Peanut Butter Meringue Brownies

Peanut Butter Meringue Brownie

Can we all agree that Costco has the best/most unnecessary stuff ever? I mean, yes, there are tons of necessary things like screaming deals on bulk butter, nuts, and even lobster. But they also have things that you don’t really need, but REALLY want once you see them. Take for example the 3 lb tub of Reese’s Pieces I recently bought. Did I technically need 3 lbs worth of peanut butter goodness?? Probably not. Did buying it totally make my day and maybe even life infinitely better?? That’s debatable, but I’m leaning towards yes.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What do you do with 3 lbs worth of Reese’s?” Well, I’m glad you asked. First, you eat it….like a lot of it. Then you hide it from your husband cause he’s eating it faster than you and you’ll be damned if he gets to eat more of it than you (I have candy sharing issues). Then you realize you still have an insane amount of Reese’s Pieces left and should probably figure out a way to use it up. That’s where this recipe comes in.

Lately, I’ve been drooling over all the meringue topped brownies on Instagram and have been wanting to create my own version. Thankfully, my crazy amount of Reese’s Pieces gave me the perfect excuse to do so. Since chocolate and peanut butter is one of the greatest combos of all time, I decided to make a dark chocolate brownie with Reese’s Pieces folded in. And to take the peanut butter flavor up a bit and take the brownies up a notch, I topped them with a peanut butter Swiss meringue.

You guys, I’m not kidding when I say this meringue is legit. It’s the fluffiest, silkiest, most delicious meringue ever. It’s so good that I ate an embarrassing amount straight out of the bowl. And it’s also super easy to make and super stable – which were the two most important things to me when developing the recipe.

So if you have any leftover Reese’s Pieces hanging around after Halloween…..or just need a good excuse to buy that giant 3 lb tub of Reese’s from Costco then this is the recipe for you!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

A quick update on one of the first recipes I ever posted. These Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars come together super fast (even faster than the original cookie recipe), but look way more impressive. I upped the chocolate in them and used oats that I lightly toasted in the oven. Toasting them is an optional step, but one that I highly recommend. It adds more flavor to the oats and gives the bars a really nice base for the chocolate and peanut butter to play off.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
Makes 16 bars

½ cup milk (any percentage will work)

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder

½ cup unsalted butter

2 teaspoons non-fat dry milk powder

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chunky peanut butter

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats, lightly toasted

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

In a large heavy saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, non-fat milk powder, and butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture together until the butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it is at a boil, stop stirring and let boil for a full 90 seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate chips. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until it is completely incorporated. Finally, fold in the oats.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer. Let the bars cool and set up for at least one hour. You can do this either on your counter top or in the fridge. Once the bars have set, cut into 16 pieces. If you want to add a little extra flair, drizzle the bars with some melted dark chocolate and top with coarsely chopped salted peanuts!

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifles

Blueberry Cheesecake Trifle

There’s a running joke on the husband’s side of the family that I can be a bit of a “purist” when it comes to food in the sense that I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch. And, I hate to admit, they’re not exactly wrong. But it’s not my fault!

Okay…..it’s kind of my fault, but it goes back to when I was a kid. My Dad is an insane chef and baker. He makes the most incredible pizzas, cinnamon rolls, pies, bread and pretty much everything. Growing up, he wasn’t stoked on me using boxed mixes to bake. His argument was it’s not that much harder to just make it yourself. Which is true! So that meant if I wanted something sweet (which was all the time) I had to make it myself…..from scratch.

These days, this make it from scratch philosophy has kind of taken on a life of itself. My Dad may have even created a bit of a monster……like I wouldn’t let him buy pre-shredded parmesan once because I said it’s better to shred your own. When he complained I told him, “This is your fault! You created this!” It might have been an over the top reaction to have in a grocery store, but I’m cool with it.

The recipe I’m sharing today originally comes from my husband’s Grandma. It’s a dessert so legendary in their family that it’s simply referred to as The Blueberry Dessert. I had been hearing about this icon of treat for a while and was so excited when I finally got try some. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s crazy delicious and addicting. My Mother-in-law was kind enough to share the recipe with me a few years back and, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to change it up a bit.

