Blame it on the Rain, caramel, Chicago Shake, Cindy Mushet, Danger Zone, Holly's World, Josh Strickland, Ke$ha, Milli Vanilli, peanut butter cookie, Public Enemies, Report to the Floor, Ten Million Slaves, The Art & Soul of Baking, Tik Tok, Top Gun
The search ends here. One of my readers in particular will be quite pleased to know she can stop making endless peanut butter cookies from recipes that catch her eye and sleep soundly at night knowing that THIS is the only peanut butter cookie recipe you will ever need again.
It is simply too good for words! These cookies are soft and chewy, hold their shape, have the perfect amount of peanut butter in them to guard from overwhelming your taste buds and requiring an emergency glass of milk to wash it down with, but doesn’t leave you wanting more of that peanut butter taste either. It’s not too sweet to eat alone and it’s not too sweet when you fill a well in the center with salted peanut caramel and drizzle the top with dark chocolate, finishing with just a slight sprinkle of sea salt. These are amazing. This is the last recipe you will ever have to try to get the perfect peanut butter cookie recipe!
Lately, my kitchen mojo has been faltering and I have had to make many things a couple of times or try a few different recipes to get an end product that I could eat again and again, so it’s not surprising to me that this cookie tested the last few flickers of hope that my kitchen mojo would return. As you may recall, the first time I wrote about peanut butter cookies was a couple of months ago and those cookies were a little too dry and didn’t hold their shape – a good taste but they were only good fresh out of the oven and crumbled when you picked them up the next day. Then I tried again, with a different recipe whose ingredient list required more wet ingredients, allowing the cookie to hold its shape better, but cracked all over regardless of how it was shaped and was too soft and never quite firmed up… until a couple of days later when it would crumble also. So imagine my reluctance when I saw this recipe in The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet – but because I have been on a mission to find the best of the recipes for the things I like to bake, eat and giveaway, I had to make these… kind of a last-ditch effort.
It was a long road getting there though, let me tell you! I decided to whip up the batter and let it sit in the fridge overnight after a botched experiment with making blueberry ganache for an upcoming foodie challenge given by The Daring Kitchen, and failed infusion of lavender in cream had gotten the better of me. Convinced that my kitchen mojo was waning, but not wanting it to get the better of me, I set everything aside and pulled out some dusty faith out of the cupboard, dusted it off and got to work.
I saw that creaming the butter and sugars together was the first thing to get done in the recipe and my heart sank a bit more. It is the single hardest task to accomplish in the baking of things since my KitchenAid mixer died because the alternative is whisking and beating things by hand with a trusty whisk the old-fashioned way or using my immersion blender that (thankfully!) has a whisk attachment that only goes one speed – which is what makes things difficult. Of course I went with my immersion blender – but knowing that until the butter and sugar comes together a bit, the first few turns of the blender was going to result in a (small) tornado of bits of butter and sugar flying around the kitchen, sticking to everything.
To prevent just that, I stuck some Glad press-n-seal plastic wrap over 3/4 of the bowl, leaving just enough space to get the whisk attachment in and move it around, so that the flying bits of butter and sugar would hit the top of the plastic rather than coating everything around the bowl in its fury to whip butter and sugar together. Plan A was going along just fine for the first five seconds and then Grrshwislsgnjtsoiht!!!!! the plastic wrap got sucked around the whisk and I looked up to see that the front of my t-shirt had bits of butter and sugar stuck to it, as well as Mei’s face and shirt, Patella’s back and head, the counter, the ceiling, the wall, and couple of things on the counter. I nearly cried. Why couldn’t this work?
But I wasn’t going to let that get in the way! I cleaned everyone and everything up … Patella helped, she licked herself and the floor and licked up all the bits she could reach and find on the walls and cabinet doors, Mei kicked her feet in delight and continued playing with her toys, watching Patella dart around the kitchen, snout to the floor, hunting for more bits to lick up and I put an extra teaspoon of brown sugar, white sugar and a tablespoon (since that’s what I guesstimated that I lost…) of butter back into the bowl. Thankfully, all this excitement meant that the whisk actually beat the butter up enough that I could run the whisk and everything would stay in the bowl this time and cream up nicely! Scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically, I beat the butter and sugars until they were nice, light, creamy and frothy and continued on with the recipe.
With a little elbow grease and patience from Mei, who by the time we began folding in the flour mixture, had had her fill of being in the kitchen and more than likely ready to relax for a nap, began to whine a bit to let me know just how uninterested she was in making cookies anymore, we got the flour incorporated, plastic wrap laid on the surface and the bowl of light, peanutty dough in the fridge to rest overnight.
