Tag Archives: chocolate

The Chocoholic Bomb Cookie

You are never going to need another thick, chewy, fudgy, bomb, sink-your-teeth-in rich chocolatey cookie recipe again, so before you read on, you’d better Pin/share/print/make this. Because I’ll be honest, just looking at these photos makes me want to ditch you all right now and hightail for the kitchen. But I won’t because #readerlove.

Done? Good.

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This is the chocoholic bomb cookie. As in, this cookie will explode any attempts to recover from chocoholism, so you’d better watch out.

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I am not kidding. Part of me almost wishes I was, because my chocolate cravings have gotten 10.85743 times worse since I started researching my dissertation prospectus two weeks ago. On top of this, I began playing my first video game in 3 years (note: circa the time I began grad school) and have spent the past 5 nights up at 3 AM, tapping furiously at the tiny bright screen of my Nintendo DS as little Professor Layton puzzles pop up one after another. And by 3 AM my dinner has been long digested, sooo…late-night chocolate cookies and gaming. I can be such a wild child sometimes.

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In celebration of finishing my qualifying exams, I recently made a giant Un-Bucket List of 100 things I want to do by the end of this year. These cookies were on the list–I mean, look at them!–as were a number of other desserts that I have had pinned for ages but never gotten around to trying, like this cake roll or some baked donuts like these. I wanted this post-exam period to be a period of firsts, so these past few weeks have been filled with busy nothings like having a fancy dinner party with my home friends at a French restaurant last night, getting a super-short haircut this morning (I’m convinced I look more like a little schoolboy than a sexy pixie vixen, but whatever!), and having Disney movie marathon nights with about a bazillion friends.

Here’s my list so far: 100 Things I Want to Do Now That I’ve Earned My Master’s Degree!

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Notice anything weird about the list? It says “100 things,” but no matter how hard I racked my brains, I could only come up with 60+ items. And that’s where you lovely readers come in!

If you were making an un-bucket list, what would you add to it? I’m taking the most fun, whimsical, wacky, and crazy good suggestions I receive and adding them, so please leave your best ideas (however crazy or mild) in your comments! :) I’m honestly asking for your help here, so help a girl out, eh?

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Anyway, one other important item on my bucket list is to simply get away from things for a little while–seriously, I wrote it down in my brain ages ago. So while it breaks my heart to do this, I also know that I need to turn off my internet/social media/other distractions and simply spend some much-needed time getting in touch with myself and my life again. This may or may not involve yoga trips and plenty of beach outings, or both.

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This also means that I do not plan on updating for one or two weeks, depending on how long I need to recharge, but I’ll be back before you know it to say thank you for all your lovely un-bucket list suggestions ;) The past year has been so full of stress and impact on my body, mind, and well-being that I’m pretty excited to do a ‘constantly-connected’ cleanse–and I’m looking forward to seeing you guys on the other side of it!

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Until then, make these cookies, and make them again, and again, and maybe make another batch to send to your favorite chocolate-craving blogger <3 I am pretty sure she’d appreciate it. And don’t forget to leave your un-bucket list suggestions! Cheerios, mes cheris!

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With chocolatey love,

Ala

The Chocoholic Bomb Cookie

Adapted from Allrecipes.

If you’re in remission from chocoholism, you may want to run. These chewy, fudgy, sink-your-teeth-in rich (but not overpowering!) chocolate cookies have reached the pinnacle of all things chocolate, and are my favorite chocolate cookies to date. Stuff them with extra chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars, and you’ll be the readiest chocoholic in town!

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate bars (optional)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until totally light and heavenly fluffy (about 5 minutes of vigorous beating).
  3. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in until just incorporated.
  4. Fold in semisweet chocolate chips and chopped chocolate bars (if you’re using them). If you want to add cream cheese swirls to your batter as I did, simply dollop in softened cream cheese at this point and swirl it through.
  5. Optional but highly suggested: Chill your dough in the fridge for 1 hour (or in the freezer for 30 minutes) prior to baking. This will result in higher, chewier, puffier cookies! If you do decide to chill your dough first, you can wait until later to preheat your oven.
  6. Scoop out medium 2-inch balls of dough and place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake cookies in oven for 8-11 minutes, until the edges have set but the centers still appear slightly underbaked. Remove cookies from oven and allow them to cool at least 10 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire pan. (Allowing them to finish ‘baking’ on the cookie sheet will also help you achieve that great chewy texture!)
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Scrumdiddlyumptious (Caramelized Banana & Toasted Coconut) Banana Bread

This recipe is brought to you by INSOMNIAbecause when you’re single and have the biggest exam of your life scheduled for Valentine’s Day 2014, this is as wild as the nights around here are gonna get.

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Thank goodness I stumbled across a simply scrumdiddlyumptious banana bread recipe that can make even 4 AM sleeplessness taste amazing. More about this bread in a second. (FUN FACT: The appellation ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ was inspired by a friend who tasted some of this insanely moist and flavor-packed banana bread, but it’s also a nod to my first attempt to join the blogging world three years ago <–check it out if you’re interested…It’s almost crazy to think how far this blog has come since those days of phone food photos!)

