OMG PEANUT BUTTER BARS

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.

PEANUT BUTTER BARS
(from Tastes Better from Scratch)

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.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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.

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PASSION FRUIT MILLIONAIRE’S SHORTBREAD

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.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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!

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ELEVEN YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

THE MANY FACES OF BROWNIE CUPCAKES

One basic recipe, several ways to dress it up. I adapted the basic brownie and icing recipes from a version found in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Clockwise from top left: Rose-Mint, Chai, Lavender and Orange-Ginger Brownie Cupcakes. I started making them in August last year and they’ve been a regular component of my weekly donations. Once iced and set, they stay good for a couple of days at room temperature.

BROWNIE CUPCAKE BASIC RECIPE
(modified from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)

1 package Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate (4oz)
1 stick (1/2 cup, 113 g) unsalted butter
265g sugar (1 + 1/3 cup)
2 room temperature eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Place 12 cupcake liners in a baking sheet, and heat the oven to 350F.

Chop the chocolate and butter in pieces, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and melt at 50% power just until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Finish melting by whisking gently until smooth. Allow it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Reserve.

To the melted chocolate, add the sugar and mix with a handheld mixer, when the sugar is incorporated (it won’t be smooth), add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth, for a couple of minutes medium-speed. Gently sift the flour mixture on top, whisk just until the flour is incorporated and no dry bits can be found.

Fill each cupcake 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist. Cool completely before icing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ROSE AND MINT BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Bigelow Rose Mint Tea
1/8 tsp rose water (I used Nielsen-Massey)
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag. If you want a little more pink color, add a touch of food gel (I used fuchsia from Sugarflair, added with a toothpick).

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles, or flowers made from Royal icing or molded chocolate, as in the picture below.

CHAI BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Double Chai Stash Tea
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles (I used this one, a favorite)

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag to release flavor and reserve the milk.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles, Royal icing flowers, or molding chocolate details.

LAVENDER BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1/4 tsp dried lavender flowers
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles

Infuse the milk with the dried lavender by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Pass the milk mixture through a fine sieve to remove the lavender. Reserve the milk. If desired, add a tiny drop of purple food gel dye.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles.

ORANGE-GINGER BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1/3 cup milk (you won’t use it all)
1 bag Orange-Ginger tea (I used this one from Republic of Tea)
180g (1 + 1/2 cup) powdered sugar
sprinkles

Infuse the milk with the bag of tea by bringing it almost to a full-boil in a small saucepan, turning off the heat, adding the tea bag, closing the pan and leaving undisturbed for 10 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag to release flavor and reserve the milk. If desired, add a very tiny amount of orange food gel dye.

Place the powdered sugar on a large bowl and add half the amount of infused milk, whisking gently until fully dissolved. Adjust with enough additional milk to make a spreadable icing that will not pour freely from the sides of the cupcakes, but instead be thick enough to form a stable layer. Decorate with sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the basic recipe for icing, click here

Comments: My main modification of the recipe was to use the full package (4 oz) of the unsweetened chocolate, adjusting the flour and butter amounts, so that you are not left with a tiny bit of chocolate hanging around. The cupcakes bake without doming too much, perfect to have a flat layer of icing on top.

In this post I used tea to flavor most icings but you can also use orange or lemon zest, omit the decorations, or flavor the basic icing with any extract you like. They are super versatile. If you use molded chocolate to decorate and the room is too warm, the chocolate might get slightly soft, but it won’t lose its shape. To make decorations with molded chocolate I used mini silicone molds, and later painted them with luster powder + vodka.

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GIANT COOKIE MEETS MOUSSE

…and the Entremet Cookie is born! I cannot take credit for it, so before I even start talking about this delicious dessert, let me thank Maxime, from Empreintesucree.fr.  She is a professional pâtissière who shares very detailed recipes of her beautiful productions. If you are a bit intimidated by entremet type cakes, this one is an excellent starting point, especially if you simplify the decoration steps (see comments). I guarantee it will still impress your guests.

ENTREMET COOKIE
(slightly modified from Empreintesucree.fr)

for the cookie base:
80 g butter (at room temperature)
65 g muscovado sugar
a pinch of salt
1 egg (55 g)
120 g all purpose flour
2 g baking powder
90 g dark chocolate mini chips

for the chocolate cream:
1 egg yolk
10 g of sugar
100 g heavy whipping cream
38 g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)

for the dark chocolate buttercream:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
290 g confectioners’ sugar
90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the chocolate mousse:
180 g Caramelia chocolate (or milk chocolate of  your choice) of milk chocolate
250 g heavy whipping cream

for the chocolate velvet spray (optional)
120 g milk chocolate (I used Caramelia)
80 g of cocoa butter

for decoration:
golden stars
chocolate Crispearls

Suggested timeframe: make cookie two days before serving time and freeze it. The day before serving make the mousse, and the chocolate cream. Assemble the cake and save the cream in fridge until cake is un-molded.  On serving day make the chocolate buttercream, and the chocolate spray suspension (if using).

