Finished muffins

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

With Elvis’ birthday coming up and all, I was inspired by the Baking Bites post on Peanut Butter Swirl Banana Bread to do some experimentation of my own.

I made the peanut butter swirl as written, although I added some chopped peanuts along with the smooth peanut butter.  The texture was… weird.  Sort of grainy, sort of sticky…  I had hopes it would even out in the cooking, but those hopes, as you’ll see later, were disappointed.

For the banana bread, I used my favorite Banana Bread recipe, which I got from an old cookbook of recipes written by science fiction authors (called “Serve it Forth : Cooking with Anne McCaffrey“).  It’s Kathy Tyers’ Four-Generation Banana Bread from the Philippines, and I’ve found it to make a wonderfully flavorful banana bread that is moist and spiced, not bland nor dry.

The last tweak I made was to do muffins instead of a loaf. Muffins are easier to offload onto coworkers, for one, and for another, I needed more muffin pictures.  🙂 The batter filled 12 muffin tins almost perfectly full, and I added a dollop (about a TB, I would imagine) of the PB mixture to the top center of each, figuring it’d sink in a little.   I could have tried to hide it inside by pouring half full, putting the dollop, then the other half, but who has the time?  Not me.

Here’s how it looked:

The inside shot

The inside shot

The verdict?  The banana bread part was, as always, fabulous. Lovely crunchy edges on the spillover (despite them being filled almost 100% full, there wasn’t much spillage – just enough), and moist, and it looks pretty enough, but the peanut-butter filling just wasn’t interesting.  Sort of grainy, still, and wet.  I’ve put them in the fridge overnight to see if they’ll firm up and be more interesting in the morning.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling
(from Baking Bites)
4-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter (pref. crunchy)
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Kathy Tyers’ Four-Generation Banana Bread from the Philippines
(Adapted from Serve it Forth)


1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour (I used white lily)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil (I usually replace with unsweetened applesauce, but was out)
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.


Mash together bananas and milk until it’s ‘like a milkshake’.  Leave some chunks if you like that in your final bread.

Mix together sugar, oil/appesauce, egg, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves until well mixed.

Add liquids and flour in alternating batches, ending with flour.  This recipe tolerates thorough mixing quite well, but try not to overdo it.  Fold in the walnuts.

Fill muffin tins almost completely full.  Add to each a dollop (about 1 TB) of peanut-butter mixture.

Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until tester in outer edges (remember ,the middle is peanut-butter) comes out dry.

(If making an entire loaf, bake for approx. one hour)


‘nother muffin shot 🙂

Magic in the Middles, stacked up nice and high

Magic in the Middles, stacked up nice and high

My mother-in-law can’t have peanuts, so although she’s a wonderful cook and makes quite tasty desserts, she doesn’t make anything with peanut butter as a general rule.  Since my father-in-law loves peanut butter, I try to make and bring things for him especially every now and again.  Last month it was the Peanut Butter Crinkles; this month The Recipe Girl inspired me to make Magic in the Middles (taken from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion) – I mean, chocolate cookies wrapped around a peanut-butter filling?  What’s not to like? Besides, she has awesome pictures.

Finished cookie

Finished cookie

I used Demerara sugar to roll them, which gave them a pleasingly crunchy exterior.  These travelled extremely well (tossed around in our luggage to Arkansas), and are still being enjoyed.  A definite win!

Magic in the Middles

from The Recipe Girl, adapted from the KA Flour Cookie Companion


1½ cups (6¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I used White Lily)
½ cup (1½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar (plus extra for dipping, or you can use Demerara or another large-grain sugar)
½ cup (4 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
½ cup (4 ounces or 1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup (2 3/8 ounces) smooth peanut butter (I used Jif)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

¾ cup (7 1/8 ounces) smooth peanut butter (I used Jif)
¾ cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar

1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) Prepare dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, beat together sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine, then stir in dry ingredients, blending well.

3) Prepare filling: In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.

4) Shape cookies: Break off about 1 Tbsp. of the dough, make an indentation in the center with your finger, and press one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation. Bring the dough up and over the filling, pressing it closed; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

5) Dip the top of each cookie in granulated sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass and use it to flatten each cookie to about ½-inch-thick.

6) Bake cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they’re set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.

Yield: About 26 cookies

Lots and lots and lots of caramels:

Chocolate-covered caramels

Chocolate-covered caramels

Mostly apple cider, but you can see some fleur-de-sel peeking out in the rear.