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With my brain constantly kicked into over-over-overdrive these days (like, headache-and-insomnia-inducing overdrive!), it’s almost ridiculously comforting to do something that requires zero thinking. Just me, the Frozen soundtrack drifting in the background, and the therapeutic rhythm of your hand as it slowly swirls fragrant coconut and chocolate chips into a bowl of thick, creamy, chunky banana bread batter.

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Since I moved back and the time crunch has gotten crunchier than a jar of chunky peanut butter, life around here has been one huge mind-brain  (wow, I can’t believe I just typed that) mind-body disconnection. For example, as I was taking a post-dinner break and writing this blog post, I was simultaneously trying to spread peanut butter on a baby carrot. No biggie, right? I had just managed to get a sizable chunk of peanut butter out of the jar (think golf-ball-size per baby carrot–hey, these are stressful times! And stressful times = more peanut butter) when, by some trick of I-know-not-how, my spoon pressed down on the carrot and it shot out of my hand into the air. Before I knew what was happening, my hand flew at it with all the lightning speed of, well, lightning and stuff, snatched it out of the air like Peter Parker in this scene, and  all the while my other hand just went on spreading peanut butter on that damned carrot like nothing ever happened. And I just stood there for a full two minutes staring at my hands without processing what had just happened, while the little mound of peanut butter on my teeny carrot steadily expanded into the size of a tennis ball. And then at 2 minutes and 1 second, it suddenly hit me and I was all like, “Oh! That was REALLY COOL. Did anybody see that?!

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Why am I telling you all this? Beats me. I don’t even know if any of what I just typed  up there warrants comment. I just thought I’d share. Kinda like FYI in case you haven’t noticed, my brain is really scrambled up right now, guys. Your morning plate of eggs have got nothing on my brain–word.

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I suspect my scatterbrained-ness is partly because I took my first mock exam last week and my second one this morning, and I am absolutely pooped. Like, pretty happy to be done with that, especially since it went better than expected, and de-stressed enough to finally write another entry, but still so pooped. Pooped-er than dog doo-doo on your front lawn. Sorry.

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That leaves me with the one (hopefully) coherent point of this post: this scrumdiddlyumptious, unlike-anything banana bread. Because let’s be honest: there’s banana bread, and then there’s…sort of cannibalizing banana bread by caramelizing the bananas first, toasting coconut, throwing in a handful of dark chocolate chunks, and then smothering the top in a generous oat and brown sugar streusel. It may well be one of the BEST BANANA BREAD recipes/variations I have ever tried, period, and the Greek yogurt and oil combo keeps it incredibly moist. This bread is the one thing that has made any number of sleepless nights worth it, and I hope it’ll find its really special way into your life soon, too!

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^ If I could actually manage to fall asleep once in a while, I’m pretty sure that’s what would be happening. #truth

Ala

Scrumdiddlyumptious Caramelized Banana & Toasted Coconut & Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

(Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest)
Ingredients:

For the caramelized bananas:

  • 4 medium bananas, the riper the better
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. On a foil-lined cookie sheet, lay out your peeled bananas and drizzle them with honey, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  3. Roast bananas in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until they begin to caramelize and turn a deep golden brown. They should be very soft and easy to mush.
  4. Remove bananas from oven and mash them. Set aside to include in banana bread recipe, Step 4.

For the banana bread:

  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I used 0%–you may use any type of Greek yogurt OR canned coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (you may use melted coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups dark chocolate chips (you may sub any type of chips you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes, toasted

Directions:

  1. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar.
  3. Mix in Greek yogurt and oil.
  4. Stir in mashed bananas (see Caramelized Bananas recipe, above) and vanilla.
  5. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in until just incorporated.
  6. Gently fold in chocolate chips and coconut flakes.
  7. Top with oat streusel (recipe below).
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. Check your banana bread for doneness with a long toothpick that will reach all the way to the bottom of your loaf pan–it should come out with moist crumbs attached, at which point your bread will be ready to come out of the oven! (Note: be sure to double-check if your toothpick encounters chocolate–the chocolate will be melty, but your batter may already be cooked through.) Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Scrumdiddly-slice and serve it up!

To make oat streusel: 

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup cold butter or margarine
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except butter.
  2. Cut in cold butter with a fork, until your streusel consists of many pea-sized lumps of sugary-floury-buttery goodness. Use to top banana bread batter in banana bread recipe (Step 7).

Will Cook For SmilesTuesday Talent Show Link Party at Chef in Training! It is held weekly and has some amazing link ups!

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Epic Dulce De Leche Brownies

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It’s that time of the year again. You know, December: the month of Christmas lights, good cheer, the smell of warm apple pie wafting around every street corner, the murmur of family chatter over holiday feasts, and the universally-acknowledged wish that we all had the metabolic capacities of high school swimmers again.

Yeah, that time.

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These fudgy, rich, and not-a-dry-crumb-in-sight brownies made me wish really, really hard for that metabolism. Ditch the woolen socks (although after these I could use a roomier pair of jeans) and come onnnn, Santa!

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In our extended household, holiday dinners are always something of a battlefield. Imagine the Spartans meeting the Huns meeting Napoleon Bonaparte, then imagine them getting squished into an itty-bitty little corner by Brobdingnagian knocking elbows and clattering plates. Stretchy pants are the phrase of the day, and chopsticks are our surprise weapon of choice here.

