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Almond Biscotti – Fresh Baked Friday!

1 Apr

I love biscotti.  Really, what’s not to love?  It’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it’s dunkable.

But, for some reason, I don’t think to make it all that often.  Maybe it’s the whole bake twice thing.  But in reality, it doesn’t take that much more time.

Or perhaps it’s the fact I’ll just eat it all.

Yeah, it’s probably that one.

Well, it’s a good thing I’ve been going here, there and everywhere lately.  Gives me a chance to try new recipes, offer a sweet “thank you for having me” and keep my sugar levels from spiking five times a day.

And, need I say it, this ever traditional, always delicious almond biscotti recipe does not disappoint.  Not me nor anyone who has tried them.

So get baking.  Then make a spot of tea (can you tell I watched a wee bit of Mary Poppins last week!) and get dunkin.

Almond Biscotti
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1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 cup whole almonds with skin, lightly toasted
3 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional) 

Directions…

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, butter, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste.  Add eggs and mix to combine.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Mix in almonds.  Cover and chill dough for 30 minutes.

Shape the dough into 2 logs, each measuring approximately 2-by-10 inches.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until a pale golden color, about 30-35 minutes.

Transfer logs to a rack and let cool for about 20 minutes.

Using a serrated knife (very important!), cut each log into ¾ inch slice and arrange on a baking sheet, cut side down.  Bake until golden, about another 25 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and cool completely.  If desired, you can dip the bottom or side into melted chocolate once completely cool.

Or just eat plain.  They are that delicious!

Store any uneaten biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: To toast the almonds,  place them in a single layer on a plain baking sheet.  Bake for 10 -15 minutes.  The almonds will have a bit of color and a great nutty smell.
Source: slightly adapted from Blue-Eyed Bakers

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Nutella Cookie Sandwiches – Fresh Baked Friday!

25 Mar

It’s no secret.  I love Nutella.  I think it’s pretty much God’s gift to us.  Extreme?  Perhaps.  True.  Yes.

So, when I saw these cookies over on Espresso and Cream, I was sold.  I really didn’t even need to read the post or the recipe.  Nutella and baked good?  Yes, please.

Just needed an occasion.  Because, unlike last week’s post, I assumed I would have no self-control with these babies.

Visit to Philly.  Sweet treats needed.  Occasion found.

And so I baked.  And so I tasted.  And so I’m… a bit disappointed?

I know.  Shocking.  How is it that a cookie with Nutella can disappoint me.

It didn’t have the strong Nutella flavor I imagined.  I wanted to taste the hazelnut.  I wanted to taste the chocolate.  I wanted that lovely aftertaste.  Instead, I got a chocolatey cookie, with the slightest hint of hazelnut.

Now, on behalf of the cookie, I was out of hazelnuts and didn’t want to run out to the store.  I think this would have made a big difference.

I also think the cookies may have needed to sit.  You know how certain flavors meld and develop over night.  Think chili or chicken noodle soup.  Always better the next day, right?

Well, it’s the same with cookie sometimes.  Especially ones with nuts or spices.  But, time wasn’t on my side.  I needed these packaged and ready for departure that night.

So I thought.  Then I pouted.  Just a little.

Aha! moment.

What if I sandwiched two cookies together with… Nutella!

Need I say more?  Why are you still reading?  Go.  Right now.  Get some Nutella and make these.

Seriously delicious.

Nutella Cookie Sandwich
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8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips (I used dark)
½ cup chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted (optional)
additional Nutella

Directions…

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line two cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.  Set aside. 

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat until combined.  Beat in the Nutella.  Add the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts (if using).

Scoop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are crispy and center is still slightly soft.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Match cookies up by size.  Spread a thin layer of Nutella on one cookie and place other cookie on top.

Sit back and enjoy!

Source: Espresso and Cream

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Pretzel Cookies – Fresh Baked Friday!

18 Mar

Longest cookie name ever.  But, for those who have tried these babies, well worth the mouth full of words.

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try.  To be honest, as I’ve mentioned before, sweet and salty isn’t my thing.  Chocolate covered pretzels?  I’ll pass.  Salted caramel?  Not my first choice.

I made these, though, a few weeks ago to bring for some friends I was seeing during my trip to Philly.  One person in particular doesn’t have a particularly strong sweet tooth (crazy, right!).  I thought this cookie would be the perfect option for her.

Turns out it was the crowd favorite.

Taste-wise, these are a complicated cookie.  Can cookies be complicated?  Well, I’m saying these are.

The base of the cookie is packed with the peanut butter flavor.  The white chocolate adds a touch of sweetness here and there.  Then, the pretzels add a bit of crunch.  Complicated, right?

