Monday, November 4, 2013

Peanut butter candy blossoms

I've had this idea for cookies since early summer but just now got around to making it.  And, for once, it's not because I forgot about it or lost the recipe in the black hole that is my recipe collection.

My decision to wait was a conscious one.  Now that's scary.

It's not like I didn't think about these cookies at least once a week.  Yes, I'm always thinking about food, but these really took center stage for a few months.

I've been enjoying classic peanut blossoms for as long as I can remember, and they come with such wonderful memories.  My mom makes dozens of them every year around Christmas.  And my dad, always the helpful one, is sure to squash at least two or three of the Kisses atop the cookies to stake his claim.  He jokes that my mom bakes so much for friends and family that we never get to enjoy any cookies for ourselves.  However, let me assure you, we absolutely do get some and devour every last one of them.

Aside from Christmas and the occasional wedding cookie table -- let's hear it for southwestern Pennsylvania weddings! -- I rarely see peanut butter blossoms any other time of the year.  And that makes me sad.

I love these cookies dearly!  Peanut butter and chocolate together in one cute little package.  Is there a more delicious flavor combination?  Sorry, jelly, but chocolate has your number.

That being said, it'd be easy to assume that I wouldn't dare tinker with the recipe since I consider these cookies about as perfect as cookies can be.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it... right?

Well, I had to fix it.  Just a little.  Because this little fix made the already perfect cookies perfect-er.  More perfect-er.  Even the most perfect-est.

Somewhere, my 6th grade English teacher just fainted.

The same delicious peanut butter cookie base is topped with miniature candy bars!  Snickers, Butterfingers, Baby Ruths, 3 Muskateers... swoon.  So easy and so smack-your-forehead brilliant.  I was certain one had ever thought of this!

Well, someone had.  But I decided to return to my blissful baking ignorance and chalked this one up as a major victory.

Of course, Hershey's Kisses of any variety would be good, too.  But chocolate laced with yummy stuff like nuts, caramel, and whipped chocolate sends these cookies right over the edge.

Just in case the Halloween candy binge hasn't sent you there already :)

Two years ago: Butternut squash macaroni & cheese
Three years ago: Chipotle roasted pumpkin seeds
Four years ago: Lemony zucchini goat cheese pizza

Peanut Butter Candy Blossoms
(adapted slightly from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book)
-makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies

A few notes: Make sure to keep the cookies on the baking sheet when topping with the chocolates.  I once made the mistake of transferring the cookies and then pushing and ended up with a cookie stuck in the wire rack.  Oops!  And, as far as the candy center goes, have fun with it.  In addition to those I listed above, mini Reese's Cups would be good, as well as even Whoppers malted milk balls.  Yum!

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
36 unwrapped miniature chocolate candies (not bigger Fun Size) of your choosing

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt; set aside.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, peanut butter, both sugars, and egg on medium high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, stirring until all ingredients are blended and no white streaks remain.  Cover and chill dough for one hour or up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Put 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.  Roll dough into 1 1/4-inch (walnut) sized balls and toss in granulated sugar until evenly coated.  Place on lightly greased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are set.

Place cookie sheet on wire rack.  Immediately top each cookie with a chocolate candy in the center, pressing slightly.  Chocolate will begin to melt.  Allow cookies to sit for a few minutes on sheet before using a spatula to remove them to a wire rack to cool, undisturbed, completely.   Chocolates will appear to melt slightly and reharden completely as they cool, so be careful if you're handling and stacking.  Store covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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