Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fudge Frosted Peanut Butter Bars


It's about that time. And if you're thinking "Peanut Butter-Chocolate" time, then you'd be right.

I never liked peanut butter as a kid. My mom used to threaten me with peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch when I gave her an obnoxious "I don't care" answer to her question, "What do you want for lunch tomorrow?"

My answer quickly changed to "proscuitto sandwich please". I must've been going through a phase. I'm sorry Mom - thank you for packing my school lunch every single day, and for writing loving messages to me via banana peel!

I eventually grew up and learned to love peanut butter. Green apple + peanut butter is crazy delicious no matter how many strange looks I get in the lunch room. Don't knock it 'till you try it - that's what I say.

These thin squares are a killer lunchbox treat. Imagine dessert meets granola bar... that's what kind of territory we're in here.


This story starts like a peanut butter oat cookie. There's the creaming, the beating and the stirring. Butter + sugar, then eggs and vanilla, then flour, salt, raising agents and oats. You get where this is going...

We need to spread this dough out thinly into the base of a cookie tray and bake the whole thing like one giant rectangular cookie.


While it's still warm we can spread peanut butter evenly over it. It will melt slightly, making it easier to spread. Once this cools we can make the fudge layer.

Chocolate + butter + cocoa + icing sugar + salt.

Fudge, we all know, is super sweet. The added cocoa and salt helps to balance this faux-fudge so that it has a prominent chocolate taste.


Don't be too fussy when it comes to spreading it out because the more you move it around, the faster it will cool and set, and the higher the risk of developing a grainy texture.

An offset spatula is the best tool for this, or for spreading anything evenly for that matter, and for frosting cakes and cupcakes too! It's sometimes called a palette knife and it makes the professional look come easy. Go get one.

Until our next PB Chocolate adventure....

Happy Baking!


Fudge Frosted Peanut Butter Bars
Makes about 30 squares

For the base:
¾ cup (105g) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ cup (80g) quick oats
1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp (40g) granulated sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter (plus 2/3 cup for topping)
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate fudge frosting:
4 tbsp (56g) unsalted butter
56g (2oz) dark chocolate
1 tbsp (6g) cocoa powder
2-3 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (160g) powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9-inch rimmed baking tray with parchment paper.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda and oats in a bowl and whisk to blend evenly. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter with both sugars on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in peanut butter. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. With mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Spread mixture into an even layer into prepared tray (it will be fairly thin once spread). Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before spreading remaining 2/3 cup of peanut butter evenly over the baked base. The peanut butter will become easier to spread as it melts from the heat of the base. Set aside.

For the chocolate frosting, combine butter, chocolate, cocoa and 2 tablespoons of milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Sift in powdered sugar and whisk until well blended. If mixture is too thick, whisk in 1 more tablespoon of milk. It should be thick but pourable like hot fudge. Immediately pour frosting over peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer (Note, the frosting sets quickly so work quickly at this point). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oatmeal Pecan Dark Chocolate Cookies


Dark chocolate and nuts... nuts and dark chocolate... they're so made for each other.

Pecans are my nuts of choice in today's recipe for oatmeal cookies. They are so packed with flavour but don't normally get much attention, and are totally underused in baking.

It's rare you'll find pecans in the "mixed" nuts selection at the Pub and they're not the first thing you see in some paleo granola bar recipe.

Peanuts always make the cut at the Pub. Almonds are a health bar favourite. Cashews let vegans eat something that resembles cheesecake (plus cashews are awesome), and macadamia nuts will forever live in the white chocolate cookie at Subway.

Well, let me be a bit frank. The pecan tree doesn't grow just for Pecan Pie.
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Caramel Custard Pumpkin Seed Pie


If we'd have to vote on the second best thing after chocolate, I think it would be a tie between caramel and peanut butter.

This recipe showcases a brand new way to bake with caramel and it turns it into a custardy gooey, gel-like texture. Think Pecan Pie filling... this is new age Pecan Pie (without the pecans).

It starts with making pastry. I'm sure you're a pro at that by now after this and this, and this to name a few.

Then we make caramel since it is the star of the show. Caramel seems daunting to some people. I was once one of them. It's like you go through a period of never getting it right - you're always left with a grainy mess and lot of frustration.

Then suddenly... you get it! It's actually not as delicate as so many people make us believe. And once you get it, you will never make grainy caramel ever again. The trick is to be confident and trust in these three facts:

1. Water works
2. Sugar can take the heat!
3. Swirled, not stirred
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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cocoa Cranberry Almond Muffins


The best thing about muffins is that they are dead easy to make.

The dodgiest thing about muffins is that they have a reputation for being healthy when most of the time they are not. They truly are the great con-artists of the baking world. A brownie could never disguise like this - sorry boys, but you're just too dang good-looking.