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I like to think we burn off all of our food just by fighting for it–but I may or may not have majored in Wishful Thinking in college.

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So as you sit there at your computer regretting all the extra stuffing, strudel, and sausage you shoveled onto your plate this lovely weekend-after-Thanksgiving (for all you Americans out there, at least!), I am going to sit here at MY computer–completely blameless, thumbs twiddling–and introduce you to these Epic Dulce de Leche Brownies. Please enjoy the photo-music I have prepared for you while you wait…

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La la la la lots, and to all a good–no, amazing, awesome, EPIC brownie! And you can feed them to the people around you so you feel better about yourself, ha ha. <– But seriously, this actually works…have you tried it? Then don’t talk until you have.

These are, hands down, unlike any brownie I have ever made–and I say that having made all of these uh-mayzing variations. You saw the “Dulce de Leche” in the title and thought these were just normal dulce de leche brownies, didn’t you? Oho, not so, my fast friends. Here’s the secret to these incredibly fudgy, and possibly most flavor-packed brownies ever: the dulce de leche goes straight into the batter. Not swirled, not drizzled. IN.

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Although I have recently taken to creating my own recipes (including my all-time favorite Best Chewy Biscoff Blondies recipe–have you checked it out yet?), I have Sommer from A Spicy Perspective to thank for this recipe. She even goes to the trouble of diagramming the epic proportions that make up this extra-thick, ultra-fudgy brownie! Talk about dedication. I was sold faster than a Black Friday Playstation 4 combo set (which, sadly, I have not yet been gifted).

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But really, you need to make these to believe these–they will have your family and friends caroling your praises all season long! And with New Year’s resolutions galore right around the corner, you’ll want to make these NOW. There’s no time like the present–and what better present than gifting yourself a batch of the best brownies ever?

Happy holidays!

Ala

Epic Dulce de Leche Brownies

Yield: 1 9×9-inch baking pan; 16 large squares

Adapted from A Spicy Perspective, who is basically a genius

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. (or approximately 1.5 cups) dark chocolate chips–semi-sweet will work in a pinch
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine
  • 7 ounces dulce de leche OR homemade dulce de leche (Recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 5/6 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, crushed
  • 1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (other add-ins, such as nuts or chopped candy, may also be added)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9-inch baking pan with lightly greased foil and set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter, chocolate, and dulce de leche together in 30-second intervals, stirring vigorously between each interval.
  3. Beat white sugar into melted chocolate mixture.
  4. Add vanilla and egg, then mix until combined.
  5. Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, and coffee granules. Stir in until just incorporated.
  6. Gently fold in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and other desired add-ins.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out MOSTLY clean–trust me, your brownies will be ready to party at this point! Remove the pan from the oven and immediately sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Wait 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the tops of the brownies.
  8. Allow to cool completely on stovetop before cutting brownies into fudgy, delicious squares of epic proportions.

Dulce de Leche Recipe

There are many ways to make dulce de leche at home. I used the oven method, which is simple and requires 1 (16 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk–for the recipe above, you will only require half of this amount, or 8 oz.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Pour the condensed milk into a baking dish and loosely cover it with foil.
  3. Place this baking dish in a roasting pan or a larger baking pan; fill the large pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. Then slide both pans into the preheated oven.
  4. Bake for approximately 80-90 minutes, stirring at 15-minute intervals. Your dulce de leche will achieve a rich golden caramel color and should be fairly thick. For more visual and detailed instructions, see the Wiki page for How to Make Dulce de Leche.

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Killer Cookies ‘N Cream Brookies and Oreo Butter: An Online Bake Sale for the Philippines

How does one not lose all control when digging a fork into this warm, melting gooey Oreo lovers’ mess?
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Oh, that’s right. One doesn’t. If you couldn’t tell by the gif.
But before I get started on these outrageous Oreo cookies ‘n cream brookies (yes, that’s a brownie + cookie smashed into one sugar-coma-inducing concoction), I want to tell you about a really important event, and the story behind why I decided to tackle these in the first place.
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As anyone who even remotely follows world news knows, a terrible storm hit the Philippines a few weeks ago. While the story has sadly faded off the radar of our fast-paced, sensation-seeking U.S. media, the relief and rebuilding efforts–as is true with any disaster, big or small–are still happening around the clock, around the world, to help the affected people and areas. I have spent ample time researching and making my own donations to the Philippines Red Cross (which, by the way, I definitely recommend if you’re considering making donations but worry about where your donations actually go–they’re one of the established agencies that you can count on to get your money to the relief spots), but wasn’t sure what I could do beyond that to spread the word. Then, by some unlooked-for chance, I stumbled across Tina’s blog, and get this: she is hosting an online bake sale to raise funds to support the relief effort! Very important? YES. I almost never do plugs for other blogs, but please consider learning more about how you can help through a small gesture that will go a long way, no matter what source you choose (as long as it’s a reliable one).
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How it works: 1. Tina is accepting ‘virtual baked good donations’ until FRIDAY, 11/22/13. All you have to do is fill out a pledge form and send her a photo of the goods you will be ‘selling’ for donations.
2. Starting on MONDAY, 11/25/13, bidders can view all of the goods-for-sale at Tina’s site. Bids start at $20. The highest bidder at the end of the day ‘wins’ the baked goods he/she bid on and will donate that money directly to Sagip Kapamilya, a relief foundation for the Philippines.
3. The baker will ship the goods directly to the bid winner. That’s it. Simple, and good.
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(Sorry, this up-close shot of gooey melting fudge and gooey cookies is necessary.)

