Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting

These are good.
Seriously good.
So, let's talk. How was everyone's Christmas? Mine was wonderful. I spent all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with my family. I can't think of a better way to have spent the holiday. We ate, sat around the kitchen table and talked, ate, played games (my mom is a horrible cheater at Scattergories), ate, and opened some presents. Did I mention that we ate? It seemed like a reasonable amount of food at the time, and was very very tasty, but now that I look back maybe I shouldn't have indulged with multiple pieces of bread pudding or handfuls of puppy chow. But hey, it's only Christmas once a year, right? Right!
So back to Christmas. Honestly, it was the best Christmas we've ever had. My mom attributes that to her delectable and perfectly cooked prime rib she made for Christmas Eve dinner. I like to think it's the Kitchenaid mixer I was gifted (!!!). But even if we had no prime rib, and no super-cool, awesome, cherry red mixers for the holiday I'm positive it would have been awesome because of the best gift of all, spending time with family. Ok, I'm getting too cheesy on here, aren't I?
Enough of me blabbering about Christmas cheer, and time for blondie talk. Seriously good peanut butter blondie talk. I think the thing that makes these blondies so delicious is the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter. It's hard to mess that duo up.
I made these blondies awhile back but just got around to posting them. I hope these are one of the desserts you make in the new year. If you do, you'll have made an excellent and delicious choice. Trust me.
Have a wonderful rest of the holiday season and I'll talk to you all next year!
Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting-recipe by Joy the Baker

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup smooth and natural peanut butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan and line with parchment. Grease the parchment paper too.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar until the butter is just melted. Remove from the burner and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the peanut butter. Stir until incorporated. Allow to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. You want the sugar, butter, and peanut butter mixture to be cool enough that the eggs won't cook when they're added in.

Whisk together salt, flour, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet. Stir until just incorporated. Pour the thick batter in the prepared pan and smooth out. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cocoa powder, and salt. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar followed by 1 Tablespoon milk. Beat well. Add another cup of powdered sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons of milk. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate chips to the frosting and beat to incorporate. Add the final 1/2 cup of powdered sugar if you need a bit for thickness. Spread evenly over cooled peanut butter blondies.


Tiramisu. Capiche?

I bought this wonderful cookbook, The Pastry Queen, a few months ago and fell in love with it when I first opened the cover. The photographs make your mouth water and the author writes cute passages at the beginning of each recipe. After weeks of flipping through pages debating what to make, I finally settled on a favorite of mine-tiramisu.
I changed the recipe just a bit, mainly when it came to the syrup that I dunked the ladyfingers in, and I don't think it mattered much at all. Since the dessert filled a big 9x13 pan, I was eager to share, and all of my coworkers said it was delicious.
This tiramisu used homemade ladyfingers. I had made them once before, and they aren't as daunting as I thought they would be, and they add such a great flavor to the dish. I probably could have eaten all of the ladyfingers by themselves because they were that good. For the tiramisu's sake, I decided to refrain.
Probably what I love most about this tiramisu is that the coffee flavor isn't too overwhelming, like some that I've had before. Ironically, this was my mom's least favorite thing about it. So...if you like an intense coffee flavor, this probably isn't the tiramisu for you, but if you enjoy a nice subtle flavor, I bet you'll love this recipe. So try this if you love tiramisu, like me, and be sure to let me know what you think!
Note* At the very end of the recipe it says to let it chill for at least a few hours or overnight. I would definitely choose overnight. The flavors really do mingle while it's chillin' (hah!) in the fridge, and it's much better after it has rested for a long while.
Tiramisu with Homemade Ladyfingers-recipe by The Pastry Queen

for the ladyfingers:
1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting ladyfingers
7 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup plus 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup AP flour

for the soaking syrup:
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/8-1/4 cup dark rum
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

for the filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temp
2 cups sugar
1 (16 oz) tub mascarpone cheese, at room temp
1 Tablespoon boiling water
2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
Dark cocoa powder or grated bittersweet chocolate for dusting

To make the ladyfingers: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. Use a fine-mesh sieve to dust with powdered sugar. Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks, the 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and the vanilla in a large bowl on high speed about 5 minutes, until the yolks become thick and pale yellow. In a separate clean, large bowl, use a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on high speed until stuff peaks form. Add the 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. Fold the egg white mixture gently into the egg yolk mixture. Use a sieve to sift the flour over the batter. Gently fold in the flour just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe the bater onto the prepared baking sheets, making each ladyfinger about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. You'll be able to fit about 5 ladyfingers across and 4 down on each sheet. Sift the 1/2 cup powdered sugar over the ladyfingers and bake about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes and use a spatula to transfer them to cooling racks.

To make the soaking syrup: Simmer the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan set over medium heat about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove the mixture from the heat  and stir in the espresso powder, liqueur, rum, and vanilla. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling: Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and sugar on high speed. Ad the mascarpone and beat on medium speed just until incorporated. Combine the boiling water and espresso powder in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup of the cooled soaking syrup and 1 Tablespoon of the espresso liquid in the filling. Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture in a medium bowl. Stir the remaining 1 Tablespoon of espresso liquid into the second bowl of cream cheese mixture. You will have 1 bowl of light brown cream cheese filling and one bowl of dark brown cream cheese filling.

Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Dip both sides of 1 ladyfinger in the cooled soaking syrup and place in the bottom of the pan. Repeat with more ladyfingers and syrup to line the whole pan. Spoon the light-colored cream cheese mixture evenly over the ladyfingers and smooth gently with a spatula. Cover with a second layer of dipped ladyfingers. Spoon on the dark-colored cream cheese mixture and smooth the top as before. (Leftover ladyfingers can be wrapped and frozen up to 1 month--if they last that long, I just ate my leftovers.) Use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the top with a light coating of cocoa powder or sprinkle with grated bittersweet chocolate.

Cover the tiramisu and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve cold from the fridge.


It's a Double Whammy.


Cookie Dough.
 Cookie Dough Cheesecake.
This was the other dessert I made for Thanksgiving. It was a huge hit with my family. And I have to admit, on Friday and Saturday it is what I ate for breakfast.
The cheesecake isn't baked in a water bath, which I thought was very odd. I have only made one other cheesecake before (a nutella cheesecake!), and it had a water bath. I was a little apprehensive about making it cause I thought the water bath served a vital purpose in the overall baking of the cheesecake. Turns out, it just prevents cracks on the top, and I wasn't so worried about that.

This dessert is definitely a double whammy. The cheesecake is smooth and creamy and the cookie dough balls are, well...cookie dough. You can't go wrong with that. After you make the cookie dough and shape it into balls, make sure to put them in the freezer. If not, they will just bake along with the cheesecake and turn into cookies. Pretty cool, but not as snazzy and just the dough. When the cake is in the oven, the frozen dough balls will just thaw and still be yummy raw goodness.

I'm not sure if my springform pan was a bit loose or what, but when I baked it, it dripped grease onto the bottom of my oven. So about halfway through baking when I realized it was dripping, I just slid a cookie sheet on the bottom rack to catch the grease. Luckily, I have one of those nonstick pads on the bottom of the oven, so cleanup was a breeze, it was a just a little chaotic. In the end, though, it was so worth it. 
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake-recipe by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs

Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

4 (8oz) blocks cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon AP flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine the butter and both sugars. Add the milk and vanilla and blend. Mix in the flour, salt, and chips. The dough will be fairly soft. Gently roll the dough into small balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place them in the freezer to harden while making the rest of the cheesecake.

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 10 inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, combine butter and cookie crumbs. Press onto bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

For the cheesecake: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and flour until smooth. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix just until blended. Be careful no to overmix, you want your cheesecake to be light and fluffy.

Pour half the batter into the cooled crust. Gently stir in the cookie dough balls and additional chocolate chips into the remaining batter. Pour that into the pan, spreading the batter to the sides of the pan and evening out the top. Bake the cheesecake for one hour. Turn off the oven and prop the door open several inches and let sit in oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the cake and let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate overnight.


Pumpkin Is Timeless.

I realized my last post was about pumpkin. And this post is about pumpkin. But truth be told, I can't get enough pumpkin. Especially on Thanksgiving. To me, there are a few things about Thanksgiving that never get old:

-spending time with my wonderful family
-hearing my brother jokingly yell "this needs more salt" numerous times from the living room
-eating until it hurts, and then some more
That being said, make this pie! It is the perfect blend of spices and pumpkin to give you the pumpkin pie taste, but without all the work. And I love anything with a graham cracker crust. I changed the recipe just a hair. I put mine in a tart pan, instead of a pie pan, for easy removal. I also sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top instead of maple syrup. That extra zing was delish. Also, I didn't add any molasses simply because I didn't have any, but I think it would have tasted just as great.
I know the pictures aren't the best quality, but I was taking them seconds before family members snatched the pie out of my hands to eat. We take our desserts very seriously. I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and I'll see you in a few days!
Pumpkin Cream Pie-recipe by Joy the Baker

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for the filling:
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 (15oz) can pumpkin

for the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine graham crackers with sugar, salt, an melted butter. Toss together to coat the entire mixture in butter. Press into 9-inch tart pan.

Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before adding the filling.

Beat cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar to the mixture and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and canned pumpkin and beat until thoroughly combined. If necessary, pass through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to remove lumps.

Spoon the filling into the cooled tart shell. Let pie chill in the fridge overnight. 

Beat together heavy cream and maple syrup until cream is in soft peaks. Spread over the chilled pie and sprinkle cinnamon. Slice and serve. 


Hey Pumpkin!