Before you turn away from the recipe, I should mention that the recipe doesn’t actually require chilling the dough overnight, but I have noticed lately that the doughs that rest and are given the chance to let the dry ingredients soak up the eggs and other liquid in the doughs tend to turn out a more delicious cookie after baking. Not to mention, remember Mei? She was ready for a nap and I was hitting my limit for being in the kitchen too.
The next morning, after everyone had eaten breakfast, we all trooped into the kitchen to bake the cookies. I scooped them out, rounded them out, poked wells in the centers and sent them into the oven. They came out about twenty minutes later, still soft, warm, emitting the most wondrous smell of toasted peanuts, and ready to be filled with caramel and devoured. While they were still warm, I re-inforced the wells a bit more, making them slightly deeper and wider and got myself ready to make some caramel.
The first time I ever made caramel was for the nectarine upside down cake, which I did with no assistance from any glucose or corn syrup – which inhibits sugar crystals for forming, kind of an insurance policy for making caramel, so I figured I could do it again. It just takes careful diligence, not taking your eye off the sugar for even an instant, constantly swirling the pan until the caramel develops itself. Instilled with some renewed faith in my baking abilities after the bad run with ganache the night before, I set Mei up to play with some toys for twenty minutes while I gave the swirling pan of sugar in front of me my undivided attention and Patella a treat to keep her busy for a bit and set down to work.
I used my left hand to hold the camera to take some shots of the caramel along the way while my right hand never skipped a beat in swirling and swooshing the pan around for an instant. It was all going well, the sugar beginning to change to a pristine clear shine on the bottom of the pan just before yellowing when BAM! Sugar crystals began to form, within milliseconds, the bottom of the pan was a thick mass of solid sugar crystals, appearing like a thick frozen lake that you would be tempted to ice skate on in the winter. I filled the pan with some hot water out of the tap, brought it all to a boil to melt the sugar and set the pan in the sink.
Defeat was beginning to hover over my heart. Like a Dementor had found it’s way out of the world of Harry Potter and into my kitchen to suck all the happiness and sunshine out of the caramel and me.
Taking a minute to relax and shake out the bad mojo, I got a glass of water, stretched out my arms and got out a new pan. This time, I would put on some music, I thought to myself, to keep my mind of the minutes that were crawling by while I waited for the sugar to turn to caramel. Ever watch a huge pot of boiling water come to a boil? Imagine having to swirl the pot around at the same time…. tiring to think about? That’s what it feels like to throw a botched batch of caramel down the sink and start anew.
I put in the sugar and reduced the water to 8 TBS, because the amount of water you use only needs to moisten the sugar, all the extra water just slows the process of making caramel down, giving you more control over it, as does reducing the heat, the caramel changes more slowly, giving you more time to react. I didn’t want to swirl the pan endlessly again because Mei and Patella would probably not hold out another half hour. So I put on some relaxing, but upbeat jazz, turned up the heat on the pan and got to swirlin’!
Mei giggled and talked while I danced in place while swirling the pan to Chicago Shake, from the Public Enemies Soundtrack, then to Ten Million Slaves, and Danger Zone from Top Gun when suddenly the caramel began to just turn an amber color! Then in the blink of an eye, a thick smoke unfurled from the bottom of the pan and the caramel turned black and smelled slightly burnt. In an effort to prevent all of the caramel from burning, I ran the pan outside, where it was raining, to (hopefully) cool it off. The falling raindrops sizzled against the hot, still burning caramel and hope, sizzling away with each passing second. Of course this would happen when I was listening to Danger Zone! Was it a sign?
Filled with renewed determination, I dissolved the burnt caramel, poured it out, set the pan in the sink in the growing caramel graveyard and got out a fresh pan. Taking a small break to play with Mei a bit, change her diaper and take Patella outside to potty, I returned to the kitchen and confronted the pan in front of me. I poured in the sugar, dumped in a few tablespoons of water and (reluctantly, but because I didn’t want to spend another hour at the stove) put in a tablespoon of light corn syrup. I know! I know!
Beads of sweat had formed along the nape of my neck and the top of my forehead, I opened the windows and doors to air out the humid kitchen (of course it was raining, but that didn’t change the humidity one bit, it’s been known to be stubborn) and got down to business. This time, as I turned up the heat on the pan, Ke$ha’s Tik Tok began to play. Mei talked loudly while Ke$ha sang, and I danced around some more, causing Mei to break out in another round of giggles. We danced and laughed our way through Ke$ha, Josh Strickland’s Report to the Floor, and finally Huey Lewis and the News… Hip to Be Square of course! Mei and I giggled, danced, while keeping a close eye on the pan… and believe it or not the dancing helped to keep the caramel swirling around! … Ok, maybe you are going to doubt me on that one, but by the time Milli Vanilli’s Blame it on the Rain began to play, the caramel had turned a beautiful amber color I took it off the heat and immediately whisked in the cream, turning the caramel into a delicious, silky, irresistible pot of golden caramel!
