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Peanut Butter Pie: Rich and Delicious

posted by kimretta on August 1, 2011 9:00 am

So, about that frozen pie ...

I had a request to bake something for a friend. Something involving chocolate and peanut butter, perhaps. I thought about returning to some Twice Baked favorites — crispy peanut butter bars, maybe, or peanut butter cookies — but I thought I'd take one more spin through the Baked books just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Surely I'd made all the chocolate and peanut butter recipes by now, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Because there sat Peanut Butter Pie with Cookie Crust and Easy Hot Fudge Sauce, and I was at the store faster than you could say "no-bake pie."

That's right. No baking in this one. Not even for the crust, which is a divine mixture of chocolate wafer cookies and butter, chilled in the fridge to set. The filling is delightful: peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla, heavy cream (hey, why not, right?) with a rich taste but a chiffon-y feel. And the most surprising thing, and the piece of this recipe that I'll certainly make again, is the hot fudge sauce. It's just melted chocolate chips, corn syrup, and some warmed-up cream — in fact, I was running low on cream, so part of it was nonfat milk — and yet it tastes complex and delicious. The recipe also makes a ton, so use a little on the pie and save the rest for other purposes: I've poured it over ice cream, dipped pretzels in it, and (not gonna lie) eaten it off the spoon.

The only part that didn't work for me was the "chocolate bottom," a layer of melted and cooled chocolate sitting between the crust and the peanut butter filling. My chocolate didn't spread evenly on the chilled crust; I kept glopping it around and eventually got it to fill a small circle in the center of the crust, but ultimately, I don't think it was worth the hassle.

I gave the pie to my friends, so they've got the final word on the finished product. But because I ended up with extra peanut butter filling, hot fudge, and chocolate wafers, I made myself some low-rent "pie bowls," and honestly? I'm a little sad every day now that this isn't my dessert.


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You Call It Loaf, I Call It Cake

posted by kimretta on July 20, 2011 11:21 am

You know things have been busy when you forget about chocolate cake.

But that's what happened over here. The late spring was a blur for me — I finished my master's, my husband ran a marathon, and we took off for three weeks of traveling — and when we got back, and summer began in earnest, I just assumed I'd need to start over on the baking. Maybe make something a little cooler and no-oven-required, like ice cream, or a granita, or a frozen pie.

I did make a frozen pie, and you'll be reading about it soon. But as I was going through those photos, I noticed something odd hanging out in my Twice Baked folder. What's this?

Oh, right. I baked a cake.

OK, not a cake. A loaf. A double-chocolate loaf with peanut butter cream cheese spread, to be exact. But let's get real: This might as well be a cake. A delicious, rich, wonderful cake that came together fast enough that I squeezed it into my schedule during my final week of grad school.

Now, I was operating in a state of serious sleep deprivation at the time, so I don't remember much about making this loaf, but that just goes back to what I'm saying: You can whip this up while barely conscious! It's a stir/whisk/blend kind of affair, and most of the chocolate flavor comes from cocoa powder, which makes it all the more shocking that it tastes so rich.

I think it would be delicious toasted and spread with plain ol' peanut butter, but when you have a chance to whip peanut butter and cream cheese together, why not do it? I'm not sure the 1/3 cup of sugar in the spread recipe is really necessary, but that probably depends on how sweet your peanut butter is from the start. (Also, as with all Baked frosting recipes, I had a ton of this left over, and it's good on everything.)

Bottom line, next time I need a quick chocolate fix, I'll be returning to this instead of the skillet snack cake. Even if it is a mere loaf, it's just the kind of cake recipe I need.


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Baked Backlog Roundup: The Successes

posted by ciarajanae on July 12, 2011 1:42 pm

The love is back, people. And it tastes like mint and lemon.


Grasshopper Cake
was what inspired me, ultimately, to forgo the "baking spree" system. That's because making this recipe is a baking spree in and of itself: first the cupcakes, then the buttercream, then the ganache. It takes awhile, especially if you're like me and have to re-use your only KitchenAid mixer bowl. But it is worth it. I'd forgotten just how much I love the combination of chocolate and mint; as a kid, my favorite flavor of ice cream was mint chocolate chip. These cupcakes were a delicious reminder. Other rediscoveries during this process: Wait, I have a cake decorating kit? So I made 'em pretty, too.

