10.26.2010

Rebound

I baked some cookies last Wednesday night that robbed me of the will to chew and swallow. They were that bad. Worse, actually, seeing as how they contained an entire ten-ounce brick of Scharffen-Berger chocolate (what a waste), and even that couldn’t save them from the trash. I had to wait for them to cool so that they wouldn’t melt the garbage bag. It was a sad, sad scene. The waiting period between straight-from-the-oven and into-the-mouth may be the best waiting there is, precisely because the waiting ends, in due time, with a cookie. This was not that kind of waiting. Dumping cookies into the garbage straight from the rack is borderline torture. I wouldn’t be surprised if tucked away in some fiery corner of hell, there’s a rack of still-warm cookies that the condemned are forced to tip into the trash for all eternity.

For obvious reasons, these cookies are not what I want to share with you today. Rather, I want to tell you about the rebound cookie, the cookie that I jumped out of bed to bake at 6:30am the next morning, for the sole reason that I was feeling like I needed a win, and I knew that this cookie would deliver.



I had made this recipe once before, the previous week, for my brother’s eighteenth (EIGHTEENTH!) birthday and, quite simply, the resulting cookie blew me away. It’s a peanut butter cookie with milk chocolate chunks. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I never really got peanut butter cookies until this particular peanut butter cookie came along.

I’m not sure if I should admit this here, but until a week and a half ago, I hadn’t even thought of peanut butter cookies as real cookies. That probably makes me some kind of cookie bigot, which is as baffling as it is horrifying. A peanut butter sandwich is undoubtedly a real sandwich, after all, one that I hold in very high esteem, no less. Sometimes, I don’t get me.

While I can’t tell you precisely what went wrong between me and peanut butter cookies in the past, a simple comparison with the new cookie in my life does provide at least a clue, a clue that leads me to believe that it must have been a texture thing. The only peanut butter cookies that I had ever tasted were crisp, brittle ones. In theory, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; there is room in my heart for cookies that snap. Some cookies are truly best that way. And some cookies – like peanut butter cookies, if you ask me – are not. When I mentioned peanut butter cookies to my father-in-law a couple of weeks ago, he shook his head and said, “I take my peanut butter straight.” So do I, typically, whether it’s between two slices of bread, smeared on a salted rice cake, scraped onto an apple wedge or, most commonly, licked directly from the spoon. For me, peanut butter pleasure has only about thirty percent to do with flavor. The remaining seventy percent is all about texture, and I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who feels this way. The very existence of the varieties of peanut butter out there – creamy, chunky, extra-chunky, all variations on the theme of texture – speaks to this point, I think. Texture matters. Yet baked into a dry, crumbly cookie, the texture of peanut butter disappears completely.



All of this is a fancy way of saying that these cookies are chewy, and that it’s thanks to this chewiness that peanut butter cookies have, at long last, taken up their rightful place in my personal pantheon of outstanding cookies. These cookies are crisp around the edges, yes, but soft in the center, so that they retain a hint of the creaminess that makes peanut butter, well, peanut butter in the first place. With their shards of chocolate, rippled tops, and the caramel-like undertones brought on by that happy combination of brown sugar and vanilla, they’re like really good chocolate chip cookies zipped into peanut butter cookie suits. They’re the perfect antidote to even the most devastating failure in the kitchen, though I don’t plan on waiting for my next big flop to make these again. And neither should you.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (via Design*Sponge)

I don’t yet own the Baked cookbook, but that has got to change. I have it on good authority that every recipe was tested ten times. Ten times! Apparently, these peanut butter cookies are only the beginning. There is at least one instance in there of bona fide magic, I hear, resulting from a particularly inspired combination of salt, chocolate and caramel. Obviously, this cookbook belongs on my shelf.

Back to the cookies at hand: For spreading, smearing, and spooning, I typically prefer natural peanut butter, but I’ve never tried it for baking. I was worried that it might behave strangely because of its inconsistent texture, and so I went with Simply Jif instead. It worked like a charm. As for the chocolate, milk is definitely the way to go. According to Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the recipe’s creators (as reported by Grace over at Design*Sponge), dark chocolate will taste unpleasantly bitter against the peanut butter. Finally, after so much talk about the glory of chewy peanut butter cookies, if you prefer yours crisp – we can still be friends! – just add a couple of minutes to the baking time. I actually baked my first couple of trays a little bit longer than the time I recommend here, and they firmed right up.

1 ¾ c. flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c. granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. creamy peanut butter (I use Simply Jif)
6 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped or broken into shards (I use Ghirardelli milk chocolate baking bars.)

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time. (Wait for the first egg to incorporate before adding the second.) Add the vanilla and the peanut butter, and beat until just incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture, and mix for 15 seconds. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix, once again, until just incorporated.

