Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Tarts

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Peanut butter gooey butter was born out of a Twitter conversation between Rich and some of his colleagues. I’m not sure how it started – I came in on the middle of it. They were talking about peanut butter and somehow the discussion turned to gooey butter cake. That led to talk of peanut butter gooey butter and the gauntlet was thrown down to challenge The Cook’s Life to come up with a recipe.

Long story short, which is probably already too late, Rich and I whipped up a peanut butter gooey butter version that night and the office sampled it the next day. Everyone pronounced it a success.

While we made the original in cake form, I am still enamored with gooey butter tarts. There is something about getting my own little cake that makes me happy. And, with the peanut butter version, it is like eating a peanut butter cup in gooey butter cake form. You can even break out the mini muffin pan and make tiny tarts.

The peanut butter totally changes the filling – roasted peanut butter flavors and aromas harmonize beautifully with the cream cheese sweetness that is gooey butter. And there is no better platform for peanut butter goodness than a dark chocolate crust.

Say what you will about Twitter and its relevancy, but those 140 character posts led to one great recipe. Anyone have an idea for another gooey butter variation?

Download or print the recipe here.

Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Tarts
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 tarts

I prefer to use natural peanut butter in the filling. Mine has just peanuts and salt. You can use regular peanut butter, but the filling will be sweeter and less intensely peanut-flavored.

Crust:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 egg

Filling:
1 8-oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup creamy natural peanut butter (see headnote)
2 eggs
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 24 muffin cups – do not use cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in melted butter and egg. Press slightly less than 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup and set aside.

In same bowl, beat cream cheese and peanut butter until fluffy and fully combined. Beat in eggs until well blended. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Divide filling evenly among muffin cups, using 2-3 tablespoons per cup.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until filling is mostly set and slightly puffed. The tops of the tarts will flatten as they cool. Let tarts cool in pans on a wire rack for about 15 minutes so they can firm up. Run a knife around the edge of each tart before removing it to the rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for a few days, in a single layer or with parchment or waxed paper between layers, as they tend to stick to each other. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Mini Tart Variation
Makes 72 tarts

You can also bake these as bite-sized mini tarts. They are great party desserts – one bite, no utensils or plates required.

Follow the above directions for mixing. Use about 2 teaspoons of crust mixture per mini muffin cup. Use about a tablespoon of filling. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes before removing to racks to cool.

Three Dessert Inspirations

I must say that I rarely need inspiration when I am deciding on a dessert to make. But just in case you have dessert baker’s block, I am highlighting three of my favorite desserts that say Fall and Halloween to me. And no, none of them have anything to do with pumpkin. Today is all about chocolate, and maybe a little vanilla. What’ll it be – brownies, cookies or flourless chocolate cake?

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Spicy S’mores Brownies

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2012-09-28 15.48.16Flourless Chocolate Cake

Fudgy Toffee Brownies

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These brownies should be called, “The Brownies That Must Not be Named.” I apologize to J.K. Rowling. The minute you even talk about the brownies, your blood sugar will rise and your arteries will clog just a bit. But they are worth it.

I started out with the idea of making caramel swirl brownies for Rich for his birthday. I wanted to make them even more of a special treat, and make the caramel for the topping. I have never made caramel candies, only caramel sauce, so I went in search of a recipe online. I should have done a tiny bit more research into the chemistry of candy making before deciding on a recipe. And of course, no recipe I found did exactly what I wanted, so I tweaked one recipe and combined it with another, which is a big no-no in making a new recipe. The kitchen gods were smiling though, so the results were fabulous, though unexpected.

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The caramel cooked up into a thick sauce-like concoction. Halfway through the brownie baking time, I drizzled them with our caramel attempt and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. Once they came out of the oven I added a sprinkle of very coarse salt.

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The brownies baked up soft and fudgy, with a buttery lusciousness supporting the expected chocolate. The topping reminded us of a soft toffee, with a thin, crackling crust on top and a sugary toothsomeness under the crust.

The topping made more than I needed for the recipe. I kept the proportions the same in the posted recipe, so you will have leftovers too. Once cool, the mixture thickened into a sweet mass of soft praline-like candy that is wonderful on pretzels, graham crackers and fingers. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to use it.

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Download or print the recipe here.

Fudgy Toffee Brownies
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12-15 brownies

I topped the brownies with chocolate chips and coarse salt. They were icing on the cake, so to speak. Feel free to leave them off.

Toffee topping:
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup water
5 tablespoons heavy cream
5 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 5 pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Brownies:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

Additional toppings:
¼ cup chocolate chips, optional
coarse salt, optional

Make the toffee topping before making the brownies. Stir the sugar and the water together in a 2-3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Swirl occasionally or stir very gently. Do not scrape down the sugar that collects on the sides of the pan, or you might re-crystalize the mixture and have to start over. Measure out the cream and the butter and set them next to the stove.

