RE: In Search Of...The Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookie
Tue, 05/11/04 1:39 PM
Here you go KimChee! When in doubt turn to Cook's Illustrated!
Peanut Butter Cookies
The key to a peanutty cookie that is crisp on the edges and chewy in the center? Chunky commercial peanut butter and an extra hit of roasted, salted peanuts.
Problem: Recipes for peanut butter cookies tend to fall into one of two camps: sweet and chewy with a mild peanut flavor (which means lots of butter and sugar but not much egg), and sandy and crumbly with a strong peanut flavor (which means lots of peanut butter but not a lot of flour).
Goal: What we wanted, of course, was the best of both—that is, crisp on the edges and chewy in the center, with lots of peanut flavor.
Solution: We started our testing with the recipe for nuttiest-tasting sweet-and-chewy cookie, first trying to bring up the peanut flavor by substituting peanut oil for butter. We quickly learned that this was not the way to go; oil makes a cookie sandy, while shortening adds crispness and chew. Butter, in addition to adding crispness and chew, enhances the peanut flavor. So butter was in, vegetable shortening and peanut oil out.
Our next thought was to experiment with the kind and amount of peanut butter. Because of the oil that’s left in "natural" peanut butters, these products didn’t advance our cause. Commercial peanut butters, with their partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, helped the cookie rise and achieve a crispier edge and a softer center.
Also playing roles in our quest for the "perfect" peanut butter cookie were the amount and type of sugar (white sugar is necessary for crisp edges and chewy centers, dark brown sugar enriches the flavor of the nuts); flour (too little and the cookies are oily, too much and they are dry); and leavening (baking soda contributes to browning and peanut flavor, baking powder provides lift, so both are necessary).
The final turning point, however, rested on peanuts and salt. Adding some toasted, ground, and salted peanuts and then adding still more salt (directly to the batter as well in the form of salted rather than unsalted butter) produced a strong roasted nut flavor without sacrificing anything in terms of texture.
BIG, SUPER-NUTTY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies
Bringing the butter, peanut butter, and eggs to room temperature makes it easier to blend the ingredients. Be sure to grind the peanuts, since whole, and even chopped peanuts tend to slip out of the dough. If using unsalted butter, increase salt to 1 teaspoon. Keep finished cookies refrigerated in airtight container. To restore just-baked chewiness, wrap a cookie in a sheet of paper towel and microwave for approximately 25 seconds. Cool before serving.
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), salted
1 cup (7 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup extra-crunchy peanut butter, preferably Jif
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs, about 14 pulses (about 1 cup, packed)
1. Adjust oven rack to low center position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
2. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Add ground peanuts; stir gently until just incorporated.
3. Working with 2 tablespoons dough at a time, roll into large balls, placing them 2 inches apart on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Press each dough ball with back of dinner fork dipped in cold water to make crisscross design. Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, but not top, 10 to 12 minutes (they will not look fully baked). Cool cookies on cookie sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 7 days.