March 21, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye Cookies

The other day I needed to bake a chocolate and peanut butter treat for a friend. I whipped up a recipe of my favorite chocolate cookies and topped them with Ina's amazing peanut butter frosting. Then I spread on a little semisweet chocolate that I had melted together with a little butter. The end result was delicious and pretty too, in an imperfect way.

For me half the battle of good cooking is planning ahead. I often double my cookie recipe, scoop it all out with my trusty cookie scoop, and freeze half of the dough in a big baggie. Then I can grab and bake them whenever I need to without even messing up the kitchen (or sneak a bite of cookie dough out of the freezer during the witching hour when I'm trying to make dinner and keep wild babies happy and safe in between driving kids back and forth). There's not any dough in my freezer right now and that situation needs to be addressed.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye Cookies
from Anne Strawberry

Yields 3 dozen standard size cookies

2 cups Flour 
1 1/4 cups Cocoa powder (Half regular cocoa powder, half Hershey's Special Dark if available)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
1 extra large Egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets (Grease or line with silicone baking sheet or parchment paper).

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes in the KitchenAid). Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and mix until well combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Scoop onto the prepared cookie sheet and squish slightly if flatter cookies are desired (I think the cookies look prettier if they are squished about half way down before baking).

Bake for about 8 or 9 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with peanut butter frosting and then chocolate. Serve with milk and store in an airtight container.

Peanut Butter Frosting
inspired by the lovely Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa) 

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar (as needed)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream (as needed)

Cream the peanut butter and butter in a stand mixer. Mix in half the powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt and mix until combined. Add in additional powdered sugar and cream as needed until desired consistency is reached. If it's difficult to spread the frosting on the cookies, thin it with a dash of cream.

Chocolate Topping

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli or Guittard- chopped chocolate bars are even better here)
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter

Melt together over a double boiler or in glass bowl in a microwave on low power (I usually use 30% power and stir ever 30 seconds or so). Pull off heat when about 90% melted and stir by hand until totally smooth. Spread a tablespoon or so over the frosting on each cookie. Let set on the counter or place in the fridge for a few minutes until chocolate is set. Enjoy!

March 15, 2016

Strawberry Pie for Pi Day

Happy Pi Day! Did you make or eat a pie to celebrate? Making a pie feels so therapeutic to me that I really appreciate the excuse. I love to roll out the crust, concoct a filling, and crimp the edges. The long baking time only adds to the anticipation. Yesterday my little blondies helped me make a pie in honor of Pi Day. I needed something the whole team could eat, and with the food allergies around here that means no dairy and no eggs (we have a few others to contend with but they aren't typical pie ingredients.) 

So fruit pie won out and a dairy free crust (no egg wash of course!) Strawberries are on sale around here this week so I turned to my Pie Pinterest board and took inspiration from this gorgeous Strawberry Balsamic Pie. I used my beautiful Emile Henry pie pan I scored at TJ Maxx for a traditionally shaped pie. I followed my mom's all shortening pie crust recipe so I didn't offend the non-dairy team, made an imperfect lattice crust (my kids LOVED weaving it) and brushed it with almond milk. I sprinkled sanding sugar on top and baked it. It came out juicy and fragrant with red color that can't be beat. 

Strawberries and balsamic vinegar make a delicious combo. I like the mix some sliced fresh strawberries with a shake of vinegar and some sugar to form a syrup- then I serve them with whipped cream (add a sprinkle of black pepper if you're adventurous). You can't pinpoint the vinegar flavor but it really enhances the strawberries. The same is true of this pie. I didn't use as much as the inspiration recipe called for because my bottle ran out, but it really enhanced the strawberries.

I usually prefer a fresh strawberry pie but this was a fun change and a good change to walk my kids through the whole pie making process. I don't want them to grow up afraid to experiment in the kitchen. I've certainly made my share of imperfect pies and desserts, but as Ina says, "flour, sugar, butter, how bad can that be?" Even messy pies are usually delicious- especially topped with a little vanilla ice cream. You can always use a crust from the store, too, and experiment with fillings. Pie making is a lot of fun and doesn't have to be stressful! Local friends- if you'd like to come over and make a pie and have a play date, let me know. I promise it's fun and the experiment is always delicious.

PS- I finally started a foodie instagram account as @anne.strawberry . I'd love to see you there! 

Pie making can be pretty messy with the flour and everything so I always double my recipe to make four single crusts, shape the dough into disks, wrap in saran wrap, then in a labeled baggie (I had a helper do this last time, they look so happy in her kindergarten hand!) and into the freezer it goes. The next time I want to make pie I move them into the fridge the night before or set them on the counter for a little while and all I have to worry about is the filling. Plus, a pie of ready to go pie crusts in my freezer makes me feel all put together, and doesn't take any more time. Dorie says one month in the freezer but I've kept mine, properly wrapped, for a few months with no problem. 

One last pie tip- Dorie suggests crushing up a graham cracker or two into the bottom of the crust before adding the filling to help absorb some of the extra liquid. Even with juicy strawberries my pie came out just right (and the graham crumbs totally disappear so you have no idea it was there!)

Strawberry Pie

1 double pie crust (easy dairy free crust here, or butter crust recipe below. Use whatever crust you prefer!)

3 pounds fresh strawberries, quartered
1 apple, grated (I used a gala, any kind should work)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Ultragel or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of kosher salt

2 graham crackers

Preheat the oven to 425. 

Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl. Line pie pan with one crust. Crumble up graham crackers and sprinkle into the pie crust. Pour in and smooth filling. Top with additional crust (whole or lattice, whatever you prefer. Either way make sure there's holes to vent the pie). Crimp the edges as desired. Brush with a beaten egg or milk and decorate as desired- with additional pie crust shapes cut with cookie cutters, sprinkled with sugar or sanding sugar, etc.

Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 45-60 more minutes. Watch the crust and add a foil tent if it starts to brown too much (usually about half way through). Let cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
3/8 cup very cold (frozen is even better) Crisco (plain, not butter flavored), cut into 4 pieces
About 1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don't overdo the mixing—what you're aiming for is to have pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley.

Pulsing the machine on and off, add 3 tablespoons of the water—add a little water and pulse once; add some more water and pulse again; and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. If you've got big pieces of butter, that's fine. The dough is ready and should be scraped out of the work bowl and on to a smooth work surface. (be careful not too add too much water- if the dough looks dry after adding most of the water, pinch it with your hands to check if it's coming together, and finish combining it by hand)

Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it. Refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour before rolling. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.