My Baking Binge – An Exercise Using Misdemeanor #1

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Every once in a while I’m reminded that flour is not fairy dust. Though quite magical in its own way, more doesn’t always mean better. You have to understand that my unbounded love for baking has to fit within the boundaries of my budget. Things like real butter, though wonderful and worth every penny, don’t generally find a home in my kitchen unless there was a mega-sale at the supermarket. Imperial will have to do.

This afternoon I went on a baking binge–cookies are a great outlet for emotions, too–and mixed up a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies. The last time I made them I used half butter and half Imperial. They turned out crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. Perfect. Here’s the problem: I have two sticks of butter left in my freezer with no hope of a sale in the near future. Using them is not an option at this point in time. In went two sticks of Imperial. Misdemeanor #1 in most books. So after adding everything, it seemed gooey–too gooey. I didn’t want flat cookies, so I did something I knew I shouldn’t do: I added more flour. It seemed harmless at the time, but when I went to rotate those cookie sheets… well, the cookies were still rounded, having spread very little. The final product is cakey and not at all what I had in mind. Sigh. Even Betsy Crocker messes up. (Good thing the five-year-old likes them!)

But as I said before, I was on a baking binge. And while I continued to commit Misdemeanor #1, I forged ahead with a batch of America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies–you know, the ones for which I blogged about my less-than-perfect results (See Striving for Perfection Parts 1 & 2 in the May post archives). I didn’t brown the butter because I seriously doubted that Imperial would brown; I simply melted some of it and added it to the remaining bit.  I cheated and used the whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid. But here’s what resulted:

 No, I wouldn’t say they’re perfect–after all, I didn’t use browned butter and dark brown sugar–but they look a lot closer to the results the recipe is supposed to yield! And they still taste good!

So, the baking binge continued. I have my reasons, if for none other than the weather is cooler today and I can stockpile my freezer with cookies for the days when it’s too hot to bake. That, and I had an idea. Take this “perfect” recipe, melt a stick of Misdemeanor #1 and mix it not with more of the same, but peanut butter. I added m&m’s because, quite honestly, I was out of chocolate chips. Oh, and again I used the whisk attachment on my Kitchenaid–why do the work if I don’t have to, right? The results?

Quite possibly the perfect cookie, as far as peanut butter goes. What would make it better is dark chocolate chunks. Forget the candy–this is a grown-up cookie. Crunchy exterior, soft and chewy interior. It’s really good.

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 Perfect Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I’m naming them as I’m apt to make them in batches to come.

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy works best)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, or candy-coated chocolate candy
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Melt butter in microwave-safe dish, heating one minute at 80% in microwave. Heat for 30 seconds more at 80% if not completely melted. Transfer butter to large heatproof bowl and add peanut butter. Stir until completely melted.
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Stir (I simply whisked with the mixer) in flour and baking soda until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.
  5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Again, thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for inspiring this baking binge!

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