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My intention was to get this post up before Halloween since Reese’s Pieces colors go very well with Halloween themes, but luckily peanut butter never goes out of style and we’re still rocking yellow, orange, and brown for the month of November too! I made these ridiculous brownies for Ryan’s birthday this past week and actually got around to taking a few photos so I could share them with all of you. It would be a shame not to – I mean just look at them!!

The layers you see are boxed dark chocolate brownies topped with peanut butter cheesecake made with peanut butter cups, a chocolate-peanut butter swirl, and crushed Reese’s Pieces on top. They are truly decadent and we made sure to pick up a half gallon of milk before sharing these with our staff at the office! Ryan is a true peanut butter lover and also loves cheesecake so I knew these would be the perfect birthday treat for him. Cheesecake brownies are a lot easier in my opinion than taking on the task of making a whole cheesecake, plus the ridiculous-ness of the layers makes them just extravagant enough for a birthday celebration!

The reason I added “take 2” to the title of this blog post is that I actually have made peanut butter cheesecake brownies before. Seven (!!) years ago I posted another recipe that seemed great at the time, but really has nothing on this updated version. The previous cheesecake layer was way too thin and I was happy to provide some better photos too. Last month I celebrated my 9th blogoversary without any mention here, but clearly I have come a long way in my food photography! I’m going to have to be sure not to miss the anniversary next year though, 10 years is surely something worth posting about here on the blog :)

Even though I opted for a boxed brownie base for my creation, you can definitely feel free to use your favorite from-scratch recipe here too. Whenever I do over-the-top desserts with a lot of components and layers like these, it’s nice to take a short cut here and there, and boxed brownies can’t really be beat in my opinion. Make these for your peanut butter-obsessed loved ones, and don’t forget the milk!!

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

Recipe adapted from Inside BruCrew Life

Ingredients:

for the cheesecake brownies:

1, 9x13 package box brownie mix
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1, 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups Reese's peanut butter cup minis, chopped

for the topping:

1-3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
1/2 cup Reese's Pieces, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 pan with tin foil. Prepare the brownie batter according to the package's directions and spread in the bottom of the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and peanut butter until creamy. Add the condensed milk, cornstarch, egg, and vanilla and beat again until smooth. Stir in the chopped Reese's and pour the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter. Bake for 40-42 minutes, then cool on a wire rack for about an hour then refrigerate until chilled completely.

For the topping, place the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir until creamy. Heat again for 30 second intervals until completely melted. Heat the remaining peanut butter in a separate bowl for 20 seconds and stir until creamy. Spread the chocolate chip mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake brownies. Spoon the melted peanut butter in lines across the chocolate. Use a butter knife to swirl the mixture. Sprinkle the top with the chopped Reese's Pieces and store in the fridge to set completely.

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With only a few weeks left of summer, it’s about time I posted something to commemorate my favorite season! We had a particularly rainy weekend recently and I was in the mood to take on a big baking endeavor. I had a lot of podcasts to catch up on and decided a good sugar cookie with royal icing project would be perfect. I’ve been wanting to do watermelon cookies for awhile since there are so many cute variations out there, and I’m really excited with how mine came out!

My favorite part of these cookies are the little “bite marks” that I made in some of the cookies. I just used a small flower cookie cutter I had to cut out a piece of the watermelon slices so it looked like they were bitten into. It’s such a fun little touch that was really easy to do! You don’t need fancy cookie cutters for these, just a round cookie or biscuit cutter (or a glass) and the design for the icing is super easy too. I bought new squeeze bottles from Sweet Sugarbelle’s line at Michael’s and I LOVE them. It’s awesome to have a squeeze bottle with an interchangeable tip – I felt like I had great control for the thin green and white lines. The black “seeds” are mini chocolate chips, but if I had planned ahead I would have gotten some chocolate covered sunflower seeds because those look perfect in other cookies I’ve seen!

I opted for a bright pink and a more minty green so the colors matched my office’s color scheme really nicely. I made a big batch of them to share with nearby offices that refer patients to us as a way to say thank you. It’s so fun to combine my passion for baking with my passion for my profession as a pediatric dentist and small business owner, and I’m happy to share the summery love!

