A Jar of Peanut Butter, Sugar, Salt, and Sprinkles

Guess what? This recipe is so easy it fits in the subject line of this blog post. Really, there's no reason to even click through to read it except for that I didn't include the quantities. 

Don't worry, I won't hold back. But first, I have some things I want to say.

First, it's no secret that I have a deep love for Peanut Butter and Company. I've been a recipe developer for them for gosh, like 5 years, maybe longer (here's one of my fave recent recipes). Through the years I have developed a deep respect for them and what they do. They're good as people, but they also make a great peanut butter. For me, the magic is in that they manage to create a high quality peanut butter that still has the kid-friendly and palate-pleasing appeal of a nice creamy or crunchy peanut butter. I also love that they do flavors, and they do a good job of it. I'm talking right now, in particular, about their Dark Chocolate Dreams variety.

Everyone who has ever sampled Dark Chocolate Dreams will undoubtedly agree: the stuff is like crack. It's like the best parts of a peanut butter cup rolled into an easy-to-spoon-into-your-mouth form. 

And I've found a way to easily make it into a party-friendly truffle that will please everybody, but the recipe just so happens to come together in minutes. I made these today for a party I am attending tonight; I can't wait to see how they go over!

This wasn't a recipe I was hired to create and was not sponsored in any way other than I made it using a jar that I had left over from my last batch of recipe development. It was totally generated for my own life and as an offering for aforementioned party. I acted as my own focus group and sampled one, and I am pretty sure they're going to be a hit. 

Easiest-ever peanut butter chocolate truffles

Printable version here

  • 1 jar Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter (you could use a chocolate-hazelnut spread too if you aren't into peanut butter, but if that is you, WHO ARE YOU)
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • a big ol'bunch of sprinkles

Place the peanut butter in a stand mixer. Add one cup of sugar and the salt, and mix on low speed until nice and combined. 

Once mixed, pause mixing, and add another cup of sugar, and keep on mixing until nice and combined.

Repeat the previous step, adding the last cup of sugar. It should come together into a pliable dough, like play-doh. 

Roll the mixture into balls (about an inch, slightly more, in diameter). Roll each ball in sprinkles, and then place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet.

Put the truffles in the fridge until ready to serve. 

Enjoy! 

The Easiest Ice Cream You Will Ever Make

When something sounds too good to be true, it tends puts me in a very wary state of mind. "I'll believe it when I see it" is my general attitude. What can I say? I'm from New Jersey. We're brought up like that.

However, when something sounds too good to be true but then turns out to be even better, I have it in my heart to party like I'm Snooki in a Jersey Shore bar. 

This two-ingredient ice cream--WHICH REQUIRES NO CHURNING YES ALL CAPS NECESSARY--is one of those miraculous things that turned out way better than I ever thought it could. 

I had read about two-ingredient ice cream here and there; I'd seen it on facebook and pinterest. But I'd never tried it, until the other day.

I wanted to try it as part of Craftsy's Ice Cream Social (my name for it, not theirs), wherein they asked some of their bloggers to come up with some creative ice cream recipes. You can view all of them here.

I'm very glad that I spent the long five minutes required to make this ice cream.*

* = plus chilling time.

The idea is very simple: fold some whipped cream into some sweetened condensed milk, freeze, and serve. Voila! Ice cream. 

I figured there had to be a catch, but having done it, my friends, I can tell you, this recipe is LEGIT. 

And so easy that I even fancied it up with an optional 2 extra ingredients: vanilla extract and salt (salt not pictured). 

The texture of this ice cream is a little flakier than traditional ice cream right when you scoop, but after oh, 30 seconds it softens into a creamy, dream-state sort of food.

With the rich mouth-feel (I hate that term but it's really the only one that fits here) of cream and the completely irresistible flavor of sweetened condensed milk, this ice cream is a beautiful treat that can stand alone as a lovely dessert.

But...you know, it couldn't hurt to add some chocolate sauce.

Or some sprinkles. 

Go ahead, give it a try and see for yourself. You can literally make this ice cream in five minutes; cooling does take some time, but the effort output is very small. 

