Thursday, August 21, 2014

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Day 81

Here’s a delicious, fast recipe we can all stand behind. Who doesn’t love peanut butter cups? These bars will remind you of a very decadent and rustic version of  your favorite packaged candy, for sure.

This is the perfect recipe to make as an after school treat for your little ones, or it could offer an opportunity to cook in the kitchen with your kids. Since it’s a no-bake dish, it lends itself nicely to young learners. 
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography , 2014

I can’t say enough nice things about this one. Originally, I think I saw someone post it on Facebook, so I gave it a try. Over and over.  For weeks. My family simply can’t say no to these, and I suspect yours will feel the same. Enjoy!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup salted butter, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ cups powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
11 oz. bag milk chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a medium sized bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour peanut butter mixture into a 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 20-30 seconds. Spread chocolate over peanut mixture, carefully, with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut while cool and serve immediately or store in fridge. 

*Note: For a change, I have substituted 1 cup of the graham cracker crumbs for 1 cup of finely ground quick-cooking oats to give more texture, and it worked nicely. Just use a food processor to grind the oats to the texture you desire. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hazelnut Chocolate Covered Toffee

Day 80

I wholeheartedly admire the *real deal* pastry chefs and candy makers out there. I haven’t the patience for the mandatory perfect timing and delicacy of their work, unfortunately. This is a skill and passion I’d like to cultivate, and taking classes for both are on my to-do list, for sure. 

Truth be told, when I read a recipe that calls for any from-scratch dough beyond that of the biscuit or pie crust varieties, I move on. Similarly, when I see a candy recipe that requires a thermometer and constant stirring, I feel tired just reading about it.
Photo by Maggie Kapustin
 In an effort to take a teeny, tiny baby step to begin changing my frame of mind, I tackled an easy chocolate and nut covered toffee from a Southern Living recipe book. If you aren’t familiar with recipes from Southern Living, I urge you to try a few. In my experience, they are consistently test-kitchen approved, home kitchen trustworthy and definitely as tasty as promised. I have this wonderful book, Southern Living: 1001 Ways to Cook Southern that I hope to eventually try, cover to cover, although 1001 recipes are a tall order! 

At any rate, the toffee turned out delicious, despite my ancient and not-so-accurate candy thermometer, purchased second-hand and immediately stored in a drawer until a few weeks ago. When you try this one, make sure you have a working thermometer; they are a cheap investment and are so useful, particularly if you enjoy gifting friends and family with bite-sized holiday treats. 

Give homemade toffee a try and see what you think, and please don’t be timid about it; I promise it’s as easy as the recipe promises! These crunchy candies comply with all of the “regulations for deliciousness” as stated in the Sweet Addicts Handbook (Gosh, I wish such a handbook existed!). That is to say, they are capable of sticking to your teeth for days, and they’re so sweet they’ll make those very same teeth ache, to be sure. I crumbled the last few chunks, as we neared the end of the tin, and used them as brownie sundae toppers, which I highly recommend. 


Hazelnut Chocolate Covered Toffee

1½ cups chopped, toasted hazelnuts, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tbs. light corn syrup
1½ cups milk chocolate chips

Spread 1 cup of hazelnuts on a 9x9 (approximate) area of a lightly butter-greased baking sheet. 

Bring sugar, butter, corn syrup, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture is golden brown and a candy thermometer reads 290-310 degrees (about 15-20 minutes). 

Pour sugar mixture over hazelnuts on baking sheet.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips; let stand 30 seconds and gently spread melting morsels over top. Sprinkle with remaining hazelnuts. 

Chill 1 hour. Break into rough pieces. Store in airtight container. 

(Original recipe before modifications: Mildred’s Toffee, courtesy of Southern Living 1001 Ways to Cook Southern cookbook, 2010)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mini-Molten Brownie Pies

Day 79

This summer, I’ve been looking for easy and quick recipes, especially desserts. I watched a rerun of The Barefoot Contessa recently, where Ina Garten shared that it’s easier to undercook brownies just a bit to make “molten” centers rather than to go to the trouble of making the traditional gooey
Photo by Maggie Kapustin
chocolate lava. I tried her idea—baking brownie mix in mini- graham cracker pie shells, served warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream—and loved it! I think you will too. Sometimes, it’s nice to try recipes that are simply assembling rather than from-scratch creating, especially when we need a quick, no-fail idea.

Mini-Molten Brownie Pies

8 individual graham cracker pie shells 
1 box Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix 
1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
2 pints Talenti TahitianVanilla Bean Gelato

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare brownie batter according to box directions. Pour batter evenly into pie shells that have been placed on foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Bake for 25 minutes and cool for 20 minutes before topping each pie with scoops of ice cream. Serve immediately. 

(To make ahead, allow to cool, then store in airtight container. When ready to serve,  simply reheat pies in the microwave for 30 seconds before topping with ice cream and serving!)