Monday, January 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Buttons

Howdy, folks! Nice to see you (or blog at you) again! I feel like I've been away from Sunday Treats for months.

Oh, wait. I have.

You see, there's a certain big day for me and the Music Man coming up kinda soon. 146 days, to be exact! I'm getting excited.

146 is also the approximate number of items remaining on my Wedding To-Do List. So much to do!

Would you like an example of how immersed I've been in wedding planning?

Watch as I illustrate with entirely too much ease how the steps for baking peanut butter buttons are the same as the steps for planning a wedding...

Baking Peanut Butter Buttons
Step 1: Roll hundreds of isty bitsy teeny tiny bits of dough into itsy bitsy teeny tiny little balls.
Step 2: Put them in the oven to bake. Think you're going to get 20 more balls of dough rolled in that 6 minutes? Wrong! Time flies when you're rolling teeny tiny bits of dough into teeny tiny little balls. Ding!
Step 3: Scramble to place a chocolate chip - the finishing touch - on each of the cookies before they cool. Hurry! Time is running out!
Step 4: Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Grab some cookies, chow down, and watch 'em disappear.

Planning a Wedding

Step 1: Coordinate hundreds of itsy bitsy teeny tiny details with a bunch of other itsy bitsy teeny tiny details.
Step 2: Put those done details aside and wait for the big day. Think you're going to get 20 more details organized in the next five months? Wrong! Times flies when you're coordinating a billion teeny tiny details with a billion other teeny tiny details. Ding dong!
Step 3: Scramble to get those last minute tasks - the finishing touches - done the night before. Hurry! Time is running out!
Step 4: Enjoy the fruits of your labor (and love). Say those vows, party down, and watch the day disappear!

I might be starting to lose it here, folks.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. Because these little cookies and this big day are both things that I've been wanting to make happen for a long time. Finally getting to enjoy both is worth all the tedious prep, the waiting, and the scrambling.

Difference is, one I get to enjoy until the tupperware is empty. The other I get to enjoy for the rest of my life. :-)

- Becky

Peanut Butter Buttons
Adapted from 17 and baking
Makes approximately 15 dozen cookies, depending on size

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter)
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Granulated sugar for rolling
Chocolate chips (any type)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

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

3. In a large bowl, mix peanut butter and shortening with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Add two sugars and mix until light. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

4. Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating well between each. Place dough in fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes.

5. Roll dough into 1/2 inch balls (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of dough). Roll balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake 5-7 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown.

6. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate chip into the center of each cookie. (Be careful not to touch the edges of the hot cookie sheet!) Let cookies cool one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. [Note: The chocolate chip will be warm and gooey for some time, so be careful before stacking them.]

To make regular peanut butter cookies, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and press down gently with the tines of a fork. Rolling dough into balls and then in sugar is optional. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden.

Cookies will keep for several days at room temperature in an airtight container.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hot Chocolate Cookies

With our first snow storm a couple days ago and temperatures now in the 20s or lower, it seems that winter has finally taken up residence in NYC.

Call me crazy, but I actually prefer the extreme cold over 40 or 50 degree weather, for two reasons.

First, (and this is HUGE for my decision-impaired personality), the extreme cold considerably narrows down my wardrobe choices. Which coat to wear? The puffiest one. Which scarf to wear? The fuzziest one. Which hat to wear? The covers-my-ears-iest one. 

See? Easy decisions.

The second reason I like the cold weather is that it gives me an excuse to drink things like hot chocolate. And mochas. And peppermint hot chocolate. And Bailey's with hot chocolate.

I mean, chocolate with Bailey's.

In short, the cold weather gives me the excuse to consume one of my favorite treats--chocolate--in warm, comforting, liquid form. What could be better than that?

Well, possibly these cookies.  Because these are my favorite treat in warm, comforting, liquid form in cookie form.

Beck and I have made these cookies no less than three times since we discovered the recipe, to rave reviews each time. DaddyBob--usually a man of few words--waxed poetic about their perfect blend of crispiness and chewiness. "Better than a regular chocolate chip cookie!" he said.

