The internet, or at least as far as I’ve seen, has three favorite peanut butter cookies. The first is a thing where you take a peanut butter cookie dough or prepared chocolate chip cookie dough, press it into a mini-muffin tin, press a miniature peanut butter cup inside of it and bake them together. Nobody has ever made these for me and I’m kind of mad about it. The second is this 4-ingredient, one bowl, hand-whisked salted peanut butter cookie, curiously absent in flour, butter and leaveners, that’s been around forever until the clever cooks at Ovenly figured out that using brown sugar instead of white, them into larger half-domes, and covering them with sea salt raised them to the unforgettable. The third is a soft chocolate cookie wrapped around a peanut butter filling and bakes into peanut butter cup cookies. No wait, pillows.
I’ve seen them around for years. I thought I’d try my hand at them one day. But then in December, rumor has it that this cookie won the annual cookie contest at my publisher’s. And as a certain cookie — the gooey oat / bake sale winning-est bars in my second cookbook — won the previous year, this cookie effectively knocked it off its pedestal, oh, my interest was piqued. And by piqued, I mean, how dare it.
They always look amazing in picture but could they really be that good? I theorized that we liked the idea of them more than the taste. I narrowed my eyes at every recipe being an exact replica of the Google result before it, not a quarter-teaspoon of salt differential between them. How could a recipe be so… unscrutinized? I make a recipe the first time and declare it perfect, above tweaking, about once a year. But I made them to the letter and, indeed, they are fantastic. My husband and kids thought they’d won the lottery (I reminded them — ahem! — they already had.)
There was just one little thing. They were kind of pale. I feel with chocolate baked goods, one should go dark or go home. I don’t mean bittersweet; I mean intensity. I mean, I don’t believe a vanilla cake with two tablespoons of cocoa powder in it is a chocolate cake and never will. So, I increased the proportion of cocoa powder, and the cookies came out darker and more chocolaty, but not a whole lot. I considered going to a full half-half split between cocoa and flour, but suspected I’d run into structural issues if I pushed things that far, and instead used Dutch-process (a darker, more nutty variety that’s standard in Europe but sold here too) cocoa and you know how Mary Berry likes to say “why, you’ve really cracked it!” Well, she did not. But when I bit into the first cookie, well, it crossed my mind. They’re soft and brownie-like and basically just deathly good. I had three. Please come and remove the rest from my home.
One year ago: An Easier Way To Make Cookies and Guacamole
Two years ago: Spaghetti Pie with Pecorino and Black Pepper and Banana Pudding with Vanilla Bean Wafers
Three years ago: Fried Egg Salad, Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Biscuits and Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas
Four years ago: Homemade Dulce de Leche and Cheese Blintz
Five years ago: Intensely Chocolate Sables and Pasta and White Beans with Garlic-Rosemary Oil
Six years ago: Potato Chip Cookies and Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
Seven years ago: Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce and Mushroom and Farro Soup
Eight years ago: Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions, Ricotta Muffins, Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Nine years ago: Sugar Puffs, Smashed Chickpea Salad and Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
Ten years ago: Key Lime Cheesecake, Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree and Candied Grapefruit Peels
Eleven years ago: Icebox Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: German Chocolate Cake + A Wedding Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Eggplant with Yogurt and Tomato Relish, Blueberry Bread and Butter Pudding and Summer Squash Pizza
2.5 Years Ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
3.5 Years Ago: Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde, Bourbon Slush Punch, and Three-Ingredient Summertime Salsa
4.5 Years Ago: Banana Nutella and Salted Pistachios Popsicles and Charred Corn Crepes
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
My bigger changes were to the chocolate cookie itself; I increased the amount of cocoa and decreased the amount of flour for a dark, more intensely chocolate cookie. I then used Dutch/Dutched cocoa instead (a nuttier, darker cocoa standard in Europe but sold here too under brands like Droste and Valrhona; I then used baking powder (which needs to be used in larger quantities) instead of baking soda because Dutched-style powder doesn’t react as well with baking soda as well. If you don’t have Dutched cocoa and want to use natural (i.e. any American brand such as Hershey’s or one labeled as natural), you can do so here and use the more standard 1/2 teaspoon baking soda instead of 2 teaspoons of baking powder; it simply makes a lighter-colored cookie.
- 2/3 cup (170 grams) creamy peanut butter
- 2/3 cup (80 grams) powdered sugar
- Two pinches of flaky seas salt
- 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature for a mixer, cold is fine for food processor
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, plus more to coat cookies
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (65 grams) creamy peanut butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (55 grams) dutched cocoa powder (see note)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
Make filling: Line a small tray or plate with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, powdered sugar, and salt with a fork; it’s a little messy but it will come together. Once evenly mixed, use a teaspoon measure to scoop heaped teaspoons of filling into little balls. Spread them out on prepared tray or plate. Once you’ve used all the filling, put the tray in the freezer while you make the cookie portion.
Make cookie with a hand or stand mixer: Beat softened butter with peanut butter and sugars until creamed together. Add vanilla, egg, and salt, and beat until combined. Sift in baking powder and cocoa, beat to combine, then add flour and mix until flour disappears.
Make cookie in a food processor: Pulse flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and sugars in food processor until mixed. Cut cold butter (if using, softened works fine here too) into chunks and add to bowl. Run machine until fully blended. Add peanut butter, egg, and vanilla and run machine until it is blended, scraping sides down as needed, and then keep running until dough balls together.
Assemble cookies: Place 1 to 2 tablespoons extra granulated sugar in a small bowl. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a scoop of cookie dough that’s just shy of 2 tablespoons (a #40 scoop holds 1.75 tablespoons and is perfect for this) and place it in the palm of your hand. Flatten it with your fingers. Take a peanut butter filling from the freezer and place it in the center, and wrap the chocolate dough around, rolling it in your palms until smooth. Roll it in the granulated sugar to coat, place it on your prepared baking sheet and gently flatten the cookie, just slightly, with your fingers. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake cookies: For 8 to 10 minutes. This is going to seem like really little time, and the cookies are definitely going to look underbaked, but remember that we are just baking a thin outer shell of a cookie (the center doesn’t need to be baked), and this does not take long. Let cookies rest and set up on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool.
Store: At room temperature in an airtight container.