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Once sugar comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or slightly higher. Swirl the pan or stir only if one part of the mixture starts to darken before the rest.

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The sugar will turn golden and then amber colored. Try to let it darken until is a dark amber or caramel color, but not dark brown. Watch it. It can go from dark amber to black in no time. The whole process should take about 10 minutes from the time you turn on the heat.

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Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble up and the cream may seize into a hard mass for a second. Don’t panic. Just stir fairly quickly, without splashing, and it will combine.

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Add the butter, once piece at a time, and stir it in as it melts. Keep stirring until all the butter mixes in. Add the vanilla and stir again. Set the toffee topping aside to cool while you make the brownies.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.

Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a large bowl in the microwave. This should take about 60 seconds on high power. Stir until the chocolate totally melts and the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in flour until no white streaks remain.

Spread the brownie batter in the greased pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and drizzle the toffee topping all over the top of the brownies. You probably will not use all of the topping. See end of recipe for suggestions on using the remaining portion.

Sprinkle the top of the toffee topping with the chocolate chips, if using.

Return the brownies to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until middle is barely jiggly and the edges are puffed and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

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Remove brownies from the oven and sprinkle with a few pinches of coarse salt, if desired. Cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack. The top of the brownies will crackle and parts will sink as it cools. This is fine.

Cut into small squares and serve. Store in an airtight container for several days.

You will have about ½-¾ cup of the toffee topping left over. Dip pretzels in it, warm it up and pour it on ice cream, spread it on graham crackers or just eat it with a spoon.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Tarts

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Last week I showcased traditionally flavored gooey butter tarts. This week I give you my chocolate twist on the recipe. I admit that I am almost a purist when it comes to gooey butter cake. I make an exception for chocolate. How can chocolate ever be bad?

Generally I want my gooey butter tarts or cake to taste like what my mom made when I was a kid: sweet, very sweet, with the flavors of cream cheese and butter only. No other flavors to complicate things, not even vanilla. Once, Rich, the vanilla king, asked me to put vanilla in it. He loved it. It was just wrong to me.

Chocolate gooey butter isn’t the same as traditional gooey butter. It has its own rich, over-the-top sweet, slightly dark with chocolate goodness that makes it something worth trying.

Make them both and then tell me which you prefer – traditional or chocolate.

Download or print recipe here.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Tarts
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 tarts

Crust:
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 egg

Filling:
1 8-oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
2½ cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 24 muffin cups – do not use cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in melted butter and egg. Press slightly less than 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into each muffin cup and set aside.

In same bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in eggs until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk powdered sugar and cocoa together to break up any lumps. Add cocoa mixture to cream cheese mixture and mix well. Divide filling evenly among muffin cups, using a little more than 2 tablespoons per cup.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until filling is mostly set and slightly puffed. The tops of the tarts will flatten as they cool. Let tarts cool in pans on a wire rack for about 15 minutes so they can firm up. Run a knife around the edge of each tart before removing it to the rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for a few days, in a single layer or with parchment or waxed paper between layers, as they tend to stick to each other. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Gooey Butter Tarts

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I wrote a post about gooey butter tarts last year, as a guest blogger on The Ranting Chef. I think I might just want to feature them again. These are just too good to be lost in the archives of recipes, without a shout-out every so often.

I took these into Rich’s office yesterday, and everyone went gaga for them. Several people wanted the recipe and they all wanted to know if they were hard to make. Here is the recipe, as promised. And, no, they are not hard to make. Which is probably a bad thing – they are pretty addictive.

Gooey butter cake is everywhere in St. Louis. Anyone who has lived here for even a few months comes across it sometime. And it isn’t to be missed – cakey, buttery crust filled with a sweet, sweet cream cheese filling.

Rich and I came up with a tart variation a few years ago. Along with gooey butter cake, there are gooey butter cookies. They have some of the taste of gooey butter, but they don’t have the lovely creamy filling. I was missing the contrast between the soft, sweet filling and the buttery crust. I loved the idea of a handheld gooey butter treat, but the cookies just weren’t doing it for me.

We discussed the issue over dinner, and wondered what would happen if we pressed the crust in the bottoms of muffin cups and topped it with the filling. It worked perfectly, baking up into individual rounds of golden yellow outlined in golden brown crust. Now we make the tarts more often than we make the cake.

The tarts are great to take to parties or wherever you need an easy-to-serve, easy-to-eat dessert. Or you can serve them on your best china to the most discerning of guests. Take a batch into work and make your co-workers swoon with delight. Or eat them alone in your kitchen, standing next to the counter. I won’t tell.

Download or print the recipe here.

Gooey Butter Tarts
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 tarts

These are best at room temperature. Be sure to let them cool all the way before you eat or serve them.