The original recipe calls for Cool Whip and canned blueberry pie filing, but since I feel the burning desire to make everything from scratch I swapped both of those out for homemade versions. A bright and jammy blueberry sauce took the place of the canned stuff and a stabilized whipped cream was an easy replacement for Cool Whip. And since I was already changing up the recipe, I decided to make it as a layered trifle instead of in a 9 x 13 pan.

While my version of the dessert is slightly more complicated than the original, the intent and spirit behind it remains the same. This is the dessert I make for the husband on his birthday or when his family comes to visit and will even be on our Thanksgiving table this year. It’s a dessert that reminds him of home and makes me feel more closely connected to his family. Being able to put my own spin on a dessert so rich in their family’s history feels like a melding of our two pasts. Me and my make it from scratch mentality passed down from my Dad and their beautiful family dessert steeped in lots of love. It’s one hell of a combo!

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S’mores Cookie Cups

S'mores Cookie Cup

So I might be way too excited to share this post. How excited, you ask. Well, so excited that I’m legit typing this on my phone while camping. Thank goodness for 4Gs and awesome cell service….because you guys NEED these for your Labor Day weekend.

Every once in a while I come up with a seriously over the top idea. Something so decadent and indulgent that it makes even me pause….and that’s saying a lot. These S’mores Cookie Cups are one of those recipes. The general idea come about in a rather simple way. I love cookie cups (anyone else remember getting the frosted ones from Mrs. Field’s at the mall??) and wanted to create a summery twist on them. And, to me, nothing says summer more than s’mores.

Orginally these were just going to be chocolate chip cookie cups topped with a torched marshmallow and Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square. But then I thought, why stop there?? I needed some kind of graham cracker component and also wanted to incorporate more chocolate into the recipe (cause more chocolate is always a good thing). That’s when the over the top idea hit me – what if I made a graham cracker infused milk chocolate truffle and stuffed it INSIDE the cookie cups?! I immediately got to work on this idea and it was exactly what the cookie cups needed.

This recipe takes a little bit of time to make, but you can break it up and make and freeze the truffles ahead of time. You’ll also have some cookie dough and truffles leftover as well….which is never a bad thing. So trust me when I say you need to make these. Everyone who has tried them has flipped when they bite in and discover the surprise hidden chocolate truffle. They just can’t enough! There’s something about the combo of the chocolate stuffed cookie cup, the faint smokiness of the torched marshmallow, and the salty/sweet Ghirardelli caramel filled chocolate square that people can’t get enough of.

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Latest News and My New Favorite Ingredient

The Earnest Baker Logo

It’s amazing to think that it’s been almost three months since I made the decision to start The Earnest Baker.   It’s even harder to believe that I only have a little over six weeks left until the Farmer’s Market starts and I’m officially open for business.  This means I’m in the homestretch now, which is equally exciting and nerve wracking.  I’m excited, because I cannot wait to open and finally be able share all the baked goods I’ve been working on.  At the same time though, it’s nerve wracking because there’s still a good amount I need to get done.

I wanted to share a couple pieces of exciting news with you guys.  You may or may not have noticed the new header on the site.  You may have also noticed the slightly boring (but in my mind super cool) picture at the beginning of this post.  What you’re looking at is the official logo for The Earnest Baker!  I’m really stoked about this development, because it makes everything seem a little more real.  It also means I’m getting business cards and who doesn’t love business cards??  Seriously, business cards are awesome.  I get to say things like, “Here, take my business card” and sound all professional.  I’m probably getting overly excited about this…….I’ll calm myself down now.

The second thing I wanted to tell you guys is that The Earnest Baker is now Facebook official (people say that, right?).  The Earnest Baker now has its very own Facebook page that you can check out.  This is pretty cool, because it’s another way to stay connected.  What I love most is that Facebook is a quick way to post updates and it’s also a really easy way to interact with everyone.  I’ll post news and pictures regularly on the page and if you have anything you want to ask, share, or even a special request – please shoot me a comment!  I promise to respond quickly.

Okay, now on to the more fun foodie stuff.  Caramelized White Chocolate and I are having a bit of a love affair.  It is, without a doubt, my new favorite ingredient.  Caramelized White Chocolate is becoming very popular with pastry chefs and for good reason…….it’s insanely delicious.  It’s made by “roasting” white chocolate in the oven at relatively low heat (250°F) and stirring it every 5 to 10 minutes for about 30 minutes to an hour.  Once it’s done, you stir in a good pinch of sea salt.  What you end up with at the end of this process is really quite magical.  It transforms the cloyingly sweet white chocolate we all know into this beautiful roasted, caramelly, salty-sweet liquid.  Just thinking about it makes me want more!

