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Celebrate. With peanut butter?

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Baking Updated: June 2, 2012 - 9:10 AM

 

 
At first, I thought it was a joke. A publicist was forwarding a recipe for -- wait for it -- National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.
 
Seriously?
 
I did a little (emphasis on little) research, and sure enough: June 12 has been set aside to celebrate the beloved peanut butter cookie. I can't believe I've gone all these years without knowing the significance of the day, especially seeing how it's wedged in between National German Chocolate Cake Day (June 11) and Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13). 
 
Aside from puzzling over the origins of these decrees -- Congressional fiat? White House executive order? A stealth campaign from the National Peanut Board? -- I did have to wonder: Is there an actual peanut butter cookie lobby, and, if so, what else can an eager public expect from them? 
 
Anyway, that email got me thinking about peanut butter cookies, and my mind immediately flashed back to a story I'd written, jeez, almost 10 years ago, about Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton and her "Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book" cookbook.
 
The book contains a recipe for a peanut butter sandwich cookie. It's been years since I've baked them, so I pulled it off the bookshelf and gave them a whirl. Impressive.
 
The cookies bake up surprisingly tender, even borderline delicate -- a rare trait for your garden-variety PB cookie. Incorporating oatmeal (in a typically Silvertonian touch, it's actually butter-toasted oatmeal) into the mix gives them an added flavor and texture dimension. And sandwiching a pair of them between a creamy, peanut butter-ey center is an inspired idea; the heft of it takes them from a grab-and-go snack into a full-out dessert.
 
My one suggestion: Make them smaller than Silverton suggests, because this is a whole lot of cookie. Other than that, I can't think of a more suitable way to mark this pivotal moment on the American calendar.
 
OK, two suggestions: Silverton is right when her recipe calls for natural, chunky-style unsalted peanut butter. That's not easy to find, but not impossible, either; most natural foods co-ops sell ground-on-the-spot peanut butter. Most supermarkets also stock their refrigerator case with all-natural peanut butter (including locally grown Old Home and Good Life brands), but it's salted; you can leave the recipe as is (I find it a teasingly salty cookie), or adjust the salt content slightly.
 
In the meantime, I'd better get shopping. National Almond Butter Crunch Day will be here before we know it.
 
 

 

NOT NUTTER BUTTERS

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Note: These cookies mimic Do-Si-Dos, the popular peanut butter sandwiches sold by Girl Scouts. From " Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book" (Knopf, $25.95).

For cookies:

1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, divided

1 vanilla bean

2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. kosher salt

3/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. light-brown sugar

3/4 c. natural, chunky-style unsalted peanut butter, excess oil poured off and discarded

2 1/4 c. flour

For filling:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3 tbsp. powdered sugar

1/2 c. plus 1 tbsp. natural, chunky-style unsalted peanut butter

To prepare cookies: In a medium skillet, melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat. Using a small paring knife, split vanilla bean lengthwise. With back of knife, scrape out pulp and seeds, and add scrapings and pod to butter. Add oats and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly, until oats are lightly toasted and a golden-brown color. Remove and discard vanilla pod, transfer mixture to a large bowl and refrigerate.

In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream remaining 2 sticks butter, baking soda and salt on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until butter is softened. Add granulated sugar and light-brown sugar and mix on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add peanut butter and mix to combine. Turn mixer off and add oat mixture and flour. Turn mixer to low speed and mix another minute, until ingredients are incorporated and dough pulls away from sides of bowl and comes together in a ball.

Adjust oven racks to lower and middle positions, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, roll dough into 2-inch balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart. Using heel of your hand, flatten balls into 2 1/2- to 3-inch discs. Using a fork, mark diagonal crisscross patterns over surface of each cookie. Chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies for about 16 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned and slightly firm to touch, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from oven, let cool for 2 minutes then remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare filling: In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and salt on medium speed for about 1 minute, until butter is softened. Add powdered sugar and peanut butter and mix for another minute to combine. Flip a cookie over to make a bottom. Spread 2 teaspoons of filling in center of each. Place top cookie over filling, pressing gently to sandwich them together. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Serve with a tall glass of milk.

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