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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Antsy Wednesdays and Fancy PB&J Sandwich Cookies

I have work to do. A lot of work to do. I need to send my film out to festivals, write a short script, write a feature, help package another feature, update my website, apply for writing programs and internships....screw it. Tonight I make PB&J sandwich cookies. Why? Because with one bite you become 5-years-old again, when your biggest worry was hoping it wouldn't rain so you could ride your bike to the park. But these are adult cookies, more like a toasted peanut shortbread with nice, organic uppity peanut butter and jam sandwiched in between.

While America's Test Kitchen preferred using Jif in their cookies, next time I'd go with my Woodstock Farms Organic PB.
These cookies came about in a way many late night baked creations do. The "what if" moment. Let me explain: you're lying around, surfing the internet, when suddenly you think "what if I crossed a brownie with tater tots?" Thus begins the experimentations and epic successes and failures. This experience, I'd like to think, was a success.

I have recently become addicted to watching America's Test Kitchen episodes online on their website (I caved and bought the annual membership). If you haven't seen this show and enjoy cooking, well, first slap yourself for not knowing about this show, and then immediately go to their website and enjoy. This is their version of the perfect peanut butter cookie and except for one tiny little thing, I'd agree.

The cookies were moist, chewy with great texture, and the toasted chopped peanuts added to the batter give them a great, nutty taste. The only problem is, ATK recommends using Jif peanut butter, stating that most organic peanut butters are too gritty for this cookie. Thinking there's no way these giants of food knowledge could steer me wrong I did what they said and realized: they were, in fact, wrong.

See if you can spot the remanents of my "test subject" cookie.
In the end, these cookies weren't peanut-buttery enough for my taste. My gorgeous Sarabeth's Plum and Cherry Jam was completely covering the peanut goodness. I wanted stronger flavor, and Jif just wasn't cutting it. I had a jar of Woodstock Farms' Organic Peanut Butter on hand, and I decided to add a little extra peanut butter in between the cookie layers. So essentially, I made a pb&j sandwich, but instead of using bread, I used these insanely rich cookies. Because I'm all about eating healthy. 

So good. I wish I was 5 again so I could eat 8 of these and not have them affect my hips at all.
With that extra layer of peanut butter I got exactly what I wanted: toasty peanutty yumminess paired with tart, sweet cherry jam. But be warned: these cookies will kill you. I made standard sized cookies, but as sandwiches, they were pretty heavy and dense. Next time, I'll try to make them petite. But if you use a good, strong peanut butter in the batter to begin with, I'd guess you wouldn't have to add more PB to the final product.

And I'd suggest using a good jam for these. Keep the Smucker's for your late night/half drunk toast cravings and break out the local artisanal stuff. I opted for the Sarabeth's line, which I believe is generally available in most New York City grocery stores. They are expensive, but they are fantastic. Or, if you want to save a few bucks and have ten minutes, just make jam at home using my little ol' recipe (coming up in a couple days). 

I tried a flat version of these cookies as well. These browned a bit more, and had a slightly more caramel-y taste. I'd say if you like doughy, go traditional, but if you like a deeper flavor, try to flatten these cookies out.
PB&J Sandwich Cookies (adapted from America's Test Kitchen Peanut Butter Cookies)

Note: I opted for the smooth peanut butter over chunky, as is stated in the original recipe, because I knew from the beginning I'd be using these cookies in sandwich form, and felt too much nuttiness would create a structural problem. The toasted chopped peanuts you add bring enough of that peanut flavor, in my opinion. Just use good peanut butter!

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, salted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter (Woodstock Farms Organic is good)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, ground in food processor to resemble bread crumbs
Jar of good jam (will depend on how much jam you'd like as to how much to use)

Adjust oven rack to low center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda and powder, and salt together.

In large bowl beat butter until creamy. Add sugars. Beat in peanut butter, then eggs, then vanilla. Toss dry ingredients into wet and stir gently. Add ground peanuts, stir until just incorporated.

To make smaller sandwich cookies, take a little less than a tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Continue with the rest of the dough, placing each ball on a cookie sheet about two inches apart from one another. Pour cold water into a small bowl and grab a fork. Dip fork in water and press the tines into the dough ball, flattening it. Dip fork again and press into cookie at a 90 degree angle from the first impression, creating the traditional pb cookie crosshatch.

Bake until the cookies are puffy and slightly browned around the edges. The middles should NOT be browned. About 10 minutes. These will not looked completely baked, but trust me. Cool on tray for about 4 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

Once the cookies have completely cooled, spread selected jam onto the bottom of one cookie and take another and press bottoms together. If you'd like more PB flavor, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on 2nd cookie bottom.

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