2 to 4 Ingredient Ice Cream

Makes about 2 pints' worth - printable version here 

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 cups heavy cream

Optional additions: 

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • salt 

other flavorings or mix-ins of your choice 

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a large bowl. Your biggest mixing bowl, please. Stir in the vanilla and salt, if using. 

Put the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until the mixture attains firm peaks. 

Remove the bowl from the mixer (go ahead, lick the whisk attachment if nobody is looking) and spoon a nice dollop of the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk. Stir to combine. This might seem like a throwaway step, but don't skip it; it makes the texture of the sweetened condensed milk lighter, and therefore makes the following step easier to complete. 

Fold the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk mixture. Stir slowly and gently, trying to discourage deflation in the mixture. After a while, the mixture will become smooth and cohesive. I hope you listened to me before when I said use a big bowl. I didn't totally follow my own advice and while it worked out fine, it was a little messy, as you can see:

Spoon the mixture into a freezer-safe container (I used a freezer-safe plastic container).

Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap, and then let the mixture chill. It will be appropriately firm within 2 hours, but it won't attain an optimal ice cream texture for about 6 hours or overnight.

PSST! I also tried some with a sweet variation: A big ol' handful of sprinkles folded into the mix before freezing. It made for a slightly happier variation of this tasty dessert!

Have you ever made no-churn ice cream?

Can You Make Nanaimo Bars with Olive Oil?

Longtime readers of this site probably already know of my deep and undying love for a Canadian specialty known as the Nanaimo Bar. But today I'd like to explore an interesting question about this traditionally butter-filled treat: can you make Nanaimo bars with Olive Oil? 

But first, let me back up just a little.

If you’ve never sampled a Nanaimo bar, you are in for a seriously sweet three-layer treat. Nanaimo bars (pronounced “nuh NYE moe”) are a no-bake bar cookie that hails from a city by the same name in Western Canada. The bars are such a big deal there that the city’s museum has a display dedicated to them, complete with Nanaimo-bar shaped benches upon which you can sit and take it in. The traditional bars are composed of three layers: a cocoa, coconut, nut, and graham cracker crust, a custard buttercream midsection, and a firm chocolate topping.

Butter figures prominently into the recipe, so making them with olive oil is not only untraditional, but might be seen by some as a travesty. But to me, it's a delicious detour. 

Perhaps the most notable departure from the traditional recipe is in the middle section of the bars, in which olive oil is folded into a rich stabilized whipped cream mixture rather than a butter-based cream. Slightly untraditional, perhaps. But with one bite of these rich, creamy, nutty olive oil-infused treats, complemented with deep, dark chocolate, you’ll undoubtedly embrace this recipe as fusion cuisine at its absolute sweetest.

Nanaimo bars with olive oil 

Ingredients

  • For the crust
  • ⅓ cup good quality olive oil 
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup lightly toasted shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ cup finely crumbled graham crackers (or other dry biscuits/cookies)
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
     
  • For the filling
  • 1 ¼ cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder, such as Bird’s (if this is unavailable, use instant vanilla pudding powder)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
     
  • For the topping
  • 3.5 ounces (1 large bar) chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil 

Instructions

  1. Lightly grease, and line with parchment paper, an 8x8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Prepare the crust. In a large saucepan, combine the olive oil, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder. Place over medium-low heat, and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to bubble.
  3. Remove from heat briefly, and whisk in the beaten egg. Return to medium-low heat, and cook briefly, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken. This will only take a few minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and add the coconut, crushed graham crackers, and chopped pecans. Stir until the ingredients come together into a cohesive mixture.
  5. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, taking the time to press it into a layer as even as possible. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, so it can chill before the next step.
  6. Make the filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, whip the cream on high until it forms soft peaks. Pause the mixing, and add the sugar and custard powder or pudding mix. Whip until the mixture forms firm peaks. Stop mixing, and fold in the olive oil.
  7. Spread the whipped cream mixture on top of the crust, making sure to spread it as evenly as you can. Let chill in the freezer for an hour, or until firm.
  8. Prepare the topping. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate (this can also be done in the microwave). Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the olive oil, mixing until the two have formed a cohesive mixture. Let cool for about five minutes so it is not scorching hot. Give it one last stir, then pour it over the chilled middle layer of your bars. Rather than spreading, which can tear up the delicate middle layer, gently tilt the pan this way and that, letting it drip until it has evenly covered the middle section.
  9. Return to the refrigerator. After about 20 minutes, remove the pan; the chocolate on top should be partially set. Partially slice the bars, scoring the top chocolate portion into four rows vertically and horizontally. This will make slicing the bars easier later.
  10. Once scored, place the bars back in the refrigerator and let chill for several hours to firm before slicing into bars. If the bars are messy when you begin to slice, place the pan in the freezer for several minutes; this should make them easier to slice.
  11. Keep these bars chilled. The bars will last up to a week when covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator, or up to a 2 months in the freezer.

