Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

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As I mentioned last week, this weekend was cookie baking weekend. This year, I made cookie tins for 16 different people, so I made 5 full batches of treats in total. That is not an insignificant amount of cookies. In fact, I was in the kitchen so long that I went through my entire Christmas playlist. That’s a good 5 hours of Christmas music. As a side note, Straight No Chaser’s new album is excellent. I’m partial to “Text Me Merry Christmas” and “Nutcracker“. You should watch both of those videos before you keep reading.

Fortunately, last weekend I got a head start with salted caramel chocolate shortbread bars, so yesterday I was really only making 4 types of cookies, including Christmas roll sugar cookies, gingerbread men, peppermint white chocolate cookies, and, today’s feature, peanut butter reindeer cookies.

For this recipe, I took the peanut butter base that I usually use for peanut butter blossoms (those cookies with the hershey kiss on top), and just pressed in some different decorations to copy the pictures that are all over Pinterest. When you make peanut butter blossoms, you want the cookies to crack a bit, but for these reindeer, that’s not actually a good thing. Lucky for you, I tested a couple different methods to figure out what worked best, so you don’t have to.

Basically, the best strategy is to slightly underbake the cookies so they’re still soft, and to move quickly when putting on the decorations. You still might end up with a couple one-eyed reindeer when an m&m decides not to stick, but it’s better than a reindeer that crumbles to pieces when you try to attach an antler.

First, cream together the shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl.

 

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Then, add the sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.

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Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat well.

 

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In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

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Add it to the peanut butter mixture gradually and beat well until the dough comes together.

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Roll the dough in 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I found the best cookies were when I rolled them more into a flattened but fat disk, since that gave a little more surface area to press things later on.

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Bake the cookies at 375°F for about 6-8 minutes. You want them to still look a little soft – as soon as they look dry, you’re risking crumbly reindeer.

Remove from the oven and immediately press in the pretzel antlers and m&m faces. I first put antlers on all of them before going back to do faces since they were what I was more concerned about sticking.

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For the antlers, I used mini flips, which I could only find in little pouches on the way out of the grocery store. The eyes are brown mini m&ms, and the nose is a regular red m&m. Here’s a close up:

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Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. And I do mean completely here. The candies and such are attaching to the cookie by melting and re-hardening, so it’s really important that you let them go through that whole process before you move them anywhere else.

If you get through all of those nitpicky steps, the results are adorable!

Enjoy!

IMG_2033 Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • sugar, for rolling
  • m&m’s and mini chocolate pretzels for decorating

Directions:

  1. Cream together shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat to combine.
  4. Combine flour and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add gradually to peanut butter mixture, beating until dough comes together.
  5. Roll dough in 1 inch balls, roll the balls in the extra sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 6-8 minutes, until slightly underbaked.
  6. Immediately press pretzels and m&m’s into cookies to make reindeer faces. Allow to cool slightly on baking pan before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
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Peanut Butter Samoa Bars

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Spring break was supposed to start Friday.  It was supposed to be a half day, and then I would have all of this coming week off.  However, apparently when you have seven snow days, those week-long-break perks of being a teacher can disappear.  So instead, I have two more days between me and an extended long weekend with my parents.  Rather than wallow in these extra two days, I used my last weekend before Lent is over to bake for one more person at my school, that happens to be a celiac (can’t eat gluten).

I had told her that I would get her some gluten free girl scout cookies from a friend, but apparently they are in extremely high demand and I couldn’t finagle a box in time.  Those were chocolate chip, though, and we all know that caramel delites (samoas?) are the best of the girl scout cookies.  So instead, I decided to do a girl-scout-cookie-themed gluten-free dessert for her.

Now, I know I have quite a few gluten-free relatives out there reading this, so this is for all of you as well.  I found them on buzzfeed, where they also had a whole bunch of other options to choose from.  Definitely worth a look.

First, beat the eggs in a stand mixer until they triple in size.  This step almost turned me off to the recipe, because I’m always afraid of messing up with eggs, but then I remembered my trusty yellow stand mixer and gave it a whirl.