If it’s within your resources to do so, please consider bidding! Again, this is a really worthwhile cause that I love because it emphasizes what we have: an amazingly strong community of bakers and readers who champion all sorts of causes, not just ones that deal with food. In case you’re curious about my particular entry, I’ve decided to go all out by theming my package with one of my all-time favorites: the Oreo cookie. Below is the description I included for my package:

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Oreos are the yin-and-yang of the cookie world: A creamy filling sandwiched between two decadent chocolate cookies. Like Oreos, life is a mix of yin and yang…and when it hits, it can hit us hard. Fortunately, now’s your chance to do some good while getting outrageous Oreo good out of it. Your Outrageous Oreo package contains a variation on my most popular brookie recipe: a fudge-packed chocolatey brownie layer topped with a gorgeous cookies ‘n cream chocolate chip blondie and whole Oreos jammed into the gooey center. You’ll also want to prepare to sink your teeth into two GIANT Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. And if you aren’t Oreo’d out by the time you reach it, a jar of homemade Oreo white chocolate peanut butter spread will be sure to tempt your spoon (and your willpower) for as long as it lasts. The perfect package for any Oreo lover. So what do you say: Are you out, or Oreo in?
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I know this isn’t “my” bake sale…but thank you, thank you, thank you!

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But before I wrap things up here, I seriously want to give you an idea of how awesome this explosion of outrageous Oreo baked goods really is. I kid you not: one entire 15.3 oz. package of Oreo cookies went into the making of this package. So whoever gets this is advised not to look at the nutrition label on a package of Oreos for the next month or so. Holy mackerel, that’s a lot of Oreos!

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The Killer Cookies ‘N Cream Brookie: Maybe you’ve heard of a brookie before. For those of you who haven’t, it’s made of crack a cookie layer smooshed on top of (or under) a brownie layer. Sound simple? Hang on while I say ‘ha ha ha’ and dispel that funny little notion from your head. Of course, a brookie CAN be simple. But what I love about this ramped-up killer cookies ‘n cream version is that it takes the fudgiest, gooiest brownie base, crams a whole layer of WHOLE OREO COOKIES all up in the there, and then tops that off with a crazy chunky, chewy, cookie-n-creamy chocolate chip blondie bar layer.

YEAH. BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. WHAT NOW BROOKIE.

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Oreo Butter: What happens when you throw half a package of Oreos into a food processor with white chocolate and peanut butter? AWESOME. That’s what happens. A perfect way to spread the love to all your favorite things, including cookies, waffles, sandwiches, and–yes, you guessed it–even Oreos.

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip CookiesWe’ve all heard about them. You’ll just have to try them to believe it. ‘Nuff ‘stuff said.

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Don’t forget to check out the online bake sale on Monday, 11/25/13! Thank you!

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Love,

Ala

Killer Cookies ‘N Cream Brookies
Yield: 1 9×9-inch baking pan; 16 large squares
For Insanely Fudgy Gooey Brownie Layer: (this recipe is my own creation but was inspired by a mix of Allrecipes, Smitten Kitchen, and Something Swanky brownie recipes–thanks!_
Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
  • 16 whole Oreos

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together melted butter and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Gently mix in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until just incorporated.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Reserve whole Oreos for assembly (see instructions below)
For Cookies ‘N Cream Cookie Bars:
Slightly adapted from Picky Palate‘s wonderful recipe
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • Approximately 14 Oreos, roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes of strong creaming.
  2. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in until just incorporated.
  4. Gently fold in both chocolate chips and chopped Oreos.

To Assemble Your Killer Brookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with lightly greased foil.
  2. Pour brownie batter into baking pan. Spread evenly.
  3. Top with 16 evenly-spaced whole Oreos.
  4. Drop cookie dough evenly over the layer of Oreos. Spread dough gently so that it covers the entire top of the pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 27-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and your cookie layer looks slightly crispy (it should be a golden brown color) but is not yet overbaked.
  6. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes in pan before cutting and serving.

Oreo “Butter”

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped/crushed
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate

Directions:

  1. Place Oreos in a food processor and grind them until they achieve a crumb consistency.
  2. Add peanut butter and white chocolate. Continue processing for another 5-7 minutes; the time will depend on the power of your food processor. Your Oreo spread will clump up at first, but as you continue processing it will begin to turn into a gritty paste, and then slowly turn into a much smoother, almost liquid-like spread.
  3. Store your Oreo butter in a jar at room temperature. Spread it on anything and everything (waffles, crackers, sandwiches, more cookies–the possibilities are endless)!
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Peanut Butter Lovers’/Converts’ Chocolate Oat Squares

Today, I want to introduce to you a new, critical, and really important new photoseries called:

TEN REASONS TO GET JIGGY WITH PEANUT BUTTER RIGHT NOW (MAYBE EVEN WHILE YOU READ THIS):

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We all have that friend (or two, or ten) who, for some godforsaken reason, does not like peanut butter. Hopefully, you are not that friend (and if you are, I would recommend paying close attention to Reason #9 in this photostory–ahem).  I personally LOVE PEANUT BUTTER.

