Blonde Bars

Blonde BarsCount on me to un-simplify something. On my trip to Missouri, my friend Courtney whipped up, before I even got out of bed, a treat that turned out to be a major problem for me. By that I mean, it was amazing and rich and sweet, and I couldn’t keep my hands off of it. Every time I walked by the kitchen I would cut off a tiny sliver of it.

And, it is a perfect complement to coffee. Exceptional, actually.

As it was presented, it was what I call a “throw-down” recipe. To wit, the base was a box cake mix with a few add-ins that formed a cookie crust base for a gooey cream cheese mixture which was then baked. Oh, my goodness. Don’t kick me for retro-fitting it to the non-box recipe. I’ll make a note of how to do it the box way at the bottom. But, whereas some folks find boxes convenient, I never have them on hand. But I always have flour and sugar on hand. And in this case I had powdered milk on hand too, because I actually use it here and there (like in my Hot Chocolate Mix).

So, I had all the makings of the non-box version in my pantry and I played around a bit and found a parallel version for the non-boxers. There is a time and a place for both. I will keep both versions handy.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares

To be clear, I gave up Facebook, NOT chocolate, as my New Year’s Resolution. Good.

Now, I don’t like to think of myself as fussy, but sometimes one detail being out of place will cause me to not do a recipe for you. Case in point, several years ago, my friend Kim sent me a ridiculously easy and delicious recipe for peanut butter and chocolate candy. I believe she, in turn, got it from a neighbor.  I have made it 5 times and devoured it each time. It TASTES like a dream. Here’s the problem.

Each time I make it I run into this issue: “Well what if I…1) made the peanut butter from scratch; 2) bought fancy chocolate and tempered it for a perfect top; 3) rolled little balls of peanut butter and made pop-able bites…etc. etc. Every time, I basically ruin its absolute simple perfection. So, instead of kicking this can down the street any more, as I am wont to do with certain recipe with which I like to tinker, I’m just going to give it to you the way Kim gave it to me, albeit with one or two tiny tweaks. This is a perfect little treat and a wonderful cure for a sweet tooth.. It is an easy treat to make for a gathering It is practically a “throw-down” and it is good. You can experiment with milk chocolate or with nice chocolate bars. But whatever you do, enjoy!

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Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made coffee extract with Dripping Springs Vodka and Noble Coyote coffee beans, two Texas businesses that I admire. I’m always looking for fun ways to utilize fun local products in my baking. Several years ago I happened upon the notion of making my own vanilla extract, and now I use it all the time. In my last post I went on about how the notion of using this locally roasted coffee in my baking came about. I made the extract and now, at week 2, I’m using it in all sorts of things.

But this was my first try. And, these cookies are fantastic. Please note that I used my own coffee extract concoction in choosing to use a whopping 2 tablespoons. If you are using a commercial extract you might find that 1 teaspoon is sufficient. So please do a little taste testing before you settle on your own recipe. If you don’t want to bother with coffee extract, just toss in a teaspoon of vanilla extract and call it good.

These cookies are very chocolatey, with just a hint of coffee flavor. We love them. Please eat at least one of them while it is still warm. Heavenly!

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Hooky Cookies: Blueberry Cream Cheese Cookies

There was once a cookie shop in Wichita Falls called Grandma B’s. They served huge, hot, fresh cookies to the masses. I can’t even remember when that spot closed but I will always remember their cookies. I loved the chocolate chip. But the 2nd most talked about cookie that they made, at least amongst my peers, was a blueberry cream cheese cookie.

I have always wanted to make a similar cookie. Why is this an important cookie for me? Well, you can read about the hot blueberry cream cheese cookies and a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Merrill in the note below the recipe if you’d like to know.

Well, I’ve been trying my hand at it. I have been around the block several times with this cookie. I tried beating cream cheese with the butter and sugar in varying amounts with varying success. I tried a version with butter and shortening as with my favorite Snickerdoodles. I tried lots of things. I came to the conclusion that the cream cheese was disappearing into the mix for the most part. So I backed the cream cheese out of the dough until the very end and then added it, cut into almost- frozen chunks. The result…pockets of cream cheese in the final cookie. It worked just like I wanted it to. My all-butter cookie was far and away preferred by my tasters. And, I rolled the cookie dough in sugar for good measure. I have to say it is a very pleasing cookie, and while by no means identical, it stands up nicely to my long ago memory of a great cookie.

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Very Homemade Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

Something so blatantly obvious shouldn’t seem like a mystery. Yet, I assure you that if you haven’t done so before, the first time you make homemade peanut butter you will stare at it as though some miraculous transubstantiation or alchemy has just occurred before your eyes. Squashed peanuts do, in fact, turn into peanut butter. And they turn into really nice, pure, natural peanut butter.

And, you get to control what goes into it. For me, it was just a bit of peanut oil and kosher salt.

(Why do peanut butter producers not use peanut oil in their peanut butter…is it cost or do other kinds stay good longer?? Do you know? I do not.)

Put it on an apple. Sigh.

Eat it by the spoonful. Sigh. Dribble some honey on the spoonful of peanut butter…wait…

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