Friday, March 17, 2017

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

You know, when I look at recipes from around the world, they sure look a lot different than American recipes. British baking recipes tend to have less sugar, but still seem to taste as good. American recipe seem to want to use the entire kitchen sink! These cookies are a great example of that! This cookie uses cookie crumbs, 18 ounces of peanut butter/chocolate candy, two packages of cream cheese, and a cup of butter. How decadent! Lots of ingredients, but they sure come together to make a tasty cookie.

In my efforts to have a well-stocked kitchen (well, for baking at least), I will pick items up at the grocery store as I might be thinking about a recipe that uses the particular ingredient. Thankfully, most items aren’t that perishable, so it’s ok if I take my time using them. I had picked up several packages of cream cheese at some point, and I figured that I should use them since, well, they are more perishable. I did some searching and came across these bars. I’d recently had some awesome trail mix with peanut butter cups, so this sounded extra appealing to me.

I won’t lie, these cookies take a little bit of extra effort and makes a lot of dishes. They are supposed to have a graham cracker crust, but when I went to the store to get graham crackers they didn’t have any! I figured a chocolate cookie crust would work since they have chocolate, so I went with that. I ended up having to do the dishes half way through the process, but it worked out. These are messy to make, especially spreading the cookie layer on top of the cheesecake layer. Just take your time; there is plenty of dough to cover the cheesecake filling, so you’ll eventually get there. Not surprisingly, these bars are super decadent, and certainly worth the extra work!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
2 1/2 cups cookie or graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 ounces peanut butter chips
8 ounces Reese's mini peanut butter cups

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil.

In a food processor, pulse the cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter until the mixture forms crumbs. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crust with half of the mini peanut butter cups.

Make the cheesecake filling: in a large mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla on medium high until smooth, 3-4 minutes. Carefully spread the cheesecake filling over the crust and mini peanut butter cups.

Make the cookie topping: in a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium until combined. Stir in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix on low to combine. Add the peanut butter chips and stir on low until incorporated.

Working with a small amount of dough at a time, spread the dough on top of the cheesecake filling. I used my hands, flattening the dough and then piecing it together on top of the filling. Try to cover the filling as much as possible. Sprinkle the cookies with the remaining mini peanut butter cups.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top layer is golden brown and is set. Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 3 hours before cutting into bars.

Recipe from Shugary Sweets

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pineapple Almond Cookies

I know that spring is coming soon, but the weather in the Seattle area is certainly unaware of this. We’ve had rain, snow, hail and even thunder snow in the past two weeks or so. This week, especially the end of it, has just been a soaker. While I love cooler weather, even I am ready for a little bit of spring. I have three daffodils outside blooming that tells me it’s time. Until the weather decides to cooperate, I will have to get my spring in the form of spring baking.

Anything with fruit or citrus makes me think of sunnier days. These cookies are Hawaiian, which also makes me think of the sun. I had pinned this recipe some time ago, but I knew that the day would be right eventually. This recipe doesn’t call for dairy, which is good as one of my friends at work can’t have dairy. She doesn’t like coconut, so I decided to make pineapple almond cookies rather than pineapple coconut cookies. I think the slivered almonds add a needed texture to these cookies.

For a cookie without butter, it sure seems like they taste buttery. The pineapple and almond come together to create such a great flavor. I do like the crunch of the almonds, and think that these cookies would be bland without that crunch. Since they don’t contain butter, they don’t brown (except on the very edge) so it is difficult to tell when they are baked through. I baked one batch at 350, but I don’t think those turned out as well, so I would recommend just being patient and baking at 325 degrees. These cookies may look a little plain, but they taste great!
Pineapple Almond Cookies
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
3/4 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, vanilla and almond extract on medium until combined. Add the egg and beat on medium until light. Stir in the pineapple, flour mixture, and almonds, stirring on low until the dough comes together.

Drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, using about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are slightly browned. The cookies themselves don’t change color very much. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Recipe from Heather Tallman

Friday, March 3, 2017

Salted Dulce De Leche Cookie Bars

I try to keep a well-stocked pantry, so when I come across recipes, I am prepared. It’s nice when I don’t have to go to the store to get specific ingredients. Even though I plan what I am going to bake in advance, sometimes I don’t feel like making the recipe I’d picked or I come across another recipe that I want to make right away. I try to keep a variety of chocolate chips on hand, as well as different types of nuts, and an ingredient that I used in this recipe: some sort of caramel or dulce de leche.

There are many types of caramel sauces out there on the market. They vary a lot. Some are extra sweet, others are more buttery. For most recipes, either would work. One thing that I should say is that the thickness of the different types of sauce can be problematic. Dulce de leche is very thick. I use NestlĂ©’s La Lechera version, which is canned and can be found in most grocery stores. (You can make your own by cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk, but that didn’t work well for me when I tried.) Other types of caramel sauce, usually found near the ice cream at the grocery store, isn’t usually thick enough for most recipes. (If you can find Fran’s Caramel Sauce, it’s excellent.)

These bars take some extra care to make. There isn’t a lot of dough, it’s sticky, and it’s hard to thinly spread dough that contains chocolate chips. I ended up using about two thirds of the dough to cover the bottom of the pan, not half like the original recipe. I didn’t really measure how much dulce de leche I used; it was about half of the 13 ounce can. For the top layer of dough, I randomly dropped pieces of dough and when it was baked it looked beautiful! These bars are soft with a wonderful buttery, salty caramel flavor.

Salted Dulce De Leche Cookie Bars
1 ¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons butter
½ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup toffee bits
½-1 cup dulce de leche
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In a small, heavy sauce pan, melt butter over medium low heat. Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter is browned. Watch carefully to avoid burning the butter. Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and allow to cool for 1o minutes.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the browned butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat on medium until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.     

Spread about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Spread the dulce de leche over the dough. Piece the remaining dough on top of the dulce de leche. It won’t be a complete layer. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cookies are set and golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

Lift the bars from the pan and peel away the foil. Cut into bars.

Recipe from Bakerita