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Tuesday
Feb022010

Peanutty Buddies: The Famous Salted Peanut Crisps of 1950-55

So, I wasn't actually alive in 1950, but if I had been, I can tell you what cookie I would have been eating: the Salted Peanut Crisp. According to my favorite source for all things cookie, the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book , this cookie was in high demand mid-century. As the recipe introduction notes,

Cookies Please the Younger Set -- The baby boom, begun following World War II, continues in the new decade. With "kids" in the house, cookies disappear like magic and "moms" need quick and easy cookies like this one.

Now, perhaps it's not so unexpected that recipes containing peanuts in general were rising in popularity during this time--during the war, when meat shortages were common, peanuts and peanut butter became a much valued source of inexpensive protein. Of course, after becoming hooked on its deliciousness, peanut butter sandwiches were to become an enduring staple in lunches everywhere, and the cookies and confections containing the rich, flavorful stuff were here to stay.

And to that point, as is further noted in the recipe intro,

One of our home testers wrote, "My 12-year old son carried them out by the handful." "Only modesty prevents me from calling them perfect plus," said another tester.

And you know what? Over 50 years later, I concur. Of course, I made a couple small alterations in the recipe to better suit them for modern times--first, where the original calls for 2 cups of salted peanuts, I did about 1 cup salted peanuts and 1 cup peanut butter; this gave them a nice density and chewiness. Second, instead of dropping the dough on the cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls, I went ahead and used an ice cream scoop--so instead of 6 dozen small cookies, I got about 2 dozen jumbo cookies, some of which I stuffed with mini peanut butter cups inside the dough for an even more decadent outcome. And it turns out that bigger and more decadent is even better: these cookies managed to turn at least one peanut butter cookie hater into a believer, and I hear that they even derailed an Atkins Diet follower. Yes!

Here's the recipe:

Salted Peanut Butter Crisps 

(Note: Though they are officially "Salted Peanut Crisps", since I added peanut butter too I have taken liberties)

Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup peanut butter 

(Note: original recipe calls for 2 cups salted peanuts and no peanut butter; feel free to play with the ratios)

Procedure

  1. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment; put to the side.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (original recipe calls for 375 but I found a longer bake at the lower temperature worked better, possibly because I made my cookies bigger).
  3. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla thoroughly.
  4. Sift flour and blend with soda and salt; stir in with wet ingredients. Mix in peanuts and peanut butter.
  5. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop the dough and release onto your prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. If desired, place a mini peanut butter cup in the center of the dough while it is still in the scoop, shaping the dough around it so that the dough fully covers the candy before releasing it on to the baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges (if you make your cookies smaller, it may be more like 8-10 minutes).
Monday
Feb012010

Soup's On: Tomato Soup Cake Recipe from Baker's Cakes, Durham NC

Per Danielle of Baker's Cakes, "here's our family's cake recipe! I'm pretty sure this recipe originated during times when certain ingredients were in limited supply, much like the popular chocolate "crazy cake." Today, I guess it's vegan! This is essentially an interesting spice cake."

Nana Murphy's Tomato Soup Cake

(Makes 9" square pan)

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 can's worth of water
  1. Preheat oven to 35 degrees; grease a 9x9-inch baking pan (circle or square).
  2. Sift the dry ingredients, except for the baking soda.
  3. Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda into 1 can of tomato soup- stir vigorously then add to the dry ingredients.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons oil and 1 can of water and mix well.
  5. Stir in 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup of chopped pecans.
  6. Bake 35-45min in preheated oven, lightly greased pan, at 350 degrees.
  7. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Danielle's Note: I like to make a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: Melt 1 bag (12oz) of white chocolate chips and beat into 1 package (8oz) room temp. cream cheese.

Monday
Feb012010

Snack Attack: Salty and Sweet Super Bowl Brownies for Serious Eats

Super Bowl Sunday is one action-packed afternoon. There's so much going on: commercials, performances, deliciously salty snack foods, and I hear a rumor that sports are involved too.

But with all of this sensory overload, what sweet treat could possibly compete for your attention?

How about brownies so packed full of sweet and salty flavor they practically tackle your taste buds? Starting with a basic brownie recipe, I made these ones extreme by packing them chock-full of gooey caramel and dark chocolate, roasted peanuts, and salty pretzels. The sweet plays offense, pummeling your taste buds with a rich, chocolate-filled flavor, with salty bringing up the defense, with a crunch and savoriness from the peanuts and pretzels. Yes indeed, when sweet and salty team up, everyone wins.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Feb012010

Ganache and Yum: Trophy Cupcakes Debuts Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes for February

MEMORANDUM

Date: February 1, 2010

Attn: Seattle Sweet Tooths

Re: The new Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes

Seattle sugar fiends, it has recently come to CakeSpy's attention that today marks the debut of the flavor of the month for February at all Trophy Cupcakes locations, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake. Composed of Valrhona chocolate cake filled with raspberry buttercream, the top is then dipped in a rich chocolate ganache. Now, I don't know if you realize this, but this basically means that you get two doses of frosting.

