Ann Romney’s M&M Cookies

Finally, here they are! The last few weeks have been full of visitors from both sides of the family and we’ve had a lot of fun… but it didn’t leave much time for baking or blogging. It was challenging enough trying to find the time to get my work done around sailing, kayaking, multiple farmer’s market trips, and touristy things in general. I haven’t been able to kayak regularly in years – although luckily my family is making good use of my 17′ baby while I’m away – so I’d have to say the four hour kayaking trip was my favorite. 

But let me tell ya, folks, these cookies are totally worth the wait! Wow. I had a feeling I would prefer them over the First Lady’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies based simply on the fact that they contained both oatmeal and peanut butter (how can you go wrong, really?) and – unfortunately for Michelle – I really do. The Obama’s will continue to have my admiration and support, but Ann Romney has swept this contest for me. In case there was any doubt: the dozen and a half I brought in to the office last week were gone by noon. Not even a crumb remained. Which cookies serve equally well as breakfast or dessert? These babies.

Ann Romney’s M&M Cookies

(makes about 3 dozen cookies)

Ingredients:

1   C   granulated sugar

1   C   packed light brown sugar

½   C   unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

1½   C   crunchy peanut butter*

1   T   light corn syrup

3   eggs

½   t   vanilla extract

4½   C   old-fashioned rolled oats

2   t   baking soda

6   oz.   chocolate chips

2/3   C   regular M&M’s

* Note: For baking, I like to use peanut butter brands that have nothing but peanuts (no added salt, oil, sugar, etc.) because it’s easier to judge the sugar and salt content. If you do the same, just remember to add a pinch of salt to the dry mix! I usually remember, but forgot on my second batch and it really is amazing what a little salt can do for flavor…and how forgetting it can make them lackluster. 

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 325°F. Cream sugars, butter, peanut butter, and corn syrup in a large bowl on high speed until creamy. Beat in one egg at a time at low speed until just combined. Beat in vanilla extract.

2) In a separate large bowl mix together oats and baking soda (and salt if using unsalted PB!). Slowly stir into peanut butter mixture and keep working it until well combined – it’ll be tough, but you can do it. Add in M&M’s and chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

3) Scoop dough onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets one heaping Tablespoon at a time. Gently press heaps into flat disks with the back of a spoon or your fingertips (if using fingertips you may want to dip them in a bit of water beforehand to prevent sticking) and bake until the entire cookie is a light golden brown – a few minutes more than you would traditional chocolate chip cookies, about 15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes on the sheets before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Excellent warm with vanilla ice cream or cool as a breakfast bar.

Beezer’s Notes:

These cookies were my biggest crowd-pleaser yet and they certainly won me over. I couldn’t help myself and did reduce the white sugar in my second batch, but in my defense I also used mini M&M’s and mini chocolate chips to pack even more candy into the dough – which certainly made up for it. Both batches disappeared in record time. In conclusion, the winner of my personal Presidential Cookie Bake-off is: Ann Romney! Give both recipes a try a tell me what you think; White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies or these oatmeal/peanut butter beauties?

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

I am currently typing this at the airport terminal as a last-minute attempt to share something with you before I take off for two weeks. Three of us in the department are being sent to a week long statistics summer course at Penn State and the prep has been a scramble. It’s amazing just how many things you can get done before a trip that are not actually on your to-do list. I’ve been very productive and still haven’t managed to write a single word of the report that’s due  upon my return; funny how that happens.

I’m really looking forward to the trip though, and – as a bonus – I’m taking a detour home to Vermont for a week on the way back. It’ll be great to see family and friends again, not to mention my old food haunts and (of course) the climbing gym! 🙂 The hardest part of traveling will definitely be keeping to a strict work schedule the whole time, but once I get into the swing of things writing-wise I can usually churn things out pretty quickly. I just have to start the darn thing. So, enough chatting! Let’s get down to business…

These cupcakes are another miraculous creation by the Post Punk Kitchen and are little servings of peanut-butter-banana heaven…okay, maybe not so little: I love to make my cupcakes in jumbo pans so you’re getting less of a “cupcake” and more of a “personal-sized cake” complete with a small mountain of frosting. However you choose to make this – mini to jumbo to full sized cake – you won’t be disappointed. We all know I’m a bit biased (see Jimmy Carter Smoothy and Buckeye Ice Cream), but even if you’re not a huge peanut butter fan I’m confident that you’ll love these and no one will ever be able to tell their vegan unless you let it slip!

PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

(very slightly adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!)

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

½   C   overripe mashed banana

1¼   C   AP flour

¼   t   baking soda

1   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

¾   C   sugar

1/3   C   vegetable or canola oil

2/3   C   soy, almond, or rice milk*

1½   t   vanilla extract

½   t   almond extract

* Note: I’d recommend them in that order. The soy and almond milks have a creaminess the rice milk lacks and the soy milk will provide a more neutral base.

For the Frosting…

½   C   margarine (Earth Balance is awesome), softened

4   T   shortening

2/3   C   creamy peanut butter**

2   T   molasses

3   t   vanilla extract

1½ – 2   C   confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 – 4   T   soy milk, more as needed

banana chips, vegan chocolate chips, chopped peanuts for garnish as desired

** Note: Use organic if possible (better flavor) and I love the brands that give you the “just peanuts” option (i.e. no salt , sugar, or added oil). If you’re using peanut butter with added salt, sugar, and/or oil, just omit the salt in the recipe entirely and reduce the amount of oil and sugar to taste.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (325 if making jumbo) and prep pans with cupcake liners. Blend banana in a food processor or mash with a fork until completely smooth.

