Friday, December 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Icebox Cookies

It's early December, which means one thing around here: it's time to bake the cookies. I take that holiday duty very seriously: Christmas cookies are a big tradition. Even if we don't have a tree, we always have cookies in the house.

So the Peanut Butter Icebox Cookies that I was going to make anyway became the first in a series of cookies baked in nonstop succession.

In a nod to my new home country, where peanut butter is rare and exotic and children eat Nutella sandwiches instead, I decided to try doing a half batch of dough with Nutella and a bit of cocoa powder. I think I liked that one even better.

So the verdict on these cookies? Good but not great. Julia says the dough is much better than the cookies themselves, and she may be right. I'm trying to cut down on my cookie dough consumption with all the cookies I'm baking. The cookies taste really good but lacked that really nice sandy texture I wanted them to have. Perhaps I should have sliced them thinner or baked them longer, but they're not quite crisp and not quite soft.

Still, these are icebox cookies, which are always a good thing to have on hand: just slice and bake! Might be worth trying at different thicknesses and baking times.

Peanut Butter Icebox Cookies

1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
1/3 c. (3 oz.) smooth peanut butter (or Nutella)
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. cinnamon (I left this out)
(If you're doing the Nutella version, 1-2 T. cocoa powder)
1 t. vanilla 
1/8 t. almond extract (I left this out as well)
1/3 c. (2.3 oz.) sugar
1/3 c. (2.3 oz.) brown sugar
1 large egg
2 c. (10 oz.) unsifted flour (some whole wheat is fine here)

Beat together the butter, peanut butter, baking soda, and cinnamon until fluffy. Add the vanilla, almond extract, and both sugars and beat a few minutes more until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg for another minute, then stir in the flour.
This is where it gets interesting: Maida has you put the dough on a work surface and "push it off": basically, you take it little piece by piece and you squish it down onto the work surface with the heel of your hand. You can see a picture of me doing that with the peanut butter dough above. Do this twice with all the dough, then shape it into a log and wrap it in parchment, plastic, or waxed paper and chill at least a few hours.
When you're ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 and line as many cookie sheets as you think you'll need with parchment, foil, or silicone. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch slices and place fairly close together on the cookie sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes (check after 15) until they are lightly colored. Remove to a rack to cool. You should get 3-4 dozen cookies.

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