Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baking Therapy & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Everyone needs at least one coping mechanism, whether it's to deal with the stresses of the job, family issues, relationships, random occurrences or just whatever life throws at you. In case it's not obvious, one of my coping mechanisms is baking (the other two are exercise and reading, in case you're wondering). There's something comforting about the act of baking itself, regardless of what I'm making, that helps me cope and deal with life in general. I can shake off a bad day, soothe tumultuous thoughts and emotions, and just get myself re-calibrated with a baking (therapy) session. It's not even about the end product as oftentimes I don't eat what I make. I give it away and that in itself helps too because I like sharing what I make.

Today was a bad day. I had planned on baking tonight anyway because I was meeting a few coworkers for a birthday lunch (one of theirs, not mine) but this kind of day called for more than just popping the peanut butter cookie dough I'd made over the weekend and baking them. This kind of day called for baking. But let's do the peanut butter cookies first - this is the 4th recipe I've tried from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Actually I had baked a batch of these last night and tried one for lunch today. The rest of the dough I baked off tonight to bring in tomorrow. If you like soft, chewy, straightforward, no frills peanut butter cookies, this is a good one to try. The dough was soft when it was first made so if you don't chill or freeze them first, I suspect they would spread a lot. As it was, I froze the dough balls and they still spread but it was okay. Don't expect these to be thick and chunky - they had the typical spread of a cookie. Because I baked them from frozen dough, I couldn't/didn't make the cross hatches with a fork that's typical of peanut butter cookies but given how the cookies spread, I don't think any cross hatches would've been that pronounced anyway. Overall, a good cookie. So far the recipes from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book have been turning out.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies - November 11, 2009

½ cup smooth peanut butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cu firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Position a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the peanut butter with the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the egg.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything is combined evenly.
5. Scoop the dough by the rounded tablespoonful and roll into balls. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets, and press down slightly. Using a fork dipped in flour, press down on the cookies first one way and then the other to form an “X” pattern, creating the crosshatch effect. (The cookies should now measure approximately 2 inches in diameter.) Bake for 10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden. Overbaking will cause these chewy cookies to become crunchy so try to avoid it.

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