Up until recently, baking with peanut butter always made me feel like a bit of a maverick, here in the UK.
When I arrived almost 15 years ago, there was almost universal hatred for the stuff among the Brits (save for a few who’d been to the States and there tried the odd Reese’s confection – and consequently considered themselves to be edgy, dangerous radicals), and it’s only in recent years, as American foodstuffs of all sorts have infiltrated the UK mainstream, that I have felt confident that a batch of chewy cookies (as opposed to tooth-cracking English biscuits) of the peanut butter variety would be devoured by coworkers, should I dare to slink into the office with such an erstwhile monstrosity.
Long-term followers (or as Brian Molko once put it to a packed-out concert venue: “those of you who are kind of my bitches”) may remember a previous batch of peanut butter cookies appearing on this blog. Yep. You got me.
Ooh – only not. See, this is a smaller batch (one cup of PB, makes exactly 2 dozen small cookies), uses beautiful, soft light brown sugar as well as caster sugar (hello, chewy goodness) and employs the guaranteed sell of a crunchy cinnamon sugar coating. Oh: and they actually stay intact when they’re done baking. Thanks again, brown sugar (you taste so good – and not in a creepy Rolling Stones way).
I’ll try to stop with the peculiar rock music references, but can guarantee nothing.
Before we get on with the creation of these critters, I thought I’d hit you with another unbelievably useful kitchen tip (quick replay of the last UUKT: here)…
Seriously, if you too experience a slight sinking feeling when you see that a recipe involves putting something sticky into a measuring cup, you will love this. Coat the hell out of the measuring cup in question with butter or oil (edible grease, basically) and the sticky thing, be it peanut butter or golden syrup, will slide right out, thereby not screwing up your measurements by leaving a quarter of itself impossibly plastered round the inside of the damn measuring thingy. You really have to go for the greasing though – I put a big, healthy glug of oil in this cup and swirled it around to coat the sides, then tipped out the excess; if you just smear a bit in with some kitchen towel, this will not work – absolute truth – so slather away, folks.
This is one of those all-in-one recipes, meaning you literally just plunk all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix. I’m into this kind of business.
Okay, no, not really.
This was my second batch of crumbly dough this week, and I can now very confidently say that if you have a crumbly-as dough, even if the recipe doesn’t mention chilling it, if in doubt – and you should be up to your eyeballs in doubt in this particular case – chill the dough. Just do it. Can’t hurt (worst case scenario, the cookies take longer to bake), and will almost definitely help (unless you like cookie-flavoured puddles with burnt edges, in which case, please don’t bake me cookies – ever).
To the fridge!
After a brief chill out sesh, the dough is moulded into balls and dredged in a cinnamon-heavy sugar mixture – dredge em twice, as you’ll see that the dough absorbs some of the first coating quite quickly, and extra coat means extra crunch later on.
Squish down with fork tines and chill for a bit longer (we’ll address my earlier batch of crumbly dough in another blog – suffice to say it ended in puddle-related trauma and my new cookie dough mantra is chill chill chill) to make certain these guys have the best shot possible at holding a recognisably cookie-like shape after their oven experience.
If you’re a gratuitous freak like me (join us…) please do add a final generous pinch of the cinnamon sugar to the top of each cookie after the second chill and before the bake.
Speaking of bake… Bake.
Consider the beauty of the twice-chilled peanut butter cookies (now I’m referencing obscure Brecht – we can go back to glittery men with mics any time, guys, I just thought I’d switch it up… Funny story about the Brecht line I’ve bastardised at the end). These need to cool completely to set up for handling – once they’re set they are sturdy, with a bit of chew, a tender crumb and a sweet, subtle crunch on the outside. Perfecto.
I’ve adapted >> My Recipe << from one posted on Foodiecrush – it’s only a gentle adaptation, with a bit of extra cinnamon in the dough itself and, as you might guess, a slightly more enthusiastic approach to refrigeration.
Okay. The (kind of, maybe you had to be there) funny Brecht story:
In drama school, we had a very rare sit-down-at-desks-and-face-the-front class, which probably involved more than one exercise (I vaguely remember stacks of cups…I am pleased to report that that’s all I remember about those cups, as nothing interesting can have followed), but the exercise I remember involved all of us sitting at our rows of desks, facing an overhead projection of a speech from Brecht’s ‘Saint Joan of the Stockyards’, which I believe we were supposed to go through, line-by-line, and deconstruct. “Consider the beauty of the edifice!” was the first line of that speech. We never got to the second line.
First off, none of us knew WTF “the edifice” was (summer reading: and other things students can’t be trusted to do), and our poor, long-suffering tutor was having a bastard of a time basically just trying to get us to understand that the statement “Consider the beauty of the edifice!” was ironic. He may not have actually put it that simply though, which probably would have saved him an hour of agony and a few grey hairs… In fact, I think he may have got sidetracked trying to instil the importance of the exclamation mark at the end. There’s a word for that… Folly? Folly. Essentially, “the edifice” was a huge, polluted, industrialised monster of a civilisation, so the statement could easily be boiled down to “Consider the beauty of this ugly-in-every-conceivable-way thing!”. Our tutor was in no way prepared to make it that easy for us – or for himself. He chose to put it yet another way: “Consider the beauty of this. dead. cat!” said he, miming holding up an invisible kitten corpse.
Nice try, sir, but these are drama students. Drama students who, instead of going “oh, okay, irony, right, gotcha – next line of speech, please” spent the next hour earnestly explaining to our (somehow still vertical and arguably calm) tutor how a dead animal – bloody, gut-strewn, maggoty roadkill, say – could be strangely, even profoundly beautiful. The peaceful appeal of a croaked kitten, right? (90% of us were 100% serious about this, 10% of us were busy considering alternative career options.) Art and drama students are the reason ‘American Beauty’ got away with that film-of-a-windswept-plastic-bag wankery. There is no excuse for us, and we know it.
My mind will always remember “Consider the beauty of the edifice/dead cat!” said slowly, purposefully (perhaps a bit desperately) and with a very strong Geordie accent. Suffice to say I still know nothing about ‘Saint Joan of the Stockyards’, and am perfectly happy to keep it that way.
There. Nothing to do with baking, but now you know about as much about one line of a Brechtian play as me and roughly ten other people from my second year of drama school – possibly more: I genuinely believe that we never closed the books on the dead cat thing. Or mentioned the word “irony”.
Sooo… Cookies! I should stress here that my much-further-above statement re: the beauty of these guys was in no way ironic. They look and taste fantastic, and I almost find myself hoping that there are yet some peanut butter nay-sayers in the office, so I’ll have a few cookies left at the end of the day to smugly munch on the bus journey home.
Next blog up: more crumbly dough (and more weep-worthy delicious cookies) and a cautionary tale about the importance of the chill. We like to keep it cool here in more ways than one.