If you are adverse to this creamy concoction of the nut butter gods, however, or you have that friend and want to be an exceptionally nice friend and convert them into the ways of Peanut Buttery Enlightenment, I would recommend sharing any or all of the banners I have created for this sole purpose below. Here in Peanut Butter Kingdom, we do not judge–except, of course, if you don’t like PB. Then we treat you like the lost cause you are and send straight to Peanut-less Purgatory.

SO, without FURTHER ADO:

Peanut Butter Lovers' Chocolate Oat Squares 5--101313

TEN REASONS TO GET JIGGY WITH PEANUT BUTTER RIGHT NOW (MAYBE EVEN WHILE YOU READ THIS):

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #10:  It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single person in possession of a good palate must be in want of a Peanut Butter jar.

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At least we all know that’s what Jane Austen should have written, bless her soul.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #9: Peanut Butter serves as a great way to test–or seriously question–your friendship choices.

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How the Peanut Butter Friend Test works:

SCENARIO A: “Do you like Peanut Butter?” “Yes.” “Then I think we can be friends.” <3

SCENARIO B: Conversely, “Do you like Peanut Butter?”

“No.”

“…….I have never said this before, but I hope this means you are deathly allergic to it.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #8: When it comes to eating Peanut Butter from the jar, spoons are always optional. In case of emergencies, however, fingers will also do.

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And nobody here will judge you for it.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #7: Peanut Butter is GOOD for you. If G.O.O.D. = Goddamn Overly, Obnoxiously Delicious.

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And it contains protein. Or something like that.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #6: Peanut Butter fans are particularly good finders.

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I hope somebody out there got the A Very Potter Musical reference that just went fo shizzle up there, because I am not doing that again.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #5: Peanut Butter pairs well with basically everything.

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Apples, jelly, chocolate, bosses, emotional turmoil–existential crises…

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #4: Most of us grew up eating Peanut Butter–and even if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start.

 Peanut Butter Lovers' Chocolate Oat Squares 23--101313

According to the National Peanut Board (yes, that’s a thing), the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates high school. Also, the amount of peanut butter eaten in a year could wrap the earth in a ribbon of 18-ounce peanut butter jars one and one-third times.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #3: Peanut Butter has such a nutty sense of humor.

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You can go NUTS over peanut butter.

You can polish off a jar of peanut butter in a Jiffy.

You can beg me to stop making peanut butter jokes by saying, “Pretty, pretty, PB please?”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Reason #2: “Peanut Butter” means love in every language. (It is even the official phrase for “I Love You” in one language.

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That language is Baker-ese, most commonly spoken in…well, I’ll let you guess.

~*~*~*~*~*~

And finally……..

Reason #1: Peanut Butter is what makes these chocolatey, oat-filled squares so goddamn delicious. Pardon our language. But they’re that f*-in’ good.

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And what more proof do you need than that?

Print this recipe!

Ala

What makes you go NUTS over peanut butter?

Will Cook For Smiles
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Will Cook For Smiles

Peanut Butter Lovers’/Converts’ Chocolate Oat Squares
Possibly the most insanely peanut butter-packed, chewy, satisfying squares I have ever invented, filled with plenty of brown sugar, peanut butter, oats, and chocolate. Perfect for an afternoon snack or a surprise dessert!
Yield: 9×13-inch baking pan
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided in half
  • Assorted chopped candies or nuts, optional (but a great way to use up those Halloween leftovers!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and brown sugar. Add peanut butter and mix in well, until smooth.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until mixture is no longer clumpy.
  4. Add remaining dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, and salt) and stir in until just incorporated. Be sure not to overmix–overmixing will result in tough batter and bars!
  5. Gently fold half of the chocolate chips (3/4 cup) into the oats batter.
  6. Place remaining 3/4 cup chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring vigorously between each interval to prevent chocolate from scorching. (Note: You will want to stop microwaving at the point when your chocolate is just melted–at this point, stir it vigorously some more until all of the chocolate is smooth and melted.)
  7. Scoop half of the peanut butter oat mixture into your prepared baking pan and pat into an even layer. Pour melted chocolate over this layer, then scoop the remaining peanut butter mixture over the chocolate layer. Pat down peanut butter oats as well as you can–it’s okay if some chocolate peeks through! (It’s actually cuter this way.)
  8. Bake bars in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until bars begin to set but are still soft and slightly underbaked in appearance. Remove bars immediately from oven and allow to cool on stovetop for an addition 15-20 minutes. During this time, your bars will continue baking for a nice chewy texture, and you will continue salivating while you stick your spoon into the peanut butter jar for yet another consoling bite.
  9. After your bars have completely cooled, cut into squares and enjoy the bliss!

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Monday Morning Mocha ‘n Chocolate Cheesecakes

  I have been productive lately. That means a lot of productibaking, which means wading through a really, really big pile of reading. Check.