Have you ever tried a Nanaimo bar (traditional or otherwise)?

DIY Flour Hacks

You know that moment when you realize you have no cake flour...or bread flour...or pastry flour...and the recipe calls for it? And you really-really-really don't want to make an extra trip to the store?

Well. I have written a (brilliant) post for those moments. It includes DIY solutions for cake flour, pastry flour, and more!

Check it out here.

Let's Make Florentines

Have you ever met a Florentine? Of the cookie variety, I mean. With an identity that is half cookie, half confection, and totally nutty, they're well worth getting to know. 

I wrote a great primer on Florentines, including an accessible and delicious recipe, which you can find on the Craftsy blog. I really highly suggest that you check it out, because these things are interesting, probably unlike most cookies you bake, and crack-addictive.

Check out the full post here.

4th of July Poke Cake

This cake is pretty all-American. It combines both peanut butter and jelly AND red white and blue in one delectable cake form. 

If you've never tried a poke cake, you're in for a treat. Basically, you bake a cake, "poke" it all over with a skewer, and let a soaking liquid fill in those little blanks. It keeps the cake moist, adds interesting flavor, and makes it visually fascinating. Win-win!

So enjoy some fireworks and set your mouth on desirous fire this 4th of July with this cake, whydontcha?

Recipe here.

Guess What, You Guys, I Got Another Book Deal. And I Have Company.

Guess what? I am going to be working on another oeuvre of recipes + witty banter. But this time, I have a partner: Andris Lagsdin of Baking Steel. Hang on, let me tell you the story.

First came the match-making. About two years ago, my literary agent, Alexandra Penfold, mentioned that she knew someone named Andris with whom she felt I'd make a great collaborator. Andris was the creator of this kitchen gizmo called the Baking Steel, which was garnering all sorts of buzz in the food world, with accolades from Serious Eats, America's Test Kitchen, etc, etc. I mean, in record time, Andris practically had Modernist Cuisine, Christopher Kimball, and Kenji Lopez-Alt (I know there's an accent, Kenji, but I'm too dumb to figure out how to make it happen on my blog) on speed dial. 

In a nutshell, Andris had figured out that steel was a superior to stone in terms of even heating and cooking in the oven. Originally, he made the Baking Steel as a tool to attain a perfect pizza at home, but it turned out that it was capable of much more. You could bake cookies, pies, and bread on this thing and get truly professional results. 

The Baking Steel, it turned out, was more useful and versatile than anyone could have imagined. Surely, this was the stuff of a great cookbook, right?

Me and Andris had our first phone conversation while I was on vacation in Puerto Rico. It played out almost like a blind date, with us getting to know each other personally and professionally. As it turned out, we clicked on both counts. Not only are we both incredibly sarcastic, funny, and clever, but we're both very into pizza and food. And we're both devoted yogis! I knew that our meeting was serendipitous, and we agreed right then and there to make a book happen.

Well, fast forward two years, which included more than a handful of long phone calls, too many emails to count, lots of pizza photos and Instagram tags, and even me visiting his test kitchen in Boston's South Shore. Oh, and a lot of writing. Together, we made a brilliant book proposal, and after a little bit of moving and shaking, I have some great news to share:

WE GOT A BOOK DEAL. A BIG-ASS BOOK DEAL WITH LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY.

 

Yup -- we've got a book deal with a big, powerful publisher. Our book is slated to come out next year.

And I need to tell you that based on what we have done so far, this book is going to be freaking brilliant. It's going to include a lot of recipes, and because I am involved, it will also include limitless cleverness and witty repartee. 

