Monday, March 5, 2007

The peanut butter quest

Last night my sweet husband and I watched "Stranger Than Fiction", a movie just released on DVD starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson. I liked the movie, but don't rent it expecting a Will Ferrell comedy. It is slow paced, thoughtful, and sweet.

One of the facets of the story is the relationship between Harold, an IRS agent, and Anna, a baker he is auditing. Although initially hostile to him she realizes he is a sweet person and as a peace offering she bakes him cookies. He declines the cookies, saying he doesn't like cookies. She replies that of course he does, who doesn't like cookies? Didn't his mother ever give him milk and freshly baked cookies? He says that his mother never baked; all their cookies were store bought.

At this point I turned to my husband with a gasp and said, "You didn't tell me this was a horror movie!"

Then Anna, the baker, relates how she went from pre-law at Harvard to opening a bakery. She says that now she's changing the world through cookies.

At this point my husband turned to me and said, "Honey, she's your soulmate!"

So true. For me cookies are my favorite way to say "thank you," "feel better," or "you are loved." Thus, when a kind, inordinately generous friend mentioned that he is way into peanut butter and jam I immediately began my quest for the perfect peanut butter and jam cookie. Peanut butter and chocolate would be no problem - I have enough peanut butter and chocolate recipes to make their own cookbook. Peanut butter and jam was another matter.

My first attempt was, as first attempts so often are, disappointing. I had in mind a peanut butter version of jam thumbprints, my daughter's favorite, that uses a spritz cookie dough for a base. The recipe I found produced a tough, dry, base that only faintly tasted of peanut butter and the jam I used left merely a sticky slick. I learned that using a quality jam that contains actual fruit is important, rather than the jam I'd used, purchased for the adorable Curious George pictures on the jar.

For my second try I went back to an old faithful recipe - Hershey's Peanut blossoms. I splurged and made them with my stash of peanut butter kisses. These were fabulous, but I wanted a base that totally sang out "Peanut Butter" in a strong tenor.

My third attempt was a keeper. A moist, dense cookie base, redolent of peanut butter balanced with the sweet pull of the jam. I wrapped up and delivered the results. My friend was quite pleased and said, "Congratulations on cracking the code!"

Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprints

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (I prefer Jiff)
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup good quality jam, stirred (I used blueberry)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl blend together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the peanut butter and margarine. Mix on medium-low speed until crumbly, about 3 minutes. Add honey and milk; blend well. Use your hands, if needed, to work in the dry crumbs into the mixture.

Form dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets 2 inches apart. Press thumb (although I use a knuckle for a deeper, even well) into center of each. Place 1/2 tsp. jam into each indentation.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Let sit on the cookie sheet for 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Store in airtight container. As the cookies sit the jam seeps into the base a bit and makes it even moister and jammier.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Sam said...

mmmmmm... Peanut Butter... I still remember the peanut butter pie that you made me, It most definately was the reason my broken arm healed. Anyways, I sure hope some of these delicious treats are gonna be around when I come home for break :) You can plan on having a few extra posts that week since they will go to a good cause ;)

Sarah said...

My personal favorite was the choclate kiss cookies. I feel like five pounds fatter since you've started this stupid food blog! But you do owe me scones....

Diane said...

Mm - thank you. I have sought for a good thumbprint recipe for years. Any chance of posting the chocolate kiss one?

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Sam, I will have the cookie jar stocked for your spring break!

Sarah, the scones are in the oven.

Diane, thanks for the heads-up on the broken link. You are such a smart cookie!

jenjen said...

Wow, those cookies look deliciously divine. I am pretty sure if presented with a plateful I could gobble up the whole thing. Great shots!

Amy said...

I fell completely in love with that movie the minute he gave her "flours". Adorable!
Can't wait to try the recipe!