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Watermelon Sugar Cookies
Ingredients:

for the sugar cookies:

1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
5 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

for the royal icing:

1 pound powdered sugar
5 tbsp meringue powder
1/3 cup water (plus more for adjusting consistency)
Few drops vanilla extract

Mini chocolate chips

Directions:

for the sugar cookies:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat again.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry mix to the wet until just combined. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour (or more).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and use a circle cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Use a sharp knife to make semi-circles, and a small flower cookie cutter if you have it to place "bites" into some of them. Place them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat, placing them about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire wrack and allow cookies to completely cool before decorating.

for the royal icing:

Mix together the sugar, meringue powder, water, and vanilla in an electric mixer until smooth (about 2 minutes). If icing is too thick, add more water in 1 tsp increments. If too thin, slowly add more powdered sugar. For the outlining of the green and white, you want the icing to be fluid but still hold a firm peak. For the flooding in pink, add enough water so that a peak will sink back into the bowl and smooth out within 10-15 seconds. Divide the icing so that you have a small amount reserved for white, a bit more for green, and the rest pink.

Outline the cookies with the green, wait a few minutes and then add the white line. The pink part should be last and the mini chocolate chips should be added as seeds right after piping in the pink. Allow the cookies to dry for a few hours before handling or packaging them (I prefer to leave them out overnight).

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Last weekend kicked off the 2018 wedding season for Ryan and I – we have a lot of close friends getting married this year so it’s sure to be a fun summer! Along with all these weddings comes a number of bachelor and bachelorette parties for us too. It seems like over the past few years bachelorette parties have evolved to be much more than just a weekend out in NYC that I had 5 years ago. For my friend Pamela’s bachelorette party in Vegas last month, we had a packed itinerary for the weekend, coordinated outfits, several hashtags, and even an overall theme for the weekend: unicorns! Pamela is one of my best friends from dental school and even though her bachelorette was across the country, I knew I wanted to bring something sweet to celebrate. So these ADORABLE unicorn Oreos made their journey with me from Connecticut to Nevada with only a few horn causalities along the way.

These just may be one of my favorite creations EVER. I couldn’t believe how well they turned out, they were almost too pretty to eat. This was the first time I’ve used gold highlighter dust before and I was so impressed with the sparkle and pigmentation of the gold – it was so pretty!! I also knew this would be a sturdy treat that would travel well compared to something like cupcakes or cake pops, and I just used bubble wrap to gently support the horns for the plane ride. These treats combine everything I love about baking – creativity, artistry, and something really, really cute and delicious that can be enjoyed by my friends!

To make these, I used a candy mold and the white Wilton candy melts that have little pastel sprinkles mixed in for some extra sparkle. I followed this Youtube video on making the horns (although I used toothpicks instead of a larger dowel since these were mini) and painted them as well as the inner ears with gold highlighter dust. I whipped up some royal icing in several colors and just piped them on in various floral shapes. Royal icing is great in this case because it dries hard so I didn’t have to worry about the flowers getting squished in transit. I drew on the eyes with an edible marker and voila – unicorn chocolate-covered Oreos! I could have tried to figure out how to make these a bit more risqué for a bachelorette party, but I was enamored with how cute they were, so I decided to just keep them PG (I’ll save my phallic-shaped baking endeavors for another time).

With that being said, these would be totally adorable for a kid’s birthday party and even though they look very technical, you can totally make these! The flowers could be made from store-bought colored fondant instead of royal icing if you wanted to keep things simple (they sell little cutters and fondant isn’t too different than play-doh). Just give yourself a few days to spread out the steps because the horns/ears and flowers all need quite a bit of time to set completely. I am loving the unicorn trend that’s been going on and can’t wait to make these again some day!

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Unicorn Oreos

Yield: 12 Oreos

Ingredients:

12 Oreos (I used Double-Stuf)
2 bags white/pastel colorburst candy melts
Candy mold (like this one)
White or yellow fondant (I used store-bought)
Gold highlighter dust + splash of vodka
Royal icing dyed in several colors (recipe here)
Black edible marker

Directions:

To cover the Oreos in chocolate, melt half of the candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals at half power, stirring in between each interval, until full melted. Fill up the candy molds halfway with melted chocolate, then place an Oreo in each well. Cover the Oreos with more melted chocolate and use an offset spatula or knife to scrape off the excess chocolate. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes for chocolate to set completely, then pop out the Oreos and repeat again. You’ll need to save some of the candy melts to attach the horns and ears after everything is set and dry.

