Monday, July 16, 2012

perfect peanut butter cookies

I have been pondering what to call these cookies. Triple Threat Peanut Butter Cookies? Tres Peanut Butter? Holy fricken good god these are seriously delicious peanut butter cookies? Yes, perhaps that is an appropriate name for these. Because that pretty much describes them. 

The recipe comes from a blog I am have mentioned here before, and will definitely at some point again without a doubt- Smitten Kitchen, which she adapted from a NYC bakery, Magnolia Bakery . I adapted it slightly to what I had on hand. Deb added peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. I adapted, slightly, by adding chopped peanuts and miniature peanut butter cups. Oh yeah baby, that's right peanut butter cups. I think you can see one right there in that picture. It may seem to be just ordinary chocolate chips until you bite in and get that extra hit of peanut butter enrobed in smooth milk chocolate. 

These cookies take only about 10 minutes in the oven. At that point, Take. Them. Out. I know, they look slightly underdone. It's ok, trust me. Take them out of the oven, you will thank me later. They will continue to firm up into peanut butter nirvana. Sometimes peanut butter cookies to me are just TOO peanut buttery. Stick to the roof of your mouth in a way you don't want a cookie to do. These, on the other hand hit every note perfectly. They are moist. Peanut buttery, without being dry at the same time. I think you get it, right? Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies. There that is what I should call them. Your mouth will thank me. Your hips, on the other hand not so much.

Peanut Butter Cookies

You can print the recipe, here
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from the Magolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup miniature peanut butter cups, cut into small pieces

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter, peanuts, and cups. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

best ever banana bread (slightly healthier)

Ok emphasis on the slightly part. I'm not going to count the calories and compare. Just tell myself that by swapping out the oil for applesauce it totally means I can have two pieces. Right? Oh wait...I also added in a couple tablespoons of butter. like I said..slightly healthier. You have been warned.

This original recipe comes from a well-known (like on Food Network kind of known) bakery here in Boston, Flour Bakery. And the original recipe seriously doesn't need any messing with. It's fabulous. Hands down the best banana bread recipe I have ever come across. Perhaps it's the laborious time spend whipping the eggs and sugar together. Or those couple of tablespoonfuls of sour cream added in. Either way, the recipe is flawless.

So why go messing with it? Out of necessity comes genius right? Well I was out of oil. (Ok so not really a genius moment.) That really is the only reason I changed it up. I had to. Otherwise there would have been no need to.  I had 3 frozen bananas in the freezer and a fourth lonely one hanging out on the counter that needed to be used, but no oil to go with it. I did however have butter, and applesauce. I figured what the heck let's add a little of both! I added equal parts of applesauce, and threw in a little butter because well everything is better with butter right? I was right. 

I decided to bake it in a cake pan instead,, which required about 10 minutes less bake time. I would recommend just watching your oven closely on this if you decide to use a cake pan. I originally set my oven timer to 45 minutes and kept a close watch on it from there. I  used up the remaining half of a banana to slice up on top just for fun. The banana bread was still as delicious as ever. But if you want the original recipe, click here.

My (slightly healthier, but probably not) and slightly adapted version you can find it here. Bake it up and feel perhaps a slight less pang of guilt when you enjoy.

best ever banana bread (slightly healthier)

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
½ cup applesauce
2 1/2 Tbs. butter, melted
3 ½ very ripe medium bananas (1 1/3 cups mashed)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Heat the oven to 325ºF degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Or whip by hand with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.)

With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the butter. Be sure NOT to pour the butter in all at once; add it slowly so that it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn't deflate the air you've just beaten into the batter. This took about 1 minute. Then add your applesauce in the same fashion.

Add the mashed bananas, crème fraiche, and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients and nuts by hand until thoroughly combined, so there are no more flour streaks in the batter.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9×5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until the top of the banana bread is golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the middle. If your finger sinks when you poke it, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then pop out of the pan and serve. Keeps for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, tightly wrapped. Or store in the freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks and defrost overnight at room temperature.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cherry Crostata

It has been a few days now since my last post..ok a couple weeks if I'm being honest. I was on vacation in New Hampshire, relaxing by a lake, eating, drinking, and being merry. There is something about being unplugged from the world for awhile that is truly refreshing. It gets you back to center. Know what I mean? I highly recommend it. 

This crostata was also quite rewarding. My culinary counterpart has been asking for a cherry pie for awhile now. A co-worker had told me about the cherry pitter she got and how much fun it was. Seriously, she wasn't kidding. A cherry pitter can relieve alot of tension. I highly recommend it. My pitter pits four cherries at once, making the job ridiculously easy and mess-free. 

I decided to turn those plump, juicy, pitted cherries into a crostata. If you're scratching your head at the word crostata, don't be. Basically it's Italian for open-faced, free-form pie. It's a great introduction to pie-making if you're the word "pie crust" has you hiding behind your biggest kitchen bowl. It's a rustic looking dessert, which is another way of saying it doesn't have to look pretty! *Sigh*. 

This recipe came from a newly purchased cookbook, Pie, by Ken Haedrich. I LOVE this book. If you love making pie, want to know more about making pie, or have that huge fear (I'm speaking to those that still haven't come out from that big bowl you have been hiding under) then get this book.

I decided to use the all butter pie crust recipe again. I had used the all butter crust recipe for the Nectarine Pie I had made recently and again another fabulous crust came out of it.  I still want to try to make a crust with shortening and butter, just to compare. The all butter crust, though, for those of you squeamish of shortening still produces a light and flaky crust.

This crostata was a fairly simple dessert to throw together. So come out from under that bowl, roll up your sleeves, and get to pitting those cherries. Life can be stressful, and definitely is not perfect and neither should be your pies.

To print recipe, click here

All Butter Pie Crust Recipe
Single crust

**I have been making my crusts by hand, which can be more forgiving and also produce a flakier crust.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup cold water

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Toss well, by hand, to mix.  Scatter butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix.  Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or fingertips, cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of split peas.  Sprinkle half of the water over the dry mixture.  Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture.  Add the remaining water in two stages and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl.

Test the dough by squeezing some of it between your fingers, if it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the dough and work it in with your fingertips.  Using your hands, pack the dough into a ball. Knead once or twice, then flatten the ball into 3/4-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface.  Wrap the disks and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Cherry Pie Filling

3 to 4 cups of cherries, pitted
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup sugar (you may need more depending on the sweetness of your cherries)
1/4 tsp. almond extract
juice of 1/2 orange
2 Tbs. of cornstarch
3 Tbs. of butter, cut into small chunks
1 Egg, beaten (mixed with a couple Tablespoons of water) 
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Roll out your dough to a 12-inch circle. Put the ingredients in the center of your pie crust. Bring up the sides of your pie dough around the filling, leaving the center of the crostata exposed. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the filling. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and crust edges are golden brown.