Here’s a closer shot:

Fleur de Sel Caramel

Fleur de Sel Caramel


Oh, the recipe, you say?

Essentially, I use the Fleur de Sel Caramel recipe from Epicurious.  I kick the fleur de sel up to a Tablespoon, plus sprinkle some on the caramel after pouring it out, plus some on the finished chocolates, because, well, FLEUR DE SEL AND CHOCOLATE. yummy.  For notes on technique, and all the lessons I’ve learned, check out the post on Apple Cider Caramels.

Also, there were pralines:

Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines

And Buckeyes (apparantly, I forgot to snap a picture when I’d covered them in chocolate.  So, here you have it: NAKED BUCKEYES.  Hide the children, not for the sensitive or delicate, etc.):

Nekkid Buckeyes (definitely up to no good)

Nekkid Buckeyes (definitely up to no good)

What are Buckeyes, you say?  (What are you, Southern?)

Buckeyes are a tasty, crunchy peanut-butter and rice krispie treat dipped in a combination of milk and dark chocolate.  They are addictive.  You cannot eat just one.  They are fluffy and crunchy and sweet and chocolatey, and it’s a darned good thing I took all of the leftovers to the office holiday party, let me tell you. The recipe came from a good friend, and is dead simple.  There’s something similar here, but they don’t use the Rice Krispies, which I think really make it something awesomely special (my version calls for equivalent measurements of rice krispies and peanut butter, i.e. 3 cups).

So, that’s what’s been happening! Don’t forget, you have until Sunday the 13th to place your holiday orders from SugarPunk (so I have enough time to bake and ship/deliver before we leave on the 19th for lovely Arkansas and then Chicago).

Or, you could wait until the last minute and sign up for the Dessert of the Month club (details forthcoming)…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

I am big with the love for Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her Cake Bible has been an invaluable reference to me over the years (especially when making enough cake to feed 500 people), her Bread Bible has made Jeff a very happy man… but I haven’t done much with the Pie and Pastry Bible until now, although it’s been on my shelf for a few years, among the other pie and pastry books.

(Yes, I have a cookbook Problem. Comes from being a librarian for so many years. Books just sort of accumulate. And they’re organized. Right now the baking books are sort of taking over – it used to be 50/50 with the baking/cooking, but no longer. The chocolate section alone takes up nearly a whole shelf.)

Mostly, I think that’s because I’ve never been a real big pie baker. Which is funny, because I love pies a lot more than I love cake. I think it’s probably because I mostly bake for other people, mostly for special occasions, and they like cake. It just seems to fit.

However, with the business and trying to find the right things to make for the coffee shop/wine bar, pies are back on the menu, and so I need to do a lot of testing!

Today’s recipe was the further attempt to make the ultimate indulgence for those who can’t get enough of peanut butter and chocolate, and if Jeff is any indicator, I’ve hit it right on the nose.

(I let him have his sample slice, and he finished it before I wrapped up the rest of the tart to put back in the fridge and then stood there making puppy dog eyes at me and asking winsomely for another slice, please? I said no. I am cold-hearted and cruel and want him to be healthy and live to be 100.)

Me, I’m not a fan of peanut butter (another reason I’ve never made this before). I didn’t like it as a kid, and while I can tolerate it now, I just don’t really like it. But I had a bite, and the crust is delightfully chewy (it uses a PB cookie recipe), the peanut butter mousse fluffy and peanut-buttery, and the chocolate ganache topping perfectly chocolatey. We won’t discuss the decoration I attempted to pipe on top with milk chocolate – obviously, I’m going to need to work on that idea a little longer (and no, I’m not posting it and you can’t have it for Cake Wrecks, as I didn’t sell this to anyone. 😛 Someday I aspire to get into Cake Wrecks, but it’ll for something a heck of a lot more fantastic than dribbly piping.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart
From Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible

Makes 1 large or 8 small tarts

Sweet Peanut Butter Cookie Tart Crust
[I doubled this recipe – made measuring things easier, and it freezes forever, so I just put half in the freezer so I could make tartlets later]

Makes one 9.5 x 1 inch tart, or 8-10 four inch tartlets


1/2 cup Bleached All-Purpose Flour (I used Lily’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine (I used regular)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/2 large egg (beat before measuring)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine well.

In a mixing bowl, beat both sugars until well mixed. Add the butter and peanut butter and beat for several minutes or until very smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. At low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
[Can be stored unbaked, refrigerated up to 1 week; frozen about 1 year]

Press into pan, or roll out between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11″ circle and gently press into tart pan. Make sides about 1/4″ thick and trim even with the top of the pan.

