Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ghetto Gourmet: Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies

I love reading food blogs. I like reading richly detailed, overly dramatic prose about aroma and texture and taste. I love crisp, closely focused food photography, where the vittles look better than I do on a day-to-day basis, and it looks like I could just reach into the computer and grab that food off the screen- which is what I usually want to do once I get through reading the mouthwatering descriptions. Truth is, I just like food. Reading about it, looking at pictures of it- especially eating it. I just don't like making it.

I wish I did. When I read sentences like, "My boyfriend brought home a wonderful gift for me last week; a bag full of gorgeous fragrant yellow quince," it makes me wonder what is wrong with me that I don't like 'food presents' unless they are fully prepared and ready to go straight into my belly once they walk through the door. Or take "They were like sinking my teeth into little frost covered pillows of sugar." What's wrong with me, I ask you, that I can't make anything that remotely tastes like or resembles frost covered pillows of sugar?
The concept of putting lots of time and care into a fragrant, hand-crafted dish sounds really lovely, until I consider the fact that making something from scratch, versus buying frozen and microwaving, will probably cost me four times as much, take up way more of my precious TV watching 'doing really important things' time, and end up, most likely, tasting like crap anyways.

And yet, this past week I had quite the unexpected and, well, rather unprecedented little domestic streak. I did such things as "the dishes" and "some laundry*" and even got the urge to do some- gasp!- baking (no doubt brought on by all the delicious food blogs I've been reading that make it all sound much easier than it is, damnit). And I thought to myself: just because I don't know what's in a Bearnaise sauce or how to poach something shouldn't preclude me from doing a little food blogging**. Us non-culinary types need advice and reviews and recipes too (albeit ones that require the least amount of time and expertise possible).

So I'm taking it onto myself to perform this service: food blogging for the non-foodie. This post (and future posts on the same topic, if I ever get the urge to get culinary again) can guarantee you that if I can make it, you know for sure that you can.

I'll start with some Peanut Butter Brownie cookies. First, the requisite artsy food photos:
First attempt at artsy food photography- not so great.
Ah, better. Uber artsy.
I got this recipe from a floppy little Pillsbury Bake-Off book (for a non-cook I actually have a ginormous amount of cook books).*** It seems deceptively easy, but do not be fooled! Surprisingly, it is possible to mess this one up (although through all my blunders, they still tasted pretty good).
Here's the recipe:
1(19.5-oz.) box Pillsbury® Brownie Classics Traditional Fudge Brownie Mix
1/4cup butter or margarine, melted
4oz. cream cheese (from 8-oz. pkg.), softened
1cup powdered sugar
1cup creamy peanut butter
1/2(16-oz.) can chocolate fudge ready-to-spread frosting

1.Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, beat brownie mix, melted butter, cream cheese and egg 50 strokes with spoon until well blended (dough will be sticky).
2.Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets to make 24 cookies; smooth edge of each to form round cookie.
3.In small bowl, mix powdered sugar and peanut butter with spoon until mixture forms a ball. With hands, roll rounded teaspoonfuls peanut butter mixture into 24 balls. Lightly press 1 ball into center of each ball of dough.
4.Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 14 minutes or until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheets at least 30 minutes.
5.Remove from cookie sheets. Spread thin layer of frosting over peanut butter portion of each cooled cookie.

(This comes directly from the Pillsbury website)

What slipped me up was the part where you mixed everything together (so really, the only main step prior to baking). They are not kidding when they say the dough gets sticky. Also, it's possible I may not have softened the cream cheese enough. Regardless of whose fault this may or may not have been, my big plastic spoon was not succeeding at the task of merging the cream cheese and the brownie mix into a deliciously unified blend. I panicked (because I was really hungry at this point and I wanted some damn brownie cookies) so I did what I think any logical person would do- I went in hands first and mooshed it all together (I had washed very thoroughly with anti-bacterial foam prior to the mooshing, no worries). This was marginally more successful at mixing all the ingredients, but then I had 3/4 of the dough stuck to my hands, and no free hand to scrape it off with. I had to call my husband in to help and I think he was pretty alarmed at this point that he would later be asked to ingest the fruits of my messy labor. I didn't have the forethought to document this in photographs, which is too bad cause it probably would have jazzed up this blog entry a bit. Oh well!

I ended up leaving the cookies in for longer than called for, and when they came out, they were still really sticky. Even after the requisite cooling period, I couldn't scrape them off the cookie sheet without them buckling in the middle. I served my husband and our friend Luke and they both politely attempted to consume a cookie. Neither quite finished. Husband later struggled to think of something positive to say and settled on, "Well . . . they need work. But they're OK."

Thanks, that is the kind of support I need to keep plugging away at this cooking and baking thing, right?

What he thought doesn't matter anyways, because this is the part where I try my hand at the overly embellished food prose that I love so much:
The firmness of the peanut butter center presents a delicious contrast to the unexpectedly gooey brownie base. You'll need to break out a fork to really do justice to these baked goods, as they are less 'cookie' than they are a rich, dense and fudgy brownie. A thick blanket of fudgy frosting kicks the indulgence factor really high, and I'll bet that you can't get through more than two of these without some serious stomach-aching going on.

Since cooking, for me, turns out best when it is as simplistic as possible, I am going to use a very simple rating scale here to give you my judgment of this recipe. On a scale of "yes" to "no," with "yes" meaning " a lot," "no" meaning "not so much," and "sorta" meaning "I can't decide between the two extremes," I rate this recipe on the following factors:

Easy? Sorta
Fun? No (but that that with a grain of salt, coming from me)
Delicious? Sorta
Cheap? Yes
Lends itself well to flowery food blogging prose? No
Tomorrow, maybe I'll regale you with my adventures with Jello No-Bake Cheesecake.

*I am not really this bad of a housekeeper, really. I'm exaggerating for the sake of this post. God's honest truth.
**Someone remind me sometime to write about the time I tried to make a roll-up cake. It's pretty funny and a perfect example of what an absolute dunce I am in the kitchen.
***The story behind this should also be shared on my blog at some point.


Dana (the Homesteading Housewife) said...

Ohhh those look good!
have you checked out and
I call it my food porn! lol

annie said...

Your second picture is amazing!! Good for you at trying your hand at these. Not all recipes will go your way, even for seasoned cooks. And heaven knows I'm not one of those.

In case you're feeling down, feel free to read this entry from me:

JR Moreau said...

Can you fedex me say... 10lbs of these? Mmmkthanks.

They look delicious. Good going!

Anonymous said...

Psh, those look good to me!

Sarah said...

Thanks for all the yummy food blog sources and encouragement! I may just attempt the baking thing again, after all! :)