Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars.

That title is a mouthful

IMG_1904

of delicious.

Sometimes, I expect myself to give lengthy, eloquent blog posts. Here’s a story, let’s have a laugh or poignant moment, now let me tie it into a baked good and tell you why you should bake and then consume it.

By “sometimes”, I mean “usually.” And by “usually,” I mean “always.”

I’ve never been very succinct.

I’m giving myself a break, a mental break. I know that if you’ve stumbled down the page this far, you’ll probably like the recipe. These bars are dense, thick, satisfying, comforting. Let them be a rainy-day treat, enjoyed with a cup of tea by an open window, or a sweet square to slow down your crazy mornings.

IMG_1909

Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes an 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup mini pretzels

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. As the dough begins to come together, slowly add the milk and mix until the dough forms.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Press into the prepared baking dish. Arrange the pretzels on top of the dough, pressing in lightly. Bake for about 17-20 minutes, until edges are brown. Cool completely and cut into squares. Devour.

most ardently.

(I love you.)

  1. All of these dresses. All. Of. Them.
  2. Portable burrito. When I was in Poland, my friends and I had the misfortune of dining at a “Mexican” restaurant, a night which became one of my regretted adventures. But, going to Chipotle in Paris (we were homesick!) made up for it. Burritos for days.
  3. Honey Almond Quinoa Granola. Do you know how much I adore Kristin’s blog? A lot. This granola looks to die for.
  4. Gregory Alan Isakov. Be still my heart. My roommate and I listened to this song all semester, and it’s still as gorgeous as ever.
  5. Music to my little introverted ears.
  6. Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies. Yes. Please. In my mouth. Now.
  7. Just for fun. Because who doesn’t like ridiculous looking cats?

“I browned butter for you!” Or, Mini-Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodle Cookie Cups.

Doesn’t that sound like a line from a soap opera? Scene: Eleanor, finding the door to boyfriend Jonathan’s apartment unlocked, steps inside, only to find Jonathan making out with Alexandra. Alexandra having fled the scene, Eleanor confronts an embarrassed, red-faced Jonathan in his entirely unkempt kitchen.

Eleanor: A year of dating and this? That? You with that woman? My God, Jonathan, I’ve done all I could for you – sat with you as you wept over Jane Eyre, drove you to the bakery every morning when your car was in the shop so you wouldn’t have to live a day without Josie’s bagels, didn’t laugh at the stupid things you said after your wisdom teeth were taken out. I made puff pastry for you from scratch! I slaved over that eighteen-layer cake for your mother’s birthday! I browned butter for you, Jonathan. And there you were, with that tramp who can only make cookies from refrigerated cookie dough.

End scene.

use ii

Maybe I should be a writer.

Anyways. I’m still having a love affair with my mini muffin tin, because mini muffins and small cups of various baked goods are automatically 50 zillion times more delicious than any standard-sized or jumbo counterparts. Size matters. And what’s better than cookies baked in a mini-muffin tin? And what’s better than cookies covered in cinnamon and filled with caramel in a mini-muffin tin? (Your boyfriend eating them is even better, actually.)

I’m a big fan of this recipe…but I wanted cups. So I searched the internet and found a recipe for maple snickerdoodle cookie cups…but, the addition of maple was overwhelming. Brown butter? (Everyone says browned butter smells nutty. To me, it smells like pancakes.) Vanilla? Cinnamon? Caramel? And you want me to add maple? No. Can’t do it. Maybe next time, when my caramel fiend of a boyfriend won’t be around.

After tweaking with reckless abandon (sort of), the results are…delicious. And perfect. Also, delicious.

use

#1 rule of baking: always “accidentally” add more vanilla extract than necessary. Oops, my hand slipped. Better let the overflow happen.

#2 rule of baking: there is no such thing as too much cinnamon.

Add the maple if you want. Fill with chocolate if you want. What-ever you want.

Go forth and enjoy. Before any significant others consume them before you get the chance.