 


Lemon Drop Cake
: File under Other Flavors I Love. We planted a Meyer lemon tree in the front yard several months ago, and recipes like this make me extremely anxious for the day it'll give us fruit. Another baking-spree-in-one: cake, frosting and lemon curd. I'd seen recipes for lemon curd before and wondered, what does one do with lemon curd, exactly? It looks like a filling or, I don't know, something you'd make popsicles out of. Now that I have tasted it, though, I understand. You just eat it. You eat it all. Sometimes with your fingers.

Both these recipes came with a combination blessing/curse: extra frosting. There is now white chocolate, mint and lemon frosting taking up space in my fridge. Any creative uses that don't involve more baking? Because Sweet and Salty Cake is next, and I am not putting that off.


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Baked Backlog Roundup: The Failures

posted by ciarajanae on July 11, 2011 12:55 pm

When I decided on a strategy of "baking sprees" in order to meet my deadline of finishing the first Baked book by year's end, I neglected to consider the words of Top Chef contestant Carla Hall: "Do it with love." I have loved Carla since I heard her first "hootie-hoo," and I do try to be like her in the kitchen: calm, optimistic, pleasant no matter what's happening around me. Baked is responsible for at least 90% of my baking success in the past year, but I do believe the food wouldn't taste as good, at least to me, without careful assembly of the ingredients, having fun getting my hands dirty, and a little-kid fascination for the transformation that occurs in the oven.

But y'know what's hard to do when you're squeezing multiple recipes into one baking session, which is already squeezed in between deadlines and interviews and gym visits and walking the dog? It is hard to love the process. I blame that lack of love on the following outcomes:


Easy Homemade Granola
was not so easy when attempted in the final hours of closing a magazine. When I should have been keeping an eye on the oven, I was cursing at my email inbox, and the colleagues beyond it who always always always send things in at the last second. And if I hadn't been so preoccupied, I'd have thought to change the temperature of the oven, or more thoroughly turn the granola, or any number of possible solutions when I noticed it burning before I put in the hazelnuts. Instead I just threw it back in the oven and hoped for the best. At the end of the day, I'd finished my work two hours after I'd planned to start my weekend, and all I had to show for it was burned, inedible granola.

The Whiteout Cake was a greater success, but that wasn't saying much. I made it in cupcake form late one night, intending to send the finished product off to feed the anglers on The Finway the next morning. The cupcakes themselves turned out perfectly, though I am still quite partial to this buttermilk recipe for cupcakes. By the time the frosting was done, however, I was tired and ready for bed and really didn't want to wait for it to firm up in the fridge. So I frosted the cupcakes, which had cooled by then, and it looked like it was going to hold up. Then I woke up the next morning and it had melted all over the cupcakes, pooling in a sad little white chocolate puddle in the bottom of the pan. Sad stuff, folks.

Happily, by this point I had learned my lesson. Next up: The Successes!


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"Are You Really Going to Deprive the World of Whiskey Pudding?"

posted by kimretta on May 20, 2011 9:00 am

That there are no pictures to go with this post probably tells you much of what you need to know about my experience making Aunt Sabra King's Pudding Bars.

They almost didn't get served. Only a desperate plea from Pete — the headline of this post — got me to take them to our Easter brunch. Given that they were going to be served potluck-style, I figured making individual portions in muffin tins was the way to go. But the crust never came together; it was somehow both too wet and too crumbly. When I attempted to get a test bar out after a full night of refrigeration, it was horribly, terribly stuck.

I'd made a small amount of leftovers into mini-bars, and they held together a little better, but they were really tiny, not to mention wobbly, and I wasn't sure they'd be any better to transport and serve. I was pretty close to just scrapping the whole batch and picking up some cookies on the way to brunch instead.

And then I tasted the pudding.

Whiskey pudding — or, in my case, scotch whisky pudding — is shockingly delicious.

In the end, I took the muffin tin to brunch with a little spatula and let everyone attempt to scoop out their own bar. It was a mess, but a tasty one, and all of the portions disappeared without hassle.

