There is something I just love about this picture. I love the way the late-afternoon light from my kitchen window streaks across the cooling cookies. I love the way it harkens back to pie-cooling-on-the-windowsill simpler times, whether or not they actually existed. There's something very Mayberry about both the photo and the luxury of an afternoon of baking, and I think that feeling is exactly what I needed today. Tomorrow--Monday--Spring Break officially ends, and while I've been working during almost the entire break, I've been working at my own pace, on my own research, giving little thought to grading, teaching, or really anything that might distract me from the joy of writing about food, including food itself.
I thought I would wake up every morning during break and bake a wonderful new treat for breakfast--cinnamon rolls one morning, muffins another, doughnuts still another, and perhaps I'd even try my hand at bagels or brioche over the weekend. I did make the cinnamon rolls and we've breakfasted and snacked on them all week long, but in my effort to buckle down and write, I forgot to bake. And perhaps this is my non-Spring Break problem. I often wonder where my time goes during the week, and I think about this as I wake up, bake a breakfast goody, eat, clean up, shower, dress, and finally turn on my computer at noon. Anyone in the real world couldn't hold down a job this way! Not to mention the urge for cookies or brownies that usually hits around 3 pm, when I could be spending a few more hours reading. "But they need time to cool before dinner," the angel on one shoulder tells me. "True, but you have a degree to finish, and catering department events will not earn you a Ph.D.," the other angel (named Dan) replies. "Nor are you learning anything about food history by baking everything Nigella tells you to," he continues. "And ..." "Okay, okay," I interject, "Will you please both be quiet if I resolve to bake only on weekends, to make friends with my freezer so that brownie-satisfaction will be at my fingertips anytime I please, and to not equate practical with theoretical food knowledge?" The angels, for once, are silent. And I guess this is what I resolve to do--be a baking maniac on Saturday and Sunday, stock my freezer (and my friends' freezers) and spend the week, like any normal person who does not own and operate a bakery, working. And this is why you find me, Sunday afternoon, baking cookies and discussing Mayberry. If I can't live there everyday, at least I can spend my weekends inhaling the aroma of freshly-baked anything.
Today I was exploring the two essential elements of true indulgence: sweet and salty flavors. These cookies are perfect when you don't want a peanut butter cookie but you're just not in the mood for a chocolate chip cookie either. I often wonder why we don't use peanuts in more baked goods. Almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts--all are fair game, but poor peanut, the forgotten nut. I love them in brownies, and in these cookies, they are right over the top. And for anyone gearing up for bikini season, they're from Cooking Light, only 2-3 grams of fat a piece, depending on how big you make your cookies. They do spread out a lot, so don't worry that your teaspoon-sized dollops look really small before baking. You're not going to end up with mini-cookies, I promise. And while the recipe doesn't call for it, I think a little sprinkling of sea salt over the tops before they go in the oven would be lovely. I'm my mother's daughter--there's no such thing as too much salt in my mind, especially good coarse salt.
Peanut Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from Cooking Light, March 2007)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts (the recipe says unsalted--I disagree)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I prefer dark, but either, or a mixture, works well)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature (just sit in out when you begin baking)
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt (you can substitute kosher salt)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Place nuts on a small baking pan and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes (until you can smell them); let cool.
3. Spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level. Combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder with a whisk. Set aside.
4. With a standing mixer or electric mixer, combine butter and sugars. Mix until well combined, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and egg; beat until smooth.
5. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture gradually, in several additions, beating on low speed. Fully incorporate flour, scraping down sides of bowl, before adding more of the flour mixture.
6. Stir in chocolate chips, peanuts, and salt.
7. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls (2 inches apart) on nonstick baking sheet of baking sheet covered with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
I made my cookies bigger, so the recipe yielded 28 cookies. The magazine says it should yield 38. Oops.
Note: I usually don't like warm cookies. I love these warm. Really, really.