Crust:
1¾ cups flour
1 cup sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 egg

Filling:
8-oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
3 cups powdered sugar
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 24 muffin cups – do not use cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in melted butter and egg. Press a little less than 2 tablespoons of crust mixture into each muffin cup and set aside.

In same bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in eggs until well blended. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Divide filling evenly among muffin cups, using a little more than 2 tablespoons per cup. Sprinkle each with powdered sugar.

Bake 13-15 minutes, or until filling is mostly set and edges of each tart are just starting to turn golden brown. Filling will be puffy, but it will flatten as they cool. Let tarts cool in pans on rack for about 15 minutes so they can firm up. Run a knife around the edge of each tart before removing it to a rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for a few days, in a single layer or with parchment or waxed paper between layers, as they tend to stick to each other. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours.

Triple Chocolate Cookie Bars

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I have been on kind of a cookie bar kick lately. I tend to make them more in the summer, when I want to get any necessary baking done as quickly as possible, to keep the house cooler. And yes, there is such a thing as necessary baking – baking for parties, baking for friends and baking because it has been too long since we have eaten something laden with butter and sugar. Okay, that last one doesn’t happen ever often around here, but it probably does for some people.

Just about any cookie recipe can be pressed in a pan and baked as bars. Recipes that use a cup of butter, about two cups of sugar and about three cups of flour will usually fit in a half sheet pan (or two 9 by 13 pans) and make beautiful bars. Cookie recipes vary, of course, but those ratios are pretty close to what most cookie recipes make. If you are experimenting with a larger or smaller cookie recipe, just take into account the depth of the dough and adjust the baking times accordingly.

Calvin and I made triple chocolate cookie dough the other day. Well, actually, Calvin made the dough and I washed the dishes. He was all for baking them as cookies, but we were crunched on time and I didn’t really want to have the oven on for that long on a hot summer’s day. I pressed them in a half sheet pan and had them baked off in ten minutes. Then we went on our merry way, running errands while they cooled.

I cut them later, while Calvin was at a friend’s house. I had to try one, because, well, it was a triple chocolate cookie bar. Does there need to be any other reason? I was blown away by how good they were – velvety, deep dark, chocolate punctuated by gooey pools of melting chocolate chips. I ate three before I came back to the real world. The original cookies were fabulous, but I think the cookie bars might be better. They might just be the best cookie bars we have ever made. And I don’t think I am exaggerating much.

Download or print the recipe here.

Triple Chocolate Cookie Bars
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 5-6 dozen cookie bars

The whole wheat gives a fuller flavor to the cookie bars and will be that “mystery ingredient” in your cookies. You can use all-purpose flour instead, if you prefer.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set out a 12 by 17 inch half sheet pan or two 9 by 13 inch pans. If you only have one 9 by 13 pan, you can bake half the dough at a time.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate and beat until well combined. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda and mix on low speed until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix on low or by hand.

Spread and press dough evenly into pan(s). Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour if it sticks to your hands.

Bake 9-10 minutes, or until just set in the middle, but still soft. Cool in pan on a metal rack until just warm before cutting into small squares. Store in an airtight container for several days, or freezer for longer storage.

Snickerdoodle Bars

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Me: How can we stage a different kind of picture of snickerdoodle bars?

Rich: [long silence] We have to make them first.

Why the snapshot of an inane conversation in our kitchen at 11:30 on a Saturday night? Mostly because I found Rich’s truly serious answer to be hilariously funny. Don’t judge me – it was way past my bedtime. And because there isn’t a whole lot I need to say about snickerdoodle bars. They are delicious. They go together in no time. And did I mention that the cinnamon sugar perfectly sets off the buttery goodness that is a snickerdoodle? Snickerdoodles in a bar, ready in less than half an hour. Enough said.

P.S. We didn’t make the cookie bars that night. But I did make them in the morning, after breakfast and before we left for church. They really are quick.

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Download or print the recipe here.

Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 60-80 bars, depending on size

Cinnamon sugar:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 12 by 17 inch pan or two 9 by 13 inch pans. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Sprinkle about half, or a little less, evenly on the greased pan(s). Set aside remaining cinnamon sugar.

Beat butter and sugar together until completely combined and no longer gritty. Add eggs and beat again until light and fluffy.

Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Press the dough in an even layer in the prepared pan(s).  You may have to flour your hands so the dough doesn’t stick. Sprinkle the top of the dough with the remaining cinnamon sugar. You may not use it all – the rest is tasty on buttered toast.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges feel firm and are just starting to turn golden brown. The middle may not be completely set, but it shouldn’t be completely raw.

Cool in pan on a rack for a few minutes before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container – these dry out faster than regular cookies. Freeze if you aren’t going to eat them within a couple of days.