The little things can make all the difference.
The perfect cup of coffee to start a cold winter's morning. Finding the paper within reach of the front door, rather than having to traipse across the front lawn in your robe and slippers. Catching a cab on the first try. Reaching your hand in your coat pocket to discover that ten dollar bill you forgot you had.
An unexpected thank you.
All of these are little things, but little things do add up. Little things can make your day.
And, as I just was reminded, little things can change your cookies entirely.
Any time it is requested that I bake peanut butter cookies, I automatically reach for this recipe. Nonetheless, I have kept to my word and have continuously tweaked and adjusted the ingredients and method - partially because I sometimes have a ridiculously-short attention span when it comes to cooking and cannot commit to following anything to the letter, and partially as I still am in search of the ultimate cookie.
On a recent occasion, as I was creaming together the butter and sugars, I recalled my fondness for peanut butter and honey sandwiches as a child. Without a second thought, I grabbed some honey from the pantry, popped off its lid, and watched as it oozed goldenly onto the whirring beaters. From there, I continued with the recipe as per usual.
The dough was softer and more pliable than before. Considering liquid sugars grant a toothsome density to baked goods, and also knowing my disdain for thin, dried-out drop cookies, I chose to freeze the shaped balls of dough rather than chilling the batter as I did in the original version. After a quick arctic blast they held up nicely against the pressure of the fork when marked with their distinctive pattern. Into the oven they went.
Assumedly due to the change in sugars, I noticed that after 16 minutes the cookies were already pleasantly bronzed, sporting a modest hump. The height remained after cooling, allowing for a slightly crunchy top but a cakey, moist centre. In comparison to the crumbled chewiness of their flatter predecessors, these were a wholly different cookie altogether.
The cookies tasted richer. Maybe it was depth of mellow sweetness from the honey that accentuated the roasted quality of the peanut butter; the peanutty-ness was more pronounced, but still well-rounded. Now this was my idea of a really good cookie - not to say the previous version doesn't have its slightly-crisper charms.
Sometimes magic is truly in the details.
Note: Some may notice that the above photo returns to the style of my Happenstance series. To be honest, I had not intended to write about this recipe, but I was so happy with the effect of small changes on the recipe that I felt compelled to share. As this was such a spontaneous impulse, shooting again in that format seemed appropriate.
Soft and chewier peanut butter cookies
My own recipe. With a crisp edge and a soft interior, these cookies are one step closer on my quest for peanut butter perfection.
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (up to 1/2 teaspoon if you particularly like savoury sweets)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons/1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed golden or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
sea salt, optional, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Use parchment paper to line several standard baking sheets and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and honey and beat on high for three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the egg and vanilla, then mix on medium speed until well blended.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir to just combine. Using a 1 1/4" ice cream scoop dish out mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet (alternatively, use a generous 2 tablespoons of batter for each cookie), spacing them about 2 inches apart. Place onto baking sheet and freeze the batter for 10-15 minutes to set up and chill thoroughly.
Dip a fork into warm water and use the tines to press the dough balls lightly; you only want to slightly flatten their shape and leave the imprint of the fork. Freshly dip the fork between pressing each cookie. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
Bake in the preheated oven for 16 minutes, rotating the sheets once during baking. Cool on pan for two minutes, then remove to a baking rack to cool completely.