Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The humble, yet complex, peanut butter cookie

Those who know me well, know that I do not have much of a sweet tooth. When I do crave something sweet, I seek something that has a nice balance of savory. Honestly, my idea of a perfect dessert is a glass of red wine paired with a cheese plate. Yet, when I am pregnant, I just love sweets which has led me in search of the perfect peanut butter cookie. Peanut butter cookies have that salty/sweet combination that I look for in a snack. Otherwise, if the treat is too sweet, you find yourself doing the, "well, now I got the sweet, but now I need a bowl (bag) of chips to offset it" routine. That's just a calorie disaster waiting to happen! And, let's be honest- we've all done it!

So let's talk peanut butter cookies. I have never had a great recipe, often they end up too dry. I pulled out all of my cookbooks and started reviewing. I landed on American Brasserie, a great cookbook that I picked up a while ago. I love anything bistro or brasserie related. It reminds me of being in Paris or Italy, sitting outside at a little table with a bowl of onion soup, a salad with goat cheese crostini, or an espresso. Typically, these types of restaurants have limited menus focused on seasonal ingredients. The recipes are inspiring, yet not intimidating. Anyhow, this book has a recipe for peanut butter cookies that I decided to try. Here is the recipe, including their introduction, which is over half the reason I decided to try it.

Big Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
from American Brasserie, Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand with Julie Moskin

People always say that peanut butter cookies are great for kids, but we suspect that grown-ups like them just as much. After all, this is a pretty serious cookie, with a salty-sweet flavor and crumbly richness that could even be called sophisticated.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chunky or creamy peanut butter (I used creamy)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. *
2) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3) In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and cream with the butter. The mixture will look a bit grainy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter and beat until fluffy.
4) Mixing at low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. If using, mix in the chocolate chips by hand.
5) Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.*
6) Let cool on wire racks and store in an airtight container.

* I use parchment paper so I don't have to grease the baking sheets, making for easy cleanup. I also used convection bake and lowered the temp to 325F. This made for a longer baking time- nearly 20 minutes.

I have made this recipe twice now. The first time, I just made them as instructed without chocolate chips. The cookies do not look like typical peanut butter cookies, where you roll balls and then flatten with a fork to make the criss cross pattern. They look more like a chocolate chip cookie. They tasted excellent, but it got me thinking, would they be different if I used the traditional method? What about adding chocolate chips? So, I gave it another go yesterday, using all 3 methods. After all, texture and appearance do make a difference to your sensory palate. Yet, I have to admit- all 3 were good. I'm still not completely sold on adding the chocolate chips. I feel like the peanut butter stands very well on its  own and the chocolate is sort of a distraction. Rolling the dough and then flattening with the fork tines, gives the cookie its traditional appearance and I think more of an even outer layer, a little more crumble. The simple drop cookie method, is very chewy which has its own merit. My conclusion is to leave the recipe stand without adding chocolate chips. The next thing that needs to be tested is whether chunky peanut butter would be better... any guesses?


Emily said...

Thanks for doing so much leg work for us! As much as I love chocolate, I have to agree, that PB cookies usually can hold their own w/o choco chips. Hmmm, I only have creamy PB on hand right now, but I will be trying these and giving you feedback from the Adamson abode. Curtis will be thrilled!

Eileen said...

definitely chunky!! peanut butter with chunks is the best, hence peanut butter cookies made with chunky will be the best! dad's making them right now--he came home and wanted to do it after reading your post. hoping he doesn't put chocolate in--oh...he just said he is--oh, well!

Missy said...

Chunky, creamy, with or without choco chips- it's all good to me! If you like Nutella, dip a PB cookie in that, omg, Delicious.