 

 

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Does that look triple? I think its close.  It was 10 minutes.  During the last minute, melt the peanut butter in the microwave for a minute.  Give it a stir.

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While the mixer is still going, slowly pour the peanut butter into the bowl until it is well combined with the eggs.

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Pour the mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.  I’ve never worked anything of this consistency, so I don’t know if I did it right, but it was cool and spongy in texture.

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Sprinkle 3/4 cup of chopped chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.  I don’t really know why the chips had to be chopped, other than to make them melt a little better, but I’m not one to break the rules.

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Set that aside while you make the caramel sauce.  I looked in three different stores for the 14 oz caramel bag that the recipe called for, but I couldn’t find it.  I don’t know who other than me still buys caramels in bulk, but apparently enough people to sell out stores.  So instead, I got the Werther’s chewy ones and just got two 5.5 oz bags that looked like this:

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Put the butter, unwrapped caramels, and sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan.  Melt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.

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Now, you’re only going to use one cup of the caramel, and pour it over the chocolate layer.

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That means you’ll have LOTS of extra caramel sauce to use in other goodies.  I’m thinking I’ll have to make ice cream again sometime soon…

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Anyways, sprinkle the coconut over the caramel.  Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out without any kind of crumb from the egg layer.  I may have overcooked at this point because the caramel tricked me into thinking the center wasn’t done, but you should expect the caramel on your toothpick.

 

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Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before cutting.  Transfer to a platter.

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Melt the remaining 1/4 cup chopped chocolate chips in the microwave.  Whenever I melt chocolate, I go by the microwave-for-15-minutes-at-a-time-at-half-power-and-stir method.  It works.

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Rather than pull out a pastry bag, I just spooned the chocolate into a ziploc bag and cut the corner off.  Drizzle over the bars to add a little more chocolate to the mix.

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I’m not really well-versed in gluten free desserts (other than flourless chocolate cake, but that’s a good dessert in its own right), but these look pretty good to me.

Enjoy!

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Peanut Butter Samoa Bars

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 14 oz bag (or 2 5.5 oz bags) caramels, unwrapped
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 14 0z can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Ingredients:

  1. Beat eggs in stand mixer until they triple in size, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Melt peanut butter in microwave for 1 minute and stir.  Pour into egg mixture slowly while beating until combined.
  3. Pour batter into greased 8×8 pan.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped chocolate chips on top.  Set aside.
  4. To make the caramel sauce, combine sweetened condensed milk, caramels, and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Melt until smooth, stirring constantly.
  5. Pour one cup of the caramel over the chocolate layer.  Save the rest for something else.
  6. Sprinkle coconut on top of caramel.  Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.  Melt the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and drizzle over bars.

Peanut Butter Honey Ice Cream

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Every once in awhile I make something that falls solidly into the category of too good.  Usually, I know it’s coming, and I plan accordingly.  For example, I know that I’m addicted to Magic Bars, so I made them while I was at my parents’ for a short period of time, knowing I could leave them behind.

Other times, when I’m trying a new recipe, I don’t see it coming, but I can quickly adjust by bringing all of the treats to work and knowing they’ll disappear quickly.

However, this time, neither of these options will work.  You see, this weekend I was all excited to try my ice cream attachment for my stand mixer.  So I looked through the recipes from KitchenAid included in the attachment, but they all had crazy steps including tempering egg yolks that I didn’t quite feel confident enough to tackle.  So I turned to my trusty Serious Eats writers, and found a no-egg recipe to try. (Serious Eats should be thanking me for all the shout-outs I give them.  Or they should hire me.)  It was easy.  Too easy.  Because the results are too good to be that easy to make.

If  you know me, you know I’m an ice cream fiend to begin with.  Literally all I need to be cheered up is some form of ice cream, preferably cookie dough ice cream with M&Ms from FarFars.  You also know that I love peanut butter.  I can actually just eat a spoonful of chunky peanut butter and be happy (don’t judge me, you know you do it too).  Put them together, and you have a dangerous combination to be readily available in my freezer.

Fortunately, Lent starts this week, and I give up sweets every year (don’t worry, I’ll still be baking, I just won’t be partaking).  At least after Tuesday I won’t be able to eat it.  Hopefully it keeps well for 40 days.

