Peanut Butter Cookies Two Ways

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Are you in the mood to bake?" was the question posed to me last night after dinner.  Well, duh.  The reason for the question?  A request for peanut butter cookies, a staple around here.

Peanut butter cookies are especially great in the fact that they bake up fast, so the wait time for something sweet is fairly minimal.  They also fairly fast to pull together, and the ingredients are always on hand.

So I started mixing up the cookies (I got the recipe awhile back from my Mom - I'm starting to see a trend this week), first putting the sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl

then whisked them together

from there, I beat in the eggs, peanut butter, milk and shortening

I rolled the dough out into balls and used a fork to press them down slightly (some of them got a crisscross pattern, some didn't) and put them on my extremely well-loved, well-seasoned Pampered Chef stone.  Then I sprinkled them with some sugar

I baked them for 12 minutes, let them cool slightly, the moved them to a rack to finish cooling.

By the time I got to the end of the dough, I didn't have a "full" batch left to put in the oven.  I also was thinking "hmm, what goes well with peanut butter".  Well, pretty much everything.  But chocolate especially.  So for the last few cookies, I chopped up a Heath bar, and added them to the cookies.  I did this two ways.  For half of them, I pressed the chopped toffee onto the top of the cookie.  For the other half, I mixed the candy bar pieces into the dough, then proceeded as with the first batches of cookies.  They turned out like this

Not quite as strong of flavor as I would have hoped for, but they were tasty!

Peanut Butter Cookie recipe:
1 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 T milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Whisk together the flour, both sugars, salt and baking soda.
3) Beat in the eggs, milk, peanut butter and shortening until dough pulls together.
4) Roll into small balls and place on baking sheet.  Press down slightly with tines of a fork.  Sprinkle with sugar if desired (you can also roll the balls in sugar prior to placing them on the baking sheet).
5) Bake for 12-14 minutes until cookies start to brown.  Be careful not to over-bake; cookies will continue to cook a little while cooking.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I've been wanting to try this particular soup recipe for awhile.  I found it in the Taste of Home magazine, and since the day I tore it out, I've said "Oh, I'll have to make that this week".  Well, last night finally became "this week", and I decided to try it as something different for dinner.  It's very easy to put together, so if you need to make dinner at the last minute, or you're just a little worn out from a long day, this is a good one to turn to.

Start by cooking your cheese tortellini (I used wheat; we love wheat pasta and that also happened to be all they had at the store) 

according to the package directions (or if you are the Super Woman that I dream to be someday, cook your freshly-made cheese tortellini until ready)

and then drain the pasta

While the pasta is cooking, you can start on the rest of the soup.  In a dutch oven or soup pot, mix together low-sodium tomato soup, 2% milk, half and half, vegetable broth, chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, and kosher salt

and heat over medium-low.  Once the pasta has cooked and drained, add it to the soup mixture, along with some shredded Parmesan cheese.  Once it's heated through, serve!

I garnished with a little fresh black pepper, some fresh basil from my container garden, and some grated (since I was out of shredded) Parmesan.

Here's the recipe:

1 (9oz) pkg. refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cans low-sodium tomato soup
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnish

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Drain.
2) In soup pot, combine everything but the shredded Parmesan cheese and tortellini.  Heat through.
3) Add cooked tortellini.  Stir in the cheese.  Sprinkle each serving with additional Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

My suggestion for you - double the tortellini.  It was good the way it was, but would be even better with more of the pasta.  Also, next time I might try replacing some of the 2% milk with whole milk, or some of the half and half with some cream, to make it even creamier.

Makin' Whoopie... Whoopie Pies, that is!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I have been craving whoopie pies for a few weeks now.  And every time I would mention them, I'd get a few strange looks and the inevitable question - "What's a whoopie pie?".  When you grow up with something, it's easy to forget that there are parts of the country that don't have the same things you do.  And whoopie pies is one of those things.  They're traditional to New England and I grew up in Maine.

