peanut butter sandwich cookies

peanut butter sandwich cookies

there really is something old-fashioned and comforting about peanut butter. when we’re adults, we may snack on peanuts with a cocktail or smear some unsweetened, natural peanut butter on a piece of toast. but thoughts of peanut butter sandwiches and cookies seem to evoke walks home from school to find lunch waiting for us, washed down with cold milk before heading back on our way.

i was inspired to make these cookies because of the amazing peanut butter cookies from mabel’s bakery in toronto. they are chewy and filled with a divine peanut butter fudge. these are a treat, and one goes a long way. perfect with something cold to drink, and a few minutes to remember a time before sugar was bad and eating a cookie was always the right thing to do.

peanut butter sandwich cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 cup roughly chopped, roasted and salted peanuts

simple fudge filling:

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
pinch sea salt
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. add the sugar and beat until light, about 4 minutes. add the honey and stir to combine. add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides and mixing well. stir together dry ingredients and peanuts. pulse to combine into a soft dough.

preheat oven to 350f. prepare two sheet pans by lining with silpats or parchment. use a 1 1/2″ scoop to portion out balls of cookie dough. roll each lightly into a ball and place 2 inches apart. bake for 15 minutes, switching tray position halfway through baking to ensure even browning. remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely.

meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, toss in peanut butter and butter, and pulse a few times to combine. add the sea salt and the icing sugar, all at once, and pulse to combine. add the vanilla and cream. scrape down sides and pulse one more time to fully combine. scrape into bowl.

when cookies are cool, measure out a tablespoon of filling into your hand. roll to form a ball. place on the underside of one cookie, then top with another cookie and press lightly to spread the filling. repeat with remaining cookies. store in airtight container.

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ontario maple pecan cake with salted buttercream

ontario maple pecan cake

maple syrup is an absolutely wondrous thing. sweet liquid tapped from a tree is boiled down to make a syrup that is unique in flavour like nothing else i can imagine. it’s one of the many lovely things about living in canada, and in ontario in particular. the season is short, and for that reason the product of maple sugaring is rare and expensive. yet it’s an affordable little luxury, one worth indulging in to enjoy its smoky-sweetness, dripping down a stack of pancakes or fluffy buttermilk waffles on a lazy sunday, or used to make a special dessert.

when we had a special birthday to celebrate, i decided that springtime and maple syrup season should also be celebrated, and so i made this ontario maple pecan cake. the cake itself, studded with pecans, is easy to bake, and at the end, it gets layered with fluffy mounds of the most silky of embellishments, a buff-coloured french meringue buttercream made with pure maple syrup. heaven!

i hope you make this cake at least once. you’ll love the results, and won’t believe how easy the buttercream slides over the cake, or holds a piped peak.

ontario maple pecan cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups ontario syrup
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided.

1 recipe of ontario maple french meringue buttercream
flaked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350º. butter and line 2 9-inch cake pans with parchment.Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside. Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat the butter until it has a creamy, mayonnaise-like consistency. (Placing warm hands on the bowl while it beats is helpful) Pour in the maple syrup, and add the eggs, one at a time. the mixture will look broken, not smooth. in a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. add the flour mixture all at once, and pulse to combine. pour in the cream and vanilla, and mix a few more times until smooth. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pecans. divide batter between the two pans, and bake for 20 minutes, then rotate pans and bake 20 minutes more, or until cake tester comes out clean. cool on racks. when completely cool, slice each layer in half horizontally. spread each layer with 1/2 cup of maple buttercream. mask cake with buttercream, and decorate as you wish. we used a naked base and a star tip for the top. sprinkle with remaining nuts and a pinch pf the flaked sea salt.

salted ontario maple french meringue buttercream

i start with unsalted butter because it tastes fresher, then salt to my liking with sea salt.

6 yolks from large eggs
2 cups ontario maple syrup
1 pound of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, and beat egg yolks on high speed until very light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. place the maple syrup in a large pot and bring to a boil. use a candy thermometer and bring the syrup to 240º, or the soft ball stage. this can take 10-15 minutes.
with the electric mixer running, pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg-yolk mixture, about 1 1/2 minutes. continue beating until the bowl is just slightly warm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes. switch to the paddle attachment, and toss in the pieces of butter until it is all incorporated. beat a couple of minutes more, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. add the sea salt to taste. use right away.