Anyways, here we go.  First thing you have to do is remember to put the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer for 15 hours.  I just put mine in overnight.  Don’t have an ice cream maker?  Get one.  Or just read on and live vicariously through my adventure.

 

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The next morning, or whenever you’ve decided to try this, put together the batter.  Put the half and half, peanut butter, honey, and sugar in a blender.

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Blend until very smooth.  My blender is ridiculously good for only having three buttons and I was able to blend on low for 45 seconds and be fine.

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Store the entire blender carafe in your refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours.  I just left it in all day while I went and saw a movie (Philomena was definitely worth the trip).

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Once the batter is ready, put the freezer bowl on the mixer and start the attachment on stir.  Kitchenaid was very specific about this, so I think you should listen to them.  Pour the batter into the bowl.

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Allow the mixer to run for 30 minutes, until the ice cream is of a soft consistency.  Mine was still fairly liquidy, but I figured 30 minutes was enough. Look at my mixer in action!  It’s still awesome to me.

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Scoop the ice cream into a shallow, airtight container and freeze for an additional 3-4 hours before serving.  I actually froze mine all night and the next day before trying it.

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When it’s done, you’ll know.  It will be ice cream texture.  Pretty easy.

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And this is my attempt at an artsy picture scooping the ice cream:

 

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A serving suggestion: ice cream tastes better out of a mug.  I discovered that in college.  Especially when the mug has a brownie in the bottom of it.  And if that brownie is a Trader Joe’s Guilt-Free brownie, you can put even more ice cream in the mug.  And add jimmies.

 

Enjoy!

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Peanut Butter Honey Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar

(Important side note: how could I not love a recipe where each ingredient is half of the one before it??)

Directions:

  1. Freeze freezer bowl for 15 hours.
  2. Blend together all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 45 seconds.
  3. Chill batter in refrigerator for 3 hours.
  4. Start ice cream maker and pour in batter.  Allow to stir for 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer ice cream into shallow airtight container and freeze for an additional 3-4 hours before serving.

Haystacks

 

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This is probably the most satisfying thing you can make with only three ingredients.  And there is no baking involved.  They are crunchy, they are peanut buttery, and they are sweet.  The first time I had them was when my aunt made them (shout out to Anne!) for a family party, and I probably ate between 5 and 25 before my mom had to cut me off.  So when I wasn’t totally sure what to make this weekend, I was digging through recipes that people have emailed me and found it, as well as multiple variations that may make later appearances.

All you need is peanut butter, butterscotch chips, and corn flakes.

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Yupp, that’s it.  Also, don’t get me started on how ridiculous it is that one little tiny thing of peanut butter costs $3.49 while I could get 3 cans of tomato sauce for my chili tonight for $1.  That’s criminal.

Anyways, melt the peanut butter and butterscotch chips in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.  This is what it looks like at first:

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After a minute or two:

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And once it’s all done and smooth:

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Take the mixture off the heat and add the corn flakes.  As you stir, you’ll crunch them up, which is totally fine.  Don’t feel like you need to carefully fold them in – it will drive you crazy and is impossible.

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Once combined, drop by rounded tablespoon onto a cookie sheet.  No need to grease it – the peanut butter does that for you.  If you are a real neat freak, you can put wax paper down, but I didn’t have any.  Also, no need to worry about spreading – you aren’t baking them, so you can put them as close as you want as long as they aren’t touching.

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I got 22 out of the recipe with enough left over to lick the spoon.  Put them in the refrigerator and let set until hardened.  Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They are like crack, so you might want to keep them out of sight if that’s an option.

Yes, they really are that easy.  And there really isn’t much else to say about them.  Other than if something only takes 3 ingredients and 10 minutes to prepare, you literally have no excuse not to give these a try.

Enjoy!

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Haystacks

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 11 oz package butterscotch chips
  • 3 cups corn flakes

Directions:

  1. Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips over low heat in a large saucepan until smooth, stirring regularly.
  2. Remove from heat and mix in corn flakes until combined.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until set.