They're also great because you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry, especially if you're like me and have nine thousand boxes of hot chocolate packets because you buy a box every time the weather gets cold "just in case you don't have any at home."

These cookies also keep extremely well, and perhaps get even better over the course of a couple days (assuming you can keep them around for that long!). And they're awesome dipped in milk. Or hot chocolate. Or Bailey's.

So next time it gets cold and you find yourself asking, "Which cookies to bake?," don't fret over the choices. The cookie you should bake is as obvious as choosing the covers-my-ears-iest hat. Which cookies to bake? The hot chocolate-iest ones, of course.

Stay warm,

Hot Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Baked Bree
Makes several dozen cookies

3 1/4 cups flour
4 packages Hot Chocolate Mix (not sugar free)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup each white, milk, and semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 3 cups any combination of chocolate chips)
marshmallow fluff (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, sift flour, hot chocolate mix, salt and baking soda.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla.

3. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, blending well between each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Chill cookie dough for 45 minutes (this is not terribly essential, so feel free to skip if you’re short on time). Near end of chilling time, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Drop dough in heaping tablespoons onto prepared sheets* and bake 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to brown around the edges. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

*To add a marshmallow swirl to the cookies (as pictured), scoop a tablespoon of dough into the palm of your hand and flatten dough between your palms. Spread dough with a small amount of marshmallow fluff (just as much as you can scoop on the tip of a knife, maybe a ¼ - ½ teaspoon). Fold dough up around fluff and roll dough into a ball between your palms. Place on cookie sheet and bake as directed above.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sugar Cookie Bars

Hey Chickadees! Happy New Year!

It's been a while since Beck and I last blogged--since November, in fact. How did that happen?! It's not like we didn't bake during the month of December. On the contrary, I lost track of how many batches of Toffee Almond Crunch and Christmas Gingerbread I made, and only the elves know how many Spritz Cookies were spritzed because we ourselves stopped counting at about 249 million.

Yes. 249 million.

But it's the new year now, and I'm looking forward to blogging. I can't promise we'll be blogging every Sunday--there are simply too many other things on our plates right now (mainly the planning of a certain very special occasion for Becky and the Music Man!) But when I do have the time, I enjoy baking and photographing and blogging; it's one of the small joys in my life.

Which, btw, is one of my new year's resolutions--to find more joy in the little things.

Things like sunsets, and discovering a new restaurant. Things like Pinterest, and crackle nail polish, and sprinkles.


Here's a story about sprinkles: Once, when I was about 13, I put sprinkles on some ice cream and when I bit down, there was a sprinkle positioned just right to make the sealant on one of my teeth pop off.  I had to go back to the dentist and sit there with the UV light in my mouth all over again.

Good story, huh?

Stories. That's another good thing to take joy in this year. Hopefully stories that are more interesting than the one I just told.

Yet another small joy: baking several dozen sugar cookies without dirtying a rolling pin or cookie cutters.

These Sugar Cookie Bars bake up in less than 30 minutes and are frosted and ready to be cut in less than an hour. And as an added bonus, one batch yields close to 249 million.

Which, btw, is the number of small joys I hope to experience this year. What little joys are you looking forward to in 2012?


Sugar Cookie Bars
Makes approximately 70 bars

Cookie Base
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a half sheet (13x18 inch) pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.
4. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
5. Press dough into prepared pan. An offset spatula might be helpful here. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges just begin to brown and the middle no longer looks wet. Set on a wire wrack to cool completely. Frost with frosting below.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tablespoons of milk
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, beat shortening and butter until creamy.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar.  Gradually add tablespoons of milk until you reach your desired consistency (I used about 4 tablespoons).

2. Frost cookie base using an offset spatula or knife. Place bars in refrigerator for about 15 minutes so frosting can set. Cut into bars. (These cut great with a pizza cutter.)

Stored in an airtight container, bars will stay fresh (and even get better!) 3 to 4 days.