Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Sprinkles Oh My!

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I love peanut butter.  Love it.  I put it on pancakes, on my waffles, on french toast, on apples, on celery (even though I despise celery).  I just don’t get tired of it.  Ever.  I’m pretty sure my friends and family get tired of eating baked goods that are full of peanut butter though, so I’ve been trying to give it a rest.  However, as you can see, I failed.  I just couldn’t resist when I found this recipe from How Sweet It Is.

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Have you ever seen such a-dorable peanut butter cookies?   Seriously.  PB4

Okay, so I didn’t come up with the recipe (I usually don’t) and these pics don’t compare to the ones here.  But I had to include them in this blog as my active recipe catalog.

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These cookies are the perfect rainy day picker-upper.  First, you start with a miniature, delightfully oatty peanut butter cookie.  Then, you sandwich rich chocolate ganache between said cookies and roll the sides in sprinkles of your choice.  Nothing brings more stress-relieving cheer than peanut butter, dark chocolate, and sprinkles.  It’s scientifically proven.

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Here’s the recipe I used from How Sweet.  I’ve been a little a tired of cinnamon in things lately, so I’ve omitted the 1 1/2 tsps originally called for, but if you’re in the mood for a more spice-like cookie feel free to add it in!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

whipped ganache filling
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
chocolate sprinkles for rolling

Directions:

Place chocolate in a bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan over low heat until warm (just until bubbles appear on the edges) and then pour over chocolate. Stir constantly until chocolate is totally melted, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together flour, oats, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.

In a large bowl, combine melted butter and peanut butter with sugars and whisk until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combined. Stir in dry ingredients, mixing until dough comes together. You can even bring the dough together with your hands if needed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Measure out a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball, making sure they are all roughly the same size. Place on a nonstick baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until just baked through and lightly golden on the edges. Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.

Add ganache to the bowl of an electric mixture and beat until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Using a small spoon or spatula, spread ganache on the flat side of one cookie and cover it with another, repeating with the rest. Roll the edges in sprinkles!

Put the Lime in the Coconut

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I believe that all occasions in life should be celebrated.  My lovely sister Jennifer came to visit me in Portland this week.  Well, she came to visit my whole family, but I’ll pretend it was all for me.  Of all the occasions worth celebrating, getting to see people you love is probably one of the best   How do I celebrate?  Well, I bake.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming.  Jen requested coconut cupcakes, so I set out to find the perfect recipe.

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I ended up settling on a simple recipe from Hungry Rabbit.  The cupcake base turned out lovely.  It was moist, but not too gooey, perfect really.  I added in a dash of orange peel and omitted the coconut extract simply because I didn’t have any on hand.  This may have been a mistake.  They were really good, but the coconut flavor just wasn’t as strong as I would have liked.

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As for the frosting, I also omitted the coconut extract.  However, I added in lime zest and lime juice and it turned out deeee-lightful! I love lime and it mixes wonderfully with coconut.  And yes, I’ll admit, the entire process of frosting these cupcakes was accompanied by my own personal rendition of “Put the Lime in the Coconut.”

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Donuts!!!

I take after my dad in a lot of ways.  A lot of the little things.  I inherited his artistic sense, his horrible punny sense of humor, his love of coffee, and his dang sweet tooth.  I love sweet things.  I’ve tried to ween myself off of sugar, and I just can’t seem to do it.  Thanks to my dad, I have always loved a strong cup of coffee and a donut to eat it with. Even after my venture into specialty coffee and a year spent at Coava developing my palate toward the finer coffees in life I still get a craving for a sludgy mug of my dad’s coffee.

Yummmmm.

See this is the trick:  However shamefully bad your coffee is, if you pair it with a sweet donut, everything balances out.

In honor of my dad, but really just my love of donuts, I’ve been on the search for the best donuts in Portland.  Now the Portland donut scene is growing.  I know it’s shocking, but donuts have finally been discovered.  I’ve created a list of places to check out and will let you know the victor of this competition.

The Donut List

1. Voodoo Donuts

2.  Tonalli’s Donuts

3. Blue Star Donuts

4. Coco Donuts

5. Annie’s Donuts

6. Delicious Donuts

7. Helen Bernhard’s Bakery

After asking around, driving around, and yelping around these are the ones that made it to the list.  In all honesty I have had donuts from 5 out of 7 of these already.  But I’m waiting to visit the final two to give my final word.  If I have forgotten one that deserves mention, please tell me.  No, Krispy Kreme is not on the list, I don’t think I need to bother explaining that sugar in the shape of donut, still does not qualify it as a donut.

