I cannot stand the texture of peanut butter and its ability to glue to gums and teeth. The idea of grabbing a spoon of peanut butter and licking it leaves me paralyzed with terror. These peanut bars? Seriously addictive. In her original post, Lauren called them “World’s Best Peanut Butter Bars.” I have not tried that many – full disclosure, this is my second – so I share the recipe with you, and if you are a peanut butter bar connoisseur, let me know what you think.
for the bars: 3/4 cup butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 cup light brown sugar 2 large eggs 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (plus more for spreading over baked bars) 2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
for the chocolate frosting: 1/4 cup butter 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder 1 + 1/2 Tablespoons milk 1 + 1/4 cups powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter with both types of sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix well.
In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to creamy mixture.
Press firmly into a greased 9×13” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes. It will look just barely set in the center, and will harden as it cools. Allow to cool completely, then spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the bars.
To make the chocolate frosting: Add butter to a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in cocoa. Remove from heat and add milk, powdered sugar and vanilla. Whisk until smooth, using electric beaters to get out any lumps, if needed. .
Spread chocolate frosting over the top of the bars. Cut into squares once the topping is fully set. Using a knife moistened with very hot water from the faucet helps to get neat slices.
Comments: These bars were donated, but I “sampled” a little of the trimmings. It’s a good thing I had planned to donate them, because just like a certain cauliflower of my recent past, portion control with this baby would require Herculean efforts. If you make it, consider cutting in even smaller squares if you can, because they are rich. Decadent. I love the inclusion of oats in the base. I am thinking of incorporating oats in sugar cookies in the near future.
A departure on the Brazilian classic, I love the way these turned out. The raspberry cuts through the sweetness and gives them a little sharp bite I find quite pleasant. If brigadeiros are new to you, I urge you to make a batch. You can start from the traditional version, or go straight for this dressed up variation.
RASPBERRY BRIGADEIROS (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
1 can (14 oz) condensed milk 1 tablespoon butter 100g white chocolate, cut in pieces dash of salt 1/4 cup raspberry jam, seedless 1 tsp Amorettti raspberry flavor (optional) nonpareils, white and pink gold air-brush color (optional)
Grease a small baking dish with butter and set aside.
In a medium non-stick pan, combine the butter, sweetened condensed milk, and salt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Once the brigadeiro mix is warm, add the chocolate pieces, the jam and continue stirring.
The mixture thickens after about 8-10 minutes, and once you can run your spoon through the middle of it without it running back together for 2-3 seconds, it is done. When it starts to thicken, add the raspberry flavor, if using.
Pour the mixture into the greased plate, and let it chill until you can handle it with your bare hands. Form little balls and roll on nonpareils to coat. If desired, add a little gold color with an air-brush. Place them in small candy cups.
Comments: Brigadeiros are very sweet by nature (reducing condensed milk leaves you no way out of it), but even those who are against overly sweet goodies will enjoy this version. The raspberry does its magic.
I went with two colors, pink and white, and added a touch of gold because these brigadeiros had to be dressed for a special party. Have you heard that a certain food blog will turn 12 years old very soon? I say no more for the time being…
Millionaire’s Bars are undoubtedly a classic. This version brings a bright tropical twist that works quite well. Very rich, a small piece will satisfy even those with a super sweet tooth.
PASSION FRUIT MILLIONAIRE’S SHORTBREAD (inspired by this article)
for the shortbread base: 2½ cups (312g) all-purpose flour ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar ¾ teaspoon salt 16 tablespoons (226g) unsalted butter, melted
for the caramel: 1 can (396g)sweetened condensed milk 1 cup (210g) brown sugar 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup corn syrup 1/4 cup passion fruit pulp 1-2 tsp passionfruit flavor from Amoretti (optional) 8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter ½ teaspoon salt
for the topping: 225g dark chocolate 1/4 cup Candy Melts, white dyed orange with food gel
Heat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan and line it with foil, leaving pieces hanging on both the long and short sides of the pan, for easy lifting of the bar later. Make the shortbread by combining flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with a silicone spatula until no dry crumbs of flour remain. Crumble the dough evenly over the pan, and pat into even thickness with your fingers. Pierce with a fork many times all over the surface. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Let crust cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
Make the caramel: Stir all ingredients together in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 238 F. This will take around 20 minutes. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness. Let cool completely, a couple of hours.
Once set, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts until glossy and smooth. Place the dyed candy melt in a piping bag and make a small hole. Smooth the chocolate over the caramel shortbread, then quickly add lines of the dyed candy melts. Do a feathering effect with a toothpick or a needle. Leave it set, then cut into squares.