A few notes…

Feel free to use all-natural peanut butter.  It will make the dough a bit thicker, but mine turned out just dandy.  You could try adding a few teaspoons of milk or water if you are worried about the density.  (Now, I have not tried this theory.  If it doesn’t work, don’t fully blame me!)

I normally fold in any additions to my cookie batter.  For this one, I thought it would be good to have the pretzels broken up a bit, so I went ahead and added them and did a quick mix. Turned out perfectly.

If sweet and salty is your thing, these are the cookies for you.

Added bonus for me?  Since it’s not, I only ate one.  But trust me, there wouldn’t have been many sitting around to eat.

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
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8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups white chocolate chips, divided
1 ¼ cups peanut butter (reserve 2 tablespoons to melt with the white chocolate chips)
1 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup pretzels
fine sea salt (or fleur de sel)

Directions…

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two cookie sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.  Set aside.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Over a double boiler, melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the melted white chocolate mixture and remaining peanut butter.  Add egg and mix well.  Add vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  The mixture may be crumbly, which is okay.  Add pretzels and remaining white chocolate chips.  Quickly mix on low speed.

Scoop cookies onto the prepared sheets.  Using your palm (or the bottom of a glass), lightly press each cookie down to about ½ inch thickness.  Sprinkle each cookie with a touch of sea salt.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and lightly crisp.  Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Source: Picky Palate


Pretzel M&M Blondies – Fresh Baked Friday!

11 Mar

After my rant last week, you’re probably scratching your head… another brownie?

See, I think brownies and blondies are two completely separate categories.  When I hear “brownie”, I instantly think chewy, chocolate squares.  When I hear “blondie”, I instantly think chewy, non-chocolate squares.  If this were a Venn diagram, friends, there would be no overlap.

Phew.  That rant is over.

Where was I?  Oh, right!  Blondies.  These were quite tasty.  And really easy.

Although, there was a bit of a mishap.  Guess I should put that out there.

So, let me teach you a little something today.  If you are going to bake, say blondies, and find the brown sugar is dried out and hard… do not use it!  There are ways to “reconstitute it” (this makes me think of mushrooms, but I can’t think of a better word) and that might be fine.  But, trust me, don’t use the dried up brown sugar.

Turns out, dried up brown sugar makes hockey puck blondies.  Boo.

But soft brown sugar?  Well that makes these blondies pretty darn delicious.  A bit sweet.  A bit salty.  A touch of chocolate.  Not a bad trifecta.

Pretzel M&M Blondies
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8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup pretzel M&M’s (or other candy of your choice)
fine sea salt (or fleur de sel)

Directions…

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over two sides.  Grease the parchment paper as well.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and salt.

On low speed, add in the flour and mix until just combined.  Fold in the pretzel M&M’s.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool completely in a wire rack in the pan.  Once cool, lift out and cut into squares.

Source: slightly adapted from Bake at 350


Peanut Butter Brownies – Fresh Baked Friday!

4 Mar

You want to know a secret?  I don’t really love brownies.  Okay, unless it’s a warm brownie sundae.  Then I would use the term love.  Otherwise, eh.

And, generally speaking, I find boxed (gasp!) brownies better than brownies baked from scratch (double gasp!).

Still, I truck along, hoping, waiting, longing for a homemade brownie to knock me out of my shoes (I’d say socks, but those who know me, know I rarely wear them… socks are something I definitely do not love… ever).

So what about these babies?  Well, they are good.  Great?  Not so sure, but definitely good.  And the peanut butter flavor dominates, so I don’t think it is a fair comparison to other brownies.

Do you have a favorite homemade brownie recipe?  If so, let me know in the comments.  My search continues.

Peanut Butter Brownies
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Brownie…
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon instant coffee
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon  salt

Peanut Butter Filling…
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I used natural peanut butter)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

9-16 peanut butter filled candies (optional)

Directions…

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over two sides.  Grease the parchment paper as well.

Boil two inches of water in a medium saucepan.  Combine butter, chocolates and coffee powder in a heat proof bowl and place over the simmering water.  Stir until chocolate and butter are melted.  Carefully remove the bowl from the double boiler and let mixture cool slightly.  Stir in the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk granulated sugar into the chocolate and butter mixture.  Make sure the chocolate mixture isn’t too hot and whisk the eggs in the mixture one at a time.

Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture.

To make the peanut butter filling, whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth.

Spoon half the brownie mixture into the prepared pan.  Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter and, using a knife, swirl the two together.  Spoon the remainder of the brown batter carefully on top. Place the peanut butter candies on top, if you are using.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  A few crumbs are okay.

Let cool for about 30 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

Source: adapted from Joy the Baker

Hokey Pokey – Fresh Baked (well, made) Friday!

25 Feb

Two years ago, almost to the day in fact, I left for the most amazing two week vacation.  Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch.  14 days of green hills, fabulous wine, new sites and amazing people.