Barista Competition Cupcakes

This last weekend, two of our baristas competed at the USBC NW Regional Competition.  We closed the shop for the day and our entire staff drove up to Seattle to show our support.  Except for me.   And boy did I miss out.  Devin Chapman (Coava represent!) took first place in the NW Region for the 2nd year in a row.  So to make up for not being there in person I decided to make a special batch of USBC Regional Cupcakes.

I ended up making two different batches of cupcakes and wasn’t terribly happy with either one of them for a base.  The first recipe I tried turned out dense and far too cake-like.  It tasted good but the texture wasn’t right.  The second recipe was a chocolate based cupcake I pulled from Hummingbird Bakery.  This one just tasted a little dull.  I was a little disappointed, but there’s an easy way to cover up bland cupcakes: Fill them with Nutella!  Seriously it covers all wrongs and tastes delicious!

The best part of these cupcakes was the frosting.  Danggggg, it is amazing.  This one’s a keeper.  I found a recipe for Coffee Liquer Latte Buttercream and made a few modifications.  First I used a brand new coffee from Coava, the Flor de Concepcion.  I ground it coarsely and then simmered the grinds in heavy whipping cream.  After it cooled down, I added coffee liquer and then mixed it into my traditional buttercream recipe.

Ahhh bliss.  Coffee and cupcakes, my two favorite things brought together into one delightfully sweet item. Oh and of course to keep with the rich decadence of the recipe I topped each cupcake with shavings of Ghirardelli Chocolate.

Bon Appetite!

 

 

 

Dave & Joann’s Wedding

This was the first wedding I’ve ever attempted.  When I offered to do the cake and cupcakes for my brother’s wedding I had no idea how much work it would be.  But he is my only brother and I do really love his lovely bride.  So when he called and said they really wanted me to do their wedding I enthusiastically said, “No problem!” 

In January, six months before the wedding, I called my brother and asked for the final wedding guest count.  Now originally I think I had been given an estimate of 200 cupcakes, so I was crossing fingers that nothing had changed.  “Brenda, we didn’t realize how many friends we have between the two of us.” Yes, yes you both are very loved, now hit me with the number, I muttered crossing fingers.  “Well I think we are really going to need 300 cupcakes.”  There was a nice long pause over the phone.  Finally, my brother led the way, “If you think that’s more than you can handle we can hire it out.”
Now I know my brother didn’t mean to do this, yet his words hit the target.  I have a special love for challenges and the words “More than you can handle,”is my cue to jump in with both feet for better or for worse.

These photos make it look like everything was a piece of cake (oh god that’s a terrible joke, I’m sorry).  Believe me it wasn’t. Let me do the math for you: 300 cupcakes (half of these needed to be gluten-free for my brother) and one three layer cake.  Oh, and the day of the wedding I would need to transport all of these glorious creations from Portland to Salem.  Phew.

Months in advance I ran trial batches and settled on two recipes.  A basic chocolate cupcake that always turns out perfect, and the only good gluten-free recipe I am currently familiar with. Luckily neither my brother nor sister-in-law are too picky so I was able to choose very simple decorations to save me time.  For the vanilla gluten-free cupcakes I settled on a plain lavender frosting.  On the chocolate cupcakes, I swirled white butter cream frosting and topped them with a delicate sprig of freshly cut lavender.

The key to baking in mass without a commercial kitchen is really good friends. I picked five trusty friends (bless all of them a thousand times) and delivered bags with the recipe, ingredients and cupcake liners, and the date which they had to be made.  On Friday, we all baked in unison in our own tiny kitchens.  Once I had my set of 75 cupcakes in the oven I embarked on the frosting.  My entire fridge was filled with tubs of homemade butter cream and by the time I finished my hair had turned white from the powdered sugar.   Somehow we all did it.  Early Saturday morning, my boyfriend, my coworker, and I sat and frosted all 300 cupcakes.  Presto.  I thought the worst was over.

Let me tell you, the drive from Portland to Salem was the most terrifying hour of my life.  Every bump, every turn I was terrified I was going to upset the cupcakes in the backseat.  Barely 5 miles out of my driveway a pedestrian decided to cross the street out of nowhere.  There was breaking, there may have been swearing, and in the end we lost 20 precious cupcakes to the upset.  But still we pressed on.  Let’s just say my boyfriend is a very patient man, to drive with me that full hour.  Seriously, the man deserves a round of applause.

We made it though.  The cupcakes were swiftly placed around a giant cupcake tree, and I very nervously managed to transport the cake to its final resting place at the top.

Everything was beautiful.  The wedding had been so carefully planned and the weather showed up with an incredible 80 degrees and bright sunshine.  What a day!  Congrats to my wonderful brother and new sister-in-law! I’m so glad I could contribute to their special day.