Monday, April 21, 2014

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies

...with chocolate. Of course.

There was no way I was making a peanut butter banana cookie and not adding chocolate! Just no way. The peanut butter, banana and chocolate combination has long been my preferred trio of ingredients. So if I'm making something that was originally just peanut butter and banana flavored, I'm probably definitely going to add chocolate. This shouldn't be a surprise, though. I add chocolate to just about every recipe I make, even when there is no peanut butter or banana present. I can't help! Chocolate just goes so well with, well, just about everything.

But maybe that's just me and my chocolate obsession. Let's move on.

These cookies were one of my weekend projects. Another weekend project was to get a whole lot of homework done [four weeks till graduation = loads of homework] annnnd I got hardly any done. Instead, I spent time with people that are near and dear to my heart and did fun things like go bowling [I'm so bad it's unreal] and play tennis at midnight [which requires you to smash quarters into the barely working lights which ends up being quite entertaining]. Oh! And I helped decorate this incredible cake.

I also ate a lot of cake scraps. And that's always a plus.

But let's talk about the reason we're all here - the food. These Peanut Butter Banana Cookies are a really delicious hybrid - think peanut butter cookie meets fresh banana bread. It's as incredible as it sounds. And then I went and dipped each of these cookies halfway into some melted chocolate which really takes the cookies to a whole other level.

I do feel the need to dedicate an entire paragraph to the texture of these cookies though. It's weird because I really can't find a way to describe it accurately to you. Because of the banana bread-like element, these cookies are definitely more cakey than the typical chewy cookie, BUT the peanut butter cookie element adds plenty of chewiness. So the resulting cookie is somewhere between cakey and chewy and it somehow works. I didn't think it would work [because generally, I'm the chewy-cookie-or-no-cookie type], but it did and it's delicious and really, that's pretty much all you need to know.

Go ahead and whip these up asap!

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies (Source: Gimme Some Oven)

Prep Time: 25 minutes         Total Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes        Yield: 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup chocolate chips
2-3 teaspoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cornstarch, salt and baking soda; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add peanut butter, egg, mashed banana and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Roll the dough into 1" or 2" balls. Place on baking sheets. If desired, press down with a fork to create a crisscross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set and golden brown. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in 30-second increments in the microwave until melted. Add canola oil and stir until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate and then place on a piece of wax paper until chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container.

Down these with a glass of milk for optimum enjoyment.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

weekend stuff {04/19/14}

[follow along on Instagram!]

This week, I committed to completing college and I am now only four short weeks away from a college degree. I also ate lots of good food, helped decorate a killer cake and spent some time with great friends. All in all, a pretty fantastic week!

Have a wonderful weekend!

[follow along on facebook, twitter & instagram!!]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This is the kind of recipe that makes me realize why I adore the whole food blogging thing.

You know why I adore it? [ok, ok, I love the photography and writing, social media, working on fun non-food projects and developing relationships with other bloggers and readers]. But the main reason? The food. Plain and simple. Food like this giant cinnamon bun. The food is where I can be creative and the food is really the reason I started blogging - I'm passionate about food so I love making and sharing it with you! Also, there is kind of a little perk. I get to eat all the food I make.

[recently realized that I eat way too many brownies and don't work out nearly enough. ugh.]

Every time I make cinnamon rolls or any dish that is cinnamon roll inspired, I have the same question: is it breakfast or dessert? I know that cinnamon rolls are traditionally considered to be a breakfast-ish food, but let's be real. Who wakes up and thinks "what should I eat for breakfast? ohhh, I know, a cinnamon roll!" I wake up and think about eggs and bacon. Actually, usually, I wake up and realize that I have to leave for school in about 17 minutes in order to not be late to my first class. Those are my eat-a-banana-in-the-car-on-the-way-to-school days. They happen more often than I care to admit.

[shockingly, I've only been late to class a handful of times.]

The idea for this Cinnamon Bun Cake is kind of a funny story. I was actually lying on my bed thinking about cinnamon rolls because I haven't made them in a while and I was trying to think of a new way to make cinnamon buns. I wanted something that tasted just like a cinnamon bun but was in a slightly different format. So I made a cake. It's really just a giant cinnamon bun, but it's delicious and I strayed from my usual recipe and created this all on my own and I'm pretty proud of it. By the way, the funny part of that story is that the idea came to me while I was in bed. Bed + food = happiest place on earth.

Remember when I made these fantastic bread sticks? For this cake, I used that dough recipe, omitted the garlic and savory seasonings and upped the sugar a bit to create a sweeter dough. I knew when I came across that recipe that I'd use it all.the.time because it is so quick, simple and easy to work with. Then I added the filling, rolled it into one huge cinnamon bun and baked it in a cake pan. Of course I added a glaze because everyone knows it's actually the best part [I made the glaze with heavy cream instead of milk - unbelievably good!]. And I cut the whole shebang into little wedges so that there are lots of layers in every single piece.

Do I even need to tell you how incredible this?

Cinnamon Bun Cake (Dough adapted from: Baked by Rachel)

Prep Time: 45 minutes       Total Time: 2-1/2 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes      Yield: 6-8 servings

1 cup hot water
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

4 teaspoons butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream

In a small bowl, combine hot water, yeast and 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar. Let sit until the yeast and sugar have dissolved and the yeast has proofed, about 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and 1 teaspoons sugar. With the mixer on low, add yeast mixture and mix until dough forms a ball. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 1/4" thick. Spread the butter over the entire rectangle. In a small bowl, combine both sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Cut the entire rectangle into five or six strips lengthwise (they should be about 1" x 10"). Roll one of the strips up tightly to form a cinnamon bun. Wrap the remaining strips around the original bun to form a large bun. Transfer the bun to a 6" cake pan. Let rise for 20 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly while preparing glaze.
To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar and heavy cream. Drizzle over warm cake. Serve immediately.

