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culinating :: pb + j is for cookie

sometimes i have weird ideas. if you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that, but this post is just to show you that this extends to all areas of my life, not just the obvious ones like my writing or taste in music.

dom had been trying to drop hints that he wanted me to bake something sweet for a couple of days through subtle comments like "hey, it would be really cool if you baked something, because i have a craving for something dessert-like". i tossed around a few ideas, but i always seemed to come up one or two ingredients short. the easy way to deal with this would have been to buy the extra ingredients. my way of dealing with it was to go to the internet and figure out what i could do with the ingredients that i had, because laziness is a determining factor in many things i do.

the biggest challenge was that there were no eggs in the house and the only oil available to me was extra virgin olive oil. the flavour that makes extra virgin olive oil great for salad dressings and marinades makes it a terrible choice for baking [and, because of its lower smoke point, it's not actually great to use for regular cooking, either]. taking eggs and oil out of the equation severely limits what you can do. however, i did manage to find a recipe for vegan peanut butter cookies that used margarine, but no other oils. [you could also use butter, but then they wouldn't be vegan, of course.]

the problem is that i don't actually like peanut butter cookies. i find them bland and dry. and that's where what i like to call my problem-solving skills kicked in.

what if i made peanut butter cookies with jam? it would be like a baked sandwich and it would be totally rad, assuming of course, that it didn't suck.

there were two ways that i saw of approaching this. first would be to just make the peanut butter cookies, form a well in the top of each one and spoon a small dollop of jam into the centre. but i opted to do the second, which was to mix the jam right into the batter and see what happened. my hope was that the flavours would blend enough that every bite would taste of both peanut butter and jam. lo and behold, it worked. the end product tastes like a  toasted pb+j, but doesn't have any of the attendant mess.

here's what you'll need [original peanut butter cookie recipe is here]:

1.25 cups flour
0.5 cup brown sugar
0.5 cup light sugar
0.5 cup butter or margarine + a little extra for greasing [if you're using margarine, i really like the 100% soy stuff... it has more fat, so it's worse for you. why are you making cookies if you want something healthy?]
1 teaspoon vanilla
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 cup peanut butter
0.5 cup jam of your choice

combine the flour, soda, salt and baking powder in one bowl. combine the sugars, margarine, vanilla, butter, peanut butter and jam in a second bowl.

mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended. it should be somewhat moist, but not very. it should just barely be able to hold its shape if you form it into a big ball. if the mixture feels too wet, add a little more flour. if it's too dry, add a little liquid [water is fine]. be careful making additions, because it's easy to upset the balance of wet versus dry. don't add more than a tablespoon at a time and mix thoroughly before deciding if you need to make further adjustments.

pull off a small section of dough and form it into a little ball with your hand. place it on a standard cookie sheet, or anything with a wide, flat base that goes in your oven. [you'll want to grease it very lightly with some margarine, since the jam can make it a little sticky.]

flatten the ball a little. i find it immensely satisfying to punch it, but you can also just press it down with your fingers. tradition says you should also score the top of a peanut butter cookie with a fork, but no one will arrest you if you don't. at least, they shouldn't as long as you consume the cookies in your own home.

repeat that step as many times as you can until you've used all the dough. i got fifteen. the recipe says you should get twenty-four. 

bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

important: unless you like it really sweet, i recommend using either unsweetened peanut butter or jam. [i used the former.] if you only have access to sweetened varieties of both, i'd cut back a little on the sugar, or it could get sickly.

just as important: keep an eye on the cookies after ten minutes. you want to pull them out before they look completely cooked. cookies continue to bake themselves [aren't they clever!] for about two minutes after they're removed from the oven. they may feel quite soft at first, because the jam keeps them moist. don't worry, they will resolve into a more familiar cookie texture as they cool. which reminds me- let them cool or you will burn yourself! the end product will be more moist than a standard peanut butter cookie, but slightly firmer than a chocolate chip one, if that's any help.

a few other helpful[?] notes...

because you aren't dealing with any high-acid ingredients, it's fine to use only baking powder [a full teaspoon, though] rather than powder and soda. i did and nothing exploded.

i wouldn't recommend using an extremely chunky jam, because it will be harder to blend it into the batter evenly. i used a strawberry rhubarb with a fairly thick texture. the jam will dissolve during the baking process, so while you'll be able to taste it, you probably won't see it in the final product.

it will help if you allow the butter or margarine to warm up to room temperature before adding it. you can work with it cold [like i did, but i'm giving you the benefit of my experience], but you'll have to work a lot harder to get it evenly blended.

that's it! may the power of pb+j be with you! in cookie form!

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