If you choose the blueberry muffin option for breakfast and think you're clever, I'm sorry to tell you that you're not. You just like blueberry muffins. Fair enough. The healthiest thing about them are the blueberries, hiding behind tremendous volumes of oil and sugar just like the rest. They're delicious - they're just not diet food.

This, coming from the girl who eats cookies for breakfast. I know.

These Cocoa Cranberry Almond Muffins are delicious and I've made a concious effort to sneak some good-for-you ingredients in here.
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Butterscotch Oat Bars with PB Fudge (No-Bake)


It's an in-between time for most of us right now.

In the western world, people are revving up their ovens for a season of pumpkin and apple pies. Reach to the back of your cupboard and dig up those little jars of ground clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. They're a year old now. It's time to replace them.

You probably have a couple of weeks left before outside temperatures get cool enough to warrant a long hot oven.

Over on the eastern side, Spring is in the air and the taste of Summer is very sweet. My oven works 365 days a year so a hot Summer day isn't convincing enough to push my chocolate cravings aside and won't stop me from making these brownies. But, every once in a while a care-free no bake dessert feels laid back and fancy-free.
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart


If you think pastry is too difficult, please reconsider.

You could make some sweet tart dough faster than it takes to find your keys and start your car, and it is WAY more rewarding than the store-bought crap. I'm sorry (I'm really not sorry). It's just crap. 

Pastry is one of those things where practice makes perfect. The more often you make it, the better you get a feel for it and the easier it gets. It's all about knowing how much to give and knowing when to stop. Kind of like telling a good story.

Once you become friends with pastry, your dessert world opens up like the sky. A pre-baked tart shell is a canvas. It can carry a million different things (food-related things, I hope).

Mascarpone and honey cream.
Vanilla bean custard.
Fresh berries.
ANY pie filling you can imagine.
Chocolate ganache... baked chocolate ganache.
Caramel.
Frangipane.
Cheesecake filling.
Chocolate custard.
Praline.
Dulce de leche.
Lemon curd.
Thick coconut cream.
Marshmallowy meringue.
Ooey gooey pecan pie town.
Savoury of all sorts - caramelized leek, potato, cheese, tomato, mushroom...
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Flourless Late-night Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies


It’s not uncommon for me to bake at 10 o’clock at night.

Most of those recipes don’t make the blog since I’m too hungry and impatient to take photos.

These types of recipes are quick and efficient – 5 minute prep, no more than 7 ingredients, one bowl, one spoon, maybe a whisk…. And I can be eating whatever it is in 15 minutes.

That’s how nighttime baking rolls and I'm about to show you just how fast it can go!

You and me both know that if it's been 2 posts since I've shared a chocolate peanut butter recipe, that's 2 posts too many.

I just checked, it's been 4! Withdrawal has kicked in...

Last month I brought you Peanut Butter Cobbler Brownies.
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nocciole (Italian Hazelnut Cookies) and some Food Science thoughts


Can we talk about chemicals today?

Seems like marketers all over the world have managed to convince everyone that anything you buy in the supermarket contains "chemicals".

Well they'd be right. Your produce aisle is full of them. Water, sugar, salt and the wonderful essential oils in the skins of oranges, lemons and limes, and the compounds in fragrant spices are chemicals.

Let's back up a bit. I'm a baker. I adore the art of making cakes, brownies, tortes, cupcakes and cookies with the finest ingredients - pure unsweetened cocoa powder, excellent Lindt chocolate, New Zealand butter and seasonal fruit (to name a few).

I'm also a Food Scientist and I spend a lot of time developing delicious and safe products for you to buy in the supermarket. I work with natural and artificial flavours, but more and more I'm only working with the natural ones. And this is driven by consumer demand. The public is telling us that they do not want "artificial colours or flavours" in their foods.

What's the difference? Artificial flavours are synthesized in a laboratory to produce all of the (sometimes hundreds) of molecules to create the perfect combination that sends signals to your brain saying "strawberry!". Natural flavours are also manufactured in a laboratory, however they contain elements that are extracted from the original food source, ie. cherry extract, strawberry extract, vanilla bean extract... 
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Macaroon Squares (gluten-free)


The world of food chemistry is so fascinating, and more relate-able than one might think.

Like human chemistry, foods often go well with each other when they have something in common. There's the whole "opposites attract" thing that works once in a while, but it doesn't always last. Like those food trends that only stay around for a few months or so. Whoopie pies... really. 

I'll be the first to try the new black garlic and elderflower ice cream out of curiosity and to just plain switch it up a bit, but there will be a tub of classic Bourbon vanilla sitting in my freezer at all times. Forever and for always.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Double Dark Chocolate Pudding


This is for those times when I realize I have no ice cream in the house.

