People often ask Alex and me if it is difficult living near a trendy NYC bakery, the kind with the mind-bogglingly long cupcake lines outside at what seems like all hours. It probably would be if I found their generic cupcakes, brownies and cheesecakes more tempting but come on, this is me and you just know I think I make these better in my tiny kitchen.
Of course, this completely excludes their peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a recipe I have been promising you I’d conquer for so long, I can’t believe you all haven’t organized a mutiny yet in disgust–especially when you learn that the recipe had been at my fingertips the whole time, it just hadn’t occurred to me.
It circles back to so much of what I just don’t *get* about these trendy bakeries. Their recipes are so generic–1-2-3-4 cupcakes with back-of-the-box butter cream frosting; chocolate chip cookies not any better than Toll House; Hello Dolly bars that they neither invented nor make better than the least baking-inclined person you’ve ever met–I fail to see what’s queue-forming worthy about them. [Then again, I don’t believe in waiting on a line for anything in a city this big, and oh, I bake regularly at home, so of course I don’t get it. But I digress.]
Not only are the baked goods unoriginal, there is a veritable family tree of bakeries simply stealing their former employer’s recipes and shop look-feel.
Adam Sternbergh at New York Magazine sums it up well:
Together, [Jennifer] Appel and a high-school friend, Allysa Torey, begat Magnolia Bakery in 1996. When their partnership, and friendship, dissolved in 1999, Magnolia begat Buttercup. In 2003, Magnolia begat Billy’s, a bakery in Chelsea, opened by a former Magnolia manager, and Buttercup begat Sugar Sweet Sunshine, started by two former Buttercup employees. Now there are at least a half-dozen similar bakeries throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with such jolly names as Baked, Happy Happy Happy, Polka Dot Cake Studio, and Cupcake Caboose (an all-cupcake catering company), each serving up cupcakes topped with dollops of sugary frosting swirled artfully like beehive hairdos.
Within this lies my “duh!” moment. If Billy’s–the bakery with the coveted peanut butter cookies–is a semi-replica of Magnolias, then odds are that the peanut butter cookies I adore so much came from there as well.
A quick skim of the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook confirmed these suspicions. A quick batch of these allowed me to–at last–fulfill my promise of this recipe to you, and fill our bellies with so much peanut butter, it may have been safer when we had to wait on line to get one.
But you won’t hear me complain that we’ll never have to again.
Smitten Kitchen Went to Aruba and All I Got Were These Lousy Cookies! Deb and Alex have flown the snowy, slushy and biting cold coop this week for warm, sandy island shores and countless tubes of SPF 50, so comment responses are going to be slow until they return. In our absence, we leave you with a Week of Cookies–this is recipe two of four.
The Menu for Hope Campaign continues through Dec. 24, which means that you still have a chance to win a box of home baked cookies (such as these!) from the Smitten Kitchen, or one of hundreds of other prizes donated by food bloggers around the world, delivered to your doorstep. You receive one raffle ticket for a prize of your choice for each $10 donation. I’ve explained everything in detail over here.
One year ago: Braised Beef Short Ribs, Potato Latkes
Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
The brilliance of these cookies is that they have include two different formats for peanuts–three if you use chunky peanut butter. They’re crisp on the outside, and almost cakey on the inside. Bake a batch and then hide the results in the furthest and most forgettable reaches of your kitchen. You’ll thank me later.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.