Make the cookie base. Heat the oven to 350 F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper  and place over it a 20 cm ring. Reserve.

In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and salt. Add the egg and mix again, then sift the flour with the baking powder and mix gently.  Add the mini chocolate chips, and spoon the batter inside the ring. (It is easier to just pour the batter over the parchment paper eye-balling the dimension, then sit the ring on top and use an off-set spatula to carefully spread it uniformly inside the ring).

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges start to get some color. Remove from the oven, and – using oven mitts – immediately make circles with the ring, which will make the cookie base shrink a little bit, as it is still hot. You just want to have the cookie a tiny bit smaller than the ring, so that the mousse will cover the edges fully.  Allow the cookie to cool completely before placing it in the freezer.

Make the chocolate cream.  Whisk the sugar and the egg yolk in a small bowl. In parallel, heat the cream in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the sugar/yolk mixture to temper it, then transfer everything back to the saucepan. Cook the custard over low heat until 180 F.  Pour the cream over the chocolate until it is slightly melted and mix with a spatula.  Place a plastic film in contact with the cream and reserve it in the refrigerator. When ready to assemble, place in piping bag with a plastic adaptor and have two round piping tips ready, of different sizes.

Make the chocolate mousse. Melt the Caramelia chocolate gently in a double boiler.  Bring one third of the cream, about 80 g to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the melted chocolate and mix with a spatula until fully smooth. Whip the remaining whipping cream until it gets the consistency of melted ice cream.  Pour half of the cream on your milk chocolate mixture and mix gently with a spatula. Add the remaining cream and mix again until you get a perfectly smooth chocolate whipped cream.

Assemble the dessert. Stretch a piece of plastic wrap on the 20cm circle ring, pulling it well to stretch it nicely.  Flip your circle over a baking dish that fits in your freezer and place a strip of acetate film on the inside to facilitate un-molding later. Pour all the mousse into the circle, then smooth roughly. Take the cookie out of the freezer and push it upside down into the foam (the smooth side of the cookie up). The mousse should be flush with the cookie, smooth over what is needed. Reserve the dessert in the freezer overnight.

Make the dark chocolate buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth. Turn the speed to slow, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and beat until combined. Pour the milk and vanilla extract then add the salt and continue beating until well combined. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for a couple of minutes. Place in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or another star-shaped tip of your choice.

Make the chocolate suspension for velvet effect.  Melt milk chocolate and cocoa butter in a double-boiler. Filter and place the mixture into the tank of your sprayer. Temperature should be 98 F. Un-mold your dessert and immediately spray the chocolate on it. Ideally, do this inside a dishwasher with racks removed. Decorate the cake with the cream and buttercream, add sprinkles of your choice. Leave in the fridge to thaw for at least one hour before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Well, I do realize that it seems a bit of a stretch to post this recipe as simple and then come up with quite a few components to make it. As I mentioned, you can simplify it quite a bit. For instance, you can skip the two different types of piped decoration and do a drizzle of melted dark chocolate all over it. That would work well. A shower of golden sprinkles for fun and a bit of a dressed up look. The velvet spray is also optional. I find it fun to do, though, and it helps me deal with guilty feelings of having a sprayer sitting in the basement just for my patisserie adventures. It’s nice to put it to use.

On that note, three things are worth mentioning. First, you must strain the melted chocolate + cocoa butter before pouring it in the sprayer. If you look at my photo above, you’ll notice how much stuff gets retained in the sieve. That could conceivably clog the sprayer and you don’t want that at all. Second, if you are using a regular paint sprayer for chocolate work, the container is large, so what works very well is to place a much smaller plastic cup inside, so that you don’t need to make a huge amount of chocolate suspension. I used an empty Benecol container. And third, do the spraying inside an empty dishwasher, because it is a messy process and all you need to do after is turn the dishwasher on.

We took this cake to a dinner party at a friend’s home, so I snapped the pictures with my cell phone very quickly. I admit they are not prize-winning shots. At any rate, everybody raved about the dessert. The cookie component goes very well with the creamy mousse, and it had just the right thickness, don’t try to make it thinner because it won’t work the same way. I loved the contrast of the sharp cocoa buttercream with the milk chocolate cream and mousse, but the cake can shine with only one of the piped toppings.

Maxime, thanks for a lovely recipe, I am thinking of many variations in the future.

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DOMINIQUE ANSEL’S CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE


Chef Dominique Ansel’s shout to fame materialized in 2013 when he created the cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. On the first day he started selling cronuts, a blogger from New York’s The Grub stopped by, had one, and raved about it in the popular blog. Poor Mr. Ansel had no idea that next morning a line of more than 100 customers would be screaming for a cronut.  You can read the whole story here. I have Ansel’s book “The Secret Recipes” which includes the method for his cronuts (they take three days to prepare).  I am not too fond of fried pastries – just don’t care for dealing with all that oil at home, and would prefer to stop by his bakery in New York and enjoy one “sur place.”  But I adore his cookbook. In the opening chapter he talks about one unusual “ingredient”: time. How important it is to consider time in a recipe and respect it. He illustrates the point with madeleines, that must be enjoyed within 3 to 5 minutes of baking. Being a timing fanatic, I was immediately captivated by his opening chapter. Today I share with you his chocolate mousse cake, with a modern look given by his unusual decoration: mini-meringues that he calls “mini-me’s.” I changed the look a bit, making the “mini-me’s” slightly bigger, and adding just a layer at the bottom of the cake, to allow the mirror glaze to shine. Sprinkled golden stars because… sometimes you need stars in your life.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE
(from Dominique Ansel’s Masterclass online video)

I don’t have permission to publish the recipe,
so I will share a very simplified overview.