Big mistake. A close second to realizing there's no toilet paper in your stall when you're already squatting. Yeaaahhh....

This is my brain sequence in withdrawal mode:

                        All the shops are closed.
                                                       I have milk!
                But no more cream...
                                   Plenty of chocolate.
                                                           Eggs - of course.

Pudding will do the trick. It's cold, creamy, smooth and thick.

Pudding is custard at its core. The stuff that comes in plastic cups at the supermarket is thickened solely with corn starch, which is also what you pay for in those instant pudding packets.

Try making your own - it's gold. It's also easy and here's how to get 'er done.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cool Confetti Faux-Fudge


There's a lot of sadness plastered all over the TV screen these days.

Seems like all news is bad news.

It's easy to lose sight of happiness in these times and I find myself wanting to stay informed but exhausted from feeling so ruined by it.

Scientifically Sweet is mainly about butter & chocolate, a little life talk and plenty of FUN. Today, I'll dig a bit deeper.

I've been reading things that are not recipes lately. My down-time reading normally doesn't extend past cookbooks and food magazines. Right now I'm onto three Jamie Oliver books (trying to catch-up), a couple of Donna Hay issues and Caramel.

In my reading, what I've learned (aside from how to make a paella in 20 minutes) is that YOU can actually control how happy YOU are?

Happiness and well-being is mostly driven by our own thoughts and behaviours. In these not-so-joyous times it is important to find joyful and positive points and focus on them. I don't mean to just think everything is always hunky dory - that's just ignorant, and people might want to punch you. But, recognize the unfortunate and then focus on the positive. It's important to constantly recover and move forward or the only direction you will go is back.
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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Cobbler Brownies


There are only two thoughts going through my head right now...

1) I bet 4 sticks of celery balance out 4 pieces of brownie.

2) Hand-washing is the devil.

How can those two things occupy the same brain space?

I guess it's no surprise that thoughts of chocolate run through my head nine times out of ten.

But, you probably never guessed that thoughts of hand-washing regularly creep up in between to torment me. I hate hand-washing! But I have too many silky, lacy, beaded clothes that require a delicate touch. They end up piling up into Everest until I can no longer see the surface of my desk... they just sort of hang everywhere. Every night I say, "I'll do the hand-washing"... but I eat brownies instead.
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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Chocolate Olive Oil Granola Bars


One of the things I immediately stopped buying long ago after figuring out how awesomely easy and wonderfully delicious they are to make at home are granola bars.

I'm about to give store-bought bars a run for their money...

I'm giving you olive oil and dark chocolate today - a wildly unexpected combination that works outrageously well. It's the slight tang and fruitiness of olive oil that makes it marry so well with chocolate - DARK chocolate that is. Milk chocolate doesn't hold a candle here.

Chocolate is so distracting and a total attention hog, but let's not disregard the almonds and seeds. Sesame seeds in particular provide a nice savoury note.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

3-Minute Hot Fudge Sauce (the real deal!)


It's all those little things...

...those little things that can really affect people.

I have a story to share with you that really means a lot to me. A reader of this overly chocolatey blog e-mailed me a while back asking for some guidance and advice around the study of Food Science and the best Universities with such programmes. I love when this happens because it means I've connected. It means that all of the foodie love I have spilled out from my heart and my brain (and my stomach) to the internet space of webpages, blurbs and far too many photos of Justin Bieber has actually found its way into someone else's heart, brain and stomach.

I love when I hear from any of you, period.

But, this was a special case. She told me how it was through reading my blog that she actually learned that the study of Food Science even existed, and the idea of becoming a Food Scientist really excited her. She contacted me in search of advice on where to apply. I told her my opinion and of course encouraged her to pursue the open world of food and science!

A few months later I receive another lovely email from her letting me know that she followed my advice and has ended up accepted into the Food Science programme at Cornell University starting this Fall. Knowing this makes all my 6 years of blogging worth it - aside from the fact that it gives me a very regular excuse to eat cake.
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chocolate Mousse Buttercake


Where is the "off" button for our brains?

Has anyone ever found that?

I need one.

I made this "OFF-switch" cake. A Homer-sized slice of this helps to slow things down. All I can think about is how creamy, velvety and delicious it is. But it's a bit of work that involves a reasonable dose of whisking, creaming, baking and waiting.

A button would be faster and more convenient. For now, this Chocolate Mousse Buttercake will more than suffice.

What we've got on the bottom is a soft biscuit-y base - somewhere between a biscuit and a butter cake. It is a thin layer that won't take long to bake, so keep an eye on it. Over-baked = dry = no thank you.

Gently perched on top is a smooth, thick & creamy yet airy shmear of classic chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse is so wonderfully easy to make and a sure-fire winner with friends every time.
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