Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Bars

I know I haven't been blogging long.  And most of you can tell I love chocolate.  But I have a big secret.  I am addicted to peanut butter.  I have talked about peanut butter chewiespeanut butter cookiespeanut butter french toast...I wonder if they have meetings for this kind of thing.

This recipe came from Paula Deen's Savannah Country Cookbook.  My mom gave me this recipe years ago before I even realized it was from my butter lovin' cooking idol. 

What you will need:
1 stick of butter (Who would have guessed?)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of self rising flour

I added a crust to mine.  If you want to do the same, then melt some butter and grab a package of Nutter Butters.  You only need half of the package.  So have fun with the rest!

Crush the Nutter Butters in a food processor and mix with some melted butter.  I used about 1/2 stick for the crust.  Press into a baking pan.  The recipe suggests a 13 x 9 pan. However, I used a smaller pan.  The result is a thicker peanut butter bar that will require a longer cooking time.  

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  While that is cooking, you can start with the peanut butter mixture.  In a double boiler, melt down the stick of butter and 1/2 cup of peanut butter.  You don't have to buy a fancy double boiler from the store. You can make your own.  Fill a saucepan with water, turn on the heat, and place a stainless steel bowl (or even a thick glass bowl) over the water.  Make sure the bowl is big enough that it doesn't sit on the water.  Just be careful with the steam.  

After the peanut butter and butter have melted, add the remaining ingredients.  Stir everything together and pour over the crust.  If using the bigger pan, bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.  If you use a smaller pan, you will cook the bars for about 45 minutes.   You know they are done when the middle is no longer jiggly.  Kind of like my belly after all this holiday eating.  Cool completely, cut into squares, and store in an airtight container.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Will Travel for Food

Mr. Baking Pixie and I are back from our holiday travels.  We spent time with family, got snow on Christmas morning, and ate way too much.  But that's the point of the holidays, right?

The first stop on our trip was Savannah.  We had never been so we decided to make a day of it.  We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast.  If you are ever in Savannah, check out The Azalea Inn.  The rooms are gorgeous, it's within walking distance of everything, and they have the cutest little yorkie named Joey.

Our first sweet stop was the Wright Square Cafe.  I got a chocolate truffle filled with Bailey's ganache.  

Our next stop was Mabel Francis Potter's Cupcake Emporium.  It's a little bit of a tongue twister, but we got two cupcakes.  We both love chocolate, but Mr. Baking Pixie isn't too fond of frosting.  So he got a plain chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting.  Mine was chocolate with a raspberry cream cheese frosting.  Note to self: Learn how to make raspberry cream cheese icing.

And then on our way home, we stopped in Chattanooga for the night.  We went to the aquarium, got some BBQ, and ate some more cupcakes.  This time we stopped in a little shop called Chattanooga Cupcakes.

Mr. Baking Pixie got a lemon cupcake.  It was made even better because of the mountain of lemon cream cheese icing.

I got a (big surprise) chocolate cupcake.  But this wasn't your average chocolate cupcake.  I got a chocolate "overload" cupcake. It was a chocolate cake, with a ganache center, with chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with chocolate shavings.  My skinny jeans are getting thrown into the back of my closet until I can work this one off.  

So that concludes our cupcake adventures.  Now that the holidays are over and we are safely back home...let the baking commence.  I have autographed Paula Deen cookbooks calling my name.  

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grown Up Stuff

I hate being a grown up sometimes.  Yes, I can eat ice cream whenever I want and I don't have to eat my veggies if I don't want to.  I am not even going to start with the bills and the big words like "deductible". It's when I have to put on my big girl panties and make some decisions is what I still find terrifying.  This week  I had to have a big girl moment. I withdrew from culinary school.  

Working during the day and taking classes at night was draining on me and my family.  I miss my husband and my two furry little babies, Wally and Cooper.

And with the talks of trying to have little Baking Pixies soon, the decision wasn't that hard.  I was taught a great deal of information.  I can now watch all my cooking shows and know they aren't talking a secret language.  I have tried new restaurants, experienced more cuisines, and opened up my horizons when it comes to food.  But it's time to hang up my chefs coat and keep baking on my own.  Here I go...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New York Cheesecake

I love a good plain cheesecake.  If I was faced with having to choose either cheesecake or chocolate, cheesecake would win.  There....I said it.  Now I have to go and make it up to chocolate.

For a basic crumb crust, you will need the following:
2 cups of crushed graham crackers
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
3/4 stick of melted butter

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  You can either melt the butter on the stovetop or simply throw it in the microwave for a few seconds.  

