It was time to clean out the pantry.  In the pile of leftover-baking-ingredients, there were two half-full bags of Jammy Bits.  One bag was raspberry and one was blueberry, both leftover from fruitcakes this past Christmas.  I didn’t want to make fruitcake in July, but I did have this really good peanut butter cookie recipe from the Fluffernutters. 

 

So I made the cookies, again.  I learned, this time, that an 18oz jar of peanut butter was almost exactly the two cups I needed.  I didn’t mention the oatmeal last time, but it adds some structure and texture that most peanut butter cookies lack.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

And this time, as the very last step, I added in just over a cup of mixed Jammy Bits.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

I was worried they’d break up in the stand mixer, but they held up fine.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

In the oven, the jam bits melted into tiny pockets of jelly.  I was worried that it would overwhelm the peanut butter, but they came out nicely balanced. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

All in all, one of my more successful pantry-cleaning afternoons!

( see the recipe )

Today’s recipe is from Houston Classic Desserts (Classics Series).  I was having people over on short notice, and I wanted something different.  I’d gotten the book a few days before, and flipped through it, looking for something that didn’t take all day in the kitchen, but was a step up from my usual cookies.

And I can’t ever resist a sandwich cookie, and these looked really, really good. 

The outsides are a particularly peanut butter-y – two whole cups of peanut butter! – and some oatmeal, but they’re otherwise a standard peanut butter cookie recipe.  I really enjoyed them, and I’d make them again just to eat as peanut butter cookies.

They get scooped onto a baking sheet:

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And flattened after they’re baked.  I was tempted to put the traditional fork marks in them, but I didn’t.  Anyone who got within ten feet of them could smell the peanut butter, so I didn’t think it was necessary.

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One side of the filling is marshmallow fluff.  The other side is peanut butter, a bit of butter, and powdered sugar.  I was tempted to use crunchy peanut butter, but I was worried that it would get stuck in the piping bag.  Next time, I might sprinkle a handful of whole nuts in the middle, too.

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Assemble.  Eat.

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They’re good.  I’m not a huge fan of marshmallow fluff, but these were good.  I’m make them again – maybe one of these days, I’ll just throw an entire party based around sandwich cookies!

( see the recipe )

(The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.)

Another fun challenge!  Panna Cotta has been on my list of things to try for a while, so I was excited about making it.  I decided on the vanilla option, with peach gelée on top.

The panna cotta comes together easily – it’s not as complicated and finicky as a custard or pudding.  You start by adding some unflavored gelatin to a cup of milk.  Let it bloom for a few minutes, then warm it up on the stove.  The goal is to get it hot but not boiling – you’re effectively scalding it to break down the proteins a bit and make it thicken up better.  Once it’s hot, add heavy cream, honey, and a bit of sugar.  I also added in some vanilla bean paste, but the vanilla bean particles didn’t stay suspended very well – I’d skip this next time.

After it all warms up again, let it cool, pour into dishes, and let it cool overnight.  Mine came out a bit puckered on top, but set up nicely:

IMG_5655 I wanted something to put on top, and I had some frozen peaches sitting around.  I went looking for a gelée recipe, and didn’t find anything I liked.  I started with an idea from myRecipes and used it as a springboard.  I tossed the (thawed) peaches in the blender to puree them while I bloomed another package of unflavored gelatin in a cup of club soda.  I added half a cup of the peach puree and a box of peach jello, then a cup of boiling water to dissolve it all.  I tried pouring the hot jello on top, but it broke up the panna cotta.  Spooning it carefully on top worked much better.

Next came the cookies.  This was a really quick and easy cookie recipe – add oats, flout, sugar, dark corn syrup (I didn’t have any, so I used half molasses and half light corn syrup), milk, and vanilla to a mixing bowl, melt some butter, and mix it all.  The result is a rather wet and sticky dough, which flattens out very thin when you bake it.