You probably did not need to be told this, but double frosting basically equals double happiness.

Conclusion? This decadent dose of deliciousness will undoubtedly make you want to sing, dance, and fall in love. Now that's the taste of true love. Happy February.

The Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake is available at Trophy Cupcakes all month long; for locations and more information, visit trophycupcakes.com.

Sunday
Jan312010

Sweet Freedom: Wheat, Egg, and Dairy-Free Figaro Bar Cookie Recipe

If pressed to name the basic building blocks of a delicious baked good, most people would probably include flour, eggs, butter, and sugar.

But not Ricki Heller, author of Sweet Freedom, a book comprised of "dessert recipes you'll love without wheat, eggs, dairy or refined sugar".

Dude. Really?

I was willing to take that challenge.

I decided to start out with familiar territory. One of the best vegan baked goods I can think of is the Vegan Oat Bar from Seattle's Caffe Ladro--a gooey, fruit-filled bar cookie which isn't just "good...for a vegan baked good" ('cos we all know there are some of those), it's just good, period. I saw echoes of the oat bar in the recipe for "Figaros", a fig bar with a dense cookie crust and crumb topping, and so I decided to try that one first.

I took some small liberties with the recipe: lacking figs I tried it out using frozen organic raspberries instead; right before baking, on whim, I melted about 1/2 cup of peanut butter and drizzled it on top of the cookie base before putting the crumbs on top. I also played around with the flour ratios--where the initial recipe called for spelt and barley flour, I subsituted the barley flour with part oat and part coconut flour (you know, for fun).

The result? Goodness, were they good. Dense, chewy and decadent, these bars didn't taste like dull suffering for health's sake at all. The natural sweetness of the berries really shone, and the bars were excellent for breakfast the following morning.

Of course, sweet freedom isn't without its cost--for my pantry, which was not equipped with the various flours, agave nectar and sunflower seeds, the recipe did throw me back about $20 (of course, I did have leftovers which could be used in the future). However, if you're looking for a slightly more virtuous baked good that won't leave you feeling at a loss, these are a great bet. And I already know what I will be trying next from the book--the "Dark and Decadent Chocolate Pate"--which features--of all things--avocado along with dark chocolate, which judging by the book's pictures yield a rich, thick slab of yum.

The book can be purchased here, and for more of Ricki's writing and adventure, check out her site, Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Figaros

Makes 12-16 squares

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 10 ounces frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

(Note: the original recipe does not call for the frozen raspberries or peanut butter--if you want to use the original, use 10 1/4 ounces soft dried figs, cut in half with hard stems removed instead)

Cookie Base and Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar, light or dark
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour (I used light spelt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Make the filling: in a small, heavy-bottomed pot, comine the juice, agave nectar, zest and figs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 more minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the cookie base and topping. IN a small bowl, whisk together oil, 1/3 cup agave nectar, and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the flax and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir until you have a soft dough. Pat about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be fairly thin). Spread the fig mixture over the base, then crumble the rest of the cookie mixture over the top of the filling.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until edges are golden. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 12-16 squares. These freeze well.
Sunday
Jan312010

Somebunny Loves You: Sweet Love for El Conejo Bars by Woodside Bakehouse

There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, but who cares when there's a Bakehouse in Woodside?

And it's there in Queens--at Woodside Bakehouse, a wholesale and custom-order operation--that magical el conejo bars are created by baker Sarah Peltier, who has worked in pastry at various NY restaurants but is currently making the bars as a second job.

What's an el conejo?

Literally translated, it means "the rabbit" -- but don't worry, no bunnies are harmed in the making of this version.  In Woodside Bakehouse's world, el conejo bars are a dense, chewy granola confection that is completely vegan.

And addictive--it's slowly but surely winning over New Yorkers. Peltier started selling them last summer at a friend's taco shop in Rockaway, and has since placed them in Rice restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and can also be found at the monthly Greenpoint Food Market (the next one is coming up on February 13, as you can see by the totally sweet flyer), where in addition to el conejo bars, there are occasionally other vegan sweets, such as packaged Valentine Cowboy Sugar Cookies.

For more information, visit the Woodside Bakehouse site; you can also find more information about the upcoming Greenpoint Food Market here.

