Two peanut butter-filled recipes to try
High Country Baking
High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Peanut butter and chocolate — a combination made in heaven. It has the starring role in these recipes that are as easy to make as they are to eat. The Peanut Butter Squares, for fans of Reese’s peanut butter cups, feature a thick layer of chocolate over a filling with a taste and texture like the famous cups. The Drop Cookies are wheat-free, with a soft, chewy texture and rich flavors — perfect for those who avoid gluten but not limited to them. A glaze, though optional, gives them another hit of chocolate as well as a decorative touch.
Very little can go wrong with these recipes. The first is a total no-brainer that never sees the inside of an oven. The only cautions for the second: Be sure to measure your baking soda precisely (even a little more than four small pinches will make the cookie spread and flatten) and don’t overbake.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Squares
Make in an 8×8-inch metal baking pan
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), melted
3/4 cup graham cracker finely ground crumbs
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon mild flavored vegetable oil
1. Line the pan with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, letting it extend several inches beyond two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the slab of cookies. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and the regular foil.
2. Add the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar and peanut butter to a medium mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth and level the top. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Make the glaze: Place the chocolate chips and oil in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup or small bowl with a spout. Microwave at a low-medium temperature (I use 4 out of 10) for 2-3 minutes until almost fully melted, with a few small lumps visible. Stir until smooth, pour over the firm peanut butter mixture and spread evenly. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Use the foil handles to remove the slab of cookies from the pan and cut it into squares. If the chocolate is so cold that it cracks when cut, let it warm up a bit before proceeding. Store, covered, in the fridge, for 5 days. Serve chilled or room temperature.
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Drop Cookies
Makes 28 1 3/4-inch cookies
1 cup smooth peanut butter (don’t use natural)
1/2 packed cup plus 2 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 small pinches baking soda (a scant 1/8 teaspoon)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 ounce semisweet chocolate
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Don’t grease the pans or the paper or the cookies may spread.
2. Combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Add the egg and vanilla and, using low speed, combine thoroughly. Stir the chocolate chips in by hand. Chill the dough until firm but not hard.
3. Spoon level tablespoons of dough onto the prepared pans, spacing the mounds about 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten the top of each dough mound slightly. If the dough has softened a lot, chill the cookies, on the cookie sheets, in the freezer or refrigerator until the dough firms up (this will prevent spreading while baking).
4. Bake the cookies until set (gently pick one up; it should lift off the parchment without sticking to it and the bottom should be baked through). The amount of time this takes will depend how cold they are when placed in the oven; they’re usually done in about 12-16 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool for 15 minutes on the pan, and then remove them from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
5. Make the glaze, if using: Finely chop the chocolate, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at a low-medium temperature until almost fully melted. Remove from oven, add the canola oil and stir until smooth and glossy. (Alternately, place the chopped chocolate in a waterproof bowl, place the bowl in a skillet of simmering water about 1 inch deep, stir until the chocolate melts, remove promptly and stir in the oil.) Let chocolate cool until it thickens slightly, then drizzle decoratively over the cooled cookies. To do this, I scrape the melted chocolate into a small plastic bag, snip one of the bottom corners and gently squeeze out lines of the chocolate over each cookie. Store, airtight, at cool room temperature for three days.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco) is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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