Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In a Baking Frenzy
What is it about the holidays that morphs ordinary women into Martha wanna-be's? Normally sane, calm women find themselves doing crazed things like spraying twigs and pinecones with gold spray paint, writing two page Christmas letters that read like great works of fiction (take that either of the two ways), and going nuts in the kitchen. When there are only 24 pre-Christmas days in December, why should the baking list be longer than the list for Santa?
I steadfastly refuse to gilt my garden, or send a chatty newsletter. I figure with all the time I save there, I can bake even more cookies! I know I'm not posting much this month. I'm spending all my time poring over cookbooks, mixing dough, and baking treats. That would theoretically mean that I'd have tons to post in January, except the table where I take pictures has been taken over by boxes waiting to be mailed, packages waiting to be wrapped, and cards waiting to be addressed and mailed. Yes, all that is taking a back seat to the mad baking fever that has gripped me.
Who could possibly eat all these cookies? Don't know. Don't care. I just have to go with the fever and roll, shape, drop, and glaze as many of the items on my list as possible before Christmas. On Christmas day we'll roll out of bed in a sugar stupor, gaze listlessly at the presents, then waddle back to bed. So be it. Small price to pay for having such fun with cookies.
Any volunteers to come take some off my hands?
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Shortbread Bars
- adapted from Fine Cooking Cookies
7 oz (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Generous 1/2 tsp kosher salt
9-1/2 oz. ( 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter (like Jif)
3 oz (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
6 oz (1-1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
1- Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal.
2- In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour and peanuts to make a stiff dough. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.
3- Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
4- Bake the dough for 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 300°F and bake until the crust is golden-brown all over and completely set, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let the crust cool completely before topping.
5- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment put the peanut butter and butter and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add about half of the confectioners’ sugar to the mixer along with the vanilla extract and 1 Tbs. hot water. Beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 more minute. Beat in the remaining sugar and mix, about 1 more minute, until the mixture is smooth and thick, like frosting. If the filling seems too stiff, add another 1 Tbs. hot water and beat for another minute.
6- With a knife or metal offset spatula, spread the filling over the fully cooled crust. The filling may not spread smoothly and evenly, but don’t worry; the ganache will cover it.
7- Put the chocolate in a small heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until combined and smooth.
8- Spread the ganache over the peanut-butter filling with a metal offset spatula to coat evenly. Let the bars sit at least 3 hours to allow the ganache to set before cutting (or refrigerate for 1 hour).
9- Carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-1/2-inch squares.
The bars will keep at room temperature for 1 week.