As the chief cook around here, I get (have) to decide what we eat. Bud rarely asks for a particular dish but might say, “How about pizza? Or pasta?” Not a lot of help with my planning, but I’m lucky to have such an accommodating audience for my cooking.
I can’t imagine not deciding what we will eat for each meal. I’m able to indulge my sudden desire for scrambled eggs or a smoked turkey sandwich. Or cauliflower salad with olives or a shrimp risotto. And Bud is happy with whatever I make.
I plan our meals like I’m orchestrating a symphony. I think about taste and texture notes ─ is there something savory, spicy, cold, hot, smooth, chunky, crisp or soft ─ on the menu. I might toss toasted pepitas or almonds into a butter lettuce salad for a little contrasting crunch. Or add a handful of dried currants to a quinoa salad for a burst of sweetness against a savory, citrus dressing.
When it comes to dessert I use the same strategy. What was the main meal and do we need a little extra protein, something cool and creamy after a spicy dish, or a buttery slice of pie after a simple, light supper?
Our lunches are usually comprised of a salad with a variety of veggies, nuts, beans and perhaps salmon, tuna or chicken. If I feel I’ve skimped on the protein I’ll include these cookies for dessert. What a good excuse for a favorite treat!
Peanut Butter Butter Cookies
Slightly adapted from Marion Cunningham in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. This recipe varies from the traditional one I have used and I’ve come to prefer it. These are crisp and flavorful.
Cream together ½ cup unsalted butter and 1 packed cup of brown sugar. Add a large egg, ½ cup peanut butter, (smooth or chunky), and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1 ½ cups unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt.
Form dough into walnut sized balls, (¾ – 1 inch), and place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet a couple inches apart as they do spread. With a fork, flatten each ball twice, at right angles, to make the traditional markings of a peanut butter cookie. The pressed dough ball will be about 1 ½ inches wide. Sprinkle each with a good pinch of flaky Maldon sea salt or other coarse salt.
Bake at 350° for 10 -12 minutes until set and a little brown. Cool on a rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
I make another peanut butter cookie, one similar to the fabulous large peanut butter domes at the City Bakery in New York (now closed). On our trips to the Print Fair, we would try to squeeze in time for coffee or lunch at the Bakery. And we would always choose a peanut butter cookie for dessert. The baker didn’t like to share his recipes so I was pleased to find that Julia Moskin, (in the New York Times), had devised one to replicate the wonderful cookies. I make them smaller than the originals.
I mix these in my Cuisinart. You may use a stand mixer or combine by hand. The ingredients are similar to the ones in the previous recipe. Interesting how just a few changes make for a different texture and taste. These are very more-ish so watch out.
Sweet-Salty Peanut Butter Sandies
Cream together ½ cup unsalted butter, 3/8 cup (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) brown sugar, 3/8 cup white sugar. Stir in 1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky), 1 large egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Add 1 cup unbleached flour and ½ teaspoon salt.
Scoop rough balls of dough, about 2 teaspoonfuls, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Don’t smooth them as you want the crags. Use a cookie scoop if you have one. They don’t spread much so you can place them an inch apart. Sprinkle each with a pinch of turbinado sugar and one of flaky or coarse sea salt.
Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes, until set and slightly browned. They are fragile after baking so carefully slide the parchment on to a rack. They firm up after cooling and are tender and succulent.
Makes about 3 dozen.