vegansaurus!

04/30/2009

recipe vs. recipe: chocolate cookies with peanut butter filling  »

Like most of you palate-less plebes, I love peanut butter and chocolate; I believe I’ve spoken before about how much I like peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies especially. Of course best are homemade cookies, and being a very selective egomaniac, I feel that my cookies are the best cookies, so ideally when I am eating a chocolate cookie with peanut butter filling, it is one I’ve baked myself.

Recently I* tried out such a recipe from Isa and Terry’s upcoming cookie cookbook, a  little confection they call "peanut butter pillows" (note: I’m not special, Isa posted it in the PPK blog). It looked tasty enough, and as lazy as I am (read: extremely), sometimes even I can’t resist making one little batch of cookies.

They reminded me a lot of another bake-in peanut butter and chocolate cookie I’d made before and loved, this one from Kittee at Cake Maker to the Stars. These were some amazing cookies, really satisfying for breakfast; and something about the salty peanut butter plus the bittersweet chocolate chips plus the sweet, buttery cookie created about the best flavor and texture combinations I’ve experienced in a cookie in some time. Dang.

You can see why I was excited to test this new, similar recipe; a person can’t have too many good cookie recipes, and anyway if this one was maybe a little less laborious, or (somehow) tastier, so much the better.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so swimmingly. These Isa-created pillows baked up fine, but neither their texture nor flavor was really any good. Mostly they needed a lot of salt, but more than that, the peanut butter filling was all wrong. It was all kinds of disappointing, eating these little bastards. Didn’t stop us from finishing the batch (not much could), but believe me, I didn’t enjoy the last three I ate at all, not one bite. Even in my favorite soy milk. MAN.

I figured out two major problems with the pillows right away, and I have theorized on further issues, but conclusions remain out of reach, what with not having had any desire to test those theories on a new batch.  Regardless, I can tell you what I know, which is first: they are seriously lacking salt. Isa’s recipe calls for 1/4 tsp., while Kittee’s calls for 1/2 tsp., plus she uses Earth Balance, which is itself salted. I think the most important thing I’ve learned about salt is that you use it to bring out all the other flavors in your food, rather than to make it taste like salt (when you taste “salt,” it’s over-salted). Without enough salt, Isa’s cookie dough was quite bland, while Kittee’s was strong enough to stand up to the peanut butter, which does tend to overwhelm.

The second problem begins with the preparation of the peanut butter filling: where Kittee combines 1/2 cup of peanut butter with 1/4 cup of brown sugar, Isa mixes 3/4 cup of peanut butter with 2/3 confectioner’s sugar, some soy creamer, and a little vanilla extract. Your peanut butter becomes oversweet, and it loses its good texture, turning all weirdly smooth and sticky. Kittee’s filling is sweeter, of course, but it most definitely retains its peanut buttery qualities.

This leads to the second part of the second problem, which is the ratio of peanut butter  to cookie dough. As you can see in the images provided, Kittee’s cookies are significantly larger than their filling, and even if you increase the amount of peanut butter with which you fill each cookie, like I did when making these glorious angel-foods, the balance of taste and texture between cookie and filling remains harmonious. Isa’s, on the other hand, have the opposite ratio: a whole lot of filling surrounded by a thinnish layer of cookie; this would be great, really, if the filling weren’t already ruined by all the powdered sugar and creamer. Instead of a big bite of PEANUT BUTTER and chocolate cookie crust, what you get is a mouthful of bland goo and sweetish, chocolate-ish cookie crust. It’s very unpleasant. As a final insult, the cookie then sits in your gut, like a pillow carved of stone, and takes roughly one week to digest.

When I make chocolate cookies with peanut butter filling again, I am without question using Kittee’s recipe. I can’t imagine wanting to try out those damn “pillows” another time, unless I’m out of options and feeling experimental. Otherwise, what is the point?

Note: I do not know, nor have I had any contact with, the authors of the reviewed recipes.

*All right, I say “I” did this stuff, but I did not really do it alone. Cooking’s always friendlier with two, after all, especially when it involves dough and filling. Part of my secret to good complicated baking is having good help.

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