For the unicorn horns take pieces of fondant and roll out long snake shapes. I set up a block of Styrofoam nearby to put my finished horns in to get them set for painting. Twist the snakes of fondant around a toothpick in the shape of a unicorn horn (I found this Youtube video helpful) and stick into the styrofoam. For the ears, I rolled out the fondant and cut out triangle shapes and then used my fingers to shape them a bit so they were slightly curved. In a small bowl, add a splash of vodka and some of the gold highlighter dust to make the gold “paint”. Use a small paintbrush to paint the horns completely and the inner parts of the unicorn ears. Allow them to dry overnight.

Melt a bit more of the white candy melts to attach the horns and ears to the chocolate-covered Oreos. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Don’t be frugal with the amount of white chocolate you use to secure the horn – you want to make sure it’s on there good and you can cover any excess with flowers!

Mix up the royal icing according to the recipe’s instructions and divide into 3 piping bags with small star tips. Add rosettes and swirls of royal icing in the shape of random flowers to make a flower crown along the horn and ears. The royal icing will need to set overnight before packaging or serving. I waited until the royal icing was set before drawing on the eyes so I didn’t accidentally squish any of the flowers with my hand. The Oreos can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for quite a bit, I made mine about a week in advance and they were great!

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When there’s a special occasion, I always want to bake (duhh) for the people I love. But I don’t like baking just anything if I’m giving something as a present or celebrating something special – I want the baked good to feel a bit elevated, maybe even package nicely for a beautiful presentation. Kind of like how I feel so strongly about people getting a cake or cupcakes on their birthday; there’s something about a plate of birthday cookies just doesn’t seem celebratory! That’s why I’m a strong believer in cookie cakes or even better – cookie stack cakes – when it comes to birthdays. In my mind biscotti also falls into this category of a baked good that is appropriate for a special occasion. It makes a great gift because you can package them up together so nicely, and since they’re not overly common, they certainly feel special.

Maybe it’s because biscotti is Italian and has European flair to it, but it’s always been a cookie to me that seems inherently chic. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet like many American desserts, and since it’s usually served with coffee, I think it can even be appropriate for breakfast. The almonds in this recipe add some heartiness that almost make you think they’re healthy! Now that the weather is finally warming up, I could totally see myself sitting on our deck dipping biscotti in some coffee and waiting for the trees to bloom. But then again there’s snow in the forecast next week, so I might be out there awhile…

The first time I made this biscotti was for Mother’s Day for my Mom who’s a huge Almond Joy fan. She loves any combination of nuts, coconut, and dark chocolate so I knew this recipe would make for a perfect gift. We enjoyed them together with some coffee and then I wrapped the rest in pairs in cellophane bags with festive ribbons that made for a really cute gift. If there’s an Almond Joy lover in your life that you want to impress with a more “elevated” cookie, you should give these a try! Or if you’re more of a Nutella/hazelnut lover, you could always try my Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti from a few years ago :)

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Almond Joy Biscotti

Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Yield: 18 biscotti

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
3 large eggs
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Spread almonds and coconut on one sheet (keep the other one set aside) and toast for 10 minutes, stirring twice during that time (keep on eye on everything to make sure the coconut doesn't burn!). Remove toasted almonds and coconut from the oven and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Rinse/wipe off the one baking sheet so you can use it again for the biscotti.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the toasted almonds and coconut, as well as the mini chocolate chips and gently mix together.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla together. Pour into the flour/butter mixture and gently mix with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until everything is just barely moistened. Divide the dough into two and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Squeeze the roll into a roll about 8-9 inches long and transfer to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Gently flatten the rolls until they are about 2" wide. Make sure to leave 4" of space between the two rolls. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top and sides of each biscotti slab with egg wash.

Bake in batches (or together) for 25-26 minutes, or until the top and sides of the biscotti slabs are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, but do not turn off the heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Once the slabs are cool enough to handle, cut each into 1 inch thick slices. Set slices cut sides upright, ¼ inch apart, on the baking sheets. Return to the oven to continue baking for 9 minutes. Turn biscotti over and bake other side for 9 minutes. The cookies will be slightly soft in the centers with harder edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before dipping in chocolate.

Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Dip one side of each biscotti cookie in the melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle with remaining toasted almond and coconut crumbs if desired. Place the dipped biscotti back onto the baking sheets and allow chocolate to set in the refrigerator or at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes.

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