Gently fold in the chocolate with a spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Depending on the temperature of your fridge and how long you’ve chilled the dough, you may need to let the dough soften slightly before scooping. When I chill the dough overnight, I find that leaving it on the counter for about 20-30 minutes does the trick. Just don’t let the dough get too warm. As soon as it’s soft enough to scoop, get going.

When it’s time to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons (I used a 1½ tablespoon cookie scoop) onto the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will spread, so be sure to leave at least 2 inches between them. Then, gently press down each cookie with the palm of your hand. You’re just looking to flatten the tops ever so slightly.

Sprinkle the cookies with granulated sugar and bake for 8-9 minutes for chewy cookies, and about 10 minutes for crisp cookies. When you remove the cookies from the oven, especially if you’re aiming for chewy, they will be cooked through but extremely soft. Don’t be alarmed; they’ll firm up as they cool. The only challenge is getting them in one piece from the sheet to the cooling rack. I recommend one of two things: Leave them on the sheet for a minute or two so that they cool at least a bit, and then use a metal spatula – which is thinner than the plastic kind – to transfer them carefully to a cooling rack. Or, you can skip the spatula all together, and slide the entire cookie-loaded sheet of parchment from the baking sheet to the rack.

24 comments:

olga said...

Oh man, the bad cookies always send me reeling. I get teary eyed when that happens. You feel so cheated!

These look amazing. I need to get my hands on that book too. I'm so behind in books and baking and reading. But this one looks like a good one to own. The first one is quite a stunner, I imagine the second one is just as amazing.

heatherly said...

Great blog!
The other day my guy loudly, under his breath (odd but true) mentioned that our house has been without cookies for a VERY long time. Taking the subtle hint I baked up a half batch of chocolate chip cookies and they were gone in 18 hours! I barely got any and I bet he could use some more; so I am going home right after work and making up a batch of these!
I too love PB but have yet to find a cookie to live up to my standards.
Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

"Peanut butter cookie suits" made me laugh out loud, I'm thinking that would be a good idea for a Halloween costume. Thanks for making my day! (And also making me drool a little.)

Maddie said...

Yes! I love these cookies, and you're right: PB cookies are way too easy to screw up. But done right, they're ethereal.

By the way, I have the first Baked cookbook but need to get more use out of it. What's this "particularly inspired combination of salt, chocolate and caramel" you speak of? I'd love to try that recipe out, whatever it is.

the blissful baker said...

oh these look sooo good mmmm

linda said...

wonderful & honest post…
i feel that what one interprets as failure makes one strive for a blissful bake…& that you certainly have done with this grand peanut butter cookie.

i am an early riser as well & love baking in that tranquil setting with the sun rising…

i just adore the "baked" cookbook (have made many, many of the boys recipes) & treated myself to their new one- "baked explorations" (this new book is designed so perfectly & their little sidebars make for a good read!) i have been to their bakery in red hook…& it is pure, sweet heaven.

i must tell you jess, that i eagerly await your new posts & so enjoy your recipes & your comments on life & "things!"

Rosiecat said...

Arrgh! So sorry to hear about that hellish batch of cookies, Jess. So, so sorry. It's the ingredients that really make me shed a tear--all that good chocolate, gone to the place where cookies don't belong.

But these *new* cookies sound heavenly! On the whole, I definitely prefer soft, chewy cookies, which is odd, because I love a good, crisp cracker. It's funny the things we are particular about, don't you think? Anyway, happy baking, friend. It's always fun to see a new post from you. xo

Jess said...

Hi, folks!

Thanks for your empathy, Olga. So you know, this recipe is from the first Baked cookbook. It sounds like Linda (a few notes down from yours) has gotten her hands on the second one, and that it's just as amazing.

Thanks, Heatherly! Your husband is a very lucky man. I hope he'll enjoy these cookies, and that - if he's kind enough to share - you will, too. If you think of it, please do report back.

Anonymous, ha! Thanks for laughing along with me.

Hi, Maddie. If I'm remembering correctly, it's some kind of brownie or cake. Once I heard "salt," "chocolate," and "caramel," it was hard to pay attention to the rest of the words in the sentence. Let me check with Luisa, and I'll get back to you.

Thanks, blissful baker. They really are.

Hi, Linda. You always say the nicest things. I really appreciate it. I love writing for this space - probably more than you know! - and so it means a lot knowing that you enjoy what you see here. Early-morning baking is my favorite, especially this time of year, when I get to measure out the flour when the sky is still black, and pull something from the oven at first light.

Yes, Rosiecat, it was a sad state of affairs. If chewy cookies are your bag, this one's for you. And, I didn't mention this in the post, but they come together fairly quickly, as cookies go. (Minus the fridge time, of course.)

Char said...

oh yes...i need a win too - my last apple cake was a miserable failure.

these look so delish

jacqui | happyjackeats said...

