Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

So, oatmeal cookies. They’re a pretty polarizing food. In my experience, people either love them or they absolutely hate them. I’m somewhat in the middle. I admit that when oatmeal cookies are bad, they are truly wretched.

But oh, when they are good…

I think that the biggest potential downfall of an oatmeal cookies comes down to the texture. If the balance between the oats and the cookie’s moisture isn’t found, then the whole thing ends up giving someone the feeling that they’re chewing dried cud, very quickly, and within seconds they’re reaching for a glass of milk or water to wash the whole thing down.

Flavor is also key. A lot of typical and ‘gourmet’ oatmeal cookies are made with purple raisins. I think this is a huge mistake. The flavor of purple raisins is very pungent, and in this circumstance, not in a good way. In my opinion, it doesn’t complement the flavor of rolled oats very well. Other dried fruits work much better; dried cherries, cranberries, or even golden raisins are all better than purple.

Most recently, I’ve found that another huge boost to oatmeal cookies (both in terms of preserving moisture and enhancing flavor) is adding peanut butter. This isn’t entirely surprising; there are very few things that peanut butter cannot enhance or make better. But I’ll be honest and admit that until I tried today’s recipe I had never thought of putting peanut butter in oatmeal cookies.

But I’ll tell you: whoever did think of it first was really onto something.

So are these peanut butter cookies, or oatmeal cookies? I truly think they’re both. The oats provide the dominant texture, but the chunky peanut butter also adds texture from the nuts AND added moisture from its fats. It’s a really really good combination that would be a good enough cookie on all its own, even if it weren’t for the other add-ins.

The title of this recipe really does say it all. On top of the oats and chunky peanut butter, it also contains semisweet chocolate chips, toffee bits, and mini-peanut butter cups that I diced up into halves to make for better dispersement. The result is a bite that has so many different things going on, but has a really hearty, and yet also (somehow) richness to it that is really delicious.

Like with the vast majority of cookie recipes on this blog, I strongly recommend letting the dough rest in the fridge for a while to let it get nice and chilled before baking. That way, you’ll get rounded cookies with decent lift rather than flat pancakes. The taste won’t be that different, but one is prettier to look at than the other. Your choice.

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Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter (Don’t use natural pb here, it won’t come out the same)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark, it doesn’t matter)
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Spread the oats on a large baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. Line 2 separate baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted rolled oats, chocolate chips, toffee bits and mini peanut butter cups. Stir with a fork and set aside.

Combine the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda and beat until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the dry ingredients, just until combined.

Scoop out 12 equal mounds of dough (about 1/3 cup each), arranging the dough balls in a resealable plastic container you’ve lined with parchment paper or foil.

Refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Arrange cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Lightly flatten with your fingers.

Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the edges of the cookies are set but still soft, 20 to 24 minutes. If any cookies are misshapen, use a spatula to press the edges back into a round shape. Let the cookies cool 10 minutes on the pans, then transfer to a rack to cool completely (the cookies will hold together best when fully cooled).

Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #451.

Bakewell Tart

I’ve mentioned it before on here, but it bears repeating that (like many of you, I’m sure) I am a HUGE fan of the Great British Bakeoff.

On the one hand, it’s a cooking competition, but on the other hand, it’s also a cooking show that is just as much about the science/skill behind baking as it is the ‘competition’, which I appreciate.

I was already pretty fond of baking by the time I first started watching the show, but I can say that my love for it increased even more after Bakeoff. I’ve learned new techniques, tried out new recipes, and become a better baker from it, which is probably one of the reasons why I always keep coming back for more.

If you’re familiar with the show and have been watching for several seasons, you’ll know that while in some cases they introduce variation, overall there are some ‘staples’ that are bound to appear in some form or fashion throughout the respective season. For instance, there are consistent themes assigned to every week such as ‘Biscuits’, ‘Cake’ or ‘Bread’, and during those themed weeks, there’s always going to be at least one contestant who bakes a certain recipe, just because they’re so common in British baking.

The Victoria Sponge cake is one of them, as is sticky toffee pudding, or ginger biscuits, or lemon drizzle cake. Another, is the Bakewell Tart.

Like several other recipes, the Bakewell Tart is one that prior to watching Bakeoff, I had never even heard of before. We don’t really see very many of them across the pond in America, at least not in the places I’ve been. It’s a tart composed of a shortcrust pastry that gets topped with jam or preserves, frangipane, almonds and a glaze of some kind.

The Bakewell Tart is considered a staple English dessert and as such, it’s been featured more than one on Bakeoff in both the technical challenge and as signature where contestants can try to remix it with their own special twist. In honor of the fact that the newest season of Bakeoff is soon to come in the US, I decided to finally get around to making one myself.

I’d watched the show enough to know that Bakewell Tarts are relatively easy to put together, and since this was my first go around with it, I tried to keep things ‘simple’ so far as the ingredients were concerned. My personal touches were to use raspberry preserves for my fruit filling, and to also decrease the amount of icing used on top to a drizzle. If you watch the show and remember the Bakewell Tart technical challenge, you’ll remember that the icing in that recipe is laid on pretty thick–I thought a drizzle was plenty, especially when combined with the sweetness of the frangipane.

