A thought that passed through my head today, between “where’s the kleenex”, “When will you stop barfing on me”, and “I wonder if it’s too windy to go outside”, was the following insightful reflection: that being able to cook stuff well is one thing, but being able to choose a good recipe is really the key. Some recipes come with little descriptions at the top, intended to entice you into making them despite your better judgment. One description I’ve come across more than once, and let me tell you, I won’t be fooled again, is, “These (muffins/cookies/bars/other fatty, sugary, delicious thing) are so tasty, you won’t believe they’re good for you!” You read the ingredients, which include about one tablespoon of fat, half a pinch of sugar, and cup after cup of bran, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ. You think, “of course I believe that’s good for me! And tasty too? Great! Sign me up!” You break out the bowls, make a big mess in the kitchen, pump up your 2 year old, and pop those tasty babies in the oven. You are being fooled again, but you still have hope in your soul.
The timer dings, the two-year-old runs over, bright-eyed; you open the oven and your heart sinks as you take in the collapsing, brown, wheaty turds trying desperately to disguise themselves as muffins. You think, “Maybe they taste better than they look…” knowing, in your heart of hearts, that there is just no way, kiddo. But you kind of feel sorry for the pathetic little deflated pucks, and you optimistically pull them out of the pan and think about how enticing they will look once slathered in butter.
You break one open. It is slightly burnt on the outside, and completely raw on the inside. You take a small nibble from the minuscule layer that is neither burnt nor raw. It tastes like cardboard; you are not surprised.
Hands on hips, you ponder the 11 3/4 muffins in front of you, wondering how you can get around throwing them out. But soon, even you realize, there is just no way, kiddo. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, you take the pan outside, stand on the deck, and pitch each one overhand into the ravine between your house and the neighbors’. The crows, if no one else, might enjoy your morning creation.
The worst part is, apart from the waste, which is awful, is that you knew this would happen. You read that recipe, and you thought that if the muffins actually turned out as promised, it would be a miracle. Because it just wasn’t scientifically possible that that particular recipe could produce muffins that taste good and that rise. You need to learn from this mistake. Plan, do, review.
After two such failures in the kitchen last week, I was starting to lose confidence. It’s awful to throw away something that didn’t work out. Not only did you lose probably good and pricey ingredients, but you wasted time too, and who’s kidding who, that stuff comes at a premium, no matter who you are.
But in the kitchen as on horses, you gotta get back up on that sucka, so I forced myself to make the most incredible peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies
you I can imagine (I will no longer foist my preferences on you; perhaps you can imagine a way better peanut butter cookie. Perhaps you like yours crunchy, with no chocolate, and fork patterns on the top. This is not that).
(I can hear you, but I’m afraid I’m not going to tell you about failure #2. I am embarrassed about trying to make hazelnut-free peanut-ella, could kick myself for not trusting my instincts AGAIN about the recipe which was from Martha Stewart so I should have known, upset about the amount of chocolate I wasted, and annoyed that despite the “Do Not Resuscitate” order clearly indicated on the finished product, I attempted a resuscitation, which led to oil flying around my kitchen and smoke coming out of my food processor… Well, there. I told you.)
Making the cookies was a two-day process, cause after whipping up the butter with the sugar, I realized that we had eaten all the eggs for lunch. So this morning as soon as Ben and the Demon went to work, I got busy with the mixer and got back up on that hoss. And lo, confidence renewed.
In choosing this recipe, I read carefully. There was no doubt in my mind: these cookies were NOT good for you, and they WOULD be tasty. Eating these cookies would bring no sneaky health benefits. I would not feel virtuous giving them to the Demon; and in fact will most likely be hiding them from her, and from me. The wise woman at SmittenKitchen.com rarely fails me and it is her recipe, itself adapted from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook, which I have subsequently and slightly adapted for my and your cookie eating pleasure.
Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from SmittenKitchen.com
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (Sometimes I bother with unsalted butter, but I like salty cookies… up to you)
1 cup not organic-peanut-only peanut butter, at room temperature, preferably crunchy (ie. kraft, or skippy, or whatever has sugar in it and doesn’t turn oily when you leave it out of the fridge)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dark chocolate*(of course, you can use chocolate chips. But don’t cry when your cookies don’t have giant chunks of chocolate in them.)
*variation: 1/2 cup chocolate chunks, 1/2 cup peanut-butter chips for an extra PB boost.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda & powder and salt.
In a large bowl, or in the bowl of your mixer if you should be so lucky, beat the butter and peanut butter till fluffy. Add the sugars and beat till smooth. Add the egg and beat well again. Add the milk and vanilla, and yeah, beat. Add the flour mixture and beat till thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
Drop by the tablespoon-full (gives a 2 1/2 inch cookie) or smaller if you like, onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving a couple inches between each for expansion. Squish them down a little with your fingers, or a fork if you can’t fathom PB cookies without the fork pattern, but don’t overly flatten. If you like, sprinkle a bit of sugar on to the tops of the cookies.
Bake for 10-12 min. Mine were done after 10, if not a little sooner, I think because my cookie sheets are so big and they trap the heat beneath them. They may look underdone but they are not. If you overbake they will be crunchy.
Let them cool a minute on the sheet and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Don’t try to resist, eat one while it’s hot!
Remember to let your cookie sheet cool before loading it with another batch. The freezer works well for this.
Jane, Pippa, I hope this works out better for youse twose. Pip, read the cookie tips I sent you!