Needless to say, I was shocked and saddened to hear about the earthquake that hit Christchurch earlier this week.  While in New Zealand, I actually spent a majority of my time in this South Island city – with a lovely family who wanted to show me the sites and make me love their homeland.  They didn’t have to work too hard.

From the moment the plane landed in Auckland, I was in awe.  There is something so warm about the New Zealand people and the New Zealand land.  People are content and love life.  The land is green and sprawling.  Life is simple, in the most amazing way possible.

In honor of Kiwis everywhere, I thought I would make a New Zealand sweet.  Let me introduce you to… hokey pokey.

No, not the crazy dance you do at family weddings.

This is a spongle-like candy that tastes a lot like caramel and is sometimes covered in chocolate.  Side note, similar candy is called different things all over the world – most commonly honeycomb which more or less describes what it looks like.

New Zealand takes it to a whole other level.  Enter okey pokey ice cream.  It’s delicious.  No, honestly.  A hokey pokey cone along the east coast of the South Island… pretty much perfect afternoon.

Try this homemade version.  Let me be honest.  It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.  Good enough to be a start.  And it’s easy.

All you need is corn syrup (gasp, I know… but this is a treat, not a dietary staple!), sugar and baking soda.

Combine the corn syrup and the sugar.  Heat until it boils.  Then add the baking soda and pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

See how it becomes this silly looking, bubbly mass?!  Let this cool and then break it into pieces.

I dipped my pieces into chocolate.  Because, chocolate never hurt anything, right?

I told you, easy peasy.  Alright, I did burn my first batch a bit.  So, maybe not easy peasy.  But pretty easy.So, hokey pokey is just one of many sweet memories from my trip to New Zealand.  The pictures are just a few others.

If you haven’t been, go.  Don’t let the flight be a barrier.  It’s easy.  And the amazing time you spend in New Zealand will be worth it all.

Until then, say a little prayer for all those down under.

Hokey Pokey
Printer Friendly Version

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup (I used light and it was fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
8 ounces chocolate, melted (optional)

Directions…

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and the corn syrup.  Once you place it on the heat you will not be able to touch it, so make sure it is well combined.

Place on medium-high heat until the mixture boils and turns a golden brown color.  This can take anywhere from 3 – 10 minutes, so watch carefully.

Immediately remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda.  Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Do not spread, just let it sit and cool.

Once cool, break into pieces and dip in chocolate, if desired.

Source: adapted from Nigella Lawson via FoodNetwork

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Chipsters – Fresh Baked Friday!

4 Feb

A while back – before Kristina’s Confections and before this lovely blog – I tried my hand at (unofficially) following along with the bakers over at Tuesdays with Dorie.  It was great.  I loved working my way through a fantastic book of baked goods.  The drawback?  Well, excessive amounts of freshly baked treats in the house, every day of every week.

We sent some to Mom’s office.  Others were passed off on Grandma and Granddad.  Someone in town?  Guess who became the lucky recipient of some baked treats?

When an actual event occurred, it was a dream come true!  So when these peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies came up the same week as a Redskins tailgate, well it was kismet.These are really the meeting of three all-American classics – the chocolate chip cookie, the oatmeal cookie and peanut butter.  Our favorite sweets all rolled (no pun intended) into one. They were a huge hit at the tailgate and are a huge hit every time I have made them since.

Start by mixing together the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Be generous with the cinnamon measurement.  The peanut butter and cinnamon really accentuate one another, making this cookies (er, chipsters) even more delicious.

Blend together the peanut butter and the butter.  Dorie recommends chunky peanut butter, but I only buy creamy and I think it works just fine.  Up to you.

Add the sugars and beat until smooth and creamy.

Add the eggs, one at a time.

Add the vanilla.

Now the dry ingredients.  Mix until just blended.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Now this is very important… take a little taste.  I know, I know.  Raw eggs.  Blah, blah, blah.  Fine, skip if you want.  Your loss.  Not mine.  Plus, I’m still alive.  As is my mother, grandmother and a long list of friends.  In high school, we considered cookie dough a food category all it’s own.  Doing just dandy.

Anyway, quick rinse of the hands, if you took my advice.

Now drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough on a prepared cookie sheet.

Bake.  Just until golden brown.

A little tip, these are really delicious when warm.  Pop them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.  Perfecto!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Chipsters
Printer Friendly Version

3 cups Old-Fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter – chunky or smooth (NOT natural)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions…

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter and peanut butter.  Add the sugars and beat until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, if time allows, for about 2 hours (or up to one day).  This will help keep the cookies uniform.  Drop the the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 13-15 minutes, until just golden brown a bit firm around the edges.  Place the cookies on a cooling rack. They will firm as they cool.

Source: Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

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