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We rarely identify our “favorite” recipes

We rarely identify our “favorite” recipes for the simple reason that they change all the time based on mood, environment and time of year. Therefore, we consider it a slightly big deal to induct this recipe into the rarefied kingdom of “Matt and Renato’s All-Time Favorite Recipes,” which is neither a book nor a file nor a thing, but just a place in our collective minds.

The recipe itself is embarrassingly simple – really, just cereal (therefore making these bars a perfectly plausible breakfast solution), peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate. Combined, these ingredients make a bar that is absurdly transcendental – salty, sweet, crunchy and addictive, with nods to some purer form of childhood nostalgia (think bake sales and campfire tales) – yet uniquely current, like an Eames chair. We make them for afternoon snacks, for parties, for romantic dates, for large events. In fact, there is rarely an occasion not to make these bars. We actually prefer them in the morning, with a hearty cup of coffee. The world just seems like a better place when you wake up with our Good Morning Sunshine Bars.

Good Morning Sunshine Bars

Yield: 24 bars

6 cups crunchy, plain cereal (Rice Chex or something similar works best)

1 1⁄4 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt

6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13- inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs the pan on two sides. Butter the parchment.

Place the cereal and peanuts in a large bowl and use your hands to toss together until mixed well.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil for one full minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the mixture is combined.

Pour the sugar mixture over the cereal mixture and use a spoon or well-greased hands (be careful as the liquid may still be very hot) to toss until the cereal is completely coated with the sugar mixture. Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan. Grease your hands and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, being careful not to crush the cereal. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (if you wish to speed this process, you may place the entire pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes).

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Use a spoon or piping bag to decorate the tops of the bars in a stripe or zigzag pattern. Allow the chocolate to set. Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang, cut them into approximately 3-by-1 1⁄2-inch rectangles (i.e., candy bars).

The bars can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. If the weather is hot and humid, you might want to keep them in the refrigerator instead.

Source: Excerpt from “Baked Elements”

Visit PlanitNorthwest.com for more of Matt and Renato’s favorite recipes.

It is important to practice a certain amount of self-delusion when your entire world revolves around pastry and caffeine with nary a green vegetable in sight. For instance, we have rightly (or wrongly) convinced ourselves that singlelayer cakes are both somehow better for you and possibly even more nutritious than their more indulgent three-layer cousins. This is obviously not true, but it is probably worth partaking in this mini fantasy if only for this cake. OurPumpkin Almond Cake is all things a pumpkin cake should be, but better: it’s moist without being oily, spicy enough to stand out, and easy to make. The Almond Butter Frosting is a slight departure from the more frequently used cream cheese frosting, but we like the unique understated flavor. We should also mention that it is completely agreeable any time of day (breakfast, afternoon or midnight snack, post-dinner indulgence, etc.), or in any season—no need to confine this “healthy” cake solely to your fall holiday baking schedule.

Baked Note: If you want to save a little money, and if you don’t want to go searching for almond flour, you can make your own. Simply grind up some blanched almonds to a fine powder in a blender or food processor (be careful not to grind for too long or the nuts will turn to almond butter). By the by, a mini coffee grinder (sans coffee residue) does a fine job of processing almonds.

Pumpkin Almond Cake With Almond Butter Frosting

Yield: One 9-inch, single-layer cake

For the Pumpkin Almond Cake:

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

3⁄4 cup almond flour

1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 large eggs

3⁄4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the Almond Butter Frosting:

1⁄2 cup almond butter

2 ounces (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 to 4 tablespoons almond milk, to taste

1 1⁄4 to 13⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, to taste

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the Assembly:

1⁄4 cup sliced almonds, toasted or pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted

To make the pumpkin almond cake: reheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter one 9-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin puree and beat just until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack tocool for at least 20 minutes. Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, then turn thecake out onto the rack. Remove the parchment, flip the cake right side up, and let thecake cool completely.

To make the Almond Butter Frosting: Place the almond butter, butter, 2 tablespoons of almond milk, 11⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting comes together and is shiny and smooth. If you prefer a slightly looser frosting, add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons almond milk; if you prefer a thicker frosting, add 1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar. Process again.

To assemble the cake: Transfer the cake to a board or serving platter and use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the top. Sprinkle the perimeter with the almonds or pumpkin seeds. The cake can be stored, tightly covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Source: “Baked Elements”

Cowboy Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups rolled oats

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant Espresso powder

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup salted pretzel sticks, broken into tiny pieces but not crushed into dust.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the oats and stir to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and egg yolk, beating until the mixture looks light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat for 5 seconds. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1/4 cup hot water and add it to the bowl, mixing until combined.

Add half of the dry ingredients and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the chocolate chips and ˝ cup of the pretzel pieces.

Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop out dough in 2 tablespoon-size balls (or use a tablespoon measure) and place the dough balls onto the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup salted pretzel pieces over the dough balls. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down lightly; don’t smash the cookie – you just want to slightly flatten the ball and push the pretzel pieces into the dough.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown or just start to darken.

Set the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies on the rack to cool completely. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Source: “Baked Explorations”

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