Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Submitted by Michelle

I have an entire bookcase devoted to cookbooks. I've cleaned it out several times in an attempt to keep only my favorites, and yet it is still full to the gills. I'm a creature of habit and many times when I pull a cookbook out I turn to the same recipe over and over again. I often don't try new things because I enjoy my favorites so much. Today, however, I felt like something new. Probably because I made my all time favorite cookies, Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon Rugelach on Saturday and I knew I wouldn't be missing out on anything if these cookies turned out to be a dud. As you can probably tell from the photo, they were far from a dud!

The recipe for the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies came from the same book that houses the all-star rugelach recipe: Williams-Sonoma Cookies and Biscotti. They are a reverse of the traditional peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss stuck in the center. Several things make this recipe a standout. First, the bittersweet chocolate cookie is crunchy and crackly on the outside and yet soft and chewy on the inside. It also isn't too sweet, which is a good thing because the peanut butter filling handles the sweetness department all on its own.

These cookies would be great to make with kids. The chocolate dough has to be formed into balls and then rolled in granulated sugar. An excellent job for small hands. The balls also need a thumbprint in the middle.
Once baked, the cookies are filled with a teaspoon of peanut butter that has been mixed with powdered sugar and butter.
The end result is a bittersweet outside with a luscious, creamy center. If you like a Reese's Peanut Buttercup candy, this cookie is for you. And they may even end up on my list of favorite cookies, right under Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rugelach.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

For the Filling:
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

For the Cookies:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus sugar for coating
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

To make the filling, combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth. Blend in confectioners' sugar. This could also be done with an electric mixer.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Butter baking sheets or use Silpat mats.

To make cookies, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Combine the shortening, butter and the 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high, beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and almond extract and beat until very fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Using damp hands roll the dough between your palms to form 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar to coat evenly. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Using your thumb, make a large indentation in the center of each.

Bake until puffed and slightly cracked, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and mound about 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each. Let cool for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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