I'm still not sure what went wrong with the crust; the recipe I linked above used less butter, and maybe I could try that. But really? Next time I might just make the pudding and call it a day.


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The Best Thing Ever? Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

posted by kimretta on May 15, 2011 4:34 pm

About six weeks ago, I woke up and could only imagine eating one thing: peanut butter and apricot jam on whatever sort of bread product we had in the house.

It's worth noting that while we always have peanut butter, and we almost always have apricot jam, I had never combined these two things together before. I'm more of a grape jelly girl, generally, and the apricot jam is mostly for a particular sauce we make sometimes, or for slathering on pork; I don't think I'd ever used it for its intended purpose before.

But suddenly, nothing else made sense. So breakfast that day was peanut butter and apricot jam on toast. The next day, the same. The next day, it was that combo on an English muffin. The next day, I made overnight oats in a peanut butter jar and topped it off with apricot jam. And so on, basically every day from then till now.

So when I saw that the new Baked book had a recipe for peanut butter and jelly bars, it was clear what I needed to do.

As my obviously subtle headline revealed, I'm pretty sure it was a good decision.

Look: You've got a base that's basically shortbread. You've got peanut butter augmented with more butter and a healthy heaping of powdered sugar. You've got a whole jar of apricot preserves dropped spoonful by giant spoonful across the top. And then you've got an oaty, brown-sugary crumble on top. At the risk of using a slight hyperbole that I might have used before on this blog, it really is all of my favorite tastes in one single bite.

A couple of notes:

- I wasn't sure at first that the peanut butter really needed *that* much boosting with butter and sugar; isn't peanut butter pretty delicious as it is? But the taste was good, and maybe more importantly, it was clear the butter and sugar are necessary to reach the appropriate texture and volume. I used a whole jar of my favorite Maranatha creamy.

- The actual hands-on work for this recipe isn't nuts, but make it when you've got some free time, because there are a fair number of steps (making and chilling the crust dough, baking the crust, chilling the peanut butter layer, etc).

- These freeze really well -- maybe best to thaw slowly in the fridge, but I threw two packages of them straight from a freezer into an overnight bag and let them defrost in the trunk during a road trip, and they were absolutely delicious, if slightly gooey, when they reached their destination.

- Using nearly four sticks of butter probably seems a little excessive for 15 bars. It, um, is? But I also (as usual) got way more than 15 bars out of this recipe. If I were going to cut the butter anywhere, though, I think I'd do it in the filling and maybe augment with extra PB.


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Support Your Local Food Blogger Bake Sale

posted by ciarajanae on May 10, 2011 7:07 am

I'm excited to announce that this afternoon I'll be baking one serious batch of The Best Brownies Ever for this weekend's Food Blogger Bake Sale! Supporting Share Our Strength, proceeds from the sale go toward ending childhood hunger. If you're in Miami, stop by the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Saturday for tasty treats from this city's best bakers and bloggers. And if you're somewhere else, you're not out of the loop -- Food Blogger Bake Sales are taking place all across the country! Find your nearest one here.


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Another Winner: Sour Cream Coffee Cake

posted by ciarajanae on May 5, 2011 9:23 am

Eek, I accidentally deleted my coffee cake photos from my camera. Please enjoy this one from ComeUndone, which is so much prettier than anything I shot anyway.

Y'know, I don't think I'd ever had a coffee cake I really enjoyed. Seriously. I guess mostly I encounter coffee cake in breakfast buffet scenarios, places like hotel lobbies or airports, and they're always dried out and bland and generally not even worth chewing. So I was not all that excited about this recipe, but hey, the deadline beckons.

It's not really a surprise by now, but guess what: Baked's version is pretty tasty.

Everything went according to plan with this recipe, with two exceptions.

1: Getting the dough into the pan was a stickier process than it seemed like it should be. Baked is all, "Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly." Um, no. More like, "Glob that batter in there with an ice cream scoop and do your best to spread it out so it covers the whole thing." Seriously, this is some sticky batter.

2: After my various struggles with using wrong-sized baking containers, I actually bought a 9x12 glass pan for this recipe. It even came with a lid, which I figured would be helpful for keeping the cake fresh while The Fisherman and I worked our way through it over the course of a week or so. And then the cake rose up over the top of the pan, rendering the lid useless.