Pour the melted butter over the stirred dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon.  You may need to add more butter if the mix is too dry.  The best way to tell is to use your hands.  Grab a handful of the graham crackers, squeeze, and let go.  It should act like wet sand.  If it holds its shape, then you are good to go.  If it crumbles really easily, add a little more butter.  Once you have the crackers ready, pour them into a spring form pan.  Using your hands, press them into the bottom.  Push up a little on the sides, but not too far. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

While that is baking, you can mix your cheesecake batter.  

What you will need:
27 ounces of cream cheese (that's about 3 1/2 blocks of Philly cream cheese)
1 cup of granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch (you can also use cake flour if you have it laying around)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 cup of heavy cream

It is really important that your cream cheese is soft.  You can break a mixer if you try to whip cream cheese straight from the fridge.  So leave it out on the counter for a bit before you start anything.  Cutting it into smaller pieces helps too.  Using a mixer, you are going to blend the cream cheese and sugar until it is lump free.   If you are using a stand mixer, use your paddle attachment. 

Now slowly add in your eggs.  Add in one egg at a time and scrap down the bowl as you go. Once incorporated, add the cornstarch (or flour) and combine.  Add in your vanilla, zest, and heavy cream.  

Pour the batter into the cooled graham cracker crust.  Bake your cheesecake at 300 degrees for 60 to 90 minutes.  I know that is a long time to wait for a cheesecake.  It's so worth it though.  To tell when a cheesecake is done, shake the pan just a little.  Not too much.  The middle should be solid.  If it wobbles like my Grandma's Jello Surprise, keep on cooking. 

Once the cheesecake is done, DON'T immediately pull it out of the oven.  Open the oven door just a little and turn off the heat.  Slowly let it cool down.  Cheesecakes can "souffle" and when they fall, they can crack right down the middle.  Cooling it down slowly helps prevent that.  Once it has had plenty of time in the oven, pull the pan out and let it cool on a rack till it is comfortable to touch.  Place it in the fridge overnight. Remember....."Patience is a virtue".  Smile and know it will be there waiting for you in the morning.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Apple Fritters

If you haven't checked out The Pioneer Woman, do it now.  Seriously....what are you waiting for?  I'll wait.  Go on.  

I found this recipe for apple fritters on her site.  I figured I would try them out because my Dad loves apple fritters.  And I get to see my parents next week!!

Here is what you will need:
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • ½ cups Sugar
  • 2-¼ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1-¼ teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 whole Large Eggs
  • ¾ cups Whole Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 2 whole Granny Smith Apples, Peeled And Diced
         GLAZE (optional)
  • 1-½ cup Powdered Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Vanilla
  • ¼ cups Milk

Start by combining the dry ingredients.  Take the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and combine in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Then add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Make sure your butter is cooled slightly.  If it is too hot, it will start cooking the eggs.  Combine the dry and wet ingredients together.  Stir until just combined.  You don't want to stir too much.  Now add in your apples.  Again, don't stir too much.  

Drop the batter by the spoonful into hot canola oil.  Don't overcrowd the pan though. Turn them over once they start to turn a golden brown on one side.  Watch the fritters carefully because they will turn brown really quickly.  They should only be in there for a few minutes.

Pull them out of the oil and drain on a paper towel.  You can make the glaze that The Pioneer Woman suggests or you can simply dust them with powdered sugar. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

French Macarons

So this week, I attempted French Macarons.  I have always thought they were gorgeous because you can make them any color and any flavor you can imagine.  I still need to work on my technique, but overall I think they came out okay.  And they tasted really good.  So good, I am trying them again this weekend.

The recipe I found came from
What you will need:
110 grams Almond Flour
80 grams of fresh egg whites (left out so they can get to room temp)
200 grams of icing or confectioner's sugar
50 grams of caster or granulated sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
pinch of cream of tartar (optional)

Have I mentioned how much I love my digital scale?  The first step is to mix together your powdered sugar and almond flour.  If you want to add any dry flavorings, now is the time to do it.  For this recipe, I mixed in some cocoa powder.  Set the bowl aside.

Now let's focus on the eggs.  You need a mixer for this....unless you have a lot of time and a really strong mixing arm.  You are going to whisk the eggs and salt in a really really (Have I said really enough times?) clean bowl.  Anything in there can cause the eggs not to whip up properly.  Once the eggs start to get a little foamy, add the cream of tartar if you are using it.  Slowly add the caster (or granulated) sugar in a little at a time. Oh, and if you want to add any liquid flavorings or colors, then do it now.  You are going to whip the eggs to a medium peak.  That means, if you can pull your whisk out of the batter, the eggs should hold their shape for just a bit before it starts to soften again. If the eggs don't hold a shape at all, they are too soft...keep whisking.   If the whites keep their shape, then you have over mixed.  Time to start over.