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mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

it’s been a weird april here in ontario. cloudy days and snowy, wind-chill factor nights are keeping the flowers at bay and prolonging that sweet anticipation that spring will, eventually, arrive. that’s just how it is here. spring will come, and so will the heat of summer.

it’s also monday.

so how about some chocolate, with a hint of spicy chili, no less?

one of my favourite things to enjoy in hot weather is a cold cup of drinking chocolate. these little desserts combine classic chocolate pots de creme with the flavours of an icy mexican drinking chocolate, flavoured with a whiff of cinnamon and an ever-so-subtle ht of chili spice.

best of all, this takes 10 minutes to prepare.

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

mexican drinking chocolate pots de creme

250g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half or 18% cream
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of sea salt
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream
shaved chocolate and cinnamon for dusting

place the chocolate into the bowl of a blender. in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the whole milk, half and half, egg yolks, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until mixture is thick and custard-like, and coats the back of a spoon. scrape into blender bowl. carefully blend until smooth, holding a towel over the opening and allowing steam to vent. pour mixture into dessert dishes. chill until cold.

whip the 1/2 cup of whipping cream and spoon over pots de creme, and garnish with chocolate shavings and cinnamon. makes 6-8 servings.

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chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

i really do have a thing for cake. i should probably start posting some different desserts. more pies and tarts, or maybe a torte or crumble or a custard or even a fool. i’ll put that on my to-do list. today though, it’s all about this rich and decadent chocolate ginger sparkle cake.

i don’t remember where this recipe came from, but i have it written in a recipe notebook i started in 1991, when i really started getting into food. it’s written in point form, which leads me to think i was watching a cooking show and frantically wrote it down. i’ve made this so many times since, for special occasions and catering jobs, and it’s always a hit. the ginger was an addition i made later, because i think ginger and chocolate get along famously and that it makes this cake even more special.

pay attention to the times for beating the eggs, and don’t skimp. this cake contains no chemical leaveners, so it relies on incorporating air into the eggs for volume. fold very carefully too, so you don’t deflate your egg whites. is a dense cake, but it shouldn’t be stodgy. the plus side is that it’s easy to handle the layers, and it comes out very straight.

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

12 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate (the best you can wangle)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
pinch salt
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb + 2 tbsp. very soft butter
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

for the icing:

1/2 lb softened butter
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup half and half cream or milk
4 cups sifted icing sugar

butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment, and set aside. preheat oven to 350F. place the egg whites and the 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. using the wire whip attachment, whip on high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. scrape into a bowl and set aside. switch to the paddle attachment. place the yolks in the mixer bowl with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. add the butter to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until incorporated. reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just blended. remove bowl from mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in half the egg whites until still a bit streaky. add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until incorporated. it may take several passes, as the batter is very dense. gently fold in the grated chocolate and the ginger. divide into the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean of any raw batter (there will be melted chocolate on it)

cool on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

meanwhile, prepare the icing by placing all ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth, scraping the sides down once or twice. scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for 1/2 hour.

to assemble, split each cake round in half lengthwise. spread each layer with about 1/2 cup icing, then coat the whole cake with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat, which seals the cake for further frosting) chill for 15 minutes. at this point you can either slather on the rest or add another smooth layer and pipe the edges.

makes 1 serving. (ok, 12-16)

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almondos

almondos

happy monday all!

kicking off #bakingmonday with this easy raw cookie recipe i call almondos, and a bit of a backstory.

at one point i had nine laying hens who provided more eggs than we needed, and a friend of mine knew someone who was looking for fresh, organic and uncaged hen eggs. i happy happy to share our surplus, so every week or so, liz would stop by and pick up a dozen fresh eggs, and every time she came she would bring something lovely in return! one day she brought these wonderful little cookies. at that time, raw cookies were not something i had really given a fair try, but they were an instant hit. i’ve adapted it a bit, and now this recipe has become a standby around here. this is one of things i love about food, how it naturally bridges gaps and builds community and fosters friendships and sharing.

