Sweet, Salty, Spicy

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies with Aleppo Pepper

spicy peanut2
I don’t love to post recipes that are Valentine’s Day–themed. So I didn’t. Intentionally, anyway. But then I made these chewy, intensely flavorful cookies and thought, “Oh. God. Yes.”

Instead of lacing this post with innuendo, I’m just going to put it out there: These are sex cookies. A little sweet, a little salty, a little heat, and some chocolate—that’s all you need out of Valentine’s Day, right?

cookie sheet

I suppose this wouldn’t be your sex cookie if you don’t like the peanut butter–chocolate combo. This wouldn’t be your sex cookie if you don’t like a slight spark of spice in your dessert or an allusion to anything savory. This wouldn’t be your sex cookie if you’re no longer eating refined sugars in 2014 (there’s light brown sugar and granulated sugar in the recipe). And this wouldn’t be your sex cookie if you have a peanut allergy.

But if, like me, you’ve been caught multiple times in your life in a dark kitchen, pantless behind the refrigerator door, giggling manically to yourself while holding a jar of peanut butter in one hand and a spoon in the other, this is definitely your sex cookie. (OK, I live with roommates, so pants are usually involved.) If you’re the type of person who thinks you’d like these or these, than this is your sex cookie. And, hey, if you can’t eat or are sensitive to wheat, this can be your sex cookie too!

I wanted a peanut butter cookie as peanut-buttery as the center of a peanut butter cup but with the structure of a good ol’ chewy-middle, crispy-edge cookie. And I wanted to use natural peanut butter that you have to stir, even though most recipe writers advise against baking with that stuff since it lacks the hydrogenated oil and emulsifiers in Skippy, Jif, or even the “no-stir” natural peanut butters.

I knew what I’d have to do to achieve my first goal (strong peanut butter flavor): Ditch the flour. There’s a flourless peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around for ages and has been made by many mothers. That formula, though simple, wasn’t going to work with natural peanut butter, especially because I wanted the feel and chew of a regular cookie.

drying chocolate
It took about 10 batches of cookies, but I got it. The sex cookie. If you’re interested in the secrets, here they are. If not, scroll down, make recipe, forget your VDay angst.

1. Go Flourless: Flour provides important structure and chew by way of gluten, but it also masks the peanut butter flavor.

2. Forget the usual recipe of 1c. PB, 1c. granulated sugar, 1 egg: When using natural peanut butter, which tends to produce a dry, crumbly, greasy cookie because the unemulsified oil separates from the dry ground peanuts, you need to do a bit more work.

3. Rethink the sugar: Sugar provides moisture but 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of peanut butter makes for a cloying cookie. Use 1/2 cup brown sugar, which is super hydroscopic so it provides moisture and chew, and 1/4 cup granulated. The brown sugar has a deeper flavor which complements the nuttiness of the peanut butter, but too much overshadows it with caramel flavor. That’s where the granulated comes in.

4. Add a yolk: You need a bit more liquid to make a moist cookie with natural peanut butter. Adding a white results in a crackly-topped, almost wet cookie that requires too much baking soda to dry out. A cookie made this way will have the texture of an almond macaroon, not that of a chewy chocolate chip cookie. An extra yolk provides a bit more moisture but not too much, and it further emulsifies the peanut butter’s oil. The saturated fat in the yolk also helps keep the cookie chewy after baking and cooling.

5. Dry it out: What? Dry it out? I thought we needed moisture! Yeah, we do, but the moisture can’t just sit there in the cookie. I want a chewy middle, not a raw-tasting one. Baking soda helps dry out the cookie by contributing to the creation of fissures which let out extra moisture as the cookie bakes. It also contributes to the leavening so the cookie isn’t dry and dense.

6. Mix up the leavener: No leavener will result in a floppy, structureless cookie that breaks apart. Baking soda alone will result in a cookie that is burnt-looking before it is done baking since baking soda triggers maillard browning. Using 3/4 teaspoon baking soda results in enough browning to give the cookie a deep peanutty taste and enough drying that the texture is like that of a chocolate cookie, not just a heap of cooked peanut butter. However, cutting the baking soda with 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, gives the cookie just enough cakey lift, a better crumb, and no burnt appearance.

7. A lick of milk: Just a drop or two helps this dough become manageable. It also results in a cookie-like crumb because of the cakelike qualities it provides (again, don’t worry, this is not a cakey cookie).

8. Add flavorings: Vanilla extract adds depth and some salt is usually necessary even if your peanut butter is salted.

9. Add peanuts: Coarsely chopped peanuts add texture and pump up the PB flavor.

bite of cookie
The result is a cookie that tastes just like one made with flour but with a more pronounced peanut butter flavor. And then it gets real dirty: I half-dip it in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkle the still-wet chocolate with fruity, warm, moderately spicy Turkish Aleppo pepper, one of my favorite spices in my pantry. Peanut butter and spice are a natural pairing and the dark chocolate bridges the too and adds decadence.

Whether you spend this Friday night laying (pantless again) on the couch and eating sex cookies while you watch dark comedies on TV, or you spend the evening sharing sex cookies with a loved one, you’re bound to have an eventful evening.

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies with Aleppo Pepper
Makes about 24 cookies

I used 1% lowfat milk here but I’m sure it would work with whole or skim. The amount of salt you add to the dough depends on the salt level of your peanut butter. I used my beloved, Everett-made, Teddie Old-Fashioned Smooth Salted Natural Peanut Butter and added 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. You may find that you don’t need extra salt at all. You can use dry-roasted peanuts for this recipe and skip the toasting step. You can dip just the front of the cookie or the back too. If you choose to dip the back too, dry by hanging the chocolate part off of the edge of a wire rack set in a baking sheet. (I thought this was a cool trick for not mucking up the backs like one usually does when they simply lay dipped cookies on a parchment-coated tray.) If you can’t find Aleppo pepper (a worthy addition to your pantry) you can use another mild chile flake or you can mix some piment d’esplette or a mix of sweet paprika and cayenne right into the dough to taste rather than sprinkling it on the chocolate. This recipe is not written to work with peanut butters that include ingredients other than just peanuts and salt.

256 grams (1 cup) well-stirred salted natural peanut butter (the kind with natural oil separation)
100 grams (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2-1 teaspoon milk
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 grams (about 1/3 cup) peanuts, toasted and chopped coarse
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Aleppo pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine peanut butter and sugars in large bowl and, using hand-held (or stand mixer fitted with paddle), mix on medium-low speed until most of sugar is moistened with peanut butter. Increase speed to medium and mix until peanut butter and sugar are well combined, about 1 minute. Add egg and yolk, ½ teaspoon milk, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and salt to taste to peanut butter mixture; reduce speed to medium-low; and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pinch off some dough in you hand and try to roll into ball. If dough is very dry and crumbly, add up to 1/2 teaspoon more of milk, 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Add peanuts and fold into dough to evenly distribute. Roll 1 tablespoon portions of dough into balls with lightly moistened hands and space dough balls evenly on prepared sheet.

3. Bake cookies until puffed and cracked, golden brown, and crevices still appear underdone, 8-11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.

4. Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler and pour into small bowl (if it’s not already in one) so that pool of chocolate is deep enough to dip in cookie. Dip a bit less than half of cookie in chocolate, let excess drip off (if you want), and transfer to wire rack or parchment paper (see headnote) and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper to taste. Let chocolate dry before serving, 30 to 45 minutes.

7 responses

    • Yeah, it’s nice to be able to make awesome cookies from natural peanut butter, but it’s pretty dangerous, too, given that I always have some in the house! :)

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