You can learn a lot from someone by looking at their cookbooks. I was at my friend Dara's house the other night and she had a cookbook lying completely flat on her counter. Though it was a recently published cookbook, the spine was broken and the open pages were wrinkled with use and the evidence of a few spills. I glanced at the brownie recipe before me and asked, "Make these a lot?" to which Dara smiled and said, "They're the best! I've made them so many times!"
Like Dara's well-worn pages containing her beloved fudgey brownie recipe, I can pull out my favorite cookbooks and immediately find my favorite recipes by looking for the distinct wavy edges of pages that have met a spill or two. Or, better yet, when I lay a favorite cookbook down and the spine of the book seems to read my mind and opens to my comfort foods and favorite recipes. The tell-tale chocolate smudges and flour-dusted seams are like compasses in my journey as a baker--always reminding me of happy memories and desserts that work in the midst of baking fails and catastrophes.
In fact, to this day, I can still go to my mom's copy of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and find the recipes for peanut butter cookies and spritz just by their tattered edges. Peanut butter cookies were the first cookies I learned to bake by myself. They reminded me of my grandma who always had a log of dough at the ready in her freezer and would slice off a piece for my sister and I before she put the rest in the oven to bake (now I know where I get that cookie dough Achilles' heel from...). We never made the dough at her house, so I never learned her recipe. Instead, I turned time and time again to a recipe in my mother's red cookbook for guidance and it never let me down!
After I had memorized the cookie recipe, I decided to branch out to peanut butter squares. I stumbled upon a recipe from a magazine and decided to try it. Not only was it ridiculously simple, it also happened to be delicious. I made peanut butter squares countless times until I accidentally lost the recipe. Through trial and error, I eventually came up with something close to the original and used it until it was committed to memory. The measurements are easy enough and you can make them without ever turning on your stove, just so long as you have a microwave. They're a relatively quick recipe to bring to a party, too!
When my blogging friend Colleen asked me what cookbook first made me realize I love to bake, my mind went blank! I had taken for granted growing up in a commercial kitchen, the food blogs I read, the classes I took and the books I had on my shelf. How could I pick just one? It wasn't until I saw the wrinkled pages of Dara's cookbook that my mind flashed to my mom's kitchen and all the happy memories I had baking peanut butter cookies with my sister.
What cookbook made you fall in love with cooking or baking? Which pages are the most weathered in it?
As part of Cookbooks & Calphalon, I'm joining 17 food bloggers are sharing stories and accompanying recipes to celebrate our love of cooking and the perfect pairing of Cookbooks & Calphalon!
This wouldn't be complete without a fun giveaway for you to enter...so take a moment to enter our awesome Cookbooks & Calphalon Giveaway!
Also, now through September 1st, Calphalon is celebrating couples! From the first meal they create together in their new home to the meal they share on their 25th anniversary, couple cook up memories! The cookware they choose serves as the foundation for which these “Couples Cooking” memories are made.
Calphalon wants to recognize these #CouplesCooking moments by asking couples to share pictures of the meals they cook together for a chance to win $1,000 in Calphalon cookware! Calphalon is inviting couples to post photos of the meals they prepare with their significant other on Calphalon’s Facebook page. To enter, couples will be asked to share why the dish is unique or special to them and use the hashtag #CouplesCooking. How fun is THAT??
Follow the #CookbooksandCalphalon fun on social media for great recipes, tips and more and good luck in BOTH giveaways! (The link to enter is after the recipe!)
Peanut Butter Squares
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 jar (16.3 ounces) creamy peanut butter
- 1 pound (approx 2 cups) powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 6 oz chocolate chips
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add peanut butter and stir until melted. Turn off heat but leave the pan on the burner.
- Cream in the powdered sugar until well mixed. Add the graham cracker crumbs. The texture should resemble a thick, but pliable dough.
- Transfer dough to a 13x9" pan and spread out using fingers or a spatula into an even layer. Set aside.
- Melt chocolate chips over a double boiler. Spread melted chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.
- Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
- Cut, serve and enjoy!