Growing up here in Fort Lauderdale I was lucky enough to attend a grade school close to home, with all my friends from kindergarten, boasting a killer baking staff. The East Side School cafeteria ladies didn’t open boxes when it came to cakes, pies and cookies for us kiddies. No ma’am. The predominantly black women who staffed the cafeteria were accomplished cooks and bakers who cranked out old school baked goods on a daily basis. They were kind to all of us students and we in turn bowed down to them with reverence and respect because they were grown ups…you watch your p’s and q’s around grown ups. These ladies were experts in the kitchen and coming from a home where Mama didn’t cook or bake I was highly appreciative and anticipated lunch every day knowing it would be far better than anything I would ever be served at home. Do you recall the peanut butter cake you had in grade school? The squares were heavy and thick in texture yet the cakes melted in your mouth leaving a certain salty sweet taste. Oh, heaven. Lately I’ve been craving that same salty sweet sensation and set about to have it. I came up with this. Alone in the house with two pans was virtual diet suicide. I took four squares over to my friend Rob’s house. He had fiddled with my father’s ancient bedside table lamp which wasn’t working. At 94 years old Daddy really depends on that lamp for the inordinate amount of reading he does. And after 5 minutes of fooling with it Rob had tightened it up, fine tuned the sockets and turned the on/off chains to a place where Dad could control the lamp with ease. Make my Daddy happy, make me happy. I made Rob take a bite of the cake and watched his reaction like a hawk. His first words after clearing his palate of the dense stuff were, “I’m sorry Miz Whitcomb, but I don’t have my math homework cuz I didn’t do it!” He was back in grade school and that’s what I wanted. Old school peanut butter cake will take you back…and in a good way.
This is a crazy simple cake recipe. It’s best served with coffee or milk. Iced water will do but coffee or milk are best. When the cake smells done it probably is done. I have light-colored baking sheets however if yours are dark keep an eye on them as they’ll bake your cake much faster. It’s a thin cake, not big and puffy and you don’t want it to burn. When preparing the icing you must stir continuously. I can’t stress that enough. Peanut butter scorches easily. But if you use a whisk and keep stirring until smooth you will be rewarded with a trip back in time. When you serve this to your children or grandchildren you can regale them with stories of how you had to walk 10 miles uphill BOTH WAYS to school. Enjoy!
Southern Peanut Butter Squares
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
- 3/4 cup butter (12 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups confectioners sugars
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Set aside a standard 12’X17″ light-colored baking sheet with a lip or 2 12″X9″ light colored baking sheets each with a lip.
- In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, water and whisk over medium heat until completely combined.
- Remove from heat and whisk in milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
- Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Pour into baking sheet/ sheets and bake 18-20 minutes or until the sides of the cake pull away from the pan. If using dark-colored baking sheets test for doneness at 15 minutes.
- Remove cake from oven and cool on cooling rack, make the icing as the cake cools.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine peanut butter, milk and butter and whisk until all ingredients have dissolved and are combined.
- Add confectioners sugar and continue whisking until completely smooth.
- Remove from heat and pour over cake.
- Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes.
- Cut into 3″X3″ squares and serve.
My father is 94 years old. He lives at home, in the house I grew up in. He takes no medications. None. His preventive regimen consists of vitamins, little or no red meat and more green, leafy vegetables than one can imagine. And it’s all organic. His Achilles heel is his sweet tooth. He has commanded no more cakes or pies to be baked for him. He has no self-discipline. These cookies are different. Not too sweet and pretty clean. I believe he’ll embrace and enjoy the fruits of this recipe. I’m almost certain I’ve developed a wheat allergy so I’ve been trying to figure out how to have the occasional treat without sneezing and coughing. I’m done with red, watery, old-lady eyes and a constant, bothersome post nasal drip.
I fashioned these based on my breakfast cookie. That said, these cookies rock. Made with dark chocolate, they satisfy sweet cravings at first bite. Even Daddy loved them. I replaced conventional white, bleached, wheat flour with almond and coconut flours. In lieu of white sugar, (so bad for you!), I used coconut sugar. The result is a thick, chewy, healthful cookie studded with gorgeous, dark chocolate chips all gooey and soft. I don’t bake them often, they may contain good fats but they’re still fats, however, these make a wonderful occasional indulgence. And my family loves them. Hope ya’ll do, too!
A Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, I use dairy-free “Enjoy Life” brand available at grocery and health food stores
- sea salt to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl add coconut flour, coconut sugar, almond flour and baking soda. Mix well so all ingredients are thoroughly combined and set bowl aside.
- In a large bowl combine eggs, coconut oil and vanilla and mix well.
- To the egg mixture add the flour mixture and the chocolate chips. Mix well until all the chips are evenly distributed.
- Use a melon ball scooper to measure out 25 equal portions of dough. My scooper is 1 1/2″ in diameter and holds 5 teaspoons. I pack each scoop firmly.
- Place each ball of dough on the parchment paper lined baking sheet and gently flatten the top of each cookie with your hand.
- Bake for 17-20 minutes or until bottoms are golden in color.
- Remove from oven onto a cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.
- Allow to cool completely before storing.
How many times is a kindness extended to you and a grateful “thank you!” just isn’t quite enough? I don’t know about you but it happens to me quite often. From your manicurist who graciously fits you in for that emergency mani when she clearly doesn’t have the time to the seamstress at your dry cleaner who will have your LBD back to you altered and pressed in time for the funeral your weight gain didn’t take into consideration. These acts of generosity are evident time and again in my day-to-day life and in the lives of my loved ones. My 93-year-old father has a whole support group who work at Publix and make the quality of his life much better from engaging him in conversation to helping him choose the most nutritious almond milk. Kesha and David can’t replace my mother but their attentions make him feel valued and respected. I can certainly tip the skycap who didn’t charge me when my suitcase was four pounds over last week but I don’t have the money to do that for someone I deal with on a weekly basis. That’s when I put together a pretty bag of goodies. Here in Boston a certain dental office bent over backwards to take care of us during a little “cosmetic” emergency. I wanted to say thank you not only to the dentist who saved the day but also to his staff who got us in ASAP and treated us with the utmost warmth and concern. I thought most definitely wine for the kind doctor and how about a sweet treat for the wonderful ladies at the front desk? Our apartment is fabulous but I am really limited as to cooking and baking tools. I brought my knives and sharpener from home and picked up a few essentials on Newbury Street…bowls, spatulas etc. I always set aside an empty wine bottle in the kitchen in the event I need a rolling-pin. But I don’t have a food processor or hand mixer. I decided on biscotti since I don’t need any special equipment, they’re easy to prepare and travel well. Dunk them in coffee or vin santo. Grab one for breakfast or a snack on the fly. This recipe produces a firm biscotti but not one that will break a tooth. They seem a bit soft when taken out of the oven for the final cooling but will harden sufficiently by the time they’re completely cool. Enjoy them and thank you!
Lemon Lavender Biscotti dipped in White Chocolate
- 2 lemons, zest both and juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons lemon extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon dried EDIBLE lavender flowers, rough chop optional
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 8 ounces white chocolate
- In a large bowl combine lemon zest and juice, sugar, butter, lemon and vanilla extracts and eggs. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
- In a separate bowl mix flour, lavender, baking powder and salt.
- Add flour mixture to lemon-egg mixture and mix until all ingredients are combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut dough into equal halves and spray a little non-stick pan spray on hands to keep dough from sticking.
- Form dough into rectangular logs measuring roughly 11 X 4 X 1. Smooth tops and sides.
- Bake 25 minutes and cool on racks for 10-15 minutes.
- With a bread knife or serrated knife cut logs on the diagonal about 1 1/2″ thick.
- Reduce heat to 325°, place cookies cut side up back on parchment lined baking sheets and bake 5 minutes.
- Turn over cookies baking the other cut side 5 more minutes.
- Cool on wire racks. Cookies will seem soft when just out of oven but will firm up as they cool.
- Melt white chocolate over double boiler. When chocolate has almost but not quite melted completely drizzle over cookies or dip in one end of each cookie. Or dip one cut side. Place on parchment paper to set. If white chocolate cools and thickens while working with it place back in double boiler and stir until warm and easy to work with.