 

Oh Henry Bars

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I know, I know, it’s Monday, not Sunday.  And you all thought I forgot you.   Yesterday I ran a half marathon.  So while I did bake, I was a little bit too exhausted to think about uploading pictures and typing a post.  But not to worry, I’m here, on a Monday, to tell you all about Oh Henry Bars!

So quick shout out to Sandy for the recipe – she’s been endlessly supplying me with recipes for things, but since I hadn’t tried this one before, and it was chocolate and peanut butter (the best combination ever), I figured I’d give it a shot.

They are a remake of the candy bar by the same name, and super easy in theory.  However, as I’m sure you all know, baking adventures do not always end up with perfectly frosted lil elephant cookies.  I may have had a mishap or two, but I do think that you can learn from the couple of mistakes I made, so here we go!

First thing’s first: grease the pan.  I did so with some of the butter I was going to melt.

Grease the pan

 

Then, melt the butter!  Usually I melt butter on the stove, but I didn’t want to dirty a ton of pans, so I melted it in the microwave.  When you do this, make sure you set your power level to 50% and only microwave for 30 seconds at a time.  This will prevent the butter from burning/splattering the entire interior of your microwave.  Butter really is a wonderful shade of yellow.

 

 

Melt butter

Now, this is where I made my first mistake.  I just went ahead and put the oats, brown sugar, butter, karo syrup, and vanilla all in the greased pan and mixed it there, which looked something like this:

What not to do

I was mildly delirious and not thinking through my decisions.  I realize this seems like a ridiculous thought process.  Instead, I would say you should probably mix all of those ingredients in a separate bowl and THEN spread them in the greased pan.  Seems intuitive, but clearly I wasn’t seeing it.

Anyways, once spread in the pan, it should look like this:

spread in pan

Then, bake it at 350°F for 12 minutes.  It won’t look done and it will be bubbly, but according to Sandy, take it out anyways.  I believe her – she’s made this far more times than I have.  Once you’ve baked the base, you can leave it on the stove to cool while you melt the chocolate and peanut butter.

I used dark chocolate and chunky peanut butter because I love dark chocolate and I thought the extra crunch from the peanut butter would do well.  I still stand by that decision, but if you’re a milk chocolate and creamy peanut butter person, that would be truer to the candy bar and I wouldn’t hold it against you.  But I do have a great series of pictures showing the process of melting chocolate and peanut butter goodness:

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And a little more melty.

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And even more melty.

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And completely smooth (except for those peanuts).

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How can she possibly be taking pictures if both of her hands are in the shots?? That would be thanks to my sous chef of the week, seen measuring vanilla extract below.  Thanks for the help!

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So before that creamy chocolate melts, make sure to pour it over the cooled base and spread it evenly to coat.

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spread evenly

At this point, depending on the time you have, you can either pop it in the fridge to set (you have plenty of time) or the freezer (you may have to be somewhere, with these bars, far too soon).

Once they harden, you can remove them and let them warm to room temperature, or just below it, before cutting into 1″x3″ bars.

Now, this is where I made mistake number two.

It was all but impossible for me to remove the bars in one piece.  However, I’m fairly certain that was because I didn’t mix the base together before spreading it in the pan.  So as long as you grease well and mix BEFORE spreading, you should be OK.  I’d also recommend using a slanted spatula to lift the bars from the pan.  Once I did that, it started going a little better.

The bars can be stored in the freezer and stay there for a good long time, waiting to be eaten whenever you need a small (or large, I’m not judging) treat.  If you find any other good ways to make the bars give up their grip on the pan, post it in the comments!

Enjoy!

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Oh Henry Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 4 cups instant oatmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup karo syrup
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Grease a 9″x13″ pan.
  2. Melt butter and mix in bowl with oatmeal, brown sugar, vanilla, and karo syrup.
  3. Spread mixture in greased pan.  Bake for 12 minutes at 350°F and remove from oven while still bubbly.  Allow to cool.
  4. Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Spread mixture over cooled base.
  5. Refrigerate or freeze until set.  When ready to cut bars, allow to come to room temperature or just under.  Cut into 1″x3″ bars.  Store in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to eat.