A Covey of Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

“Today, me will live in the moment
unless it’s unpleasant, in which case
me will eat a cookie.”

—Cookie Monster

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

For me, baking Christmas cookies for all my loved ones is a necessity as much as a tradition.
As I said in my last post, I usually make quite a mélange so that in case someone doesn’t like {peppermint, crunchy cookies, soft cookies, spicy cookies, sweet and salty cookies, etc.} they can find at least a couple goodies in their box.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche FraîcheChocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Recap (same as last post):

Last year, I made honey spice and dark chocolate roll-out cookies, decorated in many different shapes.
I also made chocolate, sour cherry, and coconut cookies, grapefruit butter cookies, and dark chocolate pecan snowcaps.
All were a big hit, and they made for a very nice assortment in my cookie gifts.

The year before, I made pepparkakor, beautifully decorated Swedish gingerbread cookies, as well as
candy cane and chocolate macarons,
Nutella and various fruity jam Linzer cookies,
and maple, nutmeg, and rye roll-out cookies.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

This year, I’m gifting Russian teacakes, 5-spice snickerdoodles, chocolate peppermint shortbread, cinnamon toast crunch marshmallow treats, and eggnog sugar cookies!

Today, I have 4 of those 5 recipes.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles | La Pêche Fraîche

Russian teacakes have just about a million and one alternative names.
You might know them as butterballs, snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies/cakes, polvorones, Italian wedding cookies.
No matter what you call them, they’re little powdery spheres of über rich butter cookie dough.
The dough contains no eggs and barely any sugar—the main flavor is really of the butter.
Flour acts as a binder to keep them from crumbling on the way to meet your mouth, but once on your tongue, they melt like so many snowflakes.
They are utterly delightful and seriously dangerous.
I make them extra small and poppable, but other than that, the recipe is consistent across generations, cultures, and nearly every food site on the internet.
Simple, delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

I haven’t ever made snickerdoodles.
I rarely have even eaten them—for some reason, I fear biting into just one more dry, crumbly cookie with no flavor other than sugar and cinnamon would end my love of spiced cookies right then and there.
Snickerdoodles should be chewy and soft—not as soft as Lofthouse, but more like a chewier version of a chocolate chip.
Here, I’ve taken a very good base recipe, chewy and soft and spicy and made it a tad bit more interesting with a few pinches of 5-spice.
This ups the intrigue just a little, and makes you seem superfancy to boot.

Cinnamon Crunch Toast Marshmallow Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

The chocolate peppermint shortbread goes marvelously with a cup of tea or hot cocoa to dip; dark, fruity chocolate cookies that are crunchy around the edges and studded with many little pieces of peppermint bark.
(You can buy these as Andes peppermint chips to save yourself needing to chop up the bar.)

For a twist on rice krispies treats, I subbed out the puffed rice for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which is way too sugary and addictive to keep in the house for any significant period of time.  I could eat a boxful without blinking (and then have a terrible stomachache, but whatevs).
The result is a cinnamon-y, chewy, soft, crunchy marshmallow treat that is comforting and cozy.
You can use a little less cereal if you want a more pillowesque treat; you can also use homemade marshmallows if you’re really going for the jugular.

Russian Teacakes | La Pêche Fraîche

But wait!  There’s more… I still have 2 cakes and 1 batch of cookies to share with you!
The crazy week of baking continues—I hope you’ll stick around to see what I have in store!

P.S. Shoutout to Courtney from the wonderful Fork to Belly, who made the absolute dreamiest variety of cookies for the holidays.  Sign me up for 2 of those boxes, plznthx.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread | La Pêche Fraîche

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Marshmallow Treats 
makes 1 9×9 inch pan

ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 ounce bag marshmallows
6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch (or other type of cereal)

directions:
Lightly grease a 9×9 pan.
Place butter, cinnamon, and salt in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Add the marshmallows and microwave until the marshmallows are melted.
Stir to combine the butter and marshmallows and then gently stir in  the cereal.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to compress it slightly.
Allow to set completely (a few hours), then cut into squares.

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
makes 24-30 2 inch cookies
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

ingredients:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peppermint bark pieces

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes.
Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the egg and salt and vanilla and beat for another 4 full minutes.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and then stir into batter, increasing speed until homogenous.
Stir in the peppermint bark pieces, then portion out with a cookie scoop onto the baking pans.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and fragrant, then remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Russian Teacakes
makes 36 1 inch cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker

ingredients:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Add in the flour and almond meal and stir to combine.
Scoop out in 1 teaspoon portions, roll into little balls, then roll in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before re-rolling in the powdered sugar and allowing to cool completely.