IMG_1897

Mini Caramel-Stuffed Snickerdoodle Cookie Cups
Recipe adapted from Beyond Frosting and inspired by Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

For the cinnamon-sugar coating

  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.
  2. Brown the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, stir constantly until it turns brown with a nutty aroma.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the browned butter with sugars and cinnamon. Set aside and allow the butter to cool.
  4. When butter/sugar mixture has cooled, beat in the egg and vanilla.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
  6. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter until well combined.
  7. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the coating in a small bowl. Roll about a tablespoon of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place into the mini muffin pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned.
  9. Allow the cookies to sit in the pan for 15-20 minutes before removing and cooling completely. Devour.

IMG_1879

Mini Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups.

Guess who got off work two hours earlier than planned? This girl. Thus, a celebratory blog post. This one’s been sitting in my drafts for a while – now, voila.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve noticed I do a lot of things in life “just because”. My lips don’t need a reason to be coated in red lipstick. Why am I driving barefoot? Because I can. I’ll go through chapters of a book reading upside down; I’ve been known to buy random gifts for people months away from their birthday or any holidays simply because.

That’s how most of my baking seems to be – just because. Because it’s Tuesday. Because the sun is shining. Because I need to use up this bag of coconut coconut. Because I have a few hours to kill.

So on & so forth.

When I was browning the butter for these, my father walked in the kitchen and asked what I was doing.

“Browning butter,” I replied. Obviously.

He paused for a minute, looking into my pan, and said, “Oh, you mean, burning it. Cool.”

Burning butter? I guess so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hypothetical conversation:

“What are these?”

“Burned butter cookie cups! Here, try one!”

“Ohh…um…no thanks. I’m allergic to…um…burned things.”

“No, they’re good, I swear!”

Right. There’s a reason it’s called browned butter.

This was my first time browning butter. I’ve heard a lot of fuss about it but never got around to doing it, mostly for fear of ruining it. Yet, for as many times I’ve used the stove, I’ve never burned down a building, so I tried it. Goodness, browning the butter makes these cookie cups sing! Photographing them was horrendous; with my face hovering directly over the cups, it took all my self-control (what little I possess) to not stuff every single one of them into my mouth.

It’s smooth sailing after the butter is browned. Don’t be intimidated by this “browned butter” talk, by the way (isn’t that fun to say? Browned butter, browned butter, browned butter!). Browning butter is nothing more than leaving the butter in the pan on the stove longer than you usually would if you were merely melting it, which causes it to turn brown and smell nutty and fragrant. And beautiful.

Hey, you don’t even need to tablespoon out the dough! Muffin pans really are convenient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The final product is thick & ooey-gooey-chewy-delicious. Ridiculously delicious. Never-ending summer delicious. 12-hour-hard-sleep-after-a-long-week delicious. Brand-new-hardcover-book delicious. Melt-your-face-off-delicious.

You can’t tell from the photos, but the wrappers have pictures of muffins on them. And “muffins” is scrawled all over them, multiple times.

See? Cookie cups in muffin tins in muffin wrappers declaring their contents to be muffins, just because I can.

Make these. Make them because it’s Tuesday and Tuesdays are neither popular nor hated. Make them because you want the satisfaction of burning something that ends up tasting really, really good. Make them because you are fearless and have really fabulous hair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Make them because you deserve to be good to yourself.

Mini Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups (printable recipe here!)
from Averie Cooks
makes 36 mini cookie cups or 12 normal-sized cookie cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, browned (see directions)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, or dark)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a mini-muffin pan, or line with mini muffin liners. Set aside.
  2. In a skillet or sauce pan, melt butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter turns brown and fragrant (butter will melt and foam, then turn from clear to golden to brown). Remove pan from burner and continue to stir for about one minute.
  3. Poor butter into large mixing bowl and allow to cool momentarily to prevent the egg from scrambling. Stir in egg, sugars, and vanilla.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until just combined (a few flour streaks is okay). Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon dough equally into mini-muffin cavities. Bake for about 6-8 minutes.
  6. Allow cookies to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Devour. (They will keep for about a week at room temperature or 3 months in the freezer.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wordless…Aw, Man: A Cakey Bakes Apology & Explanation.