Line the pan for blind baking using parchment or a coffee filter and pie weights. I would also highly recommend putting some foil liners over the edges of the dough, as it sort of went nuts and explody and crisped a lot when I blind-baked it.

Bake at 425F for 5 minutes, then lower to 375F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes until set. Lift out the weights with the parchment (you’ll lose some dough, this is normal), prick lightly, and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes more until it’s light golden brown. Cool completely.

I had my serious doubts about this crust, at this point. It looked burned on the edges and undercooked in the middle. Apparently, this is correct. Jeff says that it was perfect, although perhaps a bit crisp at the edges (which is why I recommend the foil covers).

You can see the crust better, here.

You can see the crust better, here.

Peanut Butter Mousse


7 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 liquid cup heavy cream, softly whipped

In a mixer bowl, preferably with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until uniform in color. On low speed, beat in the vanilla. Beat in 1/4 cup of the whipped cream just until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream until blended but still airy. Scrape the mousse into the prepared tart shell and smooth the surface so that it is level. Refrigerate the tart while preparing the ganache. [I refrigerated overnight with no problems]

Pie sans ganache

Pie sans ganache

Milk Chocolate Ganache Topping


3 ounces milk chocolate (I used Guittard 38% soleil d’or, amazing stuff)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 70% thick)
1/3 liquid cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make chocolate very small. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour cream over chocolate, let sit for a minute, then stir until emulsified (you can use an immersion blender if you like, or do this in a food processor). Add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature (I cooled to lukewarm. I am impatient).

Pour the ganache over the peanut butter mousse in a circular motion, so that it does not land too heavily on any one spot and cause a depression (if you’ve refrigerated overnight ,this isn’t really an issue). With a small metal spatula, start by spreading the ganache to the edges of the pastry, then spread it evenly to cover the entire surface. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours to set.

Store at room temperature up to 1 day, refrigerated up to 5 days, frozen up to 3 months. (Wrap after freezing to preserve shiny coating on ganache).

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob. It doesn't exist.

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob.

Mmm.  Yes, this is going into the repertoire!

Or, When Things Don’t Quite Turn Out.

That’s right, I share with you my failures as well! Well, some of them. The photogenic ones.

The original source for this recipe was BakingBlonde‘s lovely post on the topic. I mean, look at those pictures? Who wouldn’t want to make these cookies?? I don’t even like peanut butter, and I still thought they looked awesome, so I gave it a shot (plenty of other people like them, and it’s always a struggle to find recipes that aren’t dry as bones).

In the beginning, all looked well:

Beautiful raw cookie dough

Beautiful raw cookie dough

(They’re sprinkled with powdered sugar because this dough just <b> drank</b> up the powdered sugar I’d rolled them in, and I wanted my crackly crust.)

It wasn’t until I checked on them near the end of baking time that disaster struck. Instead of lovely, high cookies with deep crinkles, I had this:

Flat, flat, flat cookies

Flat, flat, flat cookies

Well, the crinkles are there, but they were oh so very flat. Extremely flat. Still tasty, if PB cookies are your thing – they were moist and delicious, and held up at my in-laws’ house for over a week (I don’t know how they do it). And I bet they’d be really great with some chocolate ganache sandwiched between two of them. But still, not what I was going for.

This recipe made a lot of dough, so I’d rolled and frozen the other 3/4ths of it. I decided to give them a second chance. Cut off the rolls, dropped the pieces into powdered sugar, and popped into the oven. This time, they came out higher, but drier (the dough had obviously done what PB cookie dough likes to do and hidden away all of the moisture while it was resting in the freezer). Still nothing like BB’s lovely pictures.

Ah, well, the search continues. Anyone have a PB cookie recipe they’d love to find at their local coffee shop?

The Recipe:

From BakingBlonde‘s grandmother, among other sources

Peanut Butter Crinkle Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar (or more as needed for rolling)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheets with parchement paper.
Place powdered sugar in shallow bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Once combined beat in the white sugar, and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
In a large bowl wisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently add to creamed mixture and mix until almost combined.
Chill dough for 10-20 minutes.
Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Genlty roll the dough balls into powdered sugar and place dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets. Carefully press down on each ball with a glass to flatten tops slightly.
Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until top is crinkley and edges are set. Cook on sheet for 10 minutes and transfer to baking rack to finish cooling.