5-Spice Snickerdoodles
makes 30 2 1/2 inch cookies
adapted from Averie Cooks

ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice

1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for rolling)
1/4 teaspoon 5-spice (for rolling)

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
Add in the sugars and beat for 3 more minutes.
Add in the egg and vanilla and beat for a full 5 minutes, until extremely light and fluffy.
Stir flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and spices together, then stir into the dough until homogenous.
Scoop out 2 teaspoon sized portions and roll into even balls.
Stir the sugar and spices for rolling together, then lightly coat each cookie by rolling it around.
Place on baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Cric! Crac!

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

—John Keats, from To Autumn

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

If given my choice of candy, with all calories nullified, I would always choose something milk chocolaty and, preferably, somewhat salty or, at the very least, not purely chocolate.
I do like truffles, but they rarely have enough salt for me—and with those, I have a very strong preference for milk and white chocolate, even though I know dark chocolate is technically better for you…
Among cheap candy, KitKats, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Whoppers, Junior Mints, M&Ms reign supreme.
It’s always so baffling to me when someone I know prefers fruity candy to chocolate candy.

Nati has an affinity for Sourpatch, which I can stomach and will even absentmindedly munch on, but there’s no way those are better than Goobers or M&Ms.
No wayyyy!  No how.
BUT celebrating Halloween with someone with opposite taste is lucrative, as I’m sure we all know.

I have so many memories of getting home after a long night of trick-or-treating (at, say, 9pm…!) and sorting through all my candy in my little plastic pumpkin to see which ones were best.

Perversely, and tellingly, I would always save the best for last, forcing myself to eat the “bad” candies first.
I still do this today—save the best bite for last!
I am a two marshmallow kid to the bone, people.
To the bone.

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Today, I have some double chocolate cocoa krispie treats loaded with white chocolate chips and Reese’s pieces, because duh, PB+chocolate forever.

They’re as easy to make as regular rice krispies.
Melt, stir stir stir, press, eat.

Here, we use cocoa krispies and add an extra pinch of salt, with a hunk of dark chocolate to up our cocoa game.
White chocolate chips, milky and sweet, contrast the dark chocolate, and Reese’s pieces are salty, sweet, and crunchy.
The mix-ins totally make these rice krispie treats.  They add just the right amount of surprise to every bite!

(Plus this is a way to use up any ~extra~ Reese’s pieces that you might just have lying around post-Halloween.
Although if you do, who even are you?)

Reese's Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats | La Pêche Fraîche

Reese’s Pieces Cocoa Krispie Treats
makes 16 bars

ingredients:
20 grams (3/4 ounce, 1.5 tablespoons) butter
30 grams (1 ounce) dark chocolate
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
150 grams (5 ounces) marshmallows, mini or otherwise
4 cups cocoa krispies
1/2 cup Reese’s pieces
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

directions:
Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment or wax paper.
Place butter, marshmallows, salt and chocolate into a bowl and microwave until all ingredients are melted.
Mix well until fairly homogeneous.
Stir in the cocoa krispies gently, followed by the Reese’s pieces and white chocolate chips.
Firmly press krispies into prepared pan and allow to set for at least 2 hours.
Cut into squares and serve.
Bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Je Dépars

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.
I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.”

—Joan Didion, from Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This is where I say farewell.
Where I blow a kiss to the sparkling, blinking city lights that create a starry night all on their own.
Wave to the hustle and flow; the life that pulses, steady and indefatigable, through every street and avenue alike.
Bid adieu to the City of New York and watch as it shrinks to a speck in the rearview mirror.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Ten weeks flew by faster than I thought possible.
They also trudged along very slowly, slower than I thought possible.
Hindsight makes this paradox possible.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC at a great job, play acting an adult.
But I was ready to come home.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Stepping out of the car into the lush greenery was just as refreshing as I had hoped.
The air is so clean and fresh and green smelling here.
The water tastes very different, and will hopefully do good things for my messy mop of hair.
The sounds of night are crickets and birds and rustling leaves, instead of honking and screeching and the steady drone of AC.
It’s very cool in Ithaca right now, which is the cherry on top of leaving the hot, gritty city to come home.
Low humidity with a breeze that elicits just the slightest shiver in the evenings.  Heavenly.