Recently, I discovered Joy the Baker. Over the course of a few days, I stalked her entire blog and bookmarked over a dozen recipes that made my mouth water. This includes the Apple Tarte Tatin, a Pumpkin Cream Pie with Maple Whipped Cream, and a good looking Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake. You will more than likely see these delectable desserts on my blog in the near future. But today is all about these...
These good looking treats are Pumpkin Cookies. With butterscotch chips!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Which means, technically, that pumpkin season is over. I'm not much for technicality, so I will make these for weeks to come.
This cookie is like no other. It's more like a cake or a whoopie pie. I bet these little suckers would be awesome sandwiched together with a dollop of cream cheese frosting in the middle. Yum! 
Even if the day after tomorrow starts Christmas season, you should hang on to Fall a little bit longer and make these cookies. But be warned, they are insanely addictive. I may or may not have eaten the entire first baking sheet by myself. It was worth it. 
Pumpkin Cookies with Butterscotch Chips-recipe by Joy the Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butterscotch chips

Position a rack in the middle of the oven . Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper. 

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.  On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended.  Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it.  Mix in the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. You could also simply use a 1/4-cup measuring cup if you don’t have a  scoop. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.  

Bake the  cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes.  Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar.  The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.


The Simple Things in Life.

I live a pretty simple life. I wake up every morning about 9, I watch reruns of The Office on TBS on a daily basis, I listen to my new Josh Groban cd too much for anyone else's comfort, and I bake. Sometimes I'll stray outside my usual day to day schedule and go on a shopping spree at TJ Maxx, or go on a weekend trip with my mom to Columbus. But most of the time, I wake up in the morning in my warm bed and I know that the day ahead of me is going to be like every other: simple. Now, don't get my wrong, I wouldn't change a thing about my life. For me, simple is nice. I enjoy knowing what I'm going to do everyday and I love writing to-do lists and keeping track of my schedule. Some may call that boring, but I like to think of my life as planned, and there is nothing wrong with that.
A few weeks ago, I broke out of my normal daily pattern, and I hopped on a plane at the awful hour of 5:30 in the morning. Where was I going, you ask? Raleigh, North Carolina. My aunt lives there and she invited me down to visit, and to attend and photograph the Cut to the Core culinary competition at Johnson & Whales in Charlotte. I have a ton of things to say about this, so I think I'm going to just dedicate an entire post to it, instead of cramming it all into this one.
Guess who was one of the guest speakers at the event?! Alton Brown! And I met him! I was totally geeking out like a little kid when I talked to him, but I'm sure he gets that all the time. He talked about his healthy eating journey and how he lost 50 pounds! His speech was exciting and inspirational too. After he was finished, he stood at the beginning of an extremely long line and signed every book that awaited his signature. When I got to the front of the line, I was very nervous. What do you say to someone who is such a culinary inspiration? The first thing that popped into my head was a recipe of his. For one that many foodies know and love. The Chewy. So I just mentioned to him that it was the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever and that everyone loved it. Then he signed both of my books, one for me and one for my mom, and sent me on my way. It was the coolest moment ever.
So I thought it was an appropriate way to share my story of North Carolina with you with my favorite chocolate chip cookie. In this cookie, butter is melted not softened, bread flour is used, and the brown:white sugar ratio is greater than most cookies. Something about the way the melted butter interacts with the bread flour makes the cookie oh so chewy and awesome. This chocolate chip cookie is far from simple. Perhaps that's the reason I love it so much.
So even if you live a simple life, like me, you need to make this cookie. Your day will go from ordinary to extraordinary.

First, start with a recipe...
The Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie-recipe by Alton Brown

-2 sticks unsalted butter
-2 1/4 cups bread flour
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-2 Tablespoons milk
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Pour the melted butter in a mixing bowl. Add the sugars and cream on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, milk, and vanilla, and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet, and bake for 14 minutes (I only baked mine for 8 because they were done enough then). Cool completely and store in an airtight container.


Be the Best.

I have a confession to make. I have been a bad blogger.
I looked in my "Already Made" bookmark folder the other day and I have 40 recipes in there. Forty!! And that doesn't count the recipes I've made from cookbooks and such, including a delectable Madeline recipe (coming soon). I am incredibly disappointed with myself. I could have shared over 40 yummy recipes with you, but I was a slacker.
The point is, I'd love to get restarted on this little space in the internet devoted to my baking adventures. I'd love to be the best food blogger I can be. So, I thought it was appropriate to make the best chocolate bundt cake ever. That title was appointed by Joy the Baker, and boy oh boy was she correct. My mom told me this was one of the tastiest things I've ever made.
Moral of the story: be the best blogger while eating the best chocolate bundt cake ever. Seriously, do it, you'll thank me.
The Best Chocolate Bundt Cake Ever; from Joy the Baker

For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted

For the Glaze:
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.  

To make the cake batter:  Put brewed coffee and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low speed for about 1 minute.  Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.  

Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.  The batter will be very loose.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.  

Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.  

To make the icing:  Chop the chocolate into small pieces, put them in a heatproof bowl (or a double boiler), and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.  Be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water.  Remove the bowl from the heat when all of the chocolate bits have melted. 

Melt the butter in a separate pan or in the microwave.  Whisk the melted butter into the melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated.  Sift in half of the powdered sugar.  Add the sour cream and whisk to combine.  Sift in the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  The glaze should be thick and shiny.  Lastly, add the coffee and whisk to create a glossy glaze.  

Pour the glaze over the Bundt cake, covering it completely.  Leave at room temperature until ready to serve.