Peanut Better Cookies

Peanut-Peanut Butter Cookies

Allergy warning:  THESE COOKIES CONTAIN PEANUTS…lots of them 🙂

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I have a love-love relationship with peanut butter — I eat it by the spoonful.  Natural, unnatural, creamy, chunky, however it comes my way, I love it.  Peanut butter cookies and I, on the other hand, have a love-hate relationship.  I love that they contain peanut butter, but I hate the dry, sandy texture that most PB cookies have.  Crumbly cookies baffle me — eating them is like that recurring dream where your teeth fall out and turn into hot sand in your mouth (am I the only one who has that nightmare?).  The only things in the food world that should be crumbly are feta cheese and streusel topping…not my cookies.  
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But, like I said, I love peanut butter.  So, I undertook a noble crusade to make the perfect peanut butter cookie — soft and chewy, without being underbaked, yet packed with peanut flavor.  The secret:  a 4-pronged peanut onslaught, with the right balance of butter, oil, and peanut butter.

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Relevant side note:  I usually buy “natural” peanut butter, since I think it has a more intense peanut taste, plus I’m not a huge fan of hydrogenated oils.  I’m typically too lazy to stir in that peanut oil layer that separates from a truly natural peanut butter (you know, the ones literally made from just peanuts +/- salt).  I actually prefer the chewy texture of the chilled peanut butter after the oil has been poured off, but I’d be remiss to waste that peanut oil!  I usually use it in a peanut vinaigrette for an Asian-inspired salad dressing or as the base for a stir-fry sauce.  However, here’s my new favorite usage for that peanut oil…
Back to my anti-crumble campaign:  So, since I was determined to not create yet another crumbly, throat-sticking, thirst-provoking peanut butter cookie, I knew I would have to play around with the shortening balance to achieve my desired texture.  “Classic” (i.e. “sandy”) peanut butter cookies typically just use butter and peanut butter as shortening agents.  Adding oil yields a lighter texture, but I didn’t want to dilute the peanut flavor with too much of a neutral oil like canola.  The answer:  peanut oil!  Even better:  Peanut oil FROM A JAR OF NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER!  When this idea hit me, I patted myself on the back for a solid minute…might’ve left a bruise (if you don’t love yourself, won’t nobody gonna love you).
The novel butter-canola oil-peanut oil-peanut butter combo and the deliverance of a sound beating to your wet ingredients result in the exact texture of which I dreamt for my peanut butter cookies.  Biting into this cookie for the first time was like what I imagine it feels like when your first child finally graduates from college — pure accomplishment for the benefit of others.
Addition of peanut butter chips, crushed salted peanuts, and a generous rolling in salt and sugar bring these cookies full-circle.  Really, guys, you’ll go nuts for these bad boys!

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Peanut-Peanut Butter Cookies

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temp
~2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil (the oil that separates from “natural” peanut butter), plus a scraping of the top layer of the peanut butter jar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (not “natural”)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 overflowing teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted peanuts, pulverized with a rolling pin (so cathartic!)
1/2 cup mixed peanut butter chips and milk chocolate chips (or just PB chips, if you’re a purist)
1/3 cup granulated sugar + large pinch salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add softened butter, both oils, peanut butter, and both sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg, vanilla, and espresso powder, turn up mixer, and beat vigorously for 4-5 minutes — CRITICAL STEP!
In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, use a fork to combine and aerate flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Turn mixer down to low, and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing only until just combined.  Use a large rubber spatula to fold in chips and nuts.  Dough will be very soft.  Transfer dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, swaddle dough tightly, and place in a large zip-top bag, releasing all air when sealing.  Refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar and a healthy pinch of salt.  Handling dough as minimally as possible (especially if its 86 degrees and humid outside), gently form balls approximately 3/4 the size of a golf ball.  Roll balls generously in sugar/salt mixture, and chill 10 minutes prior to baking.  NOTE:  After rolling balls in sugar once, going back and re-rolling in sugar a second time just prior to chilling yields an extra crisp outer layer…akin to double-frying your french fries).
Bake chilled dough balls 10 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 5 minutes.  Tops should JUST be staring to crack but still be gloriously pale, not browned.  Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container, at room temp, for up to 5 days.  Don’t eat too many at once though, or you’ll turn into Jabba the Nut 😉

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