I get to see Gwen, whom I hadn’t seen in what felt like years and what was certainly far too long.
I could not be happier to see my best friend, my soul sister, my forever.
It makes home that much sweeter.
In fact, she is, intractably, a part of my very definition of home.

I finally got to see my pup, too, who is no longer really a pup but a very old, creaky dog but who will always be my puppy.
Again, it had been too long.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, I’m sharing a giant cookie here today—other than a quick loaf of banana bread, the last thing I baked in New York City.
A skillet cookie, if you will, but it’s made in a cake pan because I didn’t have a skillet and all it really requires is something round.

A buttery, soft cookie dough, heavily spiced with cinnamon and generously studded with dark chocolate chunks is pressed into a round and baked until the center is just barely set and the edges are golden brown.
You can slice it into pretty little cookie bars, or you can scoop some vanilla ice cream over it while it’s hot and go to town with a few friends.
Either way, it’s all the simple pleasures of chocolate chip cookies, just in a more convenient and quick form.
(Seriously, no scooping and freezing? Sign me up.)

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

This would be good with any kind of mix-in, not just chocolate chips and cinnamon.
Take out the aforementioned spice and chips and add in a heaping handful M&Ms for a classic skillet cookie.
Brown the butter, add some rosemary and white chocolate chips for an herby, intriguing twist.
Keep the cinnamon and chips, lose a 1/4 cup of flour and throw in some raisins and a 1/4 cup of oats (if you’re like me and love raisins).  If you do this be sure to include a disclaimer while serving, or there will almost certainly be friends feeling betrayed.

Let your imagination go wild.
It’s just a giant cookie, AKA an endlessly customizable canvas for whatever your particular cravings may be.

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie | La Pêche Fraîche

Giant Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookie
adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

makes 1 9- or 10-inch cookie
ingredients:
225 grams (1 cup, 8 ounces) butter, soft
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
200 grams (1 cup) brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an oven-proof cake pan or skillet.
Cream butter and sugars together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and vanilla extract and salt.
Beat for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda on top.
Slowly stir to incorporate.
When homogeneous, mix vigorously for 30 seconds to ensure homogeneity.
Stir in the chocolate chunks and press the dough into the skillet.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until set and golden brown (careful not to overbake).
Slice as desired and serve with vanilla ice cream or chocolate ganache.

Busy Bee

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

It’s past time we talk, isn’t it?

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

Let’s talk about busyness.  Let’s talk about crazy sleep-deprived weeks and times when there just isn’t enough time.

Talk about my new coffee-free lifestyle and how damn hard it is to keep your eyes open in a darkened lecture room.

About blog malfunctions (WHy, Pinterest, wHyyyYYyy) that seemingly can’t be fixed, about being so frustrated that you don’t even want to try anymore.
Talk about sophomore year and living with best friends and becoming a Theta girl and bumps and ruts in the road.
Talk about all the millions of things that I’ve wanted to say here that I haven’t had time to put down in a post.

Can we talk about how just the other day I saw a man and his young son sitting in the autumn sun, basking with eyes shut, hands folded, peaceful as can be, and it warmed my heart for one brief moment, almost as much as it warmed theirs, before bio lecture called and demanded that I rush onwards?

Time is cruel.  My schedule is punishing.
But I’m still here, and I know you are all here, waiting, too.

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

I’ve hired a web developer to try to solve my Pinterest woes, but that still hangs heavy in my heart.
I put so much work into this blog, and all I want is for it to work and run smoothly like a well oiled machine.

I have some fabulous things to share here, but I’m reluctant since I know a big part of the meat of my blog (Pinterest traffic/interest) is missing in action!

Life is crazy busy; second year is hard; my roomies are busy and my boyfriend is busy and I don’t sleep anymore.
But it’s good.  This life of perpetual motion and grinding work is one I chose; in the end, it’s fun and rewarding and there’s something deeply satisfying about being so exhausted that you fall asleep even before you’ve sunken all the way down into your fluffy, white, cloud bed.

