Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Who does not love the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It is traditional, delicious and comforting all rolled into one. I got to thinking about that, and thought – why not transform that sandwich into a dessert? I thought about peanut butter and jelly cookies (my Grandma Barbra eats jelly on top of her peanut butter cookies) but decided for it to be portable, and less messy, it would need to be a “bar” of some kind. The first time I tried these with less jelly, but in the end, decided they needed more jelly. These are absolutely perfect!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly melted
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups smooth peanut butter
3 cups white all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups strawberry jam or jelly

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and spraying a 9×13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Next, line the pan with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray. This will ensure the bars to be easily removed when finished baking.

In a large bowl, combine the slightly melted butter and white granulated sugar until throughly mixed, light in color and creamy.

Next, add in the pure vanilla extract, large eggs and smooth peanut butter. Combine this and mix together well.

Finally, add in the white all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir this together just until everything is combined throughly.

Place over half of this mixture into the prepared pan, spread and push down evenly with clean fingers. You want the base to be as even as possible – this is important.

In a medium sized bowl, place the strawberry jam/jelly and stir well until it turns into a spreadable consistency.

Place the jam/jelly on top of the dough base and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.

Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the top of the jam/jelly. Don’t worry about consistency here – just crumble as evenly over the top as you can.

Place in preheated oven for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving. This is best kept refrigerated.

Enjoy!

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Pavlova

I have to confess that prior to the last year, I did not know exactly what a “pavlova” was, but I do remember seeing them scattered throughout my French cookbooks. I made a mental note in the back of my mind to one day try it, but that day did not come…until recently.

I had just made strawberry jam (recipe here – https://blaisethebaker.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/simple-strawberry-jam/) and was thinking about all of the different ways I could use it. Topping on angel food cake, homemade lard biscuits and on top of lady fingers were all delicious ideas, but I had tried them all – I was looking for something new. The idea of making a pavlova jumped into my mind, and I remembered wanting to try it.

I (as I always do in this scenario) started out by researching pavlova and where it came from, etc. For those who do not already know pavlova is a meringue “based” dessert that has a light and crisp crust, while still being soft and light on the inside. The dessert was named after a Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova in the 1920’s, for conflicting reasons. I also discovered that this unique dessert was cooked uniquely as well. You bake it in a “low and slow” oven for about a hour, and then turn the oven completely OFF – while still leaving the dessert inside for several more hours (over night is perfect).

It is just as fun to make and bake as it is to eat – and here is the recipe…

Pavlova Blog

Pavlova

3 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs, collecting only the whites. Make sure there are NO traces of yolk in the whites. This is a very important step!

Add the salt to the bowl of egg whites.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. This should take about 4-5 minutes depending on the speed of your mixer. You will know it is at the “soft peak” stage, when you remove the mixer and there are light “soft” peaks that form.

Still beating the egg whites with the electric mixer, add the sugar a LITTLE at a time.

This step will take a little bit – but be patient.

Once the sugar has all been added, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat for about another minute.

Working carefully, spoon the egg white mixture out in a circle shape on the parchment paper using a metal spoon.

Work it gently and “form” a circle with the mixture. Make sure the pavlova is even across the center and about 8-10 inches in diameter.

Using the back of the spoon, working in a “circular motion”, even out the top of the pavlova. 

Place in preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes exactly – no longer.

Once the time is up, turn the oven OFF but leave the pavlova in! DO NOT open the oven door (even to check) for at least 8 hours. This is a perfect dessert to make the night before – to leave it in the oven overnight…

The next morning (or 8-10 hours later) remove the pavlova from the oven and serve same day.

This can be served in a variety of ways. I served mine with whipped cream and fresh strawberry jam. You can also serve it with whipped cream and fresh berries – strawberries, blueberries, etc. Another option would be to crumble the finished pavlova and serve it “Eton Mess” style by layering it in a cup with fresh berries and cream.

Have fun and enjoy!

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Simple Strawberry Jam

It is strawberry season in Indiana and you know what that means!? All of my strawberry jam, strawberry pizza and strawberry shortcake recipes get pushed right to the top of my “to try” list! So far, I have had pretty good luck with all of my strawberry “recipe testing” experiments. Matter of fact, right now (in the refrigerator) I have a new recipe I’m trying for “No Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Cups”! They look incredible and I can not wait to test them! (Which IS after all, the best part of “recipe testing”!)

Many of you requested the recipe for the jam I made a few days ago, but I was still “tweaking” the recipe. It was inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten (“The Barefoot Contessa”). I changed a few things in the recipe, (including the sugar amount, the amount of fruit, the cooking time and the liqueur substitution) and I think it is incredible! DO NOT panic that this recipe calls for a candy thermometer. I have tried this recipe with AND without one, and if you pay close attention…it will work out either way.

