Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cookie Kisses

Whenever I meet someone here, one of the first questions I get is some version of "How are you coping with this big change in your life?" I never know how to answer that question. Sure, there are a ton of big changes: we live in an apartment, I don't drive, everything takes a lot longer, I need to interact with my environment in French. Sometimes these things make me cranky but mostly I'm fine with it. In a way, I've been training for living in France for a long time: reading about France; observing life here on visits; thinking about, preparing, and eating French food.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with a peanut butter cookie recipe? Well, that's the other side of the coin. I would have to say that my kitchen is my home. No matter where I live, I can pull out a knife and a skillet and make dinner. I can get out a mixer and a pound of butter and make a lot of people happy. And that's what I did with these cookies.

Peanut butter, as I'm sure I've pointed out before, is an (expensive) oddity rather than a staple food here. On the other hand, really good chocolate is more a staple than a luxury. So I dug into the PB stash for these, but didn't give a second thought to the "problem" that there are no Hershey's Kisses in France. To me, that's a plus.

What more perfect Franco-American union than butter and peanut butter? Oh, right--peanut butter and French chocolate.

Some technical notes on these cookies: they are really, really easy to make. The dough comes together in about 10 minutes (including gathering ingredients) and doesn't need to chill.

However, it spreads a lot. I was thinking that these would be closer to thumbprint cookies, but they turned out flat and crispy. A good thing, but if you used Kisses, they might not nestle in the way you might wish. Another good reason to try the ganache option.

Here's the recipe. Make these when you want that warm, home-y feeling.

Cookie Kisses

1-3/4 c. (7 oz.) sifted flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
scant 1/2 c. (3.25 oz.) sugar
scant 1/2/ c. (3.25 oz.) brown sugar
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, cut into about 8 pieces
1/2 c. (4.5 oz.) smooth (not natural) peanut butter
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
2 T. (1 oz.) milk
More sugar--about 1/2 cup
48 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped (or use ganache recipe below)

Heat the oven to 375; line a few cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Get out your food processor (metal blade) and put the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and brown sugar in it. Process for a few seconds to blend. Put in the butter and peanut butter and pulse a few times to distribute the butter. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk and process just until smooth.
Scrape the dough from the processor to a silicone mat or waxed paper or similar surface and roll into a long cylinder. Do your best to cut the dough into 48 even pieces--I used a bench scraper for this purpose. Put the additional sugar in a smallish bowl. Roll the pieces of dough into balls and roll in the sugar. Put the balls on the lined baking sheets, 12 each. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until barely golden. If you're using the Kisses, put them on top of the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. If not, wait until the cookies have cooled to apply the ganache. Cool and enjoy that home-baked goodness.

Ganache "Kisses"
(Adapted from Rose's Christmas Cookies)

4 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken into small squares
2 oz. butter
4 oz. milk chocolate, broken into small squares

Put the semisweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about a minute, stopping to stir after 30 seconds. Add the milk chocolate and stir well. Microwave for another 30 seconds if necessary, just to melt the milk chocolate. This mixture will be at the perfect consistency as soon as the chocolate is melted. Spoon it into a pastry or Zip-loc bag, use the tip you like (I used a star tip) and pipe onto your cookies. If you have leftover ganache and you don't feel like just eating it, you could melt it into hot milk for some decadent hot chocolate.

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