You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.
The Food Network has a show called “Throwdown” with Bobby Flay. Bobby takes on a different expert each show to see who can make the best you-name-it: fish and chips, pulled pork, blondies… What’s the one thing in common with all of these shows? Bobby lost. He’s an outstanding chef that struggles keeping it simple with traditional flavors. For example, his fish tacos had some unique ingredients, but the old standby with classic flavors beat him by a long shot.
I have this neighbor who tends to stop by wearing an apron, hot cookies in tow. He’s really not your average spatula-wielding baker. Chad looks like he would feel more comfortable cradling a football than a cookie sheet, but as I have experienced first-hand he really likes food (almost as much as I do). When my roommate suggested a bake-off at 2:30 a.m. one night, I jumped at the suggestion. I do like my cookies, so I offered the idea of a peanut butter cookie throwdown. Simple ingredient but versatile cookie. He warned me that we could do anything with that peanut butter cookie, and I told him I was well aware of how a throwdown works.
So it was on. I purchased my ingredients, including some high quality bittersweet and semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate and heavy cream (because that just makes everything taste better, right?). I knew I wanted to rely on my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and change it up with my own version.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
-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
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
-1 large egg, at room temperature-1 tablespoon milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For cookie rolling: 1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium size bowl combine flour, baking soda and powder and salt.
2. In a separate large bowl, beat the softened butter and peanut butter until fluffy. I didn’t use a mixer this time and I think that was the problem with the cookies. Use a mixer and make sure there are no butter chunks. Add sugar and continue to beat until smooth.
3. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix well.
4. Add flour mixture until combined.
5. Form small balls of cookie dough and roll into the sugar. Then, place on to cookie sheets (leave enough room between the cookies).
6. Use a fork to form a criss-cross pattern on the cookies without flattening them. Then bake 10-12 minutes. Even if they look uncooked they are actually just tender in the middle. Give them a minute and then transfer them to wax paper to cool.
So I let them cool for a while and then I had an epiphany. These have to be pretty cookies. Like, really pretty. I would make peanut butter sandwich cookies with a chocolate ganache between them, dipped in chocolate and peanuts. Yes. I would bake and I would win. And invite all my friends over to finish the leftovers.
I made some chocolate ganache. I used an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate and a cup of heavy cream…but I also increased the recipe for my adoring fans. I would suggest using 6 oz. of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream. Bring the cream to a simmer and then pour over the bowl of chocolate, letting it sit until it melts.
Spread a thin, even layer on one side of the cookie and lightly sandwich another (preferably evenly sized) cookie to it. After letting the cookies sit. I carefully melted some semi-sweet chocolate (about 4 oz.), dipping half the cookie in the chocolate and rolling it in salted crushed peanuts.
You can only imagine the surprise of my competitor when he saw what I had to offer. Especially since his cookies looked like this:
My terrible camera aside, these cookies don’t really look like anything special. But let’s see what went down at the Throwdown. My competitor and I each chose a friend to judge and then picked one person we both knew. Let’s see the final verdict.
Click here to watch a video of the final verdict on the Throwdown.
Ouch that hurts. But let’s be fair. His cookies were really, really good. His basic cookies were warm out of the oven, and he even spiced them up with some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Obviously, the cookies with the ginger won. Why didn’t I think of that? Good game, Chad. If you want to challenge me to a Throwdown…I’m unfortunately taking the week off from baking because my supplies are (gasp!) no longer in my apartment. But watch out–this time next week I’ll be throwing it down back home in Chicago.