Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars.

That title is a mouthful

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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.

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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.
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, revisited.

[PSA: Wordless Wednesdays has moved to currently unnamed Friday in honor of this recipe.]

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Hi, my name is Cakey, and I’m perpetually five years old.

I like to make messes. I like to play with the bubbles in the sink when I wash dishes. This weekend, I bought two coloring books. Last week, I ordered chicken strips for dinner with friends. When I was at a boy’s house, he asked what I wanted to drink – of course, I asked for a juice box. Part of me still wants to scream when I sit down in the dentist’s chair. A very large part of me.

Eventually, adult mode kicks in – flour is swept up, Anna Karenina is opened & read, and yes, please, I would like a side salad.

Oh, and packing for school happens.

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It’s that time of year again, when all my friends leave for college, leaving a week between me having friends and me heading back to campus. Thus, separation anxiety sets in, sadness ensues, and my oven mysteriously turns on.

I went back to the start to revisit one of my very first recipes. Kathryn & I baked it with the idea of sending some of it to a boy. Strangely enough, I baked it again this time with the same intention, for the same boy who is once again going to be six hours away from me for a few months. C’est la vie.

At least this time he’s fully aware of the intention behind the banana bread. I’m twice as alluring when I’m holding a freshly baked loaf of one of his favorite foods.

Feminine wiles, indeed.

Enough of the romance mush. Allow me to turn your attention to banana mush instead.

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I made a few more tweaks from the recipe I originally adapted from the great Joy the Baker, although very few. There seem to be varying opinions on the addition of vanilla extract to banana bread – this time, I added it to deepen the sweetness of the bananas. Self-control is null and void when it comes to vanilla.

Happy accident! My four pound Nestle chocolate chip bag (finally) ran out, leaving me with no choice but to chop up some dark chocolate sitting in my fridge. Chopped chocolate is, to me, more aesthetically pleasing than

This has become an all-butter/no oil recipe. A lot of bakers like using oil in breads and muffins to keep them moist (hold up, I hate that word with a passion. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that conveys what I’m trying to say), but then you miss out on the flavor the butter gives.

Finally, I added a crumble. Banana bread covered in sugar, oatmeal, and walnuts makes it a little more special.

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It’s as spectacular as it was before, only better. Do I contradict myself? (Very well, then I contradict myself.) This is probably the best banana bread you’ll ever eat – the perfect balance of sweet banana, smooth peanut butter, and just enough chocolate to round it out.

I’m still five years old when I make this bread, considering I had to taste-test it. Several times. This might’ve fueled my recent child-like spontaneity.

Embrace your inner child.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (printable recipe here)
makes 1 loaf pan (can use a cake pan or muffin tin)
originally from Joy the Baker
adapted from yours truly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 4 medium) mashed oh-so-very ripe* bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Optional oat-nut topping

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a loaf pan; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combing flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, and melted butter.
  4. Beat in eggs, then sugars, until mixture is smooth.
  5. Barely fold the wet ingredients into the dry, until the mixture is mostly combined but a few flour streaks still remain. Fold in chocolate and nuts.
  6. If desired, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, walnuts, and oats for oat-nut topping. Set aside.
  7. Pour batter into prepared baking pan; sprinkle with oat-nut topping or brown sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Invert loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely. Devour.

*NOTE: If your bananas aren’t yet ripe but you’re craving banana bread anyways, place them (skins still ON) on a baking sheet and stick them in a 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes. The peels will turn black, but the inside will be ripe and sweet (and very easy to mash). Proceed with recipe.

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Black banana peels, mmmmm.

 

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Hey, you! Yes, you! What do you think of my tweaks – unnecessary or delicious? Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe or add-in of your own?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

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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.

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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…”

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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.

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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.

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Crispy Oatmeal Pecan Butterscotch Chip Cookies.

[Alternately, Crispy Oatmeal Pecan Triple Chip Cookies.

Or Half-Burned Oatmeal Pecan Triple Chip Cookies.]

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Do you ever have those times when you think you’re doing something very, very well, which makes you proud of yourself and suddenly you feel invincible…only to find out later that you weren’t as great as you thought you were?

…that’s what happened with the photographs I took of these cookies. Oh, and the fact that I burned half of them. Oh, and the fact that most of them hopelessly stuck to the bottom of the pans.

Sigh.

It could be worse. It could’ve been a thesis or a big project at work. I could’ve broken one of my great-great-great-grandmother’s vases. I could’ve accidentally bought a plethora of items I thought were on sale but weren’t. I mean, that still doesn’t erase the let-down, but I do feel a little better about myself.

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Thankfully, the recipient of these semi-disastrous cookies was none other than my father, the man who has never once refused a baked good from me. With a smile on his face and suddenly a possessor of infinite patience, he would eat anything I made for him without a complaint or critique – whether it was an ice cream “sundae” doused in sprinkles, stale cookies, and weird, edible, red gel, or a burnt, soggy pie. I know I’ve disappointed him in many ways, but my cooking has never been one of them.

Butterscotch cookies, or oatmeal scotchies, are one of his favorite foods. Not just any oatmeal scotchies, though – crisp, crunchy ones. In all my nineteen years of living, I’ve heard hundreds of variations on a phrase he always says: “Cookies are meant to be crunchy, cake is supposed to be soft.” Soft cookies bought from the store are always met with an eye-rolling; cookies in the windows of bakeries are always ignored for their lack of crispy edges.

With Father’s Day weekend here and a small amount of butterscotch chips remaining in the cupboard, I decided to make these for the man who would eat anything I presented him from the heart.

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Since I didn’t have enough butterscotch chips left, I added in some white and semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with a few pecans for extra flavor. More granulated sugar and less brown sugar is one of the secrets of making these crispy.

My final product wasn’t perfect. No, they’re nowhere near perfect, considering a fourth of them have (nearly) black bottoms and another fourth are crumbs. But you know what? It doesn’t really matter that much, because my dad had two of them before the second batch was even out of the oven. Then he told me, with excitement in his eyes, they were fantastic and had another one. With praise like that, who needs perfection?

Whether your dad likes soft or crunchy cookies, brownies or blondies, cake or pie, do something special for him. Appreciate him. Go out of your way to love him.

eh

Even if things fall apart a little.

Crispy Oatmeal Pecan Butterscotch Chip Cookies
adapted from Nestle

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups flour (I used a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 2/3 cups butterscotch chips OR 1 cup butterscotch chips + 2/3 cup other chips (I used white and semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and extracts; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually add flour to the creamed mixture and stir until well combined.
  4. Stir in oats, chips, and pecans.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Devour.