Saturday, May 22, 2010

"And now for the Switch Up"

I don't know if I've told you before, but my first TV cooking love was Anna Olson. Ok, I know I've told you before, but the recipe I'm about to post is just .. well, just so Anna, that I had to mention her again. I used to spend lazy summer days in front of the TV learning how to separate eggs without getting any yolk into the whites, make lump-free lemon curd, the importance of sifting flour and ... turning the phrase "plain and simple" to "simple and elegant." That was her key phrase, the phrase that she said right before she ended the show. "And there you have it. Simple and elegant. I'm Anna Olson and thanks for watching Sugar." Ok, so I was/am a little obsessed. But Anna Olsen really did introduce me to the world of baking. Watching her gave me the courage to take recipes and change them to suit my needs, tastes and cupboard.

Anna's got lots of different shows now, but the original one, the one called Sugar, is the one I remember the most. I loved it because it had different parts. First, she would make something easy and simple, something that you could do on a weeknight. Then, she's make something really special, that layer cake that you have to let set for an hour before decorating, or that exotic flavoured ice cream that you have to make in many steps. I have to say that I've never attempted one of those recipes, but hope to in the future. The last 2 minutes of the show were always my favourite. She'd do the "switch up." She'd take the easy, simple recipe from the first part of the show and dress it up so that it would be good enough to serve to guests. I found it absolutely brilliant that a pound cake baked into individual cups instead of a loaf could make such a difference, or that serving cookies with a fruit salad could turn it from a tasty treat to a dessert to serve to company.

Anna's "switch up" was exactly what I thought of a couple weekends ago when I received a lovely surprise from my love. I had been washing the bathroom, and when I came out, he had a cheeky grin on is face, and told me that he had made me a special treat. I was doubly surprised when he pulled a cookie tray out the oven and presented it to me. Cooking he loves, but rarely will he bake -- this was a true labour of love. He had taken my all-time favourite flavour, peanut-butter, and made me a yummy treat. On the tray were 6 gigantic, chewy peanut butter cookies. But that wasn't all. In a small pot simmering on the stove was the freshest-looking strawberry sauce ever. He delicately assembled the treat by putting a bit of the strawberry sauce on top of the cookie and we both took a bit at the same time. It was heaven. I truly decadent PBJ and a wonderful surprise after spending an hour scrubbing the bathroom. The strawberry sauce was perfect -- tangy, sweet, fresh -- and suited the chewy peanut-buttery goodness of the cookie just fine. A perfect pair. Wonderful. I wish all my PBJs were as delicious. Without even watching Anna Olson, my love was able to create the perfect switch-up my dressing up a simple peanut butter cookie. Now, that's talent. :)

PBJ Surprises

For the cookies:

1 cup of all natural smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of flour

For the strawberry sauce

a large handful of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
a splash of almond extract
1 tablespoon of sugar
a little squeeze of lemon

1. Put all the strawberry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium until things start to bubble. Reduce the heat a bit and let it simmer until the strawberries break down.

2. Cream the peanut butter and sugar. Add the egg, baking soda and flour and give it a good mix.

3. Place spoonfuls of the dough on a sheet. Make sure they are very well spaced out because these yummies will definitely spread out.

4. Bake the cookies in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown on the edges.

5. Serve the cookies topped with the strawberry sauce and smile.