Now that I’m on the other side of my own Bakewell Tart ‘challenge’, I can say that I see what all the fuss is about and why it’s a staple over there across the pond. They’re delicious, and well worth the try. So as they say on the show: “On your mark, get set, bake.”

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Bakewell Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

For Pâte Sablée

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or emulsion
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cups all purpose flour

For Filling

  • ¾ cup raspberry preserves
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or emulsion
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1¼ cups almond fl our
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds

For Almond Glaze

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or more as needed

Directions

For Pâte Sablée

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add egg yolk, and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add flour in two additions, beating just until combined after each addition.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead 3 to 4 times. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

For Filling & Assembly

Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll Pâte Sablée into an 11-inch circle, about ¼ inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch fluted round removable bottom tart pan, gently pressing into bottom and up sides. Trim excess dough.

Freeze until hard, about 10 minutes. Prick bottom of dough with a fork. Top with a piece of parchment paper, letting ends extend over edges of pan. Add pie weights.

Bake until edges look dry, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and weights. Bake until crust is dry, about 10 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Spread preserves into prepared Pâte Sablée. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined.

Spread filling onto preserves, and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake until golden and set, 45 to 50 minutes. While tart is baking, combine ingredients for glaze together in a small bowl with a fork.

Let finished tart cool in pan for 15 minutes.

Remove from pan, and drizzle with Almond Glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #450, hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Southwest Strata

I got into making stratas a few years ago, when I found myself in need of a relatively easy and quick dish to make for brinner, and happened to have a lot of bread sitting around that I didn’t want to go to waste.

A strata is basically a casserole thingy where stale bread and veggies are baked and set in an eggy-milk mixture. The possibilities of how you choose to compose it are pretty endless so far as the mix-ins are concerned. I’ve made two before that I’ve shared on here, with really great results. (Here, and here.) Today, I’m sharing a third.

While the meat- base itself is like others in having sausage, this time, I decided to make a strata with a southwestern flavor profile; put another way, the mix-ins and spices matched with things I typically like to put in my tacos and burritos. I used sauteed red peppers, onions, green chiles, spinach and corn as my veggies. I also seasoned the egg base with a good deal of cumin and smoked paprika.

One thing I will say when it comes to the egg-milk base: it’s always better to have too much than too little. If there’s not enough egg-milk custard poured over the strata and allowed to set, then it’s not going to bind and hold together while it bakes.

Another thing to be mindful of is the size of the baking dish you use. You want to make sure it’s high enough to be able to accommodate/fit both the ingredients and the egg custard, so I would strongly recommend using one that’s between 2.5-3 inches high, and also placing the bakign dish itself on top of a sheet pan while it bakes–just in case there’s seepage.

Keep in mind that because stratas are so customizable/adaptable, you can be very preferential with how you choose to fill this thing. For instance, I didn’t use mushrooms, beans or salsa , but those are all mix-in options that would work very well in this. You can also feel free to use whichever cheese you prefer on top.

If you’re in need of a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast/brunch dish that feeds a crowd (especially on/for holidays, for instance) look no further. This strata is the way to go. For such a small and relatively simply list of ingredients, it makes a TON of food that’s very filling and quite delicious if I say so myself.

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Southwest Strata

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups lightly packed garlic or herb flavored bread, slightly stale and cubed (I used leftover rolls from this recipe, but really any sturdy herb-y bread will work)
  • 3 lbs. ground pork sausage (or turkey sausage, if you prefer)
  • 3 red bell peppers, chopped into cubes or strips, your preference
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions, chopped into cubes or strips, your preference
  • 20 oz frozen spinach, cooked according to package and squeezed completely dry
  • 8 oz. canned diced green chiles
  • 15 oz. canned yellow corn
  • 16 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumim
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican Blend cheese

Directions

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish (I recommend one that’s roughly 3 inches high) with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to medium heat.

Brown the sausage, then drain off excess grease. Set the sausage aside in a large-medium size bowl.

Add some more oil the skillet, and saute first the bell peppers, then the onions until they are softened and translucent. Combine the peppers and onions with the canned corn and green chiles in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and yolks are broken.

Layer a third of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the sausage. Add a layer of the vegetables. Add a layer of the spinach. Repeat until you’ve layered all the bread, vegetables and sausage in the dish.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the strata, using a rubber spatula to ensure that it gets into the corners and absorbs all of the ingredients. This may take some patience to allow the liquid to seep into the bread. (It’s also okay if you don’t use all of it in this step. Save the excess for later.)

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 24 hours. (If chilling for later, be sure to let the strata sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.) 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you have excess milk-egg mixture leftover, pour the remainder over the strata, using a rubber spatula to help absorb it into the ingredients. Place the baking dish on top of a foil lined sheet pan and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake the strata until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the center, about 60-70 minutes. (Insert a knife in the center; if it comes out clean and without eggy residue, it’s ready.)

Remove the strata from the oven, remove the foil, and preheat broiler.

Sprinkle the top with the 1 cup or as much cheese as desired. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #448.