins. You could certainly use regular chopped peanut butter cups or milk chocolate chips if you prefer; just adjust the quantity to 1 3/4 cups.

A note of caution for your oven: this recipe bakes in a 10 x 15 x 1 pan, and mine puffed up and spilled over the sides, dripping quick-to-burn cookie bits on my oven floor. Next time, I’ll place a cookie sheet lined with parchment beneath the pan to catch the drips. This recipe can also be baked as individual cookies; just scoop them out, flatten them with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, and bake for about 8 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 7 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins, chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place a 10 x 15 x 1 jelly roll pan on the parchment. You do not need to grease the pan.

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

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat until very well combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, beating until combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and gradually add the flour mixture.

Stir in chopped peanut butter pumpkins.

Spread dough in the ungreased pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown but still puffy in the middle.

Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Using a small offse

 

Peanut Butter Popcorn

pb popcornSometimes you encounter a treat that you spend your whole life wanting to recreate. As a kid, I had a friend whose mom made excellent peanut butter popcorn, and I’ve always wanted to try to make it on my own.

Since moving back to Pittsburgh, my attempts to make successful caramel popcorn have failed, so I was a bit nervous about trying this recipe. The air seemed dry enough today (humidity is the enemy of candy-making), and armed with positive thoughts, I set my sugar and corn syrup to boil on the stove. After the requisite minute, I pulled them from the heat, stirred in my peanut butter and vanilla, and….magic. That heavenly, almost marshmallowy, peanut buttery smell that I remembered from childhood filled my kitchen. The consistency looked right, smooth and not unlike caramel. Into the oven it went, and 10 minutes later it came out a resounding success.

I used a disposable pan for this experiment just in case, but I’ll likely use a glass dish next time and/or spread the finished popcorn on a sheet of buttered foil to cool. As much as you’ll want to dive in right away, sugar gets dangerously hot when it cooks, so make sure the popcorn is completely cool before you serve it.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups air-popped popcorn (2 tablespoons unpopped)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place popcorn in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup; bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla.

Pour over popcorn, stirring to coat.

Bake for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to continue coating the kernels evenly.

Remove from oven and cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.