So I decided to make some.  And while there are plenty of recipes floating around out there, I wanted my Mom's.  I'm nostalgic like that.  So I called her and asked her to have my dad email me the recipe, which he did.  I thought.  Now, I love my Mom; I truly do.  But sometimes, she makes me want to pull my hair out.  Just a little.  I had mixed up and started baking the "cake" part of the whoopie pies.  While the 2nd batch were in the oven, I started mixing up the filling.  But it didn't look right; not even close.  Actually, it didn't look close to anything other than gross.  I had been a little skeptical when I didn't see confectioners sugar anywhere on the list.  So, I called my Mom to find out if perhaps Dad had skipped a line when typing it up for me.  Nope, that was the full list.  I said, Okay, so what did I do wrong?  She didn't know.  You know why?  Because she'd never made that filling before.  I put my head down on the counter.  Mom, I asked for your Whoopie Pie recipe, why would you send me a filling you hadn't used?  Well, she thought because it called for egg whites, I wouldn't want to make it since "people are scared about that kind of thing these days".  First, I'm not scared of egg whites (maybe I should be, but hey, I'm not).  Second, though, I have meringue powder that I could substitute.  Sigh.  So she gave me her own filling recipe, which sounded much more like what I remembered (confectioners sugar - check!).  Then she asked how "that" whoopie recipe turned out since "it sounded like a lot".  Again, head on the counter.  Mom, was this not your whoopie pie recipe?  Turns out - no.  Why?  Because it "went with the filling"; apparently, her recipe called for 2 egg yolks, and the 2 whites went into the filling.  Double sigh.

So you can see how while my mother is wonderful, she also causes me some consternation on occasion.  I still love her, though.

The main question - after all those tribulations, how did they turn out?  Answer - not bad.  Not exactly how I remembered them, which wasn't surprising, considering I'd probably never eaten those before.  But they did taste like Whoopie Pies, which is what I wanted.  And there definitely are dozens of recipes and variations out there, so it wasn't like they were going to be a disaster, just because they weren't hers.  (Still.  The next time I ask for one of your recipes, how about sending me yours.  Pretty please?)

I started by adding the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, sugar, flour, salt and baking soda) to one bowl

and then whisked them to combine

I then whisked in the vanilla, milk and eggs

then beat in the shortening until combined

I lined baking sheets with parchment paper and started dolloping out the batter to make the cakes.  Because they will become "sandwiches", it's nice to have them uniform, so I was using a scoop.  The first batch, I used heaping scoops because if you're going to have Whoopie Pies, they might as wellbe big ones.

They turned out a little flat, though, when I baked them.  I guess they were a little too big and spread some.  (This is also where I started to question the recipe even before I had called my mother, since hers were always puffier)

So the next batch, I made a little smaller by scrapping the scoop up the side of the bowl to make a level scoop-full

These did round up better, so I finished out the batter using this method.  Then I made the filling.  Which I threw out.  And then re-made using the new (correct) recipe.  I don't have pictures of this part, and I apologize.  Between the call and the head on the counter and the sighs, I forgot about the camera.  But after mixing up the new filling, I laid out the cookie/cakes, flat side-up

and spread one side with the filling

and then topped it with one of the other cookie/cakes to make a sandwich

For the second one, I tried just putting a big scoop of the filling on one half, topping with another half, and smooshing it around a little until the filling spread to the edges.  Worked just as well and was much faster.

Here are the recipes I ended up using:

Whoopie Pies

For the cakes:
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2/3 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

For the filling:
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. vanilla (more or less to taste)

1) Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.
2) Whisk in the milk and vanilla, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the shortening until combined.
3) Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a scoop, portion out by even scoop-fulls.
4) Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on the sheets before transferring to a cooling rack.
5) Make the filling: Beat the shortening and vanilla into the confectioners sugar until smooth.  Depending on the amount of filling you like, you may want to double this; I ended up doing so.
6) Spoon some filling between two cakes and squeeze gently until the filling spreads to the edges.

Recipe makes about 24 whoopie pies.

One of these days, I will make another batch with both halves of my Mom's recipe and see what the results are.  And a red velvet whoopie pie is on my list, too.  But these are okay until then :)

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