these super-crunchy, gluten-free, vegan and egg free (!) cookies are the perfect protein-packed snack on the go and i always keep one or two in my bag. they are best kept well-chilled.

sometimes i make them a bit bigger to have with some fruit for breakfast. feel free to change up the nuts and nut butter to your liking.

almondos

almondos

2 1/4 cups raw unblanched almonds
1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup raw, organic coconut flakes
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup hemp hearts

set aside 24 almonds, and place the rest on the bowl of a food processor. pulse to chop very coarsely. add almond butter, coconut flakes, honey, and almond extract, and pulse until the mixture comes together, but the almonds are still nicely chunky.

scoop out 2 tbsp portions and roll into a ball, then form into a small disc, and roll the edges in the hemp hearts. press a whole almond and 3-4 chocolate chips into the top of each cookie. chill until firm. makes 24.

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blood orange cardamom cake

blood orange cardamom cake

this is a special cake, and i think, well worth the time to make it.

i’ve used the moro variety of blood oranges, which have lots of colour and a distinct raspberry flavour, but are also very slightly bitter. when folded into a buttery cake batter, the flavours really work. moros are only in season from december to march. the season is winding down.

the secret ingredient here is a confit made from the skins of the oranges, almost like a marmalade. it feels good to use the whole fruit, and the best part is, the confit can be stored in the fridge for months, which means you can make this cake any time you want. make sure to cool the confit completely before adding to the cake.

blood orange cardamom cake

blood orange cardamom cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cup finely chopped blood orange confit (i use a food processor)

glaze
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup sugar

drizzle
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp. softened butter
2 tsp. blood orange zest

using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease a 9-cup tube pan, then dust with flour, tapping out the excess. put it the fridge until ready to use.

preheat oven to 350f.

in a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom.

place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. cream until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. add sugar and cream until light, 4 minutes. crack the eggs into a bowl and muddle with a fork. drizzle eggs slowly into creamed mixture, scraping down sides, to combine. add the almond extract and chopped confit and pulse to blend in. add 1/2 of the flour mixture, pulsing to combine, then add the milk, and the other half of the flour mixture. mix for 30 seconds to mix completely, scraping down sides once.

scrape mixture into prepared pan. bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cooked through (check with a toothpick).

place pan on a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes. turn cake out onto rack set over a baking sheet and pour over the warm glaze. cool completely, then top with the drizzle. garnish with zest.

blood orange confit

6 blood oranges
1 cup blood orange juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

cut oranges in half and juice. cut juiced orange halves into 4 pieces each. use a sharp knife, and remove the membranes and discard, leaving the skin behind.

bring the juice, water, and sugar to a boil. stir in orange skins. return to a boil. reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour, or until skins are translucent and liquid is a thin syrup. remove from heat and cool completely. store in a glass jar in the fridge. keeps for months.

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milk + cookies

how did it take me so long to discover cookie butter?

speculoos are one of my favourite cookies, ever. they are thin, crispy little dutch butter and spice cookies. i’ve loved them all my life, but i didn’t know what they were called until i was an adult. the combination of spices is outstanding: pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. and BONUS, they are often baked into fun shapes like elephants, or the windmills of holland!

imagine my delight when i discovered you could buy something called cookie butter. it consists of ground up speculoos cookies, blended with sugar and oil, much like commercial peanut butter. i never said it was good for you. but for me, eating this stuff is the equivalent of netflix and chill, if you catch my drift.

an article in the toronto star maligned cookie butter as an “unneccesary confection”. hey toronto star, why the hostility?

truth be told, cookie butter has limited applications. there’s only so many times you can spread it on toast, or eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon (see “netflix and chill”)

i needed to find another way to use cookie butter. so i came up with this little dessert i call milk + cookies. buttermilk cake batter is piped into rounds, and sandwiched together with a nice thick layer of cookie butter for a two-bite treat. these are a bit of a cake/cookie hybrid, soft in the middle, and just sweet enough.

buttermilk whoopie pies with cookie butter

milk + cookies

you’ll need parchment paper, 1 large piping bag, 1 medium piping bag, a large plain tip, and an open star tip. you can also use a 1 1/2″ scoop to portion the batter, but your circles will not be uniform.