Now gently fold the egg whites into your almond flour in 3 parts.  Don't worry.  It will come together.  Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium sized tip. You are going to pipe out the mixture into small circles that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  If any of the cookies have a little tip to them, dip your finger in water and smooth it out.  You want the cookies to bake with a smooth texture.  So ignore my mini chocolate chips I threw on there.  You can actually add those into your almond flour instead.  Oh, the lessons I learn in my kitchen.

Once the cookies are piped out, leave them out on the counter (uncovered).  Depending on your kitchen, this can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.  You want the cookies to develop a "skin".  So when you see that your cookies are no longer "wet", then you can put them in the oven.  What this does is help prevent the cookie from cracking and it will help develop the macaron "foot".  Bake at 315 degrees from 12 to 15 minutes.  The foot will start to develop after a few minutes.  When done, pull the cookies out of the oven and let them cool completely.  Fill with anything you would like. I have seen buttercream frosting, ganache, fruit preserves.....the list can go on and on.

I chose to make a peanut butter marshmallow filling.  Match up your cookies before you start to fill them.  It makes life a little easier.  Once done, especially if you use buttercream, refrigerate till time to eat.  Let them sit out at room temp for about 20 minutes and enjoy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Candy Bar Pie

It's okay to cheat, right?  I mean, don't cheat on your taxes.   And definitely don't cheat on your spouse.  But when you have a 7 page term paper due in 2 days, 2 finals to study for next week, and you said you would make pie for your work's holiday luncheon......cheating is okay.  At least I keep telling myself that.

This pie is really simple and really yummy and the best part can throw just about anything in there you want.  

For this pie, you will need:
1 unbaked frozen pie shell (this is where the cheating part comes in)
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter (melted, but cooled slightly)
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (throw them in the oven at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes to toast them up if you like)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter first, so you can let it cool slightly while you start gathering everything together.  With a mixer, hand held or stand, beat the 2 eggs.  Then add your sugar, flour, and cooled butter in there.  Incorporate well and then add your vanilla.  Once that is mixed, you will add your nuts and chips.  Go ahead and stir those in by hand.  Pour the mix into your frozen pie crust and place in the oven.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until the top is a golden brown color.  The flour in the mix helps to form a crust on top.   So don't worry, it's easy to tell when it is done.

Let it cool on a rack once you pull it out of the oven.  Once it is cooled, cover the top and place in the fridge.  This makes it a little easier to cut when it comes time to serve.  

Have fun with that mix.  Like I said before, you can throw just about anything in there.  I had a half sheet of brownies left over from the midnight munchies the night before (and no they were not "special" brownies.....I had a SERIOUS chocolate craving, okay?)  And I had some marshmallows in the cabinet.  All I needed was some graham crackers and "ta-da".......smores pie.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goodies in the St. Pete Area

For those very few people who read my blog, (Hi, my five followers!) here are some treats that we picked up today.  If you live in the St. Petersburg area, we had a new store that opened up on 4th Street.  I have never been in The Fresh Market before....but I will be visiting so much more now.

They had me snagged pretty much when we walked through the door, but then I smelled these....

fresh rosemary with sea salt rolls.  They have been invited to dinner tonight.

Then right next door to all the bread was my weakness.....the bakery.  We proceeded to pick up a peanut butter explosion cupcake

and a triple chocolate cupcake.  I think I actually gasped when I spotted this one. 

To finish off our adventure around the store, we ended up in the candy aisle...where we snagged a bag of these suckers.  Let me introduce you to peanut butter milk chocolate malt balls.  

If you have never been in The Fresh Market, I suggest you see if they have one nearby.   They had a huge selection of fresh fruit and veggies and a spice aisle that made me drool.

Also, if you live in the St. Petersburg area, check out Mazzaro's Italian Market on 22nd Avenue and Rollin Oats on 9th Street.   If your recipe calls for an unusual ingredient, these stores might just have it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mise en place

What is mise en place (pronounced "MEEZ-ahn-plahs") you ask?  Well it's one of those fancy French terms that my chef started yelling the first day I was in class.  I had no clue what she was saying.  I didn't even know where the cookie sheets were, let alone what "mise" or "place" had to do with anything.  Come to find's a really important concept.   One that I have to practice in school and I have started doing in my own home.  You should try it.

Mise en place simply means "to put in place".  It means read your recipe all the way through before you start, preheat your oven, gather any equipment you need, and measure all your ingredients before you mix the first thing.  It may seem like a "no-brainer" concept, but really you are just getting everything organized early.  This way you can concentrate on your recipe and your technique, instead of worrying about any surprises that might pop up.  Like when you need cookies ready in the next two hours and you start mixing right away and you get to step 6 and it says to chill dough for 5 hours before you bake.

Say it with me........MEEZ-AHN-PLAHS.  It will save you.