Sunday
Jan312010

Batter Chatter: Interview with Sarah Moske of Monkey Bread Bakery, Memphis TN

Why cupcakes? Well, let me defer to Sarah Moske, proprietress of Monkey Bread Bakery, a custom-order baking business with a focus on the baby-cakes based in Memphis, who cites several reasons why cupcakes take the cake:

  • They are portion perfect. Each equals about 1/2 a slice of cake.
  • They are portable and require no fork to eat.
  • They are easily personalized and versatile for any occasion.
  • Big enough to be an indulgence, but small enough to be guilt free.
  • They are DELICIOUS!!
  • Best of all you never have to share a cupcake!

Yup, that Sarah is one smart cookie. Ready to learn more about her and her baking business? Let's go:

CakeSpy: What was the last baked good you ate?

Sarah Moske: A mini chocolate raspberry tart...yummy, yum, yum!

CS: Tell me more about your business. How did you get started with Monkey Bread?

SM: Ever since I can remember I have loved to bake and help in the kitchen. After my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I realized that life is too short and deiced go after my goals in life. I got some business cards printed, had a friend build me a website, and started bringing treats to work for my co-workers to taste. I figured I would at least give it a shot and if it didn't work out, no big deal...but at least I would know that I tried. It worked and the rest is history.

CS: How did you come up with the name? What is Monkey Bread?

SM: My hubby and I both love anything that has to do with monkeys. As a young child, I used to love to go to the zoo and watch the monkeys. When I started teaching school, our class mascot was the monkey. My hubby said that if I ever had a bakery, I should call it "Monkey Bread". Monkey Bread is actually a yummy treat itself, although I do not actually sell it. In my world, monkey bread is a cupcake.

CS: Tell me a favorite cake (or baked good, or candy) memory of yours.

SM: I can remember making fudge in the kitchen with my grandmother and cookies with my mom. That always makes me smile.

CS: Do you think cupcakes will ever be "over"?

SM: I do think that cupcakes are a trend right now, but cupcakes will never be "over". They are yummy, portable, and take you back to your childhood.

CS: I'm always curious about regional specialties. What are some desserts that you would consider classic Memphis treats?

SM: Our most "Memphis" treat is the Fat Elvis cupcake. It is a banana cupcake with a chocolate hazelnut center, peanut butter buttercream and a banana chip on top :) It's a hunka-hunka yummy num-num!

CS: What are some of your goals for your business?

SM: Right now, Monkey Bread Bakery is special order only. Right now, I get the best of both worlds! I teach school for my full time job and make cupcakes on the side. Eventually I would love to open a store front.

Want more Monkey Business? To find out more (or to place an order, if you're lucky enough to be in the Memphis area) visit monkeybreadbakery.com.

Saturday
Jan302010

A-Weigh We Go: A Cake Poll and Kitchen Scale Giveaway!

Bad Idea: Obsessively weighing yourself. It leads to non-enjoyment of cake, plus you're perfect the way you are (awww).

Good Idea: Obsessively weighing your ingredients when measuring them out for baking. Why? Weighing ingredients is common practice for professional bakers, allowing precision and control over the final outcome of your sweets, so that you'll have reliable results. Don't believe it? Check it out this entry on Brown Eyed Baker, where she experimented to see some of the real differences.

And happily, the supercool Eat Smart Products has kindly offered up one of their Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scales for giveaway! Not only does it have handy functions like a tare feature which allows you to remove the weight of the container your ingredients are in, but it can measure ounces, pounds, grams and kgs -- perfect for if you're trying a recipe from one of those metric system-usin' countries.

How do you enter? It's easy! Simply weigh in (get it?) on the important question below, leaving your response in the comments section below:

Which do you prefer: pie or cake? Why?

Good luck! 

The fine print: This giveaway is open to US entrants only, please. Winner will be able to choose their favorite color scale: they're available in red, white, silver, black chrome, and white chrome. The giveaway will be up until 12 p.m. PST on Sunday, January 31st; the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Please include your contact information (email) in the comment form so that I know where to find you if you win!

 

UPDATE: THE WINNER! Congratulations to Laura from New Haven, CT who is definitely on Team Cake! Her prize has been sent out!

Thanks to everyone for participating in the cake poll!

 

Saturday
Jan302010

Sweet Art: Cuppie Cannibalism

Hey, before you get all high and mighty and act shocked, just think about it this way--cupcakes need a snack too.

Or, as Chris Farley would say, "Lay off me, I'm starving!"

Friday
Jan292010

Sweet Art: Focused for Illustration Friday

Some lament the fact that in 2.0 world, we're too focused on ourselves and disconnected as a society. You know, together but alone, that whole thing.

What's the sweetest way to come back together? How 'bout over cupcakes? I have this little theory that the popularity of cupcake shops and cafes across our sweet nation just might have something to do with the fact that they create a sense of community, as well as enjoying delicious treats. 

Of course, if things come to the point where the cupcakes are all focused (which happens to be the theme of Illustration Friday this week) on their own Facebook pages and bliggity-blogs and become disconnected...well, then we're all in trouble.

 

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