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

These brownies are for Betsy.
She’s a Starbucks addict, and her favorite is a soy peppermint mocha (or an iced vanilla soy latte).
I was looking for an excuse to use my mini tartlette pans (remember these cute cakes?!), so I got to mixing up some quick brownie batter.
This batter takes the typical melted chocolate that’s added to brownies and replaces it with cocoa powder and butter—chocolate is just cocoa butter and cocoa powder, so why not replace the relatively flavorless cocoa butter with flavorful dairy butter?
Thank you Alice Medrich, for this impeccable logic.
Everyone else. Dooo it.

These brownies are fudgy, with shiny, crackly tops and the most satisfyingly chewy edges; the peppermint, salt, and espresso powder cut the richness and provide depth.
The ganache is—literally—the icing on top, finishing the thick, rich brownie with a perfectly smooth counterpart.
PLUS they’re whole wheat, and no one had any idea.

My roommates’ verdicts?
“Christmas in a cupcake.”
“I think I’ve had thousands of peppermint mochas in my life, and this passes the test.” (Guess who said that…)
“Thin mint. Thin mint. Thin mint.”

I don’t like Starbucks (I HATE Starbucks tbh) but this flavor combo is a straight up killaaaaa.
It’s a must make for fall/winter bakers!

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies | La Pêche Fraîche

Whole Wheat Peppermint Mocha Brownies
makes ~30 brownie bites, or 1 8×8 inch pan
adapted from Alice Medrich

ingredients:
for the brownies:
275 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons espresso powder
250 grams (1 1/4 cup) sugar
70 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
80 grams (~1/2 cup) white whole wheat flour

for the ganache:
70 grams (~2.5 ounces) dark chocolate
pinch salt
28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter
50 grams (~3 tablespoons) half-and-half, room temp

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour whatever pans or tins you are using.
Melt unsalted butter in a pan or in the microwave; stir in espresso powder and sugar.
Whisking vigorously, whisk in cocoa powder, salt, and extracts.
Whisk in eggs and then gently stir in flour until the batter is homogeneous.
Scoop or spread the batter into the greased tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool completely, then place in freezer for at least 45 minutes.
While the brownies are chilling, make ganache: place chocolate, salt, and butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Melt in 30 second increments until 3/4 of the way melted; remove from microwave and whisk the half-and-half in very vigorously.
Whisk until ganache comes together and is shiny.
Pour hot ganache over the frozen brownies (it should set on contact), then allow it to set and the brownies to thaw.
Serve at room temperature with a big glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!

It Gets Better

IMG_8454_01

“When I was a girl, my life was music that was always getting louder. Everything moved me.
A dog following a stranger. That made me feel so much. A calendar that showed the wrong month.
I could have cried over it. I did.
Where the smoke from a chimney ended. How an overturned bottle rested at the edge of a table.
I spent my life learning to feel less. Every day I felt less. Is that growing old? Or is it something worse?
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer | Everything is Illuminated

IMG_8439_01

Eleven weeks has this year been.

Magically have the hours stretched into days, weeks, months.
In the moment, the minutes melted like molasses, yet here we are, looking back at the accumulation of time piled high like snow drifts.
The quarter gusted by, ruffling my hair, picking at the edges of my jacket, freezing my salty tears to icicles.

Time, that infallible, indefatigable soldier, marches on.
I pool myself at his knees, pull at his clothes, cry, implore him for more, more, more.
I beg a retreat, a repeat– just one– beg for second chances, for one minute, one hour longer.

But he is deaf, this cruel god.  There is no rewinding, no turning back.
Done is done; done is done, calls his war drum.
Onward we march.  Forward we go.

IMG_8496_01

Eleven weeks has this year been.

One, two, three months.  Two thousand fourteen.  Twenty fourteen.

The year began as a frenzy of tears, of dually joyous and grieving reunions, of family and love and support and then fell into a deep well of loneliness and numbness, of steely walls and wintry blues, of homesickness and exhaustion.
Slowly, though, 2014 stabilized to an equilibrium.
Just as there was sadness, there was celebration.
Just as there was remembrance, there was readjustment and renewal (even some resolutions).

Healing is not easy.
But you cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.
One walks hand in hand with the other.
And so must we, as their waves beat down on our beaches, as they soften and change our malleable souls.
This submission is not comfortable; it is not easy.

We do not like to be changed.

IMG_8491_01

Yet what can I say?  It gets better.

