There is no Santa; of this I am now sure.
Of the prudent sort, I have always been leery of pinning hopes, projections, or fantasies onto just any chimerical illusion. I have steered clear from teen pop star sensations, sparkly objects made to attract friends in high places, and even can’t-miss-Nick with his fire engine red sleigh and entourage of elves-n-deer. Yet for the simple love of peanut butter, I have ventured out of my box of safety late in life, to pen my first ever fan letter sprinkled with a modest flourish of gush. It was sincere, abbreviated and sent to a specialty PB company featured in Saveur #39, with only one slightly heavy handed compliment embedded with the singular hope to procure a recipe sadly and long misplaced. Dejected a month and a half out, I am just now realizing my call has been left unheeded, a sooty lump of coal- cold response to a heart unusually visible upon my sleeve.
Truth is I am a romantic sