Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spicey Petit Peanut Butter Cookies

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“It's like peanut butter and chocolate. Each is great, but they're better together." -- Richard Whitehead

I simply adore peanut butter. As the story goes, when I was just a kid after my mom returned from a trip to Europe she was smitten by dishing out gourmet food. She used me and my siblings as lab rats and tried her fancy fare on us. More times than not I, a picky eater, refused to oblige. Then she'd announce to us that it would be a peanut butter sandwiches night if we wouldn't try her new, improved dinner dishes. That was fine with me...
Peanut butter is like an old reliable friend. As a struggling grad student, I lived on it teamed with honey and whole wheat bread. And now, in the recent years after or before my swim I'd purchase one of those giant peanut butter cookies at Starbucks. Tonight, however, I created a European style petite peanut butter cookie with European Style butter (it's richer and creamier), winter-warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, Mediterranean Sea Salt for a mix of sweet 'n' salty and light crunch--and dark chocolate.

Back to the past, my mom did bake a super peanut butter cookie. I recall that she allowed me to make the criss cross imprints on the cookie dough. I love that look and tonight I felt my mother's presence in the kitchen while forming the ball, one by one. It was an awesome and unforgettable experience, sort of like ghostbaking.

Spicey Petit Peanut Butter Cookies

2 1/2 cups all natural whole wheat flour
(I added an extra 1/4 cup because of the altitude)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dark brown granulated sugar
1/3 cup European Style butter
1 cup all natural peanut butter, chunky
1 brown egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1 /2 teaspoons (each) ground ginger and cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mediterranean sea salt
dark chocolate curls

Preheat ovent to 450 degrees. In a bowl mix flour, soda, and salt. Melt butter and peanut butter in the microwave (I like to do it that way) and mix together egg, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Form cookie dough into a snake-like roll and wrap in parchment paper. (I saw this tip on Food Network and it works like a charm.) Chill for an hour. Slice dough into 1/4 inch slices, roll into petite balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place criss cross marks (see photo above) with fork on top of balls. Bake for about 8-10 minutes. Once out of the oven sprinkle half the cookies with Mediterranean sea salt and the other half with dark chocolate curls (wait till the cookies cool unless you like the melted effect). This way you won't have to wish you'll have both of best worlds. Makes about two and a half dozen.

It's a challenge to bake good cookies in the high altitude. You've got to get a grasp on the right mix of sugars and flour for a chewy texture. And baking requires a higher temperature. I think I've got it down now after a decade of living here in the Sierras. Tonight it worked.
Actually, I froze the cookies so I wouldn't be tempted to overindulge. The ginger gives the cookie a nice bite paired with the peanut butter flavor. The salt provides a fun crunch. And the dark chocolate curls? These are my favorite--peanut butter and chocolate are "better together." Or, you can enjoy the plain ones and make a cup of quality dark hot chocolate.

So, it seems like some things stay the same over time but you can create some tweaks to make it a tad different providing more spice to life. Uh oh, I think I inherited my mom's knack for cooking up American food with an European kick.

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