I was rotating stock in the “pantry” the other day (aka “the garage“), separating 2008 home-canned goods from 2009 (Yes, my life is a thrill a minute! Don’t you want to be me?), when I realized that I had a couple of jars of homemade preserves leftover from May and June of ’08. As I try to use these up within about a year (and we’re well past that now) I decided it was high time these came upstairs to the fridge.
We could, of course, just eat the preserves on toast, but I’ve had cookies in the back of my brain for a couple of weeks now, so I dug out my favorite cookie book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies by my pastry hero, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I had in mind a sandwich cookie, maybe a simple sugar cookie with bits of jewel-colored jam peeking through the middle, but these peanut butter cookies called to me. I love peanut butter and eat it on toast nearly every morning for breakfast (one of my few non-local indulgences), but it is one of those things that, if you don’t have kids, tends to sit in your fridge or pantry forever and a day. This recipe is a great way to use up that neglected peanut butter, as well as the dregs of the 5 different jam jars languishing on the door of the fridge. The dough is simple to prepare, and while it is crackly and crumbly, and the cookies aren’t the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, they are delicious. They taste just like the middle of a Reeses peanut butter cup (but without all the corn syrup, refined sugar and chemicals), with a tiny little jam chaser. Tai & I ate the entire batch in a day. I thought about making another batch to bring to Thanksgiving dinner in Maine, but I don’t think they would last the car ride! I think we’re safer with pie.
Adapted from Peanut Butter and Jelly Jewels in Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 1/2 cup (2.5 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup turbinado + 1/2 tsp molasses)
- 1/8 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth, if not using food processor)
- 1/2 large egg (about 1 oz)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup preserves or jam (I used wild berry preserves and Strawberry Rhubarb jam)
- In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk to mix.
- In a food processor with a metal blade, process the sugars for several minutes until very fine. Cut the butter into a few pieces and add it with the motor running. Add the peanut butter and process until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated. Add the flour and pulse until just incorporated. Alternatively, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or by hand, then mix in the remaining ingredients.
- Scrape the dough into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour (which will aid in shaping the dough) and up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Measure the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls; roll or pat between your hands to form into a ball or slightly flattened disk. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press a hole into the center of each cookie with your pinky or the handle of a wooden spoon (or back of a chopstick). The cookies may crack quite a bit as you form this depression, but you can hold them together by circling the dough with your left hand as you form the hole with your right.Fill each hole with preserves or jam until it is just slightly overflowing.
- Bake cookies until slightly browned and firmed up, about 10 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pans, front to back and top to bottom, halfway through baking. Once the cookies are done baking, remove and allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes, until they are firm enough to move. Remove from the pan with a thin spatula and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Yields about 3 dozen 1 and1/2-inch cookies.
- You could substitute all-purpose flour and regular granulated sugar for the whole wheat pastry flour and turbinado.
- Rose suggests that a very smooth commercial peanut butter, like Skippy, gives the best texture to these cookies. The dough was indeed crumbly and cracked quite a bit, but Skippy and other commerical brands are simply way too sweet for my taste.
- For a finer texture that does not crack, use half the amount of peanut butter; the cookies will cook up flatter and crisper.
- Melted chocolate would make a yummy filling in place of jam or preserves.
- I tried baking some with jam and some without, to be filled with jam after cooking. Filling post-bake makes for a neater cookie, but the jam does not set, and the baked jam gets a nice hint of caramelization during baking. The cookies without jam also seem to spread more so that it left too big a hole to fill, and the jam-to-PB ratio was off. I like them best pre-filled.
In an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 1 month.