BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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A Recipe is a Terrible Thing to Waste

New cookbooks are born every day and the internet is flooded in a sea of recipes, free and for profit, good and bad, garnering raves and rants alike. Still, it seems that the hunger for more can never be satisfied, and the quest to continue creating is never ending. For as many recipes as I make, some get lost in the shuffle, or forgotten in the archives like that lone jar of mustard pushed to the back of the fridge. Luckily, in this case at least, these things don’t go bad. No matter when they’re rediscovered, they taste as fresh as the day they were made. When it comes time to clean out the shelves, or the digital file cabinet, there can be all sort of delightful surprises.

However, I might argue that these dead-easy cookie bars are better than finding a half-used jar of old mustard. Both creamy and crunchy, sweet and salty, and chocolatey all over, the combination of these few ingredients tastes something like a cross between peanut butter cups and party mix. Invented on one cold day in the college dorms when few ingredients could be scrounged up, these humble pantry staples were all I had to work with, but did they ever exceed expectations. Sliced into generous chunks and left on the kitchen table to share, not a crumb remained by nightfall. I like to think that these crowd-pleasing treats won me a couple more friends that day.

Rediscovered and revamped to better suit my current baking style, this seemed like the perfect time to bring these sweet squares back to life and into the public eye. What might have spurred on their overdue reveal? Why, the Earth Balance Spring to Life Contest! Made with their creamy peanut butter, I can’t imagine a more rich, nutty topping to crown these jewels. Though the competition is already underway, the entry period for desserts will be opening on Monday, April 30th, and now I’m ready to join the fray with this stunningly simple recipe. Bake up a storm this weekend and join me- Of course I’d love to win, but moreover, I want new winning recipes to add to my collection!

Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Bars

Pretzel Crust:

3/4 Cup White Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Coarsely Ground Pretzels
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 – 4 Tablespoons Water

Peanut Butter Fudge Topping:

12 Ounces (2 Cups) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar
1 Cup Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Roughly Crushed Pretzel Twists

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 8 x 8 inch square baking pan.

Mix together the flour, ground pretzels, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the crumbs come together into a cohesive dough. Transfer to your prepared pan, and press the dough firmly and evenly into the bottom. Bake for 20 – 24 minutes until golden brown all over. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before proceeding.

Place the chocolate pieces and agave in a microwave-safe container. Heat on full power for one minute. Stir vigorously, and add the peanut butter. Heat once more for about 30 seconds and stir again thoroughly, until completely smooth. If the chocolate hasn’t all melted yet, continue heating in 30-second increments on half power until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Mix in the vanilla, and quickly pour over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the crushed pretzels evenly over the top, and be generous! It may seem like a lot, but you want to almost completely cover the fudge layer. Use the palms of your hands to gently press the pieces in so that they adhere.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour, until firm. Slice into bars or squares, and let come back up to room temperature before serving. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature, in one layer. Though the fudge is firm enough, stacking squares is a bad idea because they’re likely to smear and become extremely messy.

Makes 12 – 16 Bar Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut…

…And it may have something to do with the fact that it’s National Peanut Month! It’s true, March has been designated as the official time to celebrate the humble peanut, in all of its goober glory. Rather than just enjoying the standard peanut butter sandwich, or baking up some ordinary peanut butter cookies, I craved a different sort of peanut sensation. It was a stroke of luck that Betty Lou’s presented the opportunity to test drive their latest creation, Powdered Peanut Butter.

Yes, dry peanut butter that rehydrates with a drop or two of water! Sweetened with coconut sugar and significantly lower in fat than the ordinary nut butter, it’s even a healthier option than many spreads currently on the market. A strong peanut aroma wafted from the jar as soon as the lid came off, and all signs pointed in a good direction, right through the initial reconstitution. Mixing easily and smoothly back to a spreadable consistency, I was genuinely impressed how it instantly became thick and sticky, just as I would hope for with any peanut butter. Admittedly, the flavor is different than I’m accustomed to, but every brand has their own unique flavor profile; this choice is no different. Nice and salty while not being too sweet, it strikes a fine balance between the two, accompanied of course by the roasted, nutty notes of peanuts at all times. Perhaps slightly less satisfying due to the lack of fat, it’s still plenty rich, and perfect for those seeking a lighter peanut fix.

Rather than just slather it on toast and call it a day, what really got me excited were the new possibilities such a unique ingredient could unlock. Immediately my mind wandered to my famed macarons, found in Vegan Desserts. Replacing the almond meal with peanut butter powder should be a snap, right? Paired with a creamy chocolate ganache, I was already daydreaming about the end results before the oven had fully preheated.

Unfortunately, this wild experiment wasn’t exactly a success, as is evident by the abundance of cracks and lack of feet. Perhaps too finely ground for this delicate cookie, it simply took on more moisture than almond meal, and didn’t produce the desired results. It was a good idea, but not recommended. Save your precious peanut powder for something easier and more rewarding, like a walk on the savory side with crispy tofu.

Seasoning the peanut butter powder lightly and dusting the tofu triangles to coat each piece, the results were spectacular. Not only did the quick dredge create some of the crispiest bean curd I’ve ever crunched on, but the added flavor put it light years ahead of the standard plain starch or flour approach. Served on a bed of sauteed kale and caramelized onions, it was the kind of quick, comforting meal that will no doubt see many repeat performances. Best of all, nothing goes to waste- The peanut butter powder leftover from dredging the tofu is effortlessly rehydrated into a creamy peanut sauce. Drizzled on top or used as a dip on the side, this nutty dish is a delight even to those not wild about tofu.

Crispy Peanut Tofu

1 Pound Extra-Firm Tofu
1/2 Cup Powdered Peanut Butter
2 Teaspoons Powdered Garlic
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Canola or Vegetable Oil, to Fry

1 Thinly Sliced Scallion, for Garnish (Optional)

Drain and press tofu for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the peanut powdered and seasonings. Once the tofu is ready, cut it into triangles, rectangles, or cubes, and toss them in the peanut powder. Make sure that all sides are fully coated.

Place a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, and add in about 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of oil. When the oil is hot, carefully place a few pieces of the tofu in the skillet at a time, being sure not to crowd the pan. Fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until deep brown and perfectly crispy. Remove and drain the tofu over a over-turned wire rack resting on top of a paper towel, and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Create a fantastic, instant sauce to go with your tofu by adding water to the remaining peanut powder mixture, one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle over the tofu, and top with scallions if desired.

Serves 2 – 4

Printable Recipe

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