Was it fate??? Well either way, it had me shaking my head, smiling at the caramel, while setting it on the counter to cool a bit. Mei sat on my hip while we pulsed the peanuts to a coarse mixture and sprinkled some sea salt into the caramel until it was dissolved, followed by the peanuts that we pulsed through the Magic Bullet. Mei cries when the Magic Bullet or food processor run if she is sitting in her chair, so I hold her to reduce the chaos in the kitchen just a titch.
“You gotta blame it on somethin’… blame it on the rain!” We sang and danced, admiring our caramel… tasting bits while we danced around the kitchen in front of a very perplexed Patella. We did it!
Once it was cool enough, I spooned (yes, spooned) the caramel into the wells of each of the cookies and got out a pan, a little bit of butter, a tablespoon cream and some chopped up dark chocolate, melting it down in a small pan to drizzle on top of the cookies. Before the chocolate could set too much, I sprinkled the tops with some sea salt to offset the bitterness of the chocolate and make them a bit more rich tasting and set the tray of cookies in the fridge so that the caramel and chocolate could set.
WHEW!! Such work we went through for these cookies, but one thing was for certain, my kitchen mojo has returned! The rest of the day was spent relaxing, napping and eventually showering so Mei and I could go to dinner at her boyfriend, Louie’s house across the street. Louie is an adorable 8 month old baby boy and the two love to smile at each other! We arranged a couple dozen on a plate and headed over, Mei in her blue and green turtle dress, bow in her hair and ready to play! We had a lovely evening with Louie and Mei’s future in-laws (LOL), shared our fabulous cookies over tea and coffee and fell soundly asleep when the time came from all the hard work in the kitchen making batch after batch of caramel.
These cookies were moist, chewy, just the perfect amount of sugar, salt, caramel and chocolate and since there was enough caramel for two batches of cookies I can neither confirm or deny that there are a couple of baking sheets in the oven due to come out in T-minus 12 minutes for eating…
Feel free to omit the caramel and chocolate, or one or the other – these would be good filled with melted white, milk or dark chocolate or just filled with caramel… this cookie is versatile, amazing, delicious and you won’t need any other peanut butter cookie recipe after trying this one.
Ghdsmv a tsye! Oh, sorry, I was speaking with a mouthful of caramel peanut butter cookie… hold on, that’s quite rude of me, let me just lick the chocolate off my fingers. Just a sec! …. Ok. Good. Sorry! Just whip up a batch and see for yourself!
- 8 TBS unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 C packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 C creamy salted peanut butter (smooth, regular peanut butter)
- 1-3/4 C flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
First, preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. With an electric mixer, make the cookie dough by beating the butter, brown & granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until it is well blended and light. If using a mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically.
Then beat in the peanut butter and beat together until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and sift them together. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and stir until there are no patches of flour. The dough should come together in a tight ball with hardly any cracks as you stir with the spatula to combine all the ingredients.
If you like, rest the dough overnight or up to two days, covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, scoop up tablespoon size portions of dough and roll each piece between your hands until it is as smooth as possible and doesn’t crack at the edges. Space the balls of dough 1-1/2 inches apart and use the end of a wooden spoon to depress the center of each, making a well about 3/4 of the way down and as wide as you like. If the sides crack, push them back together.
Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking until they are a light golden brown and the edges barely start to darken then remove them from the oven while they are still warm and press each depression a bit more to reinforce the wells and let them cool completely.
Make the salted peanut caramel.
Ingredients for the Salted Peanut Caramel:
- 1 C heavy cream
- 8 TBS water
- 1 C granulated sugar
- 1 TBS light corn syrup or glucose
- 1/8 tsp coarse salt
- 3/4 C finely chopped, roasted peanuts (use un-salted if you don’t plan to sprinkle sea salt on top of the finished cookie, or just use salted peanuts to omit the sea salt at the end)
Cook the water, sugar, corn syrup and salt into a caramel. Swish the water around to moisten all of the sugar, then turn the heat to high and gently but constantly swirl the ingredients in the pan until the caramel turns a golden, amber brown color. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in the cream in a slow, steady stream.
Cool the caramel until it is just warm to the touch, then add the chopped peanuts and spoon a bit of the caramel into the wells of each cookie. If you like, you can drizzle the tops of the cookies with some melted chocolate and sprinkle sea salt over the tops of each cookie – if you use dark chocolate to drizzle over the tops, the sea salt will make the chocolate taste more rich and bring out the flavor of the caramel as well.
Let the cookies set in the fridge for at least one hour. Store in an airtight container.