Things get better.  I don’t eat dinner alone in the stairwell anymore, cold and alone.  I let warmth into my life.
I don’t cry when I’m falling asleep; I don’t cry when I wake up.  I smile, and stretch, long and satisfying.
I don’t feel like my lungs are collapsing in on themselves when I think about you.  I breathe deeper, and deeper still.
I don’t feel my heart break anew into a million pieces when I think about my father, his brothers, his mother.  It aches, but I embrace it.
I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut when I hear your name.
(Although I did feel like I was being punched, repeatedly, when I heard your voice.  My body clenched and I started to sweat.  I listened to it over and over and over.)
I am so proud and so grateful, and I close my eyes and remind myself of that instead.

There were times when I didn’t think it would get easier.  When I felt hopeless, helpless, lost.
It did, though.  I see it more and more as this quarter draws to a close.
Never forgetting.  I miss you.  I keep your picture in my wallet for good luck on my tests.  I taped your picture to my wall– you’re a dreamcatcher for anything math-related because those kind of thoughts give me nightmares.
I’m sure you happily absorb them, and roll your eyes when they’re wrong.
No, never forgetting.
Just feeling my heart knit back together, feeling the rent be mended, one stitch of time by one.

Allowing it to get better.

gggg

If there was ever something that you would think couldn’t get better, it would be St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
The name alone is enough to give this impression.  Gooey.  Butter. Cake.

But oh, friends, oh.  Does it ever get better.  In a word, yes.
Let’s be clear and upfront about what gooey butter cake is.

There are two versions: one is the more classic, yeasted bottom, butter topped coffeecake-like confection, and one is Paula Deen’s dump-a-buncha-butter into a cake mix and slather it with cream cheese decadence.  Christina Tosi makes a similar version.
That’s how you know it’s good.
1) the name
2) Paula Deen
3) Xtina Tosi

This is the decadent, preservative-filled type, but made better.  Made way, way, way better.
No box mixes.  Sans preservatives.  Still just as easy.

IMG_8458_01

First, the base.  Normally a box of yellow cake mix with a stick o’ melted butter added.
Here, oats, brown sugar, plenty of salt, and brown butter are stirred together, turning into a thick, soft cookie base, with a hearty texture and assertive flavor.

Next, the topping.  Cream cheese, more brown sugar, eggs, plenty of salt, and a heap of powdered sugar are beaten together to form the sticky, cheesecake-y layer.

After it bakes, the top is cracked and deeply golden, and the whole thing smells like brown butter-brown sugar heaven.
Shut your eyes to resist its seductive temptation, and stick it in the freezer.  Overnight.  This is the hardest part of this recipe.
When it comes out the next day, it’s dense and chewy, yet maintains its eponymous gooey-ness.
Dust it in more powdered sugar, slice, and dive right in.

One bite and there’s no going back.
It just got better, fam.

IMG_8509_01

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Gooey Butter Cake
makes an 8×8 pan
heavily adapted from Christina Tosi (originally via the now defunct Gilt Taste)

ingredients:
for the base:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

for the topping:
8 ounces cream cheese
hefty pinch salt
6 packed tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (13 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line an 8×8 pan with parchment, then grease the parchment generously.
Place oats in the bottom of a bowl, then put sugars and salt mounded up to one side.
Place your butter in a heavy pan over medium heat.
After it melts, continue to cook it until it browns and becomes nutty and fragrant.
Pour browned butter over oats and allow to sit and marinate; after a few minutes, stir the sugars and salt together with the oats.
Beat in the egg and egg yolks.
Stir in the flour and baking powder.
Mixture will be crumbly but stick together when pressed.
Press into the bottom of your 8×8 pan; you will have some left over (leave 3/4 of an inch for the topping).
Prepare the topping:
Beat cream cheese and salt together until very light and fluffy, and no lumps remain.
Whip in the brown sugar until the mixture is no longer gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat on high for another 3 minutes.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar over the top of the mixture and beat just until combined; scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is homogeneous.
Spread the mixture over the crust, making sure it covers the entire thing.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed, golden, and crackly, with only a slight jiggle in the center.
Remove from oven and let cool; PLACE IN FREEZER for at least 4 hours, and up to one night.
To serve, remove from freezer and immediately slice; dust with plenty of powdered sugar.

Dulcia

IMG_8270_01

“Carpamus dulcia, nostrum est
quod uiuis, cinis et manes et fabula fies.”

May we pluck sweet things, for after death we will be but ashes and a story.

-Persius 5.151-2

IMG_8246_01

Henceforth, I think it should be called drool-ce de leche.