I want this for breakfast so badly right now...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let's discuss making caramel.

It's a long and somewhat painful process. But it's worth it. I think? Yeah, it's worth it. You just have to be patient and you have to be careful, and whatever you do, you must not overcook it! Basically what I'm saying is this: follow the directions closely and you'll be golden because it's actually a pretty simple process, it's just a somewhat ... picky process. At the end of it, though, you'll have a pot of warm, buttery caramel sauce that's a little bit sweet and a little bit salty and a lot of wonderful.

Wanna know what's even more difficult though? Stuffing the cookies with caramel. Warm caramel sauce and soft cookie dough is a really difficult combination to work with. I found that flattening balls of cookie dough into a semi-thick disk, filling with just a little bit of the caramel sauce then wrapping the dough around the caramel and rolling the whole thing between your hands was the most effective way to fill the cookies. Did that make sense? Clearly, my incredibly long sentences aren't the best way to explain things.

And clearly, I am not doing my job today.

My job is to make the food look/sound incredible and to convince all of you lovely readers to make it and I'm pretty much doing the opposite of that. Seriously. I just wrote two paragraphs about how painful making caramel is and how difficult stuffing it into cookies is. Maybe you should just disregard the first two paragraphs of this post? UGH. I'm so conflicted/contradictory. If you couldn't tell, I can barely write a blog post these days. I'm all over the place. My brain is a scary place to be.

My kitchen, thankfully, is not [smooth transition there] because it's full of these delightful Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. The only way, in my opinion, to make a chocolate chip cookie better is by adding salted caramel to it. I'm not kidding or overreacting when I say that these cookies are probably the best I've made in a long while [yes, I'll admit that once in a while, I may slightly overreact about the deliciousness of some food item ... I just really like food and I really like to eat]. Anyway. Hopefully, this paragraph has made up for the other paragraphs that aren't convincing at all.

And hopefully, the pictures are making your mouth water.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chips Cookies (Source: Two Peas and Their Pod)

Prep Time: 45 minutes        Total Time: 2 hours
Bake Time: 10 minutes       Yield: 3 dozen cookies

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

For caramel sauce: add sugar to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar starts to clump and melt. Once it begins to melt, stir it constantly until completely melted. After it is completely melted, stir occasionally until it turns an amber color [this happens quickly, so watch closely!]. Add butter, stir constantly. Remove from heat and gently whisk in cream and salt, whisking the entire time. Cool in pot for ten minutes, then pour into a jar and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
For cookies: preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream melted butter and both sugars until smooth and combined. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix. Add in flour, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips and mix just until combined. Roll dough into balls, flatten into disks, add a little dab of caramel sauce to the center of each desk then wrap the dough around the caramel and gently roll into smooth balls. Place on baking sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

I'm too scared to go back and proofread this post. Just ... enjoy the cookies.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dark Chocolate Banana Brownies

Remember that incredible whipped ganache that I used last week in these sandwich cookies?

Well, I'm using it again. This time, I plopped it on top of a pan of brownies. And then, of course, I drizzled some melted chocolate all over it. Because, why not?

Here's the thing. I really, really, really love brownies. A lot. They are almost always my dessert of choice. But sometimes, I get a little bit bored with them. And I just want to add to them - pretzels and peanut butter and m&m's and bananas and caramel and extra chocolate and any other ingredient that looks good at the moment. Obviously, that would be overkill. So I try to find fun and somewhat simple ways to jazz up an ordinary brownie.

On a semi-unrelated note, I just ate a Twix bar and the entire time, I was thinking about chopping it up and tossing it in some brownie batter. This is not normal. I think I have a problem.

By the way, I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you how long I stood in the cafeteria trying to decide on which candy bar to buy. Obviously, I went with a Twix bar, but I was pretty close to getting a Milky Way bar. It's been a rough couple of days, so chocolate was necessary [I'm such a typical girl].

Anyway. I told you in this post how much I adore this whipped dark chocolate banana ganache. Since I loved it so much, I decided to spread it all over a pan of brownies. It doesn't end up being too heavy or rich because this brownie base isn't overly sweet at all. Instead, the brownies and the ganache end up being the perfect, balanced match. And of course, you need to drizzle a little extra chocolate on top to make it extra pretty. Which is making me realize that there are three different chocolate components in this brownie. I mean, obviously, I don't have a problem with that. You know.

Eat up!

Dark Chocolate Banana Brownies (Inspired by: Love and Olive Oil)

Prep Time: 30 minutes         Total Time: 5 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes        Yield: 16 brownies

1 cup dark chocolate chips 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Line an 8" cake pan with aluminum foil or plastic wrap; set aside. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave in 30-second increments until very hot but not boiling. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes and then stir till smooth and combined. Pour the chocolate mixture into a blender. Add mashed banana and vanilla extract and blend until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Chill for at least four hours before using.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper; set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Add cocoa powder and both sugars and stir until a thick paste forms. Add eggs, vanilla extract and salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in flour just until incorporated. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Spread chilled ganache in a smooth layer on top of cooled brownies. Drizzle with additional melted chocolate, if desired. Store in refrigerator until serving.
ps: my biology lab for tomorrow got canceled and I'm over the moon about it!!