I also have another photo-story for all of you. Did you see my last one for the very best chewy Biscoff blondies? I don’t have too much time these days to write, but I still want to share my stories with all of you.

I don’t drink coffee or mocha, but I love coffee-flavored anything. And since caffeine and productivity are the order of the day, these mocha ‘n chocolate cheesecakes were born–perfect for your Monday morning. Or Tuesday. Or every any day of the week, really.

I hope you all enjoy, pin, share, and love these quaint coffee banners!  These creamy mini cheesecake smell like you’re sitting in the middle of your favorite hipster cafe with a cuppa fresh brew–you won’t even know the difference.

Monday Morning Mocha 'n Chocolate Cheesecake 3--092313 Monday Morning Mocha 'n Chocolate Cheesecake 6--092313 Monday Morning Mocha 'n Chocolate Cheesecake 9--092313 Monday Morning Mocha 'n Chocolate Cheesecake 12--092313 Monday Morning Mocha 'n Chocolate Cheesecake 15--092313

Which coffee saying describes you best?  (I’m definitely feeling the “productivity” one right now!)

OR What do you wake up to in the morning?

Ala

Don’t forget to pin/share/print/like! :)

Tuesday Talent Show Link Party at Chef in Training! It is held weekly and has some amazing link ups!What's Cooking Love?4

Monday Morning Mocha ‘n Chocolate Cheesecakes
Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes
Ingredients:
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kahlua (or other coffee-flavored liqueur, or espresso or strong brewed coffee)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee granules, divided and finely crushed
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and white sugar until nice and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine Kahlua and vanilla. Mix in 2 tablespoons coffee granules and stir until dissolved.
  4. Add Kahlua mixture, egg, and remaining finely-crushed coffee granules to cream cheese mixture. Beat in until completely smooth.
  5. Divide cheesecake batter equally between 12 tins.
  6. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips at 20-second intervals, stirring rapidly between each interval until chocolate is melted and smooth. (Be careful not to overheat your chocolate–you will want to remove the bowl from microwave and stir when the chocolate is just beginning to turn melty.) Pour a dollop of chocolate into each filled cheesecake tin and swirl using a toothpick.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before transferring to fridge. Allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour–or you can let it sit overnight and wake up the next morning to a perfectly “brewed” Monday morn mocha cheesecake!

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Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake

This is not a cake for the weak.

This is a cake for the fudgiest, moistest, chocolate-iest, veganest (if you want it to be!), cake that you will ever make, or ever be requested to make again, ever.

That huge GLOB of fudge you see running throughout the base of cake there? Ah-MAY-zing.

Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake 1--060813

As I mentioned in my last post about possibly the best Oreo bar cookies in the world, I’m currently following a regimen of intense “productibaking.” I searched this term on the internet  expecting to see some slang dictionary entry for it and I’m the first person to coin it!  Apparently, I’m the first person to think about baking as a positive rewarding force (as opposed to the popular procrastibaking) and actually give a name to it.

So here I am. Productibaking.

Actually, not. The photos from this absolutely fudgy and delicious cake that you must make (are we LOOKING at the same pictures here??) are from last month for a potluck I hosted. Which I guess means that I haven’t been productive enough yet.

Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake 3--060813

Oops.

Well, in the meantime, enjoy the recipe! I’m keeping this post short so I can go off and procrast–I mean, be productive now.

:)

Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake 6--060813

This may be my FAVORITE CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE TO DATE–Make this!!

Ala

Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake
Slightly adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth
Yield: 1 12-cup bundt cake pan
for the pan: 1 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted for the cake: 1/2 cup boiling water 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips 2 cups all purpose flour 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 cups confectioners’ sugar 1 tsp salt 5 large eggs, at room temperature 1 tbsp vanilla extract 1 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup light brown sugar 20 tbsp (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (use lactose-free margarine to make this vegan!) for the ganache: 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan option!) 1/4 cup butter (use lactose-free margarine to make this vegan!) 1vanilla extract

directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and melted butter, and use a brush to evenly coat the inside of a 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl and pour boiling water over them; whisk together until smooth. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. In a third small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until very light and fluffy (this will take several minutes). Add the egg mixture and beat well. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the pan.
  4. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least an hour before inverting it onto a cake platter. Serve warm or cooled, as desired.
  5. For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for one full minute. Turn off heat and remove pot; beat icing for an additional 3 minutes, until it begins to cool and thicken. Allow icing to continue thickening until it reaches desired consistency, then pour over your fudge tunnel cake and enjoy!
 

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Dreamy Raspberry Streusel Magic Bars

What are you making for your mom or the mom-like figure in your life this Sunday?

Raspberry Streusel Magic Bars gif

I have to admit that I am not making these. Well, maybe I did….but there is no remaining physical evidence to indicate that I did.

That’s right. I ate my mom’s Mother Day baked goods gift.

Oops. Love you, mumsy.

Raspberry Streusel Magic Bars 1--050513

The frontal lobe of my twisted brain reasons that I am flying my own sweet little self back home for Mother’s Day, and that my mom will therefore have everything she needs (i.e. me). Plus, she won’t miss what she never, er, knew she was missing out on. Right?

Right? Who’s with me?