I mean, really.

Soft, smooth caramel, rich with milk and always with an extra pinch of salt.
Could there be anything better?  Drizzle it on ice cream, put it into chocolates, sandwich it with cookies, fill cakes with it, stir it into coffee, eat it with a spoon… ahem.

IMG_8250_01

Other than eating it from a spoon, these cookie bars are the best use for dulce de leche I have encountered.

A thick layer of brown butter shortbread, redolent of vanilla is bathed in salty-sweet dulce de leche, then topped with more brown butter shortbread crumbs.

7 ingredients.  One bowl.  By far the best bar cookies on this blog.

My favorite parts were the caramelized, crunchy edges, which I maximized by making these bars in a rectangular tart pan.  Seriously addictive.  I love desserts with more than one texture.
Between the crunchy edges lie bites of super soft caramel sandwiched with crumbly shortbread.  Transcendent.

Best eaten with strong coffee or tea.  With friends.  It’s the only way to ensure you won’t eat the whole pan.

IMG_8251_01

The dulce de leche I used in these bars was my first attempt at making it on the stove top, with a shortened simmering time and no water bath.
I added about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a few hefty pinches of salt to a can of sweetened condensed milk, and cooked it in a heavy pan until it caramelized.  However, it hardened into (delicious) caramels, so I rewarmed it with 6 tablespoons of butter and another pinch of salt.  The dulce de leche didn’t want to absorb the butter, even when it was warm and pliable, so I added 2 tablespoons of skim milk and blended it with my immersion blender.

What resulted was the creamiest, smoothest dulce de leche I’ve ever tasted in my life.
It was thick and spreadable, like  La Salamandra (no joke) and was much richer than dulce de leche made with just sweetened condensed milk.  It also took a tiny fraction of the time (somewhere around 30 minutes, versus 2 hours in the oven).

Since it was the result of dumping a bunch of unmeasured things into a sauce pot, I can’t give you a solid recipe.
Yet.  It is in the works.  I promise.

But! These bars are way too important not to share.  Use some other recipe for dulce de leche, or even store-bought.(Do go for La Salamandra-type quality rather than Nestle, though…)

Here are some options:
the best way to make dulce de leche from a can (this is what I usually do)
completely homemade dulce de leche (omg.)
La Salamandra

See?  There are no excuses for not trying these cookies.

IMG_8247_01

Brown Butter Dulce de Leche Crumb Bars
makes 1 13 3/4x 4 1/2 inch tart pan; double for a 9×9 or 8×8 pan

ingredients:
1 cup dulce de leche
16 tablespoons (1 cup) butter
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour

directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 13 3/4 x 4 1/2 inch tart pan.
Place your butter in a heavy sauce pan and cook until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the brown bits and the butter into a large bowl; add the salt and sugar and whisk until fully combined, about 2 minutes.
Quickly whisk in the egg to prevent scrambling, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Dump the flour on top and stir with a large spoon until the dough comes together.
The dough will be cohesive, but you should be able to crumble very easily.
Press half of the dough into the bottom of your tart pan, firmly pressing to make an even layer.
Spread the dulce de leche all over the shortbread layer, then crumble the rest of the dough on top, pressing the crumbs slightly into the caramel to ensure that they will stick.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbs are deep golden and the edges are caramelized.
Allow to cool, then slice and serve.

Far to Fall

IMG_6216_01

Peanut butter Pollock.

IMG_6231_01

Thank god for no-bake recipes.

When you don’t have a kitchen (just a microwave and a fridge and a bureau for counter space), you have limitations.

i.e. I’ve been washing dishes in the bathroom.  Which only has push-button faucets, which means every 8 seconds, the water turns off and I have to hold down the handle again.  As if washing dishes could be MORE torturous.

Also, no oven.  Or stove.  Which means that recipes cannot only be no-bake, but no-cook.

Also, it’s finals week.  Which means, I ain’t got time.  For anything.  Other than crying and Game of Thrones, of course.

Stop looking at me like that.

IMG_6257_01

These bars are dead simple, and deadly delicious.
Just 6 ingredients, and they can be whipped up in just a few minutes.

It’s really hard to go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate.  But PB, chocolate, and graham crackers?
It is LITERALLY impossible.  It cannot be done.

For example: graham crackers sandwiched with peanut butter and chocolate.  Impossible to do wrong.