2) In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, soy milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and mashed banana. Make a hollow in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet banana blend. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just incorporated (don’t overmix! Small lumps are fine) and fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes (35 – 40 for jumbo) or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Completely cool before frosting.

3) In the last 10 minutes of the cupcakes cooling time, whip up the frosting: with an electric mixer, cream together the margarine and shortening until smooth. Add peanut butter, molasses, and vanilla and beat again until very smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until incorporated – frosting will be very thick! – and taste, add more sugar if desired. Finally, dribble in soy milk while beating until frosting is pale, fluffy, and spreadable.

4) Frost the (completely cooled) cupcakes generously with PB frosting and top with banana chips, chopped peanuts, and/or banana chips as desired. Will maintain their shape without refrigeration (in reasonable temperatures) so these babies also travel well and will keep for 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m really stuck now. I can’t decide which I love more: the Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes or these. Both are so good I could easily eat a whole batch alone, but both are two very different flavors… so I guess it’s a tie. These PB&B Cupcakes have a delicious banana-bread like base with a fluffy peanut butter frosting that manages to be packed with flavor without being cloying sweet. I also love the toppings which make the cupcakes fun to eat and add texture. These are definitely going on my favorites list and will be made as often as my workout schedule allows, haha.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Buckeye Ice Cream

Ok, so I tend to fall in love with every new flavor of ice cream I make (Exhibit A: Lemon Ginger Ice Cream) especially if it uses flavors I’m already a sucker for (Exhibit B: Sweet Potato Ice Cream)…but I think this is the first batch of ice cream I’ve ever made that Brad and I actually both obsessed over. To be honest, finding a flavor he’d love was my goal this time around since he hadn’t been all that tickled with the last few batches. To quote him, “I was so excited when you got an ice cream maker, but you just keep making these weird flavors…” Poor guy. While Brad cooks professionally, he’s still a real meat-n-potatoes, keep-it-simple-please kind of cook. I guess my tastes are more diverse than I thought.

So, I decided go back to the basics. However, being the person that I am I couldn’t just go for a simple vanilla or chocolate. Remembering Brad’s love for a peanut butter cup ice cream he had had on a visit to his parents’ place, I settled on this recipe for Buckeye Ice Cream. It was still pretty basic: chocolate, peanut butter, sugar, cream…but gave me enough to work with that I was interested. One hour later the soft ice cream was proofing in the freezer and we kept sneaking spoonfuls when the other wasn’t looking. It’s amazing the batch solidified at all, haha. 

As an aside, what’s the difference between peanut butter cup ice cream, buckeye ice cream, and moosetracks ice cream? My dad has always loved moosetracks and I thought it was just a different name for the peanut butter cup kind, but Brad swears it tastes different. As far as I can tell, buckeye ice cream is about the same, just the peanut butter is in the cream base and not in a cup…any ice cream aficionados out there who can explain the details?

Buckeye Ice Cream

(from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer)

Ingredients:

2   C   whole milk

1   T + 1 t   cornstarch

1½   oz.  softened cream cheese

½   C   unsalted natural crunchy peanut butter

½   t   salt (omit if using salted peanut butter)

1¼   C   heavy cream

2/3   C   sugar

2   T   light corn syrup

2   T   honey

4   oz.   semi-sweet or dark chocolate coarsely chopped

Procedure:

1) To prep: mix about 2 Tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix the cream cheese, PB, and salt (if using) in a medium bowl until smooth. Prepare a large ice bath.

2) Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over Medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Bring the liquid back to a boil over Medium-high heat and cook again, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened – about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

3) Gradually whisk the hot milk blend into the cream cheese mix until smooth. Pour the finished ice cream base into a 1-gallon ziplock freezer bag and submerge the base in the ice bath. I tried a different technique this time: to help it along, I kept the top of the bag unzipped an open – very carefully propping it up so no water would get in (or ice cream out). I’d stir it every 5 min or so until it was just warm – no longer hot – then I sealed the bag, submerged the whole thing in the bath, and put the bowl in the fridge. Replace ice as necessary and let stand until mixture is cold – about 1 hour. So far it seems to be the most effective, for me at least.

4) Once ice cream base is thoroughly cold, pour into ice cream machine and follow manufacturer’s instructions. As ice cream is aerating, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over Medium-low heat. Remove from heat and let cool until tepid but still fluid. When the ice cream is nearly finished in the machine, slowly drizzle the chocolate through the opening to swirl it into the mix. Allow it to spin and break up in the ice cream for about 2 minutes before removing the ice cream.

5) Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Let proof in the coldest part of your freezer until firm – at least 4 hours.

Beezer’s Notes:

This ice cream did not last long. As I mentioned above, it was nearly half gone by the time it had finished freezing…and it’s even better once solid and the flavors have time to really develop. Brad has been requesting it on a regular basis since I first made it, but I’ve been holding out as long as possible – not because I don’t want more or because I want to torture my man, but because I know I will have absolutely no willpower once it’s in my freezer again. None. And I haven’t bumped up my yoga routine and returned to the gym for nothing. Yep, I think I can refuse for another week of hard exercise before I’ll have to cave and make another batch…but boy will I enjoy it.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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