Baking is Made Easy with This Culinary Series from Chef Virginia Willis

It’s baking season! While some people jump at the opportunity to whip up cakes, pastries and confections, for other at-home cooks the thought of baking brings a sense of dread. But you don’t have to be a professional baker or use specialized equipment to make beautiful and delicious food from the oven.

We partnered with James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, Chef Virginia Willis, to show how easy it is to bake using ingredients and equipment you have on hand. Though Willis is a classically trained chef, she’s here to show you some simple tips and techniques that anyone can use to bake award-winning food at home.

Follow along on our Instagram, @NationalPeanutBoard, each week beginning September 15th, to view each episode in the culinary series. Chef Virginia Willis will demonstrate how to bake simple and satisfying foods from seedy flatbread and peanut butter shortbread, to showstopping desserts like PB&J meringues and pumpkin layer cake with honey glazed peanut cream cheese filling. We’ll post all the recipes here so you can watch the episodes, bake along, and your loved ones can enjoy the masterpieces you create. “Bon appétit, yall!”


Episode One – Seedy Flatbread


Episode Two – Peanut Butter Shortbread

Today we are in the kitchen again with Chef Virginia Willis and she is sharing the recipe for some Peanut Butter Shortbread. This shortbread is dairy-free because instead of butter, it uses peanut butter. Grab the ingredients below and whip up this delicious and easy peanut butter shortbread! Ingredients: Baking spray ¼ cup creamy all-natural peanut butter ¼ cup canola oil 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup all-purpose flour Directions: Heat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease one round 9" cake pans with Baker’s spray. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the peanut butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla; beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating till it comes together. If it absolutely won't come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. (This is a crumbly and stiff dough.) Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface, and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 6 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool. Serve as is or decorate. You can drizzle with melted caramel or melted chocolate and sprinkle with additional nuts!

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Episode Three – PB&J Meringues

These light and delicate meringues are the perfect way to enjoy the classic flavor combination of peanut butter and jelly. Join Chef Virginia Willis as she demonstrates how to make a French meringue with a fun PB&J twist. Ingredients: 4 large egg whites Pinch fine sea salt 1/2 cup sugar 2-3 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter 2-3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, thinned with water, if needed Directions: Heat the oven to 200°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat; set aside. Fit a piping bag with a star tip. Set aside. Using the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium high. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until stiff, glossy peaks form. Paint peanut butter down one side of the interior of the piping bag and jam down the other. Fill with meringue. Pipe swirled dollops onto the prepared baking sheet. Once the bag is emptied, repeat with remaining meringue, peanut butter, and jam. Transfer to oven and bake on center rack of oven until crisp and dry, about 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave meringues in the oven at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

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Episode Four – Pumpkin Layer Cake with Honey Glazed Peanut Cream Cheese Filling

This pumpkin cake with peanut cream cheese filling is perfect for fall! Made in a sheet pan, this delicious cake is easy and fun to make. Join @virginiawillis as she prepares the final recipe in this video series. Ingredients: Nonstick cooking spray 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt, divided 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 5 large eggs, room temperature ¾ cup granulated sugar 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, divided 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 8 ounces Neufchatel, cream cheese, or reduced fat cream cheese at room temperature ¼ cup fat-free, plain Icelandic yogurt ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting ½ cup chopped honey glazed peanuts Directions in comments.

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Learn more about Chef Virignia Willis here: and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube


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