Comments: I made this quite some time ago, March 2020 to be precise. It was one of the last items I was able to share with our department before Covid-19 hit. I hoped to have intense passion fruit flavor in the caramel, and that was not very easy to achieve. By mixing fruit pulp with a touch of Amoretti flavor, I think I got it as intense as it could possibly be without affecting the caramel texture. If you don’t have Amoretti products hanging around, just omit it. The passion fruit by itself will be a nice touch, taming the sweetness of the caramel layer. But, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this is rich. They call it Millionaire’s Shortbread for good reason!
I cannot think of a better dessert for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Cranberries and white chocolate go very well together, as the former is so tart and the latter is often accused of excessive sweetness. Join to this pair a crust made from what is essentially a gingerbread cookie, and as you savor it, all thoughts of pandemics and politics and whatever else troubled 2020 will vanish in thin air. I promise you.
CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE TART (recipe published with permission from Chef Eve)
for gingerbread crust: 178g all-purpose flour 2 Tablespoons brown sugar 113g cold, cubed, unsalted butter (1 stick) 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp. ground ginger 1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice A pinch ground cloves 1⁄2 tsp. salt 1 tbsp. molasses 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract 2 Tbsp cold water
for white chocolate ganache: 340g white chocolate 170g (3/4 cup) heavy cream 2 tbsp. room-temperature unsalted butter, cubed pinch of salt
for cranberry jelly: 3 cups (340g) whole cranberries, washed and picked through 1 medium-sized apple, peeled and grated 200g granulated sugar 1/2 cup water pinch of salt 1 tsp. vanilla extract shaved white chocolate and sprinkles for decoration (optional)
for a 9-inch tart pan
Mix dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Add in cold, cubed butter and ginger, and mix until crumbly, and butter is no larger than pea-sized. Mix together cold water, molasses, and vanilla, then stream into pie dough and mix just until dough starts to come together and no dry flour remains in the bottom of the bowl. Do not overmix. Chill the dough for 30 minutes, then roll into a 1⁄8-inch thick round. Use the tart pan to make sure the dough is big enough to come up the sides of the pan with a little overhand. Chill 30 minutes more (the dough is very soft, it needs the extra time in the fridge), then line the tart mold. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes, then trim the edges of the pie dough using a paring knife. Reserve dough scraps in case you need to patch any cracks that form as the tart bakes.
Line the tart crust with a sheet of parchment paper (or plastic wrap, which is what I do) and fill with baking weights that come up to the edge of the tart. If using a plastic wrap, make sure to fold it over the top of the beans, so that the plastic won’t touch the metal pan. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the pie weights and bake another 10-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown at the edges, and the center of the tart dough is completely baked. Cool to room temperature.
Make the chocolate ganache. Bring cream to a simmer. Put chocolate and salt in a food processor and pulse to break up into small pieces. When cream simmers, pour over chocolate and let sit one minute to start melting the chocolate. Pulse until smooth. When the chocolate is fully melted, add in butter cubes, and blend to incorporate. Pour into the cooled pie crust. Chill in the freezer to set for about 1 hour as you make the jelly. Make sure the tart is sitting nicely leveled.
Make the cranberry jelly. Put all ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until all of the cranberries explode, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and press through a mesh strainer. Cool for 30 minutes at room temperature, then carefully pour over the very cold from the freezer white chocolate layer. Chill at least 30 minutes in the fridge for the layer to set.
Optional decoration: shave some white chocolate on half of the surface, add sprinkles and sugared cranberries on top.
Comments: As some of you may have already noticed, this year there won’t be a Great American Baking Show. They could not make it happen with all the restrictions due to the pandemics. It was tough enough to produce the British show, but the American production had to be canceled. The producers decided that this month they would feature on their Instagram page holiday-inspired bakes from contestants of previous seasons. This was my contribution. You can browse through all the entries from other tent-bakers clicking here. Be ready to be amazed…
Back to the tart .The combination of cranberry jelly and chocolate ganache is superb but not the only thing I loved about this dessert. The crust is just perfect and quite different from any other tart I’ve ever made. Lastly, for my taste the proportion of crust and topping also hit the jackpot. When I make it again, I might use some gelatin to get the top layer a little more set, so that the sliced piece would have more defined layers, but it’s more a cosmetic point, not really that big a deal.
Chef Eve, thank you so much for allowing me to share your delicious recipe!
