Friday, February 5, 2010

My First Post! (Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies)



There comes a time in a person's life when he or she feels the need for a little sugar. Or a lot of it.

I am a dessert addict. In my case, my yen for the sweet things in life probably began as a kid when each day that I came home from school and found my mother had made vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting, or chocolate chip cookies or apple crisp. I used to love to rummage through her cookbooks and stare at the technicolor photos of elaborate desserts: gingerbread houses for Christmas (forbidden to us because we were Jews), roulades, mint chocolate brownies, something called a "silver cake."

As an adult, I wasn't very good in the kitchen until a few years ago when I began taking cooking classes. Since then, I've been building a recipe collection of my own as well as an ever-growing collection of kitchen equipment. And when life gets too stressful, I can always lose myself in a good dessert recipe.

This year, with all that's been going on in the world and our fragile economy, life's gotten even more stressful. And as I try to figure out what to do about it, I've decided to have some fun, do a little baking, and share the results with the world. My partner, Anthony Palatta, volunteered to take the pictures. So here goes...

PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH COOKIES

I never liked peanut butter as a kid. It seemed too sweet, too nutty, too sticky. The smell of someone else's peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the playground nauseated me.

My attitude toward pb changed when I was teaching English in Prague, and the word "peanut butter" came up in a lesson on food I was teaching to two businessmen. "Butter made from peanuts?" they asked me. So, I went to the imported food section of the biggest supermarket in town and brought them a jar to try. They sniffed it, made a face, but flatly refused to put such a thing in their mouths. To show them it wasn't poisoned, I gave it a try, and then realized, "Hey, this stuff's pretty good!"

I first experimented with this recipe for peanut butter cookies last summer while sharing a house on Fire Island. They were gone in a flash of ecstasy. Since then, I made the cookies for my ski club--more rave reviews, including one member who offered to marry me if I would just make him these cookies--and then last weekend for a house party.

What I love about the recipe, which comes from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine (one of my favorite sources) is how basic it is. Check it out here

The ingredients are pretty much flour, brown sugar, peanut butter, and butter for the cookies, which if you bake them just right (by underbaking them slightly) come out soft, "like bread slices," as a friend described them. But don't worry if you overbake them. After they're frosted, let them sit for a day and they'll soften up.

Also, one time I accidentally added way too much peanut butter (because in the list of ingredients, what you need for the filling and for the dough is combined), but the cookies still came out wonderfully.

You mush the ingredients together and then shape them into an 8-inch rectangular log. Martha doesn't specify the log's dimensions, but I recommend 2 inches wide by 1 inch high. Next, you refrigerate (or freeze) the log and then slice off cookies with a sharp knife into rectangles. If you can get the slices fairly thin, maybe about 1/4 inch, then your cookies won't be too doughy. However, the dough has a tendency to crumble, so it's kind of hard to get them thin. You can always patch any scraps back onto your rectangles and they'll bake together.

Throw them in the oven as directed, let them cool, and then make the frosting, which is basically a milk-flour roux mixed with peanut butter and sugar. Then start frosting and sandwiching. I like to put them in the refrigerator to set a little.

The results are irresistible: sweet, nutty, soft, and satisfying. People often ask me if there's jelly in them or any other special ingredients, but it's actually very simple. Just the usual magic of butter, sugar, and flavor.

9 comments:

  1. This sounds wonderful. When I lived in Germany, no one dreamed of eating peanut butter, either.

    One of my most treasured family heirlooms is a dessert cookbook by John and Margaret storm, with a personalized autographed to my mother. I can't fathom where she met these two, and while I remember her chicken & dumplings and her love of okra, I don't remember a single dessert she made. (She passed away many years ago.) But my daughter and I love to cook together, so hopefully we will follow your blog, Aaron!

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  2. I love the idea of a dessert blog! I'm looking forward to living vicariously through you until I have a kitchen again. (Maybe six more weeks?) Not being able to bake is killing me. I will say: individual pear crisps in ramekins in the toaster oven work quite well.

    I have some favorite go-to dessert recipes (lemon pudding cakes; chocolate volcano cakes; the above-mentioned fruit crisp, which is my Nana's recipe; the New Basics carrot cake) but I always love trying new ones. I especially love making cakes... there's something so celebratory about a frosted layer cake on the table, especially when there's no special occasion.

    Happy baking! I'll be following :)

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  3. Lemon Pudding Cakes! Those sound awesome, Sarah... Send me the recipe!

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  4. Please do a post about your amazing banana bread!

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  5. How great to see all this and I will follow with a fork! (Do consider using Cooking With Hamburger at least as a subtitle...)
    xx suzanne

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  6. I promise to post about the banana bread!!!

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  7. Yes, baking is very relaxing and therapeutic. This is a great blog. Anthony takes great photos!

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