Sunday, June 12, 2011

Operation: Baking Gals

As part of starting this blog, I wanted to get more involved in things.  So when I saw that one of my favorite blogs, Beantown Baker, was asking for volunteers to send care packages full of delicious baked goodies to her friend Nate who is stationed in Afghanistan I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do.  I loved the idea and immediately joined her team, Team Beantown Baker, on the Operation Baking Gals Site.

So this post is all about what I sent to her friend Nate. I spent A LOT of time trying to decide what to send to her friend Nate. I knew right away I wanted to send these Rasberry Streusel Bars I saw in a Cook's Illustrated magazine recently.  I have been wanting to make these bars for awhile now, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.  I also thought that they would ship very well. 

I admit after making them and tasting them it was extremely hard to package them up and ship them off! I trimmed the edges of the bars before cutting them, and none of the crispy edges went to waste.  I will admit I did steal one bar (chef's right to taste test) and had a hard time stopping there. I will definitely be making them again.

 I knew I also wanted to make another delicious treat to ship off.  I finally settled on a recipe from Curtis Stone, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I had all the ingredients except the chocolate chips (I know what you're thinking..out of chocolate chips?) I had cinnamon, milk chocolate, some white chocolate, but no semi-sweet! I had used them up recently making a chocolate ganache recipe, so with only one ingredient missing I figured this would be easy enough and would make a great cookie to ship with the raspberry streusel bars.

These cookies were very peanut buttery.  Not for the faint of peanut butter hearts. I did like how well they baked up.  I just hope that the soldiers enjoyed them.  Of course I guess I'll never know.

After reading through Jen (from Beantown Baker's) previous blogs on Operation Baking Gals I decided I would follow her advice and freeze the goodies for at least 48 hours to ensure freshness when the package arrived. I packaged each goodie in its own plastic container.  But the two containers still left some room for something else.  I really wanted to balance the sweet tooth with something salty.  Not wanting to bake for the third time that day (and do another round of dishes!-my least favorite) I remembered back to when my cousin David was deployed.  All he asked for was- PICKLES! The Mt. Olive pickle company makes these great little portable containers of pickles in plastic containers perfect for shipping overseas! Two packages of these little gherkins fit perfectly in the large flat rate box from the post office.  My Operation Baking Gals package was complete.  I hope Nate and his friends enjoy my baked treats.

 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies (from Curtis Stone)
Makes about 20 cookies (as usual, I only got 13- I always end up making mine too big- oh well)


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural chunky peanut butter (about 9 ounces / 280 grams)
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated / caster sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces / 155 grams semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips to save a little money!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
  2. Line 3 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions.
  6. Stir in the chopped chocolate
  7. Scoop about 3 tablespoonfuls of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff and begin to brown on top but are still very soft to the touch.
  9. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
  10. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack and eat warm or cool completely.

Raspberry Streusel Bars (A Cook's Illustrated Recipe)
Note from Cook's Illustrated: This recipe can be done in a food processor or stand mixer. (I made mine in a food processor.)  Frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh (I had some fresh leftover in my fridges so I used those). If you use frozen be sure to defrost those first befor adding them to your raspberry jam.  If your raspberries are a little tart, add only 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the filling. The bars are best eaten the day they are baked but can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days (the crust will soften slightly with storage).

21/2 cups (121/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (about 4 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
16 Tablespoons  (2 sticks) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) light or dark brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar because that is what I had on hand)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecans, chopped fine
3/4 cup (8 1/2 ounces) raspberry perserves
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fresh raspberries
1 Tablespoon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust to oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width.  Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing into corners and up sides of pan allow excess to overhang pan edges.  Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet.  Spray foil-lined pan with cooking spray.
2.  In bowl of stand mixer fitter with paddle attachment, mix flour granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds.  With machine on low, add 16 Tablespoons butter 1 piece at a time, then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  (If using, food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, and salt until combined, about 5 seconds.  Scatter 16 tablespoon butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles damp sand, about twenty 1-second pulses.
3. Measure 1 1/4 cups flour mixture medium bowl and set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan.   Following illustration 1 above, use hands or flat-bottomed measuring cup to firmly press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust.  Bake until edges begin to brown, 14 to 18 minutes
4.  While crust is baking, add brown sugar oats, and pecans to reserved flour mixture; toss to combine.  Work in remaining 2 tablespoons butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated.  Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-size clumps; set streusel aside.
5. Combine preserves, raspberries and lemon juice in small bowl; mash with fork until combined but some berry pieces remain.
6. Following illustrations 2 and 3, spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling (do not press streusel into filling). Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1 to 2 minutes; remove from baking pan by lifting foil extensions. Using chef's knife cut into squares and serve.

1 comment:

  1. I also just baked for Beantown Bakers group. Thanks for your baking support! I hope you had fun.