Yes, it's a little bit different for me because it's a collaboration and I am also working on savory subject matter, but it's kind of fun to do something different every now and again, isn't it?

OK, so I am sure that you'll be hearing more about this in the coming months, but I just wanted to share the good news! 

MEANTIME, be sure to check out the BAKING STEEL website and to follow them on social media. I have conveniently placed all of the appropriate links just below.

BAKING STEEL

And on social media:

On Instagram

On Facebook

CONGRATULATIONS TO US!

A Solid Cinnamon Roll Recipe That Will Serve You Well

Onward, young soldier. Venture forth into the great wide world, and bring this cinnamon roll recipe with you. 

I've been thinking a lot about going back to basics lately. I mean, I love a good franken-food creation like anyone else: bacon-or-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-or-maybe-both-stuffed-cinnamon rolls; Pop-tarts ice cream sandwiches; cookie cake pie. 

But I keep coming back to the idea of "learn the rules before you break them". I'm guilty oftentimes of doing just the opposite, getting bored with the rules and then breaking them instead of following along.

Maybe I'm just getting mature or old, but something about honing in on the basics is really quite compelling to me recently. Like, instead of cookie-stuffed funfetti cake, how about refining the perfect butter cake recipe? Or instead of tricked out morning rolls, just figuring out how to make a nice, solid cinnamon roll?

This is a nice, solid cinnamon roll recipe. There's nothing particularly innovative about it. I forget where I found it first, but it's a recipe for sticky buns that I adapted into a cinnamon roll creation. 

These buns are slightly feathery but with enough substance so that you don't feel like you're eating air (I like a hearty cinnamon roll!). They have just enough yeasty flavor to give them an interesting flavor, but not so much that they taste like bread. 

They're actually so good that they don't need glaze.

JUST KIDDING! OF COURSE THEY NEED GLAZE! 

The glaze is the simplest and best part: they have the easiest but most effective glaze topping, which elevates the cinnamon-sugar stuffed sweeties into OMG addictive territory.

Everyone needs a good cinnamon roll recipe. This is mine. Maybe yours, too? 

Cinnamon Rolls 

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus 2 ½ hours rising times Cook time: 30 minutes / Yield: 16 buns / Printable version here

BUNS:

  • 1 ½ cups warm milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet (0.25 ounces) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

Glaze

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • pinch salt 
  • cream (amount can vary) 
  1. Combine the milk, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Mix in the melted butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir until combined.
  3. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt, and mix until combined.
  4. Continue adding the flour, ½ cup at a time, mixing after each new addition. Keep on adding the flour until the dough becomes thick and while sticky, easy to handle with oiled hands.
  5. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes by hand, slightly less using a dough hook.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a cloth; set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
  7. Generously grease two round cake pans. Set to the side.
  8. Divide the dough in half, and roll out each portion into a long, skinny rectangle, about 14 by 6 inches.
  9. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  10. Brush the entire surfaces of the rolled-out dough with the remaining melted butter, and then sprinkle each portion evenly with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Starting with the long side, roll up each rectangle into a roll. Cut each long roll into 8 equal parts. Place one roll in the center of the caramel-lined pan, and place the remaining rolls in a circle around it. Let the rolls rise again until roughly doubled (they will fill out the pan nicely), about 30 minutes.
  11. Position a rack in the middle position of the oven, and one in the lower position. Place a baking sheet on the lower rack, to catch any drips when you bake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  12. Bake the pans of buns side by side for 25-30 minutes, rotating at the 15 minute mark, or until golden and cooked through. Once you remove them from the oven, place the pans on a wire rack and make your glaze.
  13. In a large bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar and salt. Begin adding cream, starting with 1/4 cup, and then continuing to add it, whisking the mixture, until the sugar has been absorbed and the liquid is thick but pourable. I apologize, but I never measure how much cream I add, I just keep on mixing until it reaches the right consistency. If you realize you added too much cream, don't panic, just add a little more sugar. You can also stir in a little vanilla extract if you like. 

Pour the glaze over the rolls. I like to enjoy at least one while still warm. 

What's your favorite cinnamon roll recipe?