When I went to put the milk back in the fridge after making the cookies, I tipped over one of my panna cotta bowls, and it fell out of the fridge:

IMG_5656 Luckily, the mess took less time to clean up then the cookies took to bake.  The recipe said to let the cookies cool completely, then stick pairs of them together with melted dark chocolate.  I did that, but the cookies were far better warm, just as they were, right out of the oven.  The insides were gooey, the outside was crunchy, and they were rich and oat-y. 

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In the end, it all came together well.  The peach gelée worked well to add some fruitiness. The panna cotta was rich and creamy, and the cookies were crunchy.  I’m looking forward to making it again, with some different flavors – chocolate panna cotta, maybe, with cherry gelée on top?

( see the recipe )

I like sandwich cookies, and I make quite a few of them.  Somehow, they seem a step up from “regular” cookies, but they don’t require painstaking decorations like fancy iced cookies.

I’ve done chocolate sandwich cookies before (using this recipe) but they don’t usually survive long enough to get pictures. 

This recipe is from the Martha Stewart’s Cookiesbook.  Why that one?  Because I was flipping through the book looking for something inspiring, and I hadn’t tried this recipe before.

It’s another standard cookie recipe – beat the butter and sugar, add an egg, add the dry ingredients.  There’s nothing unusual or difficult about it.

The dough gets scooped out onto a baking sheet.  I have a set of cookie scoops, and I used the smallest one here.  It’s easy to end up with monstrously big sandwich cookies, so I start small.  If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use a spoon, but make sure you get them close to the same size, or you’ll have to sort them out after they bake.

Cookies!

Once they’re all scooped out, dip the bottom of a glass in sugar, then press them down flat.  If you have a fancy glass with ridges on the bottom, you can use that and transfer the pattern.  I don’t, so I just used a plastic tumbler.  Some of the sugar will transfer, so re-dip the glass for every cookie. 

Cookies!

Bake.  Keep a close eye on them – with chocolate cookies, you can’t see the color change when they’re getting close to done, so it’s easy to burn them. 

Cookies!

Let them cool.  They need to be room temperature before you fill them – if they’re even a little warm, the heat from the cookies will melt the filling and you’ll have a mess.

While they’re cooling, mix up the filling.  The recipe calls for half butter and half shortening.  You can play with that proportion as long as you keep the total to one cup – more butter and it’ll be richer, but less butter and more shortening will make it more authentic.  Same thing with the vanilla – if you used a double-strength vanilla extract or vanilla paste it will be better, if you use less then a teaspoon it will taste more like Oreo filling.

Put the filling in a piping bag, and pipe less then you think it needs onto one cookie.  Press another on top.  It’s easy to over-fill them, so I always err on the side of less filling and add more if I think they need it.  If you don’t want to get out the piping bag, you can use a spoon, but I think piping is actually easier.

Cookies!

You can do all sorts of variations – some people roll them in sprinkles to decorate them, or you can play with different flavors in the filling. 

Personally, I just enjoy them with a cold glass of milk. They don’t need anything else.

( see the recipe )

I decided it was time to upgrade a few things in the kitchen. 

First, I asked my mother for a new collection of plates.  I have plenty of plates, but they’re mostly all white, and none of them ever look very interesting in pictures.  She found all kinds of interesting colors and patterns, and most of them will show up here over the next few months.

Next, I bought myself some new lights for the kitchen as an after-Christmas present.  And Mike got a new camera, so I inherited his old SLR.

Once I had everything assembled and organized, it was time to bake some cookies and take some pictures.

These are cornmeal cookies.  My mother made them all the time when I was growing up.  

Cornmeal Cookies

They’re a very simple cookie – cream some butter and sugar, add an egg and some vanilla, then mix in the flour, baking powder, and cornmeal. 

These come out best if you use a coarse cornmeal, like you’d put in cornbread.  If you use a very finely-ground cornmeal, you’ll lose the texture that makes them unique (it’s hard to describe, but the best word I can find is “rustic”), and you’ll just have a slightly-odd sugar cookie.

They were very good, and the texture made for an interesting picture.  I’m still trying to get everything set up quite right (the background wasn’t really purple!), but I’ll just have to keep baking cookies to take pictures of until I get it right!

( see the recipe )