Mes amis.

Let’s talk real life.

Okay, baking is real life. I mean, my job. The fact that my job has consumed my life. The fact that I’m at work almost more than I’m at home…or not at work. With this new project going on, baking has been going on the backburner. In case you were interested, or require further proof of my busy-ness, here’s what my schedule has been like, approximately, for the past week and a half.

4:15 AM – wake up. Stumble to kitchen. Force feed myself caffeine and something that resembles breakfast.
4:30 AM – drive to work.
5 AM – start work.
Work.
Work.
Work.
Work.
Break!
Work.
Work.
4 PM – drive home.
4:30 PM – arrive home.
4:36 PM – crash.
5:30 PM – dinner.
6:30 PM – act like a zombie. Attempt to read; fail miserably. Charge iPod and phone. Prepare lunch for the next day. Watch Jeopardy!, maybe. Attempt to write. Attempt to clean.
8:30 PM – shower. Long, hot, hot, hot shower.
9 PM – begin evening wind down. Drink a gallon of herbal tea.
10 PM – accidentally pass out in front of the TV.
Midnight – realize I passed out in front of the TV. Drag my broken body upstairs; microwave heating pad to put on my shoulders. Fall into bed.
4:15 AM – wake up.

Lather.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Needless to say, I’m exhausted. Not only has this job made me physically exhausted, but it’s been taking a huge toll on my mental as well as emotional health. Tired, unhappy Cakey = no baking motivation = no material for Cakey Bakes.

I’m sorry. I truly am. I know I don’t have a lot of followers, but I understand the frustration of an absent blogger and a boring blog. As soon as work is over (next Friday will be the end, huzzah!), there will be recipes galore. Galore, I tell you!

Thank you, dear followers. Thank you, dear readers. Thank you for dealing with my unannounced hiatuses and inconsistent posting.

Coconut, Almond, & Chocolate Chip Scones.

(Or Almond Joy Scones. Or, more fittingly, Almond Joy the Baker Scones. Have I ever mentioned how much I adore her blog? I do. A ton.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My mother decided to reorganize our silverware drawer. After five and a half years of living in this house, we’ve only had the drawer one way, even after we got new silverware. Now, I’m unconsciously reaching for a knife when I want to eat cereal and finding spoons when I really just want to make a PB&J. Sometimes, the changes are bigger than that. Sometimes, friends will choose to go away permanently, whether on amiable or unfriendly terms. You might uproot your life and travel across continents to chase (and, hopefully, find) your dreams. Routines change; “normal” changes. You find yourself in strange places and even more bizarre scenarios, and as you fumble through life, you do your best, you fight the fight, you gulp the coffee and breathe the best you can. Life is rough. Breakfast can make it better. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mornings feel like the calm before the storm, especially if you’re up before dawn, which is one of the many reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Settling into a routine gives you a bit of solid ground to stand on. Thus, I bring you scones to help the transition between “blissfully enjoying my 4th hour of sleep” and “I forgot it’s Monday” and all the other worries and anxieties on your mind. Soft, buttery, coconut-y, and comforting, like little bits of home. Biscuits and scones are some of my favorite baked goods to make – no waiting for butter to come down to room temperature, and plus, you get to use a pastry cutter. Or your hands. Like playing in the dirt, except you’re playing with butter and flour. And you’re not in small, flowered overalls. I’d say the most important point in this recipe is the toast the coconut and almonds beforehand. Heat brings out the best in both of those ingredients. And these little biscuits can be adjusted to your sweet tooth, or lack thereof. More coconut? Fewer almonds? White chocolate? Go for it. Whatever makes you feel most at home – whatever’s gonna get you through the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Make these tonight. Throw one in the microwave or toaster oven tomorrow morning as you’re rushing about, trying not to forget shoes or whatever weekend project you were assigned or all the things your child needs at day camp. Take a bite, take a breath, and go get ’em, tiger. This is your week.

