My good friend, Stephanie, is pregnant with her second child. Her first, Xander, just turned two, and at the rate that he is growing he is destined to be the Kobe Bryant of his generation. Xander is at the age where he seems to be channeling the Energizer Bunny: running over there, playing over here, "driving" his truck, and building in the corner, all at once. Steph can definitely use all of the extra energy that she can get. In other words, get this girl some baked goods, stat!
This time around, Stephanie's craving of choice has been peanut butter. I seem to always crave peanut butter (heck, I even share a blog title with it), but my only excuse is that I just happen to like peanut butter, a lot. I started out by bringing Steph a box of my super-sinful Peanut Butter Fudge, which seemed to go over quite well. Her actual words were something along the lines of: "I hate you. I can't stop nibbling on that fudge," but that's technically a compliment, right?
Next, I sent her home on New Year's Eve with a loaf of my Peanut Butter Bread, with which she could ring in 2009. I'm always a little worried when I bake my PB Bread for someone, because even though I could probably down the entire loaf, it's one of those things that might not be for everyone. Fortunately, the bread received an enthusiastic thumbs-up as well. Phew!
Well today is Stephanie's birthday. Say no more. I'm on it! My original intention was to make a batch of my standard peanut butter cookies and place them in a basket with more "I hate you" fudge, and some other pb-themed treats. Had I not been gabbing on the phone while doing my grocery shopping, I might have noticed that I grabbed a jar of honey-roasted peanuts instead of regular peanuts. Hmmm.....well, why not? I always did prefer receiving the honey-roasted to the regular on those Southwest flights, so why shouldn't they work in cookies too? In addition to ground peanuts, I added some honey to the dough, so that cookies have a nice toasty flavor. Taking half of the cookies a step further, I experimented by sandwiching them around a peanut butter cream and tart jelly filling, sort of like a PB&J dessert sandwich. Since these monstrosities didn't appear to travel well, they remained at home. I'm sure that my visiting dad will be nice enough to take them off of my hands. He's helpful like that. Here are some extra tips for making these fun, filled cookies:
- Although I am a big fan of crunchy peanut butter, it might add too much texture for some people, so feel free to use either creamy or chunky (or a combination of both!) for this recipe.
- I do not recommend using natural or low-fat peanut butters for most baking recipes. These versions do not seem to blend with the other ingredients as well as the common variety of peanut butter, and the result is often grainy.
- For this recipe, I used an orange-blossom honey, but regular honey works just as well.
- These cookies end up being about 2 to 2 1/2 inched in diameter, which makes a sizable sandwich cookie. Roll the dough into smaller balls and adjust the baking time down for smaller sandwiches.
- Make sure you use salted honey-roasted peanuts. The salt is a nice contrast to the sweetness in the cookies.
Honey-Roasted PB&J Sandwich Cookies
Makes about 18 sandwiches
1 3/4 cups salted honey-roasted peanuts
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 whole egg
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3-4 tablespoons whole milk
Tart raspberry or mixed-berry preserves
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees, and position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the work bowl of a food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the peanuts, the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and the salt. Pulse until the peanuts are finely ground.
Combine the peanut butter and the butter in a medium saucepan, and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture is smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the sugar until thoroughly incorporated. Let cool slightly.
Mix the whole egg and 2 of the egg whites to the peanut butter mixture, mixing until well combined. Mix in the honey and the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not over-mix.
Coarsely chop the remaining 1 cup of peanuts and place them in a shallow dish. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a second dish. Combine the remaining egg white with 1 teaspoon water in a third dish.
Form a tablespoonful of the cookie dough into a ball and then roll it in the sugar to coat. Dip the top of the ball in the egg white mixture and then press it into the chopped nuts. Place the dough, nuts facing up, onto the prepared cookie sheet, pressing down with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle. Rotate the position of the pans halfway through the baking process. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Prepare the filling: In a medium sized bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, and the vanilla at medium speed until combined. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Add the milk as necessary until the filling is spreadable but still firm. To assemble the sandwiches, spread half of the cooled cookies with the filling and spread the other halves with a thin layer of the preserves. Sandwich the two halves together.