You can use the Caramelized White Chocolate for a variety of purposes.  It’s great on top of ice cream or sandwiched in between two shortbread cookies.  It’s also a great addition to stir into cookie dough or cake batter.  I’ve been playing around with it, so you can expect to see a few baked goods with it this summer!  If you’d like to give it a try (and I highly suggest you do), here are the links to the websites I referenced while making it:

David Lebovitz’s Caramelized White Chocolate Recipe

Food52 Caramelized White Chocolate

The process requires a decent amount attention, so it’s a good thing to do when you have an hour to kill.  I set a timer and dragged it around the house with me to remind me when to stir and check on it.  It’s totally worth it though.  If you end up becoming as addicted to Caramelized White Chocolate as I am, please don’t blame me……blame the chocolate!  Although, it’ll be pretty dang hard to stay mad at that delicious substance for too long.

Things That Make Me Happy in the Kitchen

Baking Tools

Lately, I’ve been spending the majority of my time baking in the kitchen.  I have a pretty solid routine going and it’s working out well so far.  Over the past week, I realized how attached I am to certain baking tools.  I even noticed that I tend to play favorites in the kitchen.  There are certain items that I rarely use and sometimes wonder why I bought.  Then there are the tools I use every time I bake without fail.  I guess this is pretty normal (or at least I hope it is).  Everyone has their favorite trusty whisk that they’ve had for 10 years and can’t imagine ever parting with……..or is that just me??  Either way, I wanted to share some of my favorite kitchen tools with you guys.

The following list is made up of items that I find indispensable in the kitchen and use on a regular basis.  You might have a lot of these items already, but if you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to check them out.  In an effort to remain impartial, I won’t name specific brands.  We all have our favorites and I wouldn’t want to unfairly promote one over another.  On that note, let’s get cracking on this list!

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Update from the Kitchen

Salted Caramel BrowniesThe past couple weeks, I haven’t exactly been great about posting here.  My goal was to add a new post two to three times a week, but lately I’ve gotten a little side-tracked.  However, I have an extremely good reason for this – I promise!  I’ve been busy in the kitchen baking up a storm developing and testing new recipes.  In a way, this benefits all of us.  For me, it means I’m moving forward with my business and starting to nail down the final menu for The Earnest Baker (which is top priority right now).  For you guys, it means lots of awesome products to try in the near future.  It also benefits you if you live close by and enjoy me force feeding you lots of sweets in the name of research.

The truth is I really have to give a big shout out to all my friends.  I’m sure they’re getting a little tired of eating tons of sweets while I stare at them and ask ridiculously nitpicky questions like, “Are the Salted Caramel Brownies too salty?”  There’s been an absurd amount of baked goods in the house lately and I hate letting any go to waste.  Fortunately, I have a great group of friends to pawn them off on.  My boyfriend and I would probably be 20 pounds heavier if we ate everything I’ve been making.  I really can’t blame him when he told me the other day he couldn’t eat any more brownies.  I feel the same way……..it’s a sad day when eating baked goods starts to feel like a chore.

My time in the kitchen has had its fair share of ups and downs.  I’ve had some moments of brilliance (Chocolate Malted Brownies come to mind) and I’ve had some not so brilliant moments (low-fat vegan gingersnaps were not my finest idea).  I’ve also had some recipes that drove me insane trying to perfect (I’m looking at you Salted Caramel Brownies).  The best part of all this is that I realized how happy I am.  The other day, while working on yet another batch of salted caramel, I noticed I had a huge goofy smile on my face.  It took me a little by surprise, but I guess it shouldn’t have.  Baking always makes me incredibly happy and realizing that this is what I do for work now felt absolutely amazing.  Maybe this means I should have made the decision to start my own business a long time ago.  Maybe it’s a sign that I made the right choice and am finally where I’m supposed to be in my life.  No matter what, it’s a great feeling and I’m going to ride it as long as I can.

