Peanut Butter Blondies

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Yup, it’s another peanut butter-chocolate recipe. And another Smitten Kitchen recipe, to boot. But these peanut butter blondies are easy to make, extremely tasty, and just as good frozen as they are fresh, so I’m not going to worry too much about repetitiveness or derivativeness (is that even a word?).

This recipe makes a full 9×13″ pan of ganache-topped peanut butter blondies, studded with chocolate chips and with just enough peanut butter flavor to hit your tastebuds without being overwhelming. They’re rich but addictive.

The texture is great, too, though I will note that many of the reviewers of the original recipe found the baking time to be too long, resulting in dry blondies. I baked mine just until a toothpick emerged with tons of moist crumbs, and also found the edges too dry for my taste– this may have been due to the fact that I used a glass pan, which retains heat better than metal pans and which will basically keep the cooking process going even after the pan is removed from the oven. If you’re using a glass pan, I would recommend taking the blondies out of the oven after 30-35 minutes. If you’re using a metal pan, 35-40 should be fine.

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Mocha Chocoflan (With Cake Mix)

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I’ve always wanted to try making “The Amazing Chocoflan” that I keep seeing online, but the time never seemed right. Recently, however, I was invited to a last-minute potluck and it seemed like as good an occasion as any to give it a try!

That being said, I was kind of in a hurry and was actually (gasp!) short on flour, of all things, so I pulled out a chocolate cake mix to use as the base and never looked back. Besides, I figured that using an oil-based cake recipe was better for a cake that would be chilled before serving, since butter-based cakes tend to go a little stiff in the refrigerator.

Anyway, I doctored up the cake mix with a little sour cream for richness and some coffee for flavor, and in the end it turned out pretty well. The flan itself was absolutely amazing– the insulation from the water bath and the cake batter made it incredibly creamy, and it was perfectly sweet without being too sugary. It was definitely my favorite part of the dessert, and if I didn’t think that the cake batter played a major role in preventing curdling I’d try making it on its own… maybe I’ll try anyway, it was that good.

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Easy Peach Tart

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It’s peach season, and as much as I enjoy eating them straight out of hand, I do on occasion like to use them in desserts. Tarts are a particularly good way to show off gorgeous produce, so it only makes sense that I would end up making a peach tart someday.

I was initially inspired by this recipe from Food52, which was intriguing in that the crust used oil (vegetable and olive oil) rather than butter, and that the fruit itself was topped with a sugar/flour mixture rather than being mixed in with it before baking. The finished tart wasn’t bad, but the crust had a sandy, crumbly texture that didn’t hold together all that well. I thought I could do better.

I made it again, substituting in a crust that uses melted butter but keeping the remaining parts of the recipe, which were pretty darned good. The crust recipe is similar to one I’ve used before, but it includes extra water and oil along with the butter, which seems to work pretty well! Best of all, I made it in one bowl and pressed it directly into the tart pan– no rolling or chilling!

The finished tart is beautiful (but rustic– this is not a pristinely perfect French-style tart), with the crumbly topping melting into a gorgeous bubbly glaze. I like it best served warm with vanilla ice cream, but I’ve been known to eat it with vanilla yogurt so I can call it breakfast.

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Nectarine Swirl Ice Cream

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Another contribution to the annual ice cream social– nectarine ice cream!

I admit, I’d intended to make peach ice cream, but in browsing the internet I was informed that nectarines can be pureed into the cream without bothering to remove the skins, which I was all in favor of, since peeling peaches is a pain. Since the flavor is very similar, I decided to go with nectarines and also reap the benefit of the rosy hue imparted to the ice cream by the red-orange skins.

This recipe is pretty straightforward– fruit, cream, some honey to round things out and some sour cream for tang. What’s not to like? The finished ice cream is smooth and creamy, and I’ve been told that it tastes like summer. What more could you ask for as a recommendation?

I also decided at the last minute to add an extra swirl of a really basic nectarine (or in this case peach because I didn’t have any more nectarines) sauce to amp up the flavor even more. It’s optional, though, so you decide!

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Tahini Crunch Ice Cream

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Taking a break from sewing for the moment (wow, I’ve been doing a LOT of that)…

My family recently hosted our annual ice cream social, which of course meant that I had to come up with some original flavors of homemade ice cream to serve! You’d think that it would get harder and harder every year to find something interesting and new to make, but there are just so many flavor combinations that I’ve never lacked for inspiration.

I really wanted to use chocolate-covered cornflakes as a mix-in this year, and was trying to decide on an ice cream base when I spied a jar of tahini in the fridge. Just like that, a new flavor was born!

This tahini ice cream is faintly reminiscent of peanut butter but with an added savory element, set off nicely by the dark chocolate-covered cornflakes and a swirl of caramel sauce. It churns up relatively quickly, perhaps aided by the added fat content of the tahini– like many homemade ice creams it freezes up pretty hard, but once it softens enough to scoop it doesn’t collapse into a melty puddle, so it has that going for it. As an added bonus, it pairs wonderfully with dark beer.

*By the way, did you notice my awesome skull-shaped spoons?

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Butterscotch Pudding Pops

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One of my enduring memories of childhood is sitting with my brother in our living room, watching old Donald Duck cartoons and eating Jello pudding pops. Only the chocolate ones, because the vanilla ones weren’t nearly as good. And when Jello stopped making them (sad!), I moved on to my next favorite frozen pudding-based treat, which involved freezing chocolate (never vanilla) pudding cups solid, then letting them thaw slightly on the counter for that signature slightly-chewy mouthfeel that you can only get from frozen pudding. It was always iffy, though, whether you’d end up with icy crystals or overly-thawed pudding, so that method was never fully satisfactory.

Well, I may not be able to get Jello-brand pudding pops anymore, but I’ve at last found the perfect replacement– homemade pudding pops. I got the recipe for the butterscotch pops from Smitten Kitchen (I swear, I should just rename this blog “Stuff from Smitten Kitchen”), and I’m going to start making these on a regular basis.

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French Beer Tart

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I admit that I’m not usually a beer person– it’s just not my thing, for the most part. But in certain applications, it can be a fun ingredient! This is one of those applications– not only is this tart delicious, but it makes a great dessert for any beer lovers you may know (and any people who, like me, aren’t necessarily beer fans).

I got the recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great desserts (and a fabulous ice cream book that I use every summer to make my own ice creams) and lives in Paris, so I was confident that he wouldn’t fail me when it came to something called “French Beer Tart.” I was right.

This tart won rave reviews from all tasters– everyone really liked how you could taste the beer (so use one you like) without it being overpowering. One thing I might try next time would be more salt in the crust, or perhaps some ground-up pretzels instead of some of the flour. But the filling is perfect– wouldn’t change a thing.

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