You’ll understand what I mean shortly. Skedaddle off to the kitchen and make these gooey, crunchy, cinnamony, sweet, and simple bars–I guarantee you, they won’t last you until Sunday. And if they do–well, you’re either a saint, or you’re a mother yourself and have the patience of a saint.

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And if you are a mother, you should totally hoard the entire pan, because–well, it’s your day, and you can. And who ever needed a better excuse than THAT?

Happy (early) Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers who fill up our kitchens with warm aromas and our lives with lots of love!

Ala

Tuesday Talent Show Link Party at Chef in Training! It is held weekly and has some amazing link ups!Sweet 2 Eat Baking

Dreamy Raspberry Streusel Magic Bars
Adapted from a fantastic original recipe at Mom on Time Out
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups sweetened coconut, flaked
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate (for drizzling)
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate (for drizzling)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, white sugar, 3/4 cup melted butter, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Press lightly and evenly into bottom of prepared pan.
  3. Sprinkle coconut over graham cracker crust, then pour sweetened condensed evenly over coconut. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven and cool completely. While waiting for bars to cool, make streusel topping (recipe to follow).
  5. Spread raspberry preserves over cooled bars. Press prepared streusel lightly into the jam.
  6. Place semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir; return to microwave and continue heating at 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is completely melted. Do the same for the white chocolate. Drizzle melted chocolates over the bars, then cut and serve!

For streusel topping:

  • 1  cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or nut of your choice (optional–if you omit them, increase oats by 1/2 cup)

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Press lightly onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until light brown. Crumble while still hot; set aside to cool completely.
  3. Press into the tops of your magic bars!

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Choco-Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies

NOTE: I was writing the following blog post when I learned the news about the Boston Marathon explosion. To those of you in Boston or with loved ones in Boston, you’re all in our hearts, thoughts, and sympathies. If you’d like to share your thoughts and condolences, please feel free to do so here. Boston, take care.

Instead of writing an alternate entry to commemorate the victims and their families, I have decided to go ahead and post my original entry. On a day of tragedy, there is that small hope of reminder that tells us to cling tightly to those we love–to live and laugh with them. My hope is that this post will bring a smile to your faces in the midst of all the conflicting, image-laden media accounts and that you can cherish Boston by sharing your smiles with those you love during these difficult times.

In a way, it’s appropriate that this post features ying yang, or two-sided cookies. Everything in life has two sides to it–you just have to figure out how to make the best of both. With terrible tragedy, also comes the stunning realization that there are heroes out there from every stripe of life waiting to help, and that the heroes we can appreciate most are often standing right beside us. Appreciate the heroes in your life today–tell them how much they mean to you.

****

There are some people in this world who are good at lots of things. We all have that friend who was high school ASB president, child actor/actress, swim team captain, math-lete extraordinaire, five-time winner of the MTV Best Smile Award, and a kick-ass poker tournament champion to boot. I often roar in their general direction from my underachieving, lazy day couch.

Some days I function just enough that I can overboil myself a bowl of instant ramen (yes, this is actually possible) before flopping with all the grace of an elephant seal into bed. This week, for instance, I’ve been a slobby mess scrambling to figure out my summer plans and still trying to stay on top of my own work, along with all of my students’ work. I sit here in my tattered Pooh pajamas thinking to myself, “Geez, you’re hopeless!”

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies Banner--041513

It’s on the mopiest, Eeyore-iest of afternoons that I force myself to think of some things I’m actually pretty good at.

One thing I love is storytelling. I wrote some–okay, a lot of–erm, fanfiction in my day, and had a modest following that I’ve always been pretty proud of. Cue embarrassing romantic escapades in which Usagi (that’s Serena from the dubbed version of the anime, Sailor Moon) stares deeply into Mamoru’s (that’s Darien’s) piercing blue eyes and runs a trembling hand through his soft ebony hair before he sweeps her up into her arms and leans down to kiss her.

Yeah. Hai there, fanfic alter-ego. Let me wipe my hard drive and go skulk in a dank cobwebbed corner now before anybody recognizes me.

I’m never telling any of you my pen name. Ever. So don’t ask.

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I’ve always considered myself more of a storyteller than a baker or a cook or a foodie. Do any of you writers out there feel the same way? I do, 25 hours, every single day.

Writing always came pretty naturally to me. I never really had problems drumming up an audience for my stories, online or otherwise. I once wrote a 250,000 word story for a fanfic/original story Valentine’s Day contest in 2 weeks and ended up winning a nice shiny virtual badge. To this day, it’s the highlight of my online writing career–and imagine how proud my parents and friends were that I had eked out all of one other contestant for the shiny virtual gold.

Oh, yeah. Did I not mention that only one other person entered? Derp.

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To be completely fair, she’s about the biggest name in the fandom. Like, a really, really big name. And now she’s a published author and I’m an underpaid graduate student with a shiny virtual badge. I should probably put this on my CV…along with all of my other great voluntary and unpaid escapades.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies 6--041513

One thing I am not–naturally, at least–is a good chef. Cheese curdles at the mere mention of my name, and the milk in my fridge trembles so badly it turns into one big milkshake.

Milkshakes. Yum.

