Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mmmm...Peanut Butter....

UPDATE: I just discovered this morning on NPR via Facebook--not even 12 hours after posting this!!--that it is not my most timely post, since apparently we're in the midst of a peanut, and therefore peanut butter, shortage.  Who would have guessed??  So I say run, don't walk, to your nearest grocery store and stock up, because actually, you don't want to miss these cookies!

Wow.  I am a bad blogger.  Please accept my apologies.  Please?  I wrote this post in JULY and then forgot to post it.  Or rather, I thought I had photos that I had to upload and edit, and I really didn't want to.  And then today, when I went to look through my camera, I realized I never even took any photos of the finished product, so there was really no reason to delay so long.  So not only is the post MONTHS late, it is kind of devoid of photos.  Again, apologies.  Then I dropped off the planet for a while.  By which I mean I moved to Cambridge into a dorm at Harvard, started a second job there, started eating in the dining hall, and stopped cooking.  And therefore stopped having things to write about.  Pathetic.  I need to do better.  My first step is FINALLY posting these cookies.  So without further ado:

So far the most popular recipe on the blog was the last one, for the Grapefruit Campari pops.  Note to self:  readers like recipes with only 3 ingredients, one of which is alcohol, and involve no cooking.

Okay.  Duly noted.  (I mean, I don't blame you.  I like recipes like that, too.)

If, however, you're feeling more ambitious, like you might be up to the task of turning on the oven, combining multiple ingredients, shaping, and baking, and you happen to like peanut butter, then this next recipe is for you.

I have never actually been to Flour Bakery in Boston/Cambridge, despite its fame & popularity.  It hasn't been a conscious decision, I just never happen to be walking by it when I need a baked good.  However, I did have the pleasure of working with Flour's owner, Joanne Chang, when I was a student at Boston University.  She came in and taught us four recipes: scones, quiche, pop tarts, and her famous (and award winning!) cinnamon buns.  She was a delight to work with--friendly, unassuming, and a great teacher.  As a bonus, we each received a copy of her cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe.  There are tons of recipes that I want to try, but one that I have already baked twice, with excellent results, are Joanne's Peanut Butter Cookies.  There is nothing unusual about them, they're just really really good peanut butter cookies.  Just the right amount of salt, sugar, and peanut, and they bake up soft, thick, and chewy.  My inclination with simple cookies like this is to fuss with them (by which I mean add chocolate), since plain cookies aren't always my thing, but even I can't keep my hands off these.  But, if you did want to add chocolate chips, I say, go for it!  I still haven't done it, but I'm sure I won't resist the temptation forever.  And for me, perhaps the best part of this recipe (and all of the book's recipes, for that matter) is that the ingredients are listed by weight in addition to cups (a real baker's recipe!), so it's very quick to scale out.  I've said it once but I'll say it again (and probably at least a few more times down the road): digital scales.  A baker's best friend!  (And for more on the joys and wonders of scaling, please refer to the New York Times article I posted).

Peanut Butter Cookies (From Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang)
Makes about 24 (big!) cookies

* 2 sticks/1 cup/228 g unsalted butter
* 1 cup/200 g granulated sugar
* 1 cup/220 g packed light brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
* 1 3/4 cups/454 g/a 1 pound jar of peanut butter, chunky unsalted is my preference
* 2 2/3 cups/375 g unbleached all purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon of baking soda
* 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl using an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy--this will take about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or about 8 with a hand mixer.  (Joanne says 10 minutes, but I don't know ANYONE, myself included, who has the patience to cream something together for 10 minutes!)  Stop your mixer several times to scrap down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure all the ingredients are mixing thoroughly. 

2.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined after each one, then toss in the vanilla, beat some more. 
3. Plop in the peanut butter, using a rubber spatula to get every little bit out of the jar and into the mixing bowl.  Beat on medium-low speed for a couple of minutes until it's thoroughly combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again--get it all in there!

 4. In a medium bowl, use a fork and combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  On very low speed, or with a wooden spoon, mix the dry ingredients into the wet, just until they're evenly incorporated.  

5.  For best results, Joanne says to let the dough rest for at least 4 hours or overnight.  To do this, transfer the dough to an airtight container, or push all the dough into the mixer bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Alternatively, if you have a large cookie scoop, (large being 4 tablespoon/56mm size) now is a good time to portion out the dough.  Scoop your cookies, lining them up on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  When I scoop my cookies I put them all on one sheet, nearly touching, and then wrap it with plastic wrap then pop it in the fridge.  

Scooped cookies hanging out in the fridge.  Peanut butter are on the right.

6. When you're ready to bake the cookies, heat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Drop cookie dough in 1/4 inch balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet.   Flatten slightly with your hand, then make the traditional criss-cross shape on top, using the tines of a fork.  (If you've refrigerated your cookie dough pre-scooped, you'll have to let them sit out a room temp for about 30 minutes to soften enough for flattening and patterning).  Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown but the middles are still fairly pale and soft.  Cool the cookies for 5 to 10 minutes on the cookie sheet on cooling racks, then transfer them to the racks to cool completely. 

7.  Cookies, once cooled, can be stored for 3 days in an airtight container.  Unbaked dough can stay in the fridge for up to a week in an airtight container.  


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself!

I'm sure I've mentioned the wonders of the humble kitchen scale every now and then.  BUT, if you STILL don't believe me, check out the following article from today's New York Times Dining & Wine section.  It explains everything I love about my scale and more.

I'll write more about food soon, I promise.  Keep hanging in there!