Halloween is such a nice theme for baking! Unfortunately, it is coming to an end, so I will share my last round up of all things spooky for 2020, the spookiest year ever. Cookies, cakes, eclairs, all frightfully delicious.
I will start with a very special recipe that reconnected me with a food blogger from my past, Helen Rennie. I used to read her food blog, called “Beyond Salmon” long before I considered starting my own site. The other day I was discussing eclairs with my tent-baker friend Carlos, and he told me his default recipe comes from a chef called Helen with a very popular youtube channel. That Helen is the same Helen from Beyond Salmon! She quit blogging years ago and now concentrates on her tutorials on youtube and her cooking school in Boston. She is a wonderful person, and her videos on all things cooking from baking to sous-vide are a fantastic source of information. I followed her recipe for eclairs to make my mummies. Quite an odd statement, I admit. But aren’t they cute? I particularly love the wonky-eyed.
for the pate a choux: 120g water 120g whole milk 1/2 tsp table salt 1 tsp sugar 113g butter at room temp, cut into 8 pieces 142g bread flour, sifted 230g eggs beaten with a fork
for diplomat cream: (best made the day before) 100g eggs 32g cornstarch 242 g whole milk 242 g heavy cream 100g granulated sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla paste pinch of salt 40 g unsalted butter, cut in pieces whipped cream, amount to taste
for icing decoration: 250 g Icing Sugar 15-25 ml water candy eyes
Make pate a choux: Mix water, milk, salt and butter in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat until the butter melts completely and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, put it back into the heat, and set your timer for 5 minutes. Cook moving the dough constantly. At the end of 5 minutes you should see a film forming in the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the dough to a food processor, blitz for 10 seconds to allow steam to escape. With the process running, add the eggs in a stream, and process for 30 more seconds. The dough will be ready to use, but it’s best to place it in a piping bag and wait until it cools to around 80F, then it will be very easy to pipe in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Pipe lines with the size you like. Spray the surface with a little water and bake in a 375F oven, but reduce the temperature to 350F as soon as you place the sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, do not open the oven door during baking. Eclairs should be fully firm and golden brown. Cut small holes in the bottom to fill them later.
Make diplomat cream. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with cornstarch until fully combined. Place milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture and add to the eggs (this helps the cornstarch dissolve).
Add vanilla, sugar and pinch of salt to the saucepan with the milk/cream mixture. Bring to a full boil, add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture to temper it, whisking it well. Place the saucepan back in the stove, then add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. It should thicken very quickly. Make sure it is at full boil, then cook for 30 seconds longer. You need that to deactivate amylases present in the egg yolks, that would thin the sauce once it’s refrigerated.
Pass the cream through a sieve into a bowl, add the butter, and allow it to cool completely. To make diplomat cream, simply fold whipped cream, very cold, into the cold pastry cream and use it to fill the eclairs. You can vary the amount, I like around 25% whipped cream, but you can go 50:50 if you prefer. Fill the eclairs.
Make the icing decoration: sift the icing sugar into a bowl wide enough to allow you to dunk the eclairs. Add the water gradually until you have a thick consistency, you might not need all of the water, you don’t want it too thin. Dip the tops of the eclairs, place them in a rack and immediately add the eyes. Wait for 30 minutes or so before drizzling with the icing (place in a piping bag, no need for an icing tip, simply cut a small opening).
Comments: Helen’s video is very detailed, so if you’ve never baked eclairs (or choux pastry in general) and would like to give it a go, sit down with a cup of tea and you will soon be baking perfect examples of this classic French delicacy. You don’t need a star shaped piping tip, but I like the ridges they generate. I also followed her tutorial for pastry cream, which deals with two of the main issues when making it: grainy texture and thinning after refrigeration. When I had to prepare choux buns for the Great American Show, my worst fear was to see Paul or Sherry bite into one and have pastry cream dripping down the chin. But I was eliminated before that stressful situation ever materialized. Silver linings… (wink, wink).
SPOOKY SPICED SUGAR COOKIES (from the Bewitching Kitchen)
Mix the flour with salt, baking powder and all the spices and reserve. Cream the butter with both sugars in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer. Add the egg slowly and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a dough starts to form.
Remove from the mixer, pat into a disc and roll out to your desired thickness, depending on the type of cookie you intend to bake. Cut the cookies and freeze them for 10 minutes (or several hours) before baking.
Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until edges start to brown. Cool on a rack before decorating.
Make Royal Icing in black and orange colors. My favorite recipe can be found at Tanya’s site with a click here.
