a sweet deal

Guess what?

It’s pretty exciting!

I … bought … my VERY FIRST CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously.  I’ve never owned a car before … I’ve always been happy to walk, ride my bike, take the bus, or the train… or a plane.  But I’ve never owned a car.  Not until Thursday that is.  Last Thursday was the day I took the leap – I went to a dealership and test drove a car … and then bought it (don’t worry … I did my research).

I pick it up on Monday.

A-MAZ-ING.

What does that have to do with baking you might ask?

Well … I decided to go to the dealership prepared … I brought along some brownies.  That’s right.  My car salesman was given a container full of brownies upon arrival.  :0)

I actually didn’t give him the brownies you’re about to see.  No – I twisted my own twisted brownies – but you’ll get the picture.  Both versions are good.  The brownies you’re about to see were a party treat (a birthday party treat).

I had actually blogged about this recipe two years ago (to the day): but that was when I wasn’t taking as many pictures – so I felt it was time for a recipe update.  You might want to check out the original post, plus another update (I make these brownies pretty regularly) – or stick to what you see here.

These brownies are gluten free.

Please continue reading.

These brownies are also AMAZING.  Seriously – anyone who tries one loves them.  They are moist in the centre but get a little hard on the sides ... oh so good.  For the purpose of this party I decided to divide the brownie batter in half – a layer on the bottom, then add a layer of peppermint patties, which were then covered by the second layer of chocolate brownie.

WOW.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of the peppermint patties kinda expand in the oven … it just adds to the cool effect of the brownies.

Peppermint isn’t your thing?  How about adding some Hershey’s kisses – caramel kisses to be precise.  Yeah … that’s what I brought along to the dealership.  Another success.  Unlike the super cool effect of the peppermint patties (just look at that white centre); the caramel kisses melt into the brownie batter, allowing the caramel taste to shine through (obviously, you could make homemade caramel and use that … your choice).

Two options – both extremely simple.  There is absolutely nothing difficult or complicated about these brownies.  Just make them in advance.  You need to allow the pan to sit in your freezer overnight.  I know … normally when you bake something you want to be able to cut right into it.  Not these.  I swear they get better the longer they sit in a very cold place.  Trust me.  Once you try these – - you’ll be willing to bake a night ahead… I promise.

peppermint patty gluten free brownies

1/2 c. salted butter, cut into cubes

6 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 c. brown sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp. mint extract (vanilla if making the caramel version)

1/4 c. brown rice flour

1/4 c. tapioca flour

1 package peppermint patties (or many caramel Hershey’s kisses), unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line a square pan with foil – spray the foil with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate.  Do this using a double boiler – place a heat proof glass bowl over a pot of simmering water over medium-low heat (you don’t want the water to touch the bowl).  Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and allow it to melt – don’t get to fussy with it – let it sit and stir from time to time.  Once the chocolate is smooth and shiny – remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

No need for your stand-mixer – a bowl and whisk will do for these brownies.

Whisk the sugar and eggs together – you want a nice and silken looking base.  Add the mint (or vanilla) extract.  Whisk again.

Toss in both flours – whisk to incorporate.  Finally, add in the melted chocolate/butter mixture – this batter is thick and gooey.  That is a very good thing.

Spread half (to 2/3rd of the batter) of the batter in the square pan.

Layer your unwrapped peppermint patties (or caramel kisses) on-top of the brownie base – don’t place them right next to one another – leave about 1/2 inch of space between them.

Spread the remaining brownie batter over the candy layer – I needed to use a frosting spatula to spread the batter around – it’s almost like a really thick buttercream at this point.  Cover the candy.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

They are ready.  I promise.

Remove from the oven and place the pan (brownies and all) into a bath of cold water (fill your sink with ice water – about 2 or 3 inches of water will do). I usually leave the brownies in the ice water bath for about an hour.  When ready – toss the brownie pan into the freezer (cover with foil).  And then walk away.  Go to bed (best to make these brownies after you have brushed your teeth and are getting ready to go to sleep).

Wake up and trim the sides off the brownies.  Eat a piece of the trimmings.  Smile to yourself… now go ahead and tell yourself how awesome you are :0)  Cut the brownies into squares (usually I’ll then cut the squares into triangles) … wrap them up …

And then go buy a car (don’t forget the brownies)…

peanut butter + cream cheese + candy = sickly good

These bars are sick.  Not bad sick.  They are super, duper, amazing sick.

Anything that involves peanut butter, cream cheese and mini Halloween chocolate bars can’t be bad right? (well… perhaps not great for you, but they sure do taste GREAT!)

This recipe is why I heart twitter so much.  You see … I was scrolling through some tweets when I came upon this one:

Michelle @browneyedbaker

LOVE! Want to make w/pb cups! RT @PickyPalate: Great way to use up Halloween Candy that is STILL hanging around :) http://tinyurl.com/2uy6bqh
 
Obviously I clicked on the link.
 
And then my mind started going into overdrive. 
 
I knew I had to make these squares.  They looked just too good to pass up. 
 
Thank you Jenny (picky palate) for posting the recipe.  Thank you Michelle (browneyed baker) for tweeting about it.  Thank you twitter for putting it all together!  Oh… and I should thank Téana (my friend Tonya’s daughter) for providing me with some Halloween candy.
 
I didn’t  exactly follow the original recipe… my jar of peanut butter wasn’t quite as full as I originally thought; but I was able to substitute butter for the missing peanut butter.  It totally worked.  Quite frankly – I’ll probably make them my way again. 
 
