Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Possibly the best peanut butter cookies you will ever eat

We’ve all had peanut butter cookies. The kind with crisscrossed fork marks on top that seem to pop up at every bake sale. They’re good, but they’ve got nothing on these salted peanut butter cookies. Nothing! These were, by far, the best peanut butter cookies I’ve had, and now I’m not even sure why I’d make any other kind of peanut butter cookie again. I found the recipe on Orangette, and it’s adapted slightly from Hot Cakes Confections in Seattle (the same Hot Cakes who make vegan caramel sauce). The secret is the quality of the peanut butter as well as the quantity of salt. So that’s two secrets, I guess. And they’re out.

So I decided to go all out for this and make my own peanut butter, since I have a Vitamix. (I won’t turn this post into a love letter to Vitamix, but suffice it to say it rocks!) I used 1 pound of roasted peanuts and, as per Alton Brown’s guidelines, 1 tsp. kosher salt. It was the most perfect peanut butter and tasted fantastic! I’d use a few more ounces next time, as I had to top it up with a few tablespoons of Skippy Natural creamy peanut butter. If you’re not making your own (as I suspect most won’t, and I can’t blame you), I recommend natural peanut butter, the kind you keep in the fridge – just make sure it’s salted. Also, note that even though I usually prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, Molly Wizenberg says that in this case, the milk chocolate really does go better with these cookies. I used 4 ounces, but would consider more next time, though these are by no means chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe makes 18-20 large cookies.

240 g pastry flour (I substituted 120 g of cake flour and 120 g of white whole wheat flour)
5 g (1 tsp.) baking soda
12 g kosher salt
275 g (2 sticks + 3.5 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used cold margarine)
200 g (about 1 ¼ cup, packed) dark brown sugar
170 g (¾ cup plus 2.5 Tbsp.) sugar
2 large eggs
400 g (1 ½ cup) natural salted creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
115 g - 170 g (4-6 oz.) chopped milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 °F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the pastry flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk well.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, and beat on medium-low speed to blend. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing on low speed until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate, and beat briefly on low speed, just until evenly incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop – mine has a capacity of about ¼ cup - scoop the batter onto the prepared sheet pan, taking care to leave plenty of space between cookies. (I bake six cookies per pan; if you add more, they run together.) Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and pale golden around the edges, but their tops have no color. (The cookies will not look fully baked, and this is crucial if you want chewy cookies!) Transfer the pan to a rack, and cool the cookies completely on the sheet pan. They will firm up as they cool.

Repeat with remaining dough (though it freezes beautifully).

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