I have used the finished product on toast, angel food cake, ice cream…and straight out of the jar! It is really simple and delicious – you will be wanting to make this year around!

Strawberry Jam Blog

Simple Strawberry Jam

3 pints fresh strawberries
3 cups sugar (see NOTE on sugar in recipe)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons orange zest
1 Granny Smith apple (cored and diced)
1 cup fresh blueberries
Candy thermometer

Place the strawberries into a colander and rinse them under cold water. Be sure the strawberries are clean and free of any debris.

Drain the strawberries and place on a paper towel. Cut the tops off the strawberries (hull / clean them).

Cut the strawberries in half – but leave the smaller ones whole.

Place the cut berries into a heavy bottomed pan (Dutch oven). I used a cast iron dutch oven for this, and it worked great. I try and use cast iron when and where I can – big fan!

Pour the sugar in with the strawberries and toss to coat. Be careful not to “break up” the strawberries.

NOTE ON SUGAR – I used the “C&N” brand “Baker’s Sugar” for this recipe, which is “ultra-fine pure sugar”. The difference between this sugar and “regular” sugar is that this particular type of sugar is finely processed and “melts” into the jam better. BUT you can also use “regular” sugar – I have tried both and both work well…

Zest the orange FIRST before you try for the juice. I zest the orange right over the pot. Just eyeball 3 tablespoons. If you need to measure, please feel free.

Next, cut the oranges in half (for 3 tablespoons of zest and juice you should need about THREE oranges) and juice them. I use a juicer, but you can also use a fork and “squeeze” the orange around the fork. Do this in a measuring cup – or right into the pot for those who would rather “eyeball”.

Stir the juice and zest into the strawberries and sugar mixture carefully.

Place the pot over a MEDIUM heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Once the mixture is to a boil, add the blueberries and apple and continue stirring.

Skim any foam that might rise to the top…

Using a candy thermometer, have the mixture reach 220 degrees. This should take about 30 minutes. IF you don’t want to use a candy thermometer (I have tried this recipe with and without one) watch the jam closely at about 25 minutes. If the color is RICH and DEEP – remove from heat. Trust me…it only takes a second for the mixture to burn! As long as you are stirring the jam and watching for the rich color it will be fine.

Once the jam is dark and rich in color (ABOUT 30 minutes) the jam is done. Remove it from the heat.

Pour the jam into a large container (I used another deep pot) and let it cool to room temperature.

Once it is cooled to room temperature, place into jars and keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

To keep it longer, place in canning jars and can according to manufacturer’s directions.

Enjoy!

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Lightning Fast Desserts

There is nothing I love more than making desserts from scratch…expect maybe aside from eating them! 😉

I love taking the time to ensure that everything is done correctly and I love seeing (and tasting) the final outcome! In making desserts from scratch YOU control the quality of the ingredients – which I love.

BUT – I know that everyone does not have the time to make homemade desserts from scratch, so I am going to share FIVE of my favorite “lightning fast desserts”! TWO of these desserts have already been featured on my blog and they are the recipes for my “Any Flavor Chip Fudge” (which has just been updated) and my “Turbinado Peanut Butter Cookies”. You can find them here…

Fast blog

Lightning Fast Fudge recipe https://blaisethebaker.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/fudge-favorite-chocolate-fudge-and-favorite-peanut-butter-fudge/

Lightning Fast Cookie recipe https://blaisethebaker.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/peanut-butter-cookies-with-turbinado-sugar/

The other three recipes I am going to share are super simple and super delicious! I have made them a LOT over the years, and I hope that you will to. They are…

Lightning Fast Biscuits and Jam

1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine and turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Knead the dough lightly for about a minute.

Roll the dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. My biscuit cutter is approximately 2 inches.

Bake at 425 degrees on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 14 minutes exactly.

Top with your favorite jam and serve!

Makes about 6 large biscuits.

Enjoy!

Lightning Fast Banana Bread Cookies

2 overripe bananas
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mash the 2 bananas in a bowl with a fork or potato masher.

Add the oats and walnuts and stir to combine.

Drop tablespoons of batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Makes about 12 cookies.

Enjoy!

Lightning Fast Cupcakes

1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 can room temperature soda

Any flavor of cake mix and any flavor of soda will work! Experiment! Try them all! My favorite though is chocolate cake mix and “Coca-Cola” – so delicious!)

Combine cake mix and soda and whisk together until smooth.

Pour the batter into a cupcake paper lined tin and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes exactly.

Let them cool completely and then frost as desired! I really like “frosting” them with whipped cream!

This makes 12 regular size cupcakes.

Enjoy!

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