Coconut, Almond, & Chocolate Chip Scones (printable recipe here!)
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes about 10-12 large scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or a mixture – I used 3/4 cup whole wheat and the rest AP)
  • 2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup almonds, slivered or chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • additional sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place coconut and slivered almonds on it. Put in the oven to toast for 10-12 minutes, checking once or twice to make sure it doesn’t burn. When coconut is golden, remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until butter and flour are mostly combined. Set in the fridge for a few minutes.
  5. Whisk together buttermilk and egg.
  6. Remove flour and butter mixture from the fridge; add coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips. Stir together, then create a well in the center. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the well all at once.
  7. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are just combined (preferably with a few visible flour streaks).
  8. Place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Work the dough into a disk with your hands. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the scones and place on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake scones for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and devour.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the aftermath.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My blog felt a little empty without the combination of peanut butter + chocolate chip. Thankfully, these bars have remedied that.

I’d wager that the best things in life are the simplest, like feeling cool grass beneath your toes, having a guy hold the door open for you, sitting in silence with the people you love, waking up to the sound of rain. And strangely enough, the things that are worth it are the most difficult, the most heartwrenching, the most frustrating.

Lucky for us, these bars are both simple and worth it. Why? Here’s a list.

  • chocolate
  • peanut butter
  • one bowl
  • one bowl
  • peanut butter
  • one bowl
  • chocolate
  • one bowl
  • peanut butter + chocolate

And here’s a picture, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Observe the texture. Observe the chocolate chips. Observe the lovely aroma. (Whoops, you can’t do that, can you?)

The peanut butter and chocolate combination sold me right off the bat. No star-crossed food-lovin’ here – peanut butter and chocolate were clearly made for each other. Food soul mates. Then I saw the tablespoon of vanilla extract and very nearly swooned. Vanilla makes me weak-kneed.

Speaking of weak knees, I’ll be honest: initially, these were made for a boy (what I lack in charm I make up with baked goods) BUT, most unfortunately, my plans were foiled when my parents informed me that, instead, we’d be taking them to my cousin’s birthday party. “What? No, of course I didn’t have plans for these, I was just…baking stuff. Because I actually have time to. All right, we can take them to the party…”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Regardless of how my plans were thwarted, these did not disappoint. After 22 minutes of baking, the toothpick came out clean, and although I freaked out a little because I still thought they were underbaked, they weren’t. The edges puffed up while the middle remained miraculously soft and gooey. Peanut buttery, chocolate chippy, buttery, deliciousy.

Have I mentioned they’re made in one bowl? All the goodness of cookies without the fuss. Perfect if you’re lazy (like me) or in a hurry (like most of humanity). Not too much chocolate (let’s be honest, is that ever possible?), just enough peanut butter (although adding another tablespoon or two wouldn’t hurt too much), and more than enough sweetness. And CRAZY GOOD.

Clearly my cousins thought so, considering all of them were gone within an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (printable recipe here!)
from Averie Cooks

[Note: Honestly, I laughed out loud when I saw you could scramble the egg if you mix it in while the butter is still too hot. But apparently it can really happen – make sure the butter is cooled!
Baking time will also depend on how gooey you want your center. I’d wager they could be baked up to 30 minutes if you want a more-set center. Just keep an eye on them.]

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • heaping 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 6 – 7 ounces (about 3/4 cup) semi-sweet or dark chocolate (chips or chopped)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter (about 2 30-second intervals). Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool before adding the egg (to prevent it from scrambling).
  3. Stir in egg, sugars, and vanilla extract until well combined. Stir in peanut butter.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; mix until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate.
  5. Scoop batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until center is set and golden (or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean).
  6. Allow bars to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Cut into slices and devour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA