Sunday, September 27, 2009

Peanut Butter Biscotti

Who doesn't love cookies? I know I for one could live on them. I love all kinds of cookies, cake-like, soft and chewy, and for sure- crisp and crunchy. In other words, biscotti. The word biscotti means twice baked in Italian.I learned that word a long time ago when I was a kid from my Italian mama. My mom loves to bake, but doesn't usually make biscotti. She likes to make bars mostly. But she is a big fan of MY biscotti and can't wait to try any new batch that I dream up.
She really enjoyed this last recipe. I asked her what she thought of them and she said "DELIZIOSO!"

Peanut Butter Biscotti
by Mixed Salad Annie

1 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup plus 1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup molasses
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 whole egg, plus 2 egg whites
4 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil sprayed with cooking spray.

In a food processor, grind the oatmeal and wheat germ if using, until fine. In a bowl sift together oatmeal mixture, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, peanut butter, molasses and water. Add flour mixture and mix just until ingredients are combined. If mixture is too dry, add an additional teaspoon or two of water. Stir in chips.

Divide the dough in half; place half the dough on one side of the cookie sheet and form into a log about 3 inches wide. Repeat with second half of dough keeping logs about 3 inches apart; flatten slightly. Bake until light brown, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°. Once cool cut log into 3/4-inch thick bars. Place bars, cut side down, back on the cookie sheet and bake for about 10-20 depending on your preference of crunchiness. minutes longer. (Cookies will crisp once cool.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ultimate Peanut Butter Fingers

This recipe is a redesign of my mother's classic Peanut Butter Fingers (Bars). I am always eating way to many of these whenever she makes them. (And she makes them a lot). You just can't resist them. They are everyone's favorite in my family. No matter what party or event they are brought to, they 're always a hit! There is just something about peanut butter and chocolate that just go together. Hmmm, it seems like I've had these flavors before. Two great tastes that taste great together. It would make a great candy. ;)

So you must be wondering why I am redesigning them if they are perfect already. Well, you know me, I'm always trying to lower the fat and reduce the sugar in my baked treats. Mostly because, like I said before, I eat way to many of them. So I try to make them a little less fattening and a little more "healthy" if I can. Plus I just felt like experimenting with the recipe. I also added a cream cheese peanut butter filling. Of course this does add a little more decadence to the recipe but hey I never said I was perfect. ;)

I reduced the butter from 1 stick (8 tablespoons) to 4 tablespoons. I used heart healthy canola oil in place of the other 4 tablespoons of butter. It only has 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon as compared with the 7 grams in the butter. For the peanut butter, I only used one tablespoon in the bars themselves but used 1/2 cup in the filling. So that's kind of a wash. I also reduced the sugar by half. And guess what, no one ever noticed. We really don't need all that sugar in our desserts. It is just not necessary. The chocolate topping is a lighter version as well. It has no butter in it compared with my mom's original recipe which has 3 tablespoons. It is very deep in flavor, so if you love dark chocolate, these are for you!

I think they turned out great. But don't take it from me, make them and see for yourself!

Peanut Butter Fingers

by Mixed Salad Annie

4 Tbsp.(1/2 stick) unsalted butter or tub margarine, softened
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of flour
1 cup of quick oatmeal
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (optional)

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Grease a cookie sheet. (Mine is about 12 x 8).

Mix the sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the oil, egg, and peanut butter.
Add baking soda, salt and vanilla; mix well. Add flour and flax seed if using; mix until just combined. Add oatmeal and mix until just combined.

Push dough evenly into cookie sheet with fingers. (Cut a sheet of waxed paper the same size as the cookie sheet and place over the dough. It will be a lot easier to spread the mixture into the pan. Remove waxed paper). Bake around 18 to 20 minutes depending on your oven, until they are light golden brown.

Peanut Butter Filling:
1/2 cup peanut butter, room temperature
8 ounces low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel Cheese- 1/3 less fat) or fat-free, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and sugar. Mix until the sugar is completely incorporated. Spoon mixture in between 2 sheets of waxed paper (cut the same size as the cookie sheet). Roll out to within 1/2 of the edges. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and place on top of the cooled peanut butter fingers. Carefully remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Refrigerate to chill. Top with chocolate topping.

Bittersweet Chocolate Topping:

adapted from Hershey's
2 bars (2 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup of sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Heat water and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and continuing to stir, bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened. Take off heat and stir in extract.

Pour over chilled bars. Spread evenly to cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Big, Chewy, n' Sorta Healthy Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Loving cookies as I do, I'm always on the look out for a "lighter" cookie recipe. I tend to eat so many when I bake them that I feel I should make them a little, dare I say, "healthy". Ok, I know many of you probably just clicked off my blog, but for those of you that stayed to read on. Thanks :) hahaha

When I read this recipe from Cooks Country, I was intrigued. The idea of using pureed dates to replace some of the fat in the recipe is not a new concept, but interesting since I have used pureed prunes in the past in baking to reduce the fat, but never dates. The idea of browning the butter in order to "mask" the flavor of the dates, was brilliant. I know browned butter is not a new concept, but, I surely never thought of using it to disguise another flavor. And it really does mask the flavors of the dates, just as they claim it would.

So ok, you're probably wondering how why I am calling them "sort of healthy". Well, besides the dates, I used some whole wheat pastry flour, ground flax seeds and walnuts. Flax seeds are a very rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are many benefits that research has shown flax seeds may provide; including, improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, improve the immune system, help rheumatoid arthritis, reduce hot flashes, and fight breast and colon cancers. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3. Plus, I reduced the sugar in the recipe! And less refined sugar in our diets is always a good thing. Is that healthy enough for you? Hehe!

And by the way, they passed the cookie snob test. All my tasters were totally clueless that they were low-fat and I didn't bother to tell them that there were dates and flax seeds in them. Hey, what they don 't know, won't hurt them! ;)

Big, Chewy, n' Sorta Healthy Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cook's Country

1 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped dates (if using pre-chopped dates, use 1 extra tablespoon)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring the water and dates to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer until the dates are tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, work the dates through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Scrape the dates remaining in the strainer into the bowl (you should have about 1/4 cup puree. If you are short a little, you can add an equal amount of canola oil to replace the amount of date puree you are missing). Cook the butter in a small stainless steel saucepan over medium heat until nutty brown, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. The butter should be a golden nutty brown color with dark brown bits at the bottom of the pan. (If it turns completely dark brown it is burnt; discard and start again.) Let cool.

Whisk the flours, baking soda, ground flax seeds and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, brown sugar, and date puree together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the chocolate chips, then mix in the remaining chips and walnuts.

Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls, tear the balls in half, and press back together with the torn side up. Lay the cookies jagged side up on the pre­pared baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Press the remaining 2 tablespoons of chips evenly over the cookies.

Bake the cookies until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Do not under bake, these cookies will remain chewy when cooked to a light golden brown.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.