The Running Slash Baking Correlation

Running

Aside from baking, my greatest passion is running.  At first, these two hobbies might seem like polar opposites, but they actually complement each other quite well.  Mostly because running allows me to eat all the stuff I bake and not feel so guilty about it, which is definitely a huge perk.  The funny thing is that I’ve found I’m not alone in my love of baking and running.  The more blogs I read, the more I discover that many avid bakers are also runners.  I’m not sure why this is…….maybe whatever part of the brain that’s tied to baking is also tied to running? Or maybe we’re all hopped up on sugar and have to run to get out our pent-up energy?

I guess when you really think about it, running and baking require a lot of the same traits in people.  They both require a lot of focus and dedication.  Both can attract some serious, Type A personalities (I may or may not be talking about myself……).  And both running and baking have a sort of meditative quality to them, but that could just be for me.  They are my go-to stress relievers.  During my grad school exams, I was baking and running like crazy.

Running has been my savior in a lot of ways.  It’s my chance to unplug from the world (except for my Garmin – I’m kind of anal about my splits) and clear my head.  Whenever I feel my mind racing or have a problem to solve, I go for a run.  Running is the perfect time to figure things out and come up with a game plan.  It allows you to zero in and focus on something without any distractions.  On a typical run I’m usually working out recipes in my head, coming up with topics to write about, or figuring out what my next move is for the business.  It’s kind of amazing how much you can accomplish while running.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I came up with the name for my business during a run.

Okay, that’s probably enough of my ramblings about the joys of running.  I’m starting to feel a little cultish.  I’d like to hear what you guys think about this.  Are any of you bakers also runners? If so, what’s your take on the running/baking correlation?  Maybe together we can get to the bottom of this mystery and write a book on it and then name a really cool new style of running and baking after ourselves…….I like to dream big.

Balancing the Fun with the Not So Fun

Choc Chip Cookies

Starting your own business requires a lot of focus and self-motivation, especially when you’re working out of your home.  I try to maintain a relatively normal work schedule Monday through Friday.  My goal is to be as productive as possible those days.  I can get a wee bit distracted and if I don’t have a schedule my days might look a little something like this: “Oh wow it’s actually warm outside? I should get a quick 4 mile run in.” Followed by, “I wonder what’s on TV……holy crap a Boy Meets World marathon?! I should probably watch that.” Which would inevitably lead to, “I wonder how production is going on the Boy Meets World spin-off…….I should Google that!”  As you can see, it’s really best for everyone if I keep myself on track.

At this point, I spend most of my days testing and researching recipes.  Unfortunately, today I was waiting on an ingredient to arrive from Amazon and didn’t have anything to test.  This meant I had to figure out another way to be productive.  There is something I have been putting off, but knew I had to do……the dreaded kitchen inventory.  Rooting around my cupboards is not my definition of a fun morning, but it was definitely necessary.  I have a ton of random baking supplies and have been meaning to do an inventory so I can see exactly what I have and exactly what I need to buy.  The upside of doing this means I’m totally justified in buying more baking supplies (yaaaaaay).  The downside is that I realized I HAVE to buy more baking supplies (stupid lack of income).  Turns out, I have some incredibly random supplies and am lacking some very basic ones.  For example, I have a deep dish tart pan, but no pie pan. How this happened, I have no idea.

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Geeking Out on Cookbooks

Cookbooks

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always read cookbooks.  And when I say read, I mean cover to cover as if it were a normal fiction book.  I’ve even been known to whip out a cookbook on an airplane to pass the time (you should try it – cookbooks are awesome plane reads).  I never thought this was a weird habit, but I’ve come across a few people in my life who thought it was a little strange.  In fact, my high-school college counselor thought this was such a “unique” trait that she made me write my college essay about how I read cookbooks for pleasure.  Honestly, I thought it was a super random topic and it wasn’t exactly the most thrilling essay, but I wasn’t going to argue.

I’ve always believed that anytime you are trying to do something, you should read up and research it as much as possible.  When I started running half-marathons, I read everything I could about the subject from training plans to nutrition guides.  I did the same thing when I started attempting to cook actual non-dessert food (cooking and baking are seriously two separate parts of the brain).  Maybe it’s the History Major in me, but I love doing research.  My favorite part of writing my dissertation was going to the National Archives and digging through all the documents…..I really am kind of a nerd, aren’t I?  I guess this is why I’ve always loved reading cookbooks.  It’s one of the best ways to perfect your baking.  They provide practical tips, new recipes to try out, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll provide inspiration for your own baking creations.

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