I bet these would be good with a layer of toffee or butterscotch chocolates in the middle… doesn’t that sound perfect for the holidays?  Oh yum.  I’m already picturing other combos… seriously, this recipe is so simple (3 easy steps), and ridiculously delicious you’ll feel the same way after you give it a try.  DO IT!
 
You need about 25 pieces of Halloween chocolate candy – but I bet you could use a couple regular sized chocolates (or boxes of smarties), chopped up and spread atop the cream cheese.
 
(gooey delicious) peanut butter, cream cheese, candy squares
 
ingredients:
 
peanut butter base and topping
 
1/2 c. creamy, all natural peanut butter
 
1/2 c. butter
 
1/2 c. sugar
 
1/2 c. brown sugar
 
1 egg
 
1 tsp vanilla
 
1 1/4 c. flour, sifted
 
1/2 tsp baking powder
 
3/4 tsp baking soda
 
1/4 tsp salt
 
3-4 tbsp hot water
 
Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your square baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil; ensuring that the sides hang over.  Spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.
 
In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the peanut butter, butter, and sugars until well combined (use your paddle attachment).  Add the egg and vanilla, continue to beat until everything has blended.
 
In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Slowly (and with the stand-mixer running) add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture.  Pour in the hot water, a tablespoon at a time, you just want enough to dampen the dough (making it easier to spread).  I used the 4 tablespoons… but could probably have stopped at 3.
 
Press half the dough into your square pan.  Set aside.
 
 
cream cheese filling
 
1 package cream cheese, room temperature
 
1 tsp vanilla
 
3 tbsp sugar
 
This is so easy.  Pull out your food processor (yes – use your metal blade).  Dump the softened cream cheese, the sugar and the vanilla into the bowl and pulse until smooth.  That’s it.
 
 
Pour the thick and smooth cream cheese over the unbaked peanut butter cookie base – evenly spreading it out.
 
halloween chocolates
 
25 pieces – I used a mixture of smarties, aero and kit kats, broken up (use your hands – it’s fun).
 
 
Spread the broken chocolate pieces over the layer of cream cheese.  At this point you’ve squares will look like this:
 
peanut butter cookie base
 
cream cheese filling
 
broken chocolate pieces
 
 
 Top the chocolate with the remaining peanut butter cookie dough.  Spread it evenly throughout the pan.
 
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, the cookie will turn golden brown.  Don’t worry if it remains a little gooey – mine did.  It tasted FANTASTIC! 
 
 
 
The original recipe says that you can get 9 large bars out of the batter.  I decided to cut them into much smaller pieces and ended up with 3 dozen squares – this is one intense treat… a little goes a long way.  Plus … it means you can have more than just one.  This is a quality and quantity treat!  Loves it!
 

fancy popcorn

I had a reunion of sorts… you see, some friends and I met up on Monday afternoon. I know I enjoyed their company… I laughed a whole lot, and loved the fun stories they shared with me. Are you kind of curious as to who I met up with? Well the ladies… you know… Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. Yep. those ladies. Not really my friends, but I sure did enjoy the two and a half hours I spent with them…

There are two things I have been looking forward to in the last month; seeing Sex and the City 2 and trying out this popcorn recipe. You see… I saw it (the recipe) in the happy baker and just knew that it (the popcorn) and I would be the bestest of friends. The crunch of popcorn, drizzled in a melted chocolate and corn syrup mixture with toffee pieces tossed in. I mean really! How could I not love this popcorn?!

It looks more complicated and time consuming than it really is. It does require about three different steps – but simple simple. I promise. I even made it recovering from running my first marathon.

I enjoyed half the batch while catching up with the ladies, and don’t worry if you can’t eat it all in one shot… store it in an air tight container for a couple of days. You’re golden. I actually think it gets betters the longer it sits.

fresh kernels ;0)

Step 1: The art of popping corn on your stove top.

You’ll need some canola oil and about 1/2 c. kernels.

In a large pot (you need to have a lid), heat a thin layer of canola oil over medium heat – you want to just cover the entire bottom of the pot. You’ll know that the oil is ready when you flick a little water into the pot – it’ll sizzle (careful! don’t flick too much, otherwise the oil will spray everywhere).
Take the pot off the heat, toss your kernels into a single layer all over the base and cover with the lid. Return to the burner, increase the heat to medium-high and gently shake the pot, side to side, over the heat. You’ll hear the popcorn start popping… don’t remove the lid otherwise it’ll fly everywhere! Once the steady stream of popping ends, remove the pot from heat and there you have it! Popcorn!

popcorn over the stove

Fancy Popcorn (aka toffee chocolate popcorn)
ingredients:
8 c. popped popcorn (about that 1/2 c. kernels you just popped)
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dark corn syrup
1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. toffee pieces

the beginnings of adding the fancy to the popcorn

Preheat your oven to 300 F.

Place your popped popcorn in a large rectangular baking dish… I used two half trays instead, which cut down on the baking time, but either will work.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring the chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter to a boil; whisking often.

Pour the syrup over the popcorn and stir until evenly coated. I used my hands – I thought it was simplest… remember, it is a little hot at this point :0)

Toss in the toffee pieces, stir it around again.

This is when you place your pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Since I used two pans I baked it for 30 minutes and stirred every 10 minutes.

the final product… before I ate it all

Let cool. And then enjoy.

I heart this popcorn so much I think I should host a movie night… only, not at my place since I don’t have a tv. Who wants to host? I’ll bring the popcorn! And I bet it’s even better with some red wine… any takers?