Still, it worked out for the best; I sent the choicest pieces with The Fisherman to work the next morning, and the Tupperware came back empty. The Fisherman told it like this: "I offered the cake to my charter at the start of our trip. They were like, 'yeah, okay, maybe I'll have a piece.' And then when I came back to get a piece for myself, they looked at me all ashamed and said, 'Um, maybe there's a small one leftover.'" Mission accomplished, folks.


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A List-y Ode to Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

posted by ciarajanae on April 14, 2011 11:28 am

Here, in order of importance, is a list of the things I love about Baked's Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins:

1) They're tasty.
I mean, no surprise here, but I'm still really impressed with the subtle complexity of flavors these recipes create. The espresso adds a dark, balancing flavor to the sweetness of the bananas and chocolate chips. (I also want to point out that this project has asked me to use dark chocolate more than I have in the course of my life, and while I'm not a total convert like Kimra, I do plan on having the dark stuff on hand all the time from now on.)

2) They're clean.
Not the muffins themselves -- I ate one fresh from the oven and needed to wash the melted chocolate off my hands afterwards -- but the process. I have no strategy for cutting back on dishwashing while I'm baking, and usually my projects fill the kitchen sink with bowls, utensils, measuring cups, etc. But the dishes from this recipe fit easily into just one half of the sink. I was so impressed I took a picture. Of my dishes. Which are dirty.

3) They're fast.
These muffins were done in under an hour, and that includes assembling all the ingredients in one place and 20 minutes of oven time. I guess the flip side to that is that prior to baking you have to wait for your bananas to ripen, but for all practical purposes I could fit these into any average day. Which is extra nice.

4) They're convenient.
With the exception of the overripe bananas, every single ingredient used in this recipe is something I'm 95% likely to have in the house. So maybe I'll just become more of a banana eater. Taste-wise, I think I'm still partial to the orange almond blueberry muffins. But all things considered, I'm just as happy to have this recipe in my repertoire.


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Skillet Snack Cake: Depends on What You Mean by "Snack"

posted by kimretta on April 12, 2011 10:09 am

When last I blogged, I was celebrating the revelation that brownies freeze well. Naturally, I promptly wrapped up almost all of the brownies and popped them in the freezer.

Oh, dear Kimra, do you see the problem with this? The next time I wanted a brownie, it was, obviously, frozen solid.

So I did what any good — or, at least, hungry and chocolate-craving — baker would do. I turned back to Baked and looked for any recipe I could make with the ingredients still in my kitchen from the last baking spree.

The Quick Skillet Snack Cake from Baked Explorations seemed to fit the bill. I had chocolate, buttermilk, sugar, margarine (which I subbed for the shortening), and cocoa powder all left over from recent recipes. And butter. Lots of butter. The butter was key.

Now, there's something about making a chocolate cake the size of a skillet and being told it's a snack that's just a little mind-bending. When I think "snack cake," I think Little Debbie. This is a big ol' cake!

In fact, it's so big that when I attempted to turn it back over from the skillet, I got a little overzealous with the moist cake and knocked a chunk out of the side. Oh well. I guess that piece was meant to be my "snack"!

This cake is yummy, especially when coated with chocolate frosting and drizzled with leftover caramel from the sweet and salty brownies, but I'll be honest: It's been a week, and the vast majority of this cake is still uneaten. I have, however, been eating the frosting mixed with peanut butter as dessert. I wanted one piece of chocolate cake, but "snacking" on it nightly is a bit much to handle.

Still, it's not terribly time-consuming, it doesn't dirty up a lot of pots and pans, and heck, it gets baked in a skillet, which is just fun. And, unlike a lot of Baked recipes, it doesn't use much chocolate (just two ounces in the cake, though the frosting calls for another three), so it's relatively low-cost if you're baking on a whim. Next time, though, I'll find some friends to snack with me.


About Us

Kimra is a former TV critic and current grad student who loves frosting even more than she loves cake. She lives and bakes in San Francisco. Read more about her here.

Ciara is a writer, reviewer and editor for magazines and litmags whose brand-new kitchen has given her a new lease on life. She lives and bakes in Miami. See what else she's doing here.

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