Chocolate cake component:  he uses a flourless chocolate base, starting with 11 eggs, separated in yolks and whites. The yolks are beaten with sugar until tripled in volume, then a French meringue is added to the yolks. Finally, some cocoa powder is gently mixed and the batter is distributed in two half-sheets for baking. You can use any chocolate concoction you like, a genoise like this one, or a Joconde like this one, as long as you have 2 circles of cake of similar thickness, 8 inches in diameter.

Chocolate Mousse: I started the mousse preparation by blooming 2 tsp gelatin in 30mL very cold water for 10 minutes. Then 310g of whole milk was brought to a boil and poured over 310g dark chocolate (70% cocoa). The ganache was emulsified well, then the bloomed gelatin added and gently but thoroughly mixed. Heavy cream (450g) was whipped to the consistency of melted ice cream, and gently folded in the chocolate ganache/gelatin. Mousse is ready to use to assemble the cake.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze: This is not the traditional mirror glaze with condensed milk and glucose, but a much simpler variation, similar to a pouring ganache used in Opera Cakes, for instance. It starts with blooming 12g of gelatin in 60g of water for at least 10 minutes. Then, 200g sugar is mixed with 140g heavy cream and heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. Water (150g) is mixed with 70g cocoa powder in a bowl to form a paste.  The bloomed gelatin is added to the hot heavy cream (make sure it is not hotter than 80 C), mixed well to dissolve. That is added to the cocoa powder paste and emulsified well. Ideally, the glaze should be stored in the fridge overnight and used next day to cover the cake.

Assembling the cake: I like to wrap the base of a tall 8-inch ring cake with plastic wrap, bringing it up along the sides (it is easier to do if you add a few drops of water to the outside of the ring). Add a piece of acetate inside the ring to facilitate un-molding later. Place the first cake layer at the bottom, cut to fit exactly inside the ring. Add mousse, the second cake layer, and mousse to cover. Freeze overnight.

Next day, bring the mirror glaze to room temperature, warm gently in the microwave until it reaches 90 to 95 degrees F. You must minimize bubbles in the glaze, either by using an immersion blender, or passing the mixture through a fine sieve. I actually do both things to make sure it is very smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer, un-mold, place over a rack on a baking sheet. Cover by pouring the glaze at the center in a circular motion.

Decoration: make small meringues using any Swiss meringue recipe you like. I used this one. I baked mine at 175 F for 40 minutes only, then let them in the oven turned off for 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Add the meringues to the sides of the cake or in any pattern you like. Sprinkle with stars or other sprinkles.  Leave in the fridge to de-frost for a couple of hours before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe overview, click here

Comments: Just to make sure I made it clear, this recipe is NOT part of his cookbook. It is demonstrated online in his Masterclass video. Which, by the way, is excellent! He is very personable, and his attention to detail, even if not unexpected, is a joy to see in action. In the video he teaches how to make perfect madeleines, a fantastic apple tart, croissants, and this delicious cake. 

I had no issues to make the cake or assemble it. My favorite step – I am sure you won’t be surprised – is the final glazing. The cake was waiting in the freezer for 5 days, actually. We had a trip planned and the day after we arrived back we were supposed to attend a potluck dessert party, tradition of our department for the past few years. This was our contribution.

So, if you want to have a very easy time on the day you need to serve a special cake, consider this one. Everything can be made in advance (way in advance!), on party day you just need to make the glaze and the meringues. Which, by the way, are obviously not mandatory. The mirror glaze is so beautiful, you can add some sprinkles, or a drizzle of white chocolate and still have something super special to serve to your guests.

And… speaking of mirrors…

The day Sally photobombed her own shot!

The cake was very well-received at the party. I think it had the right level of sweetness and chocolate intensity, a very smooth and luscious mousse, with the tender cake to tease the palate. And the meringues!  Honestly, I think under-baking them a tad is the right way to go. As they sat on the side of the cake, they got a bit more creamy instead of crumbly and dry. I had quite a bit of meringues leftover.

Bogey Quit That ™ practices his paranormal telekinesis. 

😉

I close this post with a quote from Chef Ansel’s book…

We live in a world where every creation strives to be both instantaneous and eternal. To respect time as the supreme ingredient is a battle of breaking habits and changing perceptions. Nobody likes to wait; nobody likes to rush. But when you treat time as an ingredient, it changes everything.

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