April 10, 2010

Best Peanut Butter Cookie Quest: Part One

You may have noticed that I'm capricious and that I get really "into" things for brief periods of time.  Awhile ago it was sewing.  Then photography.  Bikes for quite some time, but never long enough to hone any lasting expertise.  At one point it was the South, and this week it's Twitter, secret cafes, and Rickshaws.  I'm gearing up to be real into camping and web design, but in the meantime, I'm still all about bakingpossibly my longest-running hobbyand therefore I have decided, as much as a noncommittal kid can, to undertake a quest for my personal favorite peanut butter cookie of all time.  Did I mention that the quest is going to be totally delicious?  Oh yes, absolutely yes.

This one here used to be my all-time favorite, but this time around I found the peanut butter flavor wasn't pronounced enough, partially because I think there might be too much butter, but also because the chocolate overpowered the peanut butter chips.  This is a peanut butter cookie recipe for a chocolate-lover, which I am, but which preference I will forego in favor of something more sincerely peanut buttery.  Stay posted:  If I don't suddenly decide to take up furniture design, I think constant baking energy could do us some sweet, sweet wonders.

Peanut Butter Cookies (makes 50 to 60 small cookies)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (I used hand-milled chunky, but apparently the fake shit works best)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (I'd up to 3/4)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chips (I'd decrease to 1/4)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  In a small bowl, mix flour baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together butter and peanut butter on medium-high until light and fluffy, two to three minutes.  Add in sugars and beat until smooth.  Add egg and mix well.  Add milk and vanilla, and a little bit at a time, beat in flour mixture.  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, mix in all of the chips.

3.  Put a couple tablespoons of sprinkling sugar on a plate, and by rounded teaspoonfulls, drop balls of cookie dough onto the sugar and roll them around until covered.  Place the balls onto your cookie sheets (mine were bare, but parchment paper never hurts), press down lightly with a fork, and toss 'em in the oven for ten to 12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Leave cookies on sheets for one minute only, then remove to a cooling rack to let cool completely.  These are awesome after they've been sitting for about an hour, eaten in groups of five or six.

April 3, 2010

Best Sugar Cookies + Tooth and Nail Craft Fair

I am seriously relieved to learn that sugar cookies go really well with beer.  All this time I spent bemoaning (and well, celebrating too) the cold and the winter, and suddenly spring is here and it's warm as hell, and I didn't think I'd ever want to put anything sweet in my mouth ever again.  Okay yeah, the future tastes like summery pies and the Californian in me is practically throwing a tantrum for stone fruit tarts, but sweet sweets have been another story.  Then I came across this recipe that yields the most perfectly shortbready sugar cookie of all time, and while I sprinkled pepper on some, herbs on others, and topped a few with ground coffee, all variations went equally well with my spring beer of choice, which is most excellent because I can't imagine a day without a baked good or a spring day without a beer.

Well, and part of the reason I was feeling anti-supersweet is because I've been occupied with testing recipes over and over again for the past three weeks as preparation for selling baked goods at a craft fair. Hooray! DC's Bored of Trade arts collective threw the Tooth and Nail Craft Fair at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, and it brought together all kinds of vendors, from Treasury Vintage and Smash Records to a DC comics collective and the makers of instruments crafted from salvaged wood and toys.  Cookies out of a suitcase and tartlets out of a library card catalogue, and the super supportive crowd still ate up all 107 of my baked goods.  It was an honor and a pleasure, and next time there will be sugar cookies too.

Lindsay Shere's Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated white sugar, plus a little extra for rolling
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh rosemary, cracked black pepper, finely ground coffee, or other toppings of your choice

1.  In a large bowl, cream the butter at high speed, about one minute.  Add the sugar and beat three to four minutes longer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

2.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat a few more minutes, until light and fluffy again.  Slowly add the flour and salt, and mix at a low speed until the dough (thick by this point) comes together.  Shape the dough into two logs about 11/2 inches in diameter, roll the logs in sugar, then wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once the dough is firm, slice it into quarter-inch-thick rounds, place them on the baking tray with about an inch of space between them, and besprinkle each with the topping of your choice.  Bake for ten to 12 minutes, until they're lightly browned on the bottom.  Let sit on the tray for one to two minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!