To make the stenciled cookie, I flooded the whole cookie with orange Royal Icing, and allowed it to fully set for a couple of hours. I don’t have one of those magnetic gadgets to hold the stencil firmly on top of the cookie, so I improvised. I placed a cookie cutter on top of the stencil, and that was enough to get a sharp design with the air-brush, using black dye. Allow the design to dry for a couple of hours and you’ll be ready to enjoy your spooky cookie!
All other designs were made with regular flooding and piping with small size tips.
Moving on…. CUPCAKES!
SPOOKY CARROT CUPCAKES (adapted from several sources)
to decorate: very small amount of buttercream (store-bought or home-made) fondant stencil of your choice + airbrushing (optional)
Heat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then invert them out to cool completely.
Roll out fondant, decorate with the stencil of your choice, or generate a pattern with a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to make circles large enough to coat the top of each cake. Spread a very thin coating of buttercream on the top of each cupcake, then place the circle of fondant on top.
Comments: Two details matter in using marzipan on top of cupcakes. First, you must roll it thin, so that it won’t be a heavy layer on top. Second, you must cut it large enough to wrap all the way to the edges. I had never attempted to air-brush marzipan, and ran into some problems. It was hard to place the stencil firmly on top without it glueing on the surface and making a mess when lifting it. I probably should have allowed the marzipan to dry a little more before decorating it, but I was afraid it would then crack when I tried to top the cake with it. That led me to switch to plan B: I gathered the messed up marzipan discs, re-rolled them and used a patterned rolling pin to decorate. I like the way it turned out, the little bit of orange dye from the air-brushing ended up as a marbled effect. As you can see in the photo above, I managed to get one cupcake with the stencil in reasonable good shape.
120g all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 120g unsalted butter 113g (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped 250g granulated sugar 2 eggs, room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
for the icing: 50g whole milk zest from one orange ½ teaspoon orange extract (I use Olive Nation) 175g confectioners’ sugar, sifted drop of orange food color (optional)
tempered dark chocolate to decorate
Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water; stir until smooth. You can also use a microwave at 50% power. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, then add the vanilla paste. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Make the icing: Bring milk and orange zest to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let milk infuse for 10 minutes with the zest. Add orange extract, and pass the milk through a sieve into a bowl. Add the powdered sugar to get a thick enough consistency to cover each cupcake with a thin layer, and a drop of orange color if you so desire. Let it set completely for a couple of hours, then add a spider web made in tempered chocolate on top. Alternatively, you can use Royal Icing to draw a web, or simplify it and add just some sprinkles, orange and black.
Comments: These brownie cupcakes are extremely versatile, in fact I am planning a full post about them. They bake flat, which makes it easy to decorate with this type of simple icing that you can take in several directions. You can infuse flavors into the milk such as tea, lavender, or other extracts. Tempering chocolate is a bit involved, so if you prefer to simplify, just add halloween sprinkles. It will be totally fine.
FRIENDLY GHOST PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE MARBLED CAKE (adapted from Recipe Girl)
for the pumpkin batter: 85g cream cheese, at room temperature 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature 100g granulated white sugar 1 large egg 80g canned pumpkin puree 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
for the chocolate batter: 150g semisweet chocolate, chopped 170g unsalted butter, cut into pieces 4 large eggs, at room temperature 250g granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon salt 170g all-purpose flour
to decorate: fondant 1/4 cup powdered sugar warm water, just enough to make a thick paste with the sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and coat with parchment paper.
Make the pumpkin batter: In a small bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar until well incorporated. Beat in the egg, and then add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in the flour. Reserve.
Prepare the chocolate butter: In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan with 1-inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Fold in the melted chocolate. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in just until combined.
Spread the chocolate batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the pumpkin batter all over the top. Using chopsticks, wirl the pumpkin batter slightly into the chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares.
To decorate, roll out fondant very thinly. Cut ghost shapes with a cookie cutter, then draw eyes with a black food pen, or royal icing. Make a little paste with powdered sugar and water, then use it to glue the decoration on each piece of cake.
Comments: Fondant is not a crowd-pleaser, but I wanted something as white as possible, so marzipan was not the best option. I decided that fondant haters could always peel the decoration off and enjoy the cake without it. The cake is very delicious, moist and tender, quite simple to prepare.
That’s all for now, my friends… I really had a lot of fun with Halloween-baking this year, and it’s a bit sad to see it end. Let’s hope 2021 will bring a bit of normalcy to our lives, with in-person trick or treating, Halloween parties, and a certain virus as a scare of the past.