makes 12-14 sandwiches

1 stick butter (4 oz)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 jar cookie butter
icing sugar, for dusting

preheat oven to 350f.

prepare two sheet pans lined with parchment. with a pencil, trace circles on the parchment that are roughly two inches in diameter (i used the bottom of a small juice glass). the circles should be at least 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.

in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. add the egg and mix until light, scraping down the sides of the bowl. turn off mixer and add the flour mixture, all at once, and pulse a few times to combine. add the buttermilk all at once and mix on low just until combined. do not over-mix, it should just be blended. the batter will be thick.

fit your piping bag with the plain tip, and use a rubber spatula to load the bag about 1/2 full. pipe the batter to fill the circles on your parchment. bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool for 5 minutes on the pans, then transfer to a cooking rack to cook completely.

fit your medium piping bag with the star tip and load it up with the cookie butter. it will be very thick, and un-pipeable, so knead and massage the bag and the warmth of your hands will soften it. once you can push it through the tip, pipe about 2 tbsp onto half the rounds. top with a second round, then dust them all with icing sugar. they taste best eaten very fresh!

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french walnut cake

french carrot cake

quite often, i write the blog while eating what i’ve made. right now is one of those times. cake, coffee, and writing seem to go together just right.

i call this french, because it is loosely based on the lovely and traditional french perigord walnut cake, but with the addition of shredded carrots.

it mixes up in one bowl, and needs no further adornment than a good drizzle of honey at the end.

it’s nice enough for company, but simple enough to make just because you feel like some cake. slice and eat with coffee. enjoying at breakfast time would not be the weirdest idea.

Walnut Cake 2

french walnut cake

1 cup walnuts, ground very fine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold coffee
1 large carrot, grated
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey

heat oven to 350f. butter a 9″ round cake pan, line with parchment, then butter the parchment.

in a medium bowl, stir together the walnuts, flour, baking soda, and salt. in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. add the coffee, carrot, and melted butter, and whisk to combine. add the dry ingredients, all at once, and mix together quickly with rubber spatula. batter will be runny. scrape into prepared pan. bake for 50 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. if needed, bake 5-10 minutes more. remove from oven an cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

turn out onto a plate and spread the honey over the top. cool completely, then slice.

makes 8 servings.

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brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake. it sounds like i took a bunch of whatever i had in the kitchen and made a cake out of it, doesn’t it? oh, wait…

i rounded up the ingredients, cornmeal…yogurt…limes…i thought, how can i bring these all together into a cohesive whole? the brown butter was the key, adding a lovely toasty, caramely note that complements the cornmeal, and balancing out the acid in the limes and the yogurt.

luckily this worked on the first try despite not having one of these.   i would suggest eating in within a day or so, when it’s supremely fresh. you could easily make this in a loaf pan, but i wanted to use the lovely violet cake plate from dis-a-ray that my special brit friend gave me for my birthday. he’s very thoughtful that way, and was very excited it said “made in england”.  or maybe he knew i would immediately make a cake to go on it. either way, we ate it up with a pot of earl grey and it was delicious.

keep a close eye when browning the butter. it doesn’t take long to go from brown butter to burnt butter.

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

brown butter cornmeal lime cake

1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp lime zest
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup brown sugar

for the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the drizzle:

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest

preheat oven to 350f. grease a 9″ cake pan and line with parchment. grease the parchment and set pan aside.

in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. cook slowly, swirling the pan and watching for the butter to change colour from pale straw to a light butterscotch colour.  when it’s just aproaching a deep amber colour, and smells like toasted nuts, remove from heat and swirl a few times. set aside to cool slightly.

in a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of the brown sugar. whisking does a great job of breaking up the lumps in the sugar.

when the butter is cooled, whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and zest. pour all at once into dry ingredients and mix well, but do not beat.

pour into prepared pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until dry when tested with a toothpick.

meanwhile, make the glaze. heat the 1/3 cup lime juice with 1/3 cup brown sugar until sugar is melted. pour over warm cake, then cool cake completely.

when cool, mix the icing sugar with the 2 tbsp. lime juice and blend well. drizzle over cake, and sprinkle on the remaining zest. allow glaze to set before serving.

 

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