How funny, I was just flipping through my sister's copy of that book a few days ago, when she asked me to pick something from it that I'd like to try, and I said, "Biscuits! With cheddar!" Although she was thinking more along the lines of candy or marshmallows. Just goes to show who's the sweet and who's the savory in our family.

Anyway. Jess! The first mention of peanut butter cookies with chocolate. chips. literally made me perk up in my seat, and I had to hold my index finger back from immediately mousing down to the recipe. I've never baked cookies on my own before, but this looks like a fine one to start with. And definitely do-able for a non-baker like myself. :)

megan said...

Oh, how lovely to hear your voice! Remind me again what you said about apple-picking...is the same thing true about cookie-baking? Maybe I should make a day of it - these look delicious!

xx
megan

Molly said...

These do look delicious! What beautiful pictures, too. I've never been a fan of peanut butter cookies - like you and your father-in-law, I generally eat my nut butters straight. But I might have to change that :)

xo
Molly

buttersweetmelody said...

I love Baked. Those guys know their stuff. And I love peanut butter cookies! I want these right nooow ):

-Amalia

http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.com

Tracy said...

I go weak in the knees for peanut butter. I think I must dip into the jar at least once a day. I need it. I really do. Yes. I will try this recipe. How could I not (your photos reflect peanut butter cookie perfection).

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

Oh my gosh! I totally know this feeling. I made a truly terrible quick bread teh other day and it has been haunting me. I know I won't be able to sleep soundly until I redeem myself! And your cookies look awesome!

Jess said...

You know what, Char? I've been having trouble with apple cakes, too. Apple pies, tarts, crumbles, and crisps, I've got down, but I have not been satisfied with a single apple cake recipe that I have tried this season. If you find a winner, please let me know.

Jacqui - Wait, there are cheddar biscuits in this cookbook, too? This is getting ridiculous! Also ridiculous: that you, with all of your talent in the kitchen, have never made cookies! This recipe would be great for your maiden bake. Remember that they'll be quite soft when you remove them from the oven. Don't worry. They'll firm up to a nice tender chew as they cool. (In other words, take them out even though you might be thinking that they're not yet done.) Also, do you have a thermometer in your oven? I highly recommend getting one, since the temperature on the dial often does not reflect the true temperature inside of the oven.

Yes, Megan, by all means, take a break! (Though you'd have to move very, very slowly to fill your whole day with baking these cookies.) Does writing this blog give me any kind of authority to order you to take an hour away from your work and bake? If so, then let it be done! xo.

Thanks, Molly. I'm sure I'll make another batch soon enough. When I do, perhaps we could take a little cookie break one afternoon, and you can give them a try. (See you soon!)

Hi, Amalia. Well, if these cookies are any indication (and obviously, they are), your love is very well-placed. Happy baking!

Ah, Tracy, I'm so happy to hear I'm not the only one. It sounds like these cookies were made for you. Let me know how they turn out, if you think of it.

Katie - Exactly. It's just brutal, isn't it, when that happens? I'm telling you: make this cookies! You'll feel all better.

Rogue Unicorn said...

Just popping in to say, hi! And this- we must be telepathic because I made tahini cookies two nights ago (which are not pb cookies, but close enough to make me think that we work on the same wavelength just a wee bit)
Also- I made a pretty good apple cake a few weeks ago. I will email you the recipe.
xo

Amanda said...

I have made these cookies too and succumbed to their addictive nature. NO JOKE. I am so in love with these cookies that I have been known to down balls of raw dough before baking. Sick, but true :)

Jess said...

Oh, would you, Rogue Unicorn? I'd really appreciate it. And if it's not too much to ask, can you please send the recipe for those cookies, too? I would love to try it.

Amanda, hi! Notes like yours have me seriously considering marching into the kitchen and baking up another batch. I never knew that I could feel this way about a peanut butter cookie.

kickpleat said...

Oh man, I really really want these cookies now. I should always have processed pb for such a cookie occasion.

Jess said...

Kickpleat, yes, you should. It's only sensible.

Caitlyn said...

Great looking dish! Make me hungry!

Lia said...

I have peanut butter every day for breakfast and couldn't love it more, but have never liked peanut butter desserts. This recipe might make me reconsider. I live in Brooklyn and love Baked. I've been meaning to make their Brookie lately and I'm wondering if it's in their cookbook (I found the recipe online). A chocolate chip cookie nestled inside a brownie. Now THAT'S my kind of dessert!

Jess said...

Thanks, Caitlyn.

Funny you should mention the "brookie," Lia. A few weeks back, a friend of mine e-mailed me a brookie recipe that was posted on Daily Candy. (Though it seems the brookie is a Clinton Street Baking Co. creation. Does Baked make one, too?) Thanks for the reminder.