Ask my friends. Anyone who knew me before or even during college can attest to the fact that I was not born with a spatula for a hand. When asked whether I had cumin in my pantry, I once answered, “Bless you. Did you sneeze? Here’s a tissue.”

It wasn’t until junior year of college that I even learned how to boil vegetables. For some reason, I always thought you dumped the chopped vegetables into the water first and then turned the heat off right before it started boiling. My dad was a total saint on this score. Case in point: after I strutted around like a rooster and served him the totally raw vegetables over a plate of oversteamed rice, he simply said, “Well, more nutrients.”

Raw vegetables = nutrients. Bless him.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies 8--041513

As you can see, I’ve come quite a ways since then. These days, I’m baking at the speed of light and having a fantastic time sharing all of my oven adventures, but I still have WAY more baking failures than anyone ever believes. One of these days, I’m going to compile a collage of all the epic failures I’ve had in the kitchen (not just cracked cheesecakes, but charcoal-burnt pans over unattended stovetops and an oil fire that I nearly tried putting out with water which you should never do!!).

These ying-yang, perfectly chewy chocolaty and peanut butter-packed cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction are a godsend that you will not mess up. Trust me on this one. My oven has the temper of a hormonal teenager and this is one of the few batches of cookies that came out chewy, fluffy, and packed with chocolate-and-PB goodness.

I HIGHLY recommend these for those of you who love chocolate and PB, and want a fancy-looking addition to your cookie tray that won’t throw you into fits of agony about whether they will “turn out.” All you need is to give yourself some extra time for dough chilling while you chill as well and make these scrumptious, simple, sassy cookies!

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And now, excuse me while I go off to determine whether Draco and Hermione are canon.

Er. I mean, while I go nab another one of these scrumptious cookies. (Because no lie, I will do it.)

Ala

Don’t wait–print this!

Choco-Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction
 
For the chocolate cookies
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 large egg (carefully separate it in half and reserve other half for the PB cookie recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet (or dark or milk)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir in until just combined. Carefully mix in the milk, then fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (See baking instructions below.)

For the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 large egg (reserved from chocolate cookie recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet (or dark or milk)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in peanut butter, then add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to wet ingredients and stir in until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (See baking instructions below.)

Baking instructions for choco-peanut butter ying yang cookies:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Removing chilled dough from fridge, roll a medium-sized ball (about 3/4th the size of a golf ball) of chocolate dough, then roll a ball of the same size of peanut butter dough. Carefully smoosh the two together side by side, then roll that into a perfect round ball. Set on baking sheet and continue rolling ying-yang dough balls until you’ve finished with all the dough. (If you used too much of one and not enough of the other, you can always bake the cookies in just one flavor!)
  3. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 10-12 minutes, and no more than 12-13 minutes. The cookies will seem slightly underdone when you remove them from the oven, but they’ll firm up if you leave them on the sheet on top of the oven for about another 10-15 minutes. Don’t overbake–otherwise your cookies won’t be chewy and fluffy!

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Saltine Toffee ‘Crack’-ers: An Ode to a New DSLR!

I have not danced around with such elf-like mirth since they announced the summer 2013 release of Sailor Moon.

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 7 (12.29

Guess who is the proud new owner of a DSLR camera?

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 8 (12.29.12)

I’ll give you a hint.

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 4 (12.29.12)

ME. Me me me me me me me. Did I mention me?

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 5 (12.29.12)

That’s right, folks–in the shameless spirit of commercialism, selfishness, and dragon-like hoarding, I have graciously received a shiny new DSLR camera for Christmas.

Jigs may or may not have been performed under my Christmas tree this holiday season.

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 6 (12.29.12)

Did I mention the fact that I also received a Playstation 3 AND the Disney Imagineering book?

This year’s forecast: Absolutely zero productivity levels, with a 50% chance of precipitation from the tear ducts–because I am going to be so darn happy playing around with all of my new toys that I will most probably break down into tears at some point and bawl like a baby.

A very, very happy bouncing crying baby adult woman.

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 3 (12.29.12)

In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to do absolutely nothing substantive in this post except gloat, revel, and bask in the glory that is focused pictures with appropriately blurry backgrounds. I’m still getting the hang of the whole “real-camera” photography deal (read: driving my parents crazy dancing around the house singing “What’s This?” a la Jack Skellington as I test out all of the nifty functions–and they are nifty), and now I don’t have an excuse to not learn about proper photo composition…

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 12 (12.29

But I think I can live with that.

Saltine Toffee 'Crack'-ers 2 (12.29.12)

I can also live with a batch of these delicious saltine toffee ‘crack’-ers (thus dubbed as an homage to their addictive status) sitting on my kitchen counter at this very moment.

Those of you who have followed me for some time will know that this is a repeat recipe that you can find here…but the results were so pretty, and my camera was so here (YAY), that I had to share these photos.

What did you receive this holiday season that you’re most excited about?

and (as an unofficial question)

They’re by no means perfect, and I’m still learning, but how do you like them new photos? ;)

Ala

(Expect some fun posts from here on out! I hope you’re as thrilled as I am to check out my upcoming projects, posts, and updates to this site as I begin the new year’s process of revamping my blog in honor of this new technological addition to the family!)

Sweet 2 Eat Baking

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