The best part of these bar cookies, aside from their no-bake conception, is the fact that the graham cracker crumbs stay crunchy in the melted butter/PB base, which creates an airiness and crunchiness that is incredibly difficult to resist.

Actually, impossible to resist.  Cut these small, because that means you can eat a million and one of them.

IMG_6241_01

Peanut Butter Graham Bars (no bake)
makes 1 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan of bars

ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, melted
scant 1 cup smooth peanut butter
big pinch salt
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 sheets of crackers)
1 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped dark chocolate plus 1 tablespoon white chocolate, optional
1 tablespoon peanut butter plus 2 teaspoons chopped white chocolate, optional

directions:
Butter a 9×9 or 8×8 square pan.
Melt the peanut butter and butter together in a microwave; stir until smooth.
Stir in the salt, confectioner’s sugar, and graham cracker crumbs.
Press into the pan firmly; refrigerate until set.
Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate with the second measure of butter; pour over cooled and set peanut butter base and smooth out; rap on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.
Refrigerate until set.
To decorate, melt the dark chocolate together with the white chocolate; stir until smooth.
Melt the peanut butter with the white chocolate; stir until smooth.
Splatter and drip the two mixtures over the set bars; allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing to ensure that topping is set.

Specific


Well y’all, this has been a long week of speculoos-related goods.  

A long and delicious week.
I’m ready to share some other stuff, though, so this is the last Biscoff post… for a while, anyways.


These little bars are brunettes- not blondies.
That’s because they have too much going on and I cannot possibly describe all of that in a single title.
Thus, brunettes.  They’ve got speculoos and all the accompanying spices, brown butter, maple, white chocolate, butterscotch, and a sinful glaze.
They’re just a little darker and more complex than any run of the mill bar cookie.
They’re a good way to end this lovely week.

Biscoff Brunettes
cookie portion adapted from Picky Palate
ingredients:
for the cookies:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup speculoos spread (make your own!)
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
(optional) 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
for the glaze:
2 tablespoons butter, browned
2 tablespoons maple syrup
big pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease an 8×8 pan.
Brown the butter in a heavy bottomed pan.
Once it is browned, stir in the chips and maple syrup and continue stirring until they melt.
Add in the salt and speculoos spread and mix until all in combined.
Beating quickly, add in the eggs; continue mixing very quickly so they don’t scramble.
Add in the flour, sugar, and baking powder and mix to combine.
Finally, stir in the white chocolate chips.
Pour into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Right after you take the cookies out of the oven, whisk all of the glaze ingredients together.
Pour over hot bars and allow to cool.
Slice and enjoy!

Can’t Trust That Day

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter B.
 
It’s Monday, people.
We could all use more chocolate and butterscotch on Mondays.
It’s tough going- I know.  I’m currently taking my 3rd of 4 AP tests. 
I chose blondies as my last meal.  And I chose well.
When I say bbbbblondies, it’s because I cannot possibly call these what they really are without sounding like a crazed sugar addict- 
brown butter brown sugar banana butterscotch blondies.
 
They’re gooey and sweet and rich, studded with more mix-ins than batter, and hit the spot straight out of the oven/freezer.  (More on this in the recipe itself)
 
They take 5 minutes to throw together, 25 minutes to bake, and, if you’re being very patient, 30 minutes to thicken and become dense in the freezer.
But you don’t have to do that, not if you’re ever so hungry.
 
These make Mondays just a tad bit more bearable.
Catch y’all on the flip side of these last two tests. 
Bbbbblondies
adapted from smittenkitchen
ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter
1 packed cup light brown sugar
two big pinches coarse sea salt
1 egg
1 medium banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
splash vanilla
1 cup of flour
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3-1/2 cup chopped pecans
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pam spray an 8-inch round tin or an 8×8 square pan.
Brown the butter in a large saucepan.
Once butter is browned, beat it with the sugar until the mixture looks like very, very wet sand.  
Add in the egg and the salt and beat on medium speed until mixture has lightened in color and most of the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
Beat in the banana.
Stir in the vanilla, then beat in the flour until the mixture is homogeneous.
Stir in the mix-ins.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is shiny and gives slightly to pressure.
The trick for super dense, gooey blondies: 
Let your blondies cool most of the way on a rack in the pan, then transfer the pan to the freezer and freeze for 30-ish minutes.  The gooey center will become dense.