Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For my birthday I got to have a whole extra hour thanks to Daylight Savings Time!  This was my last birthday before I turn 30, so I better make this year count.  I've got my 30 Before 30 to try to complete, and hopefully I'll cross off a few more things from my Culinary To Make List.  But I'll tell you what, making the trek over to Europe was a nice addition to my late 20s.  Kevin and I recently spent three weeks in France and Italy and had an absolute blast!  We were definitely not ready to come home yet.

Positano, Italy

Since my birthday is the week after Halloween, sometimes I like to incorporate leftover candy into my cake.  A few years ago I made mini ice cream "cakes" with peanut butter cups as the base.  Line muffin tins with foil cupcake liners, then put in a peanut butter cup.  In a separate bowl, mix some ice cream with peanut butter, then spoon it over the peanut butter cup filling the muffin cup.  Top with salted peanuts and press down.  Cover with foil and freeze until ready to eat.  Remove foil wrapper before plating, then drizzle with chocolate syrup and serve.

This year I hoarded all the leftover peanut butter cups again so I could make a cake with the chocolate and peanut butter combination.  I ended up doing a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting topped with chopped peanut butter cups.  It was delicious, but very rich, best sampled in smaller pieces.

Reese’s Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted from Annie's Eats (cake originally from Dorie Greenspan, frosting from Ina Garten)

Chocolate Cake:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Peanut Butter Frosting:
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 Tbsp (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350.  Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  Place the pans on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.  Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter.  Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients).  Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter.  Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a spatula.  Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans.  Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners.  Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting by combining confectioners sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.  Add the cream, and beat on high speed until smooth.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a plate or cardboard circle covered in foil.  Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer.  (If desired, sprinkle with chopped Reese’s cups.)  Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting.  Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining peanut butter frosting.  Decorate with halved and chopped Reese’s cups as desired.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Almond, White Chocolate, Cherry Granola Bars from Amie at My Retro Kitchen

The November event for the Cleveland chapter of the Ohio Blogging Association is a blog swap.  Bloggers from all over Northeast Ohio will be trading blogs for the day.  Participating in a blog swap is a great way to discover new blogs and introduce different readers to your own.  For the full list of all OBA blog swappers, please check out Poise in Parma.

I am paired up with Amie from My Retro Kitchen.  I was first introduced to her blog back in April when she featured Alicia (aka Poise in Parma) on her Fridays, Feasting with Friends segment, but I had the pleasure of meeting Amie in person at last month's OBA event.  Amie has some really great recipes so I hope you'll check out her blog.

Hi everyone!  I am so excited to be guest on Cooker Girl today- so fun!  My name is Amie and I write the food blog My Retro Kitchen.  The concept of My Retro Kitchen grew from the idea that a home-cooked meal is something of the past.  It is a retro idea. I think it is one of the best things a person can give their family! A huge part of nurturing my family is by feeding them well.  In my book, full happy bellies = a happy husband and children.  And when you have a happy family, you also have a happy mommy!

Jackson, my 4 year old son is my number one assistant in the kitchen.  He has developed a love for cooking and has a huge appetite for yummy food.  These granola bars are one of our most favorite things to cook (and eat!) together.  They are easy-peasy and so super versatile.  So easy, that it almost makes it silly to ever buy them from a store again.  Plus when you make them at home, you know exactly what is going in them- no weird processed stuff in these babies!!  Almond, White Chocolate Cherry is the most requested flavor, but don’t be afraid to play around with your ingredients; different dried fruits, mixed cereals, nuts and seeds.  The possibilities are endless!  
With the Christmas Season approaching it is time to start thinking about gift giving.  A tin of these homemade treats wrapped with a pretty bow would make a beautiful, heartfelt gift that anyone would love!

Almond, White Chocolate, Cherry Granola Bars
recipe from My Retro Kitchen
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup rice crispies
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 325. Line a square 8" baking pan with 2 crisscrossed rectangles of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at 2 opposite ends. The overhang is what will assist you in lifting the granola out of the pan for cutting.
Combine the oats and almonds and spread them out evenly on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. When the oat mixture has been toasting for about 10 minutes, combine the honey, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, oil and water in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar.
When the oat mixture is done toasting, transfer it to a large bowl and add the honey mixture, rice crispies, white chocolate chips and fruit; stir to incorporate. Spread evenly in bottom of pan, pressing down to create a smooth, even top.
Bake the granola mixture for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. After about a half and hour, press down again super HARD to make sure everything sticks together and you can get nice, firm bars. A measuring cup works well for this. Sprinkle the rest of the white chocolate chips on top and press down lightly.

Let cool completely.  I am serious here.  I know it is insanely tempting, but if you cut them too soon they will crumble everywhere and they won't be granola bars anymore.  Just granola.  Wait at least 2-3 hours before trying to cut them apart.

Once cool, lift out of pan using paper as handles.  Cut into one-inch wide bars with a large, sharp knife. Then, cut them again in half lengthwise. Store in an airtight container.  If you aren't going to eat them all within a week, be sure to refrigerate or freeze them.  There are no preservatives in these, so they won't last forever and a lifetime in your pantry like the store bought kinds.

Friday, November 11, 2011

30 Before 30

I've been noticing a lot of personal lists online lately, and some of you know how much I love lists.  Have you seen my Culinary To Make List?  I have a little less than a year to finish out my twenties, and I thought a 30 before 30 list would be fun.  Some of these items will also help me get out of the house during the long Cleveland winter (we had our first snow last night).

30 Before 30:
(in no particular order)
  1. Attend a concert at Blossom
  2. Keep in touch with people better
  3. Blog more regularly
  4. Participate in a blog swap
  5. Sing karaoke in public
  6. Bake for a good cause
  7. Visit my sister in Atlanta
  8. Visit my brother in New Orleans
  9. Volunteer more
  10. Attend a Tremont Art Walk
  11. Visit one of Cleveland's beaches
  12. Now that the elephants are back in their new habitat, I want to visit the zoo again.
  13. Visit the MetroParks outside of Solon
  14. Host more parties
  15. Learn how to draw
  16. Spend less time on the computer
  17. Visit Stan Hywet Hall
  18. Try to relax
  19. Make our wedding album (our 5 year anniversary is a month before I turn 30)
  20. Visit the west side more often
  21. Attend a Lake Erie Monsters game
  22. Attend a Burning River Roller Girls match
  23. Go skydiving
  24. Learn how to use some of the features on our new camera
  25. Go tobogganing
  26. Be more positive about day to day stuff
  27. Try at least 6 new restaurants
  28. Drink more wine
  29. Visit Cleveland's Asiatown and eat dim sum
  30. Exercise more

Okay, who wants to make a date to start scratching some of these items off?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Candy Corn & Peanuts

I know it's a little late now that Halloween is over, but just in case you have some Candy Corn left, here is a simple treat.  All you do is mix together peanuts and candy corn.  If you eat both at the same time, it tastes like a Pay Day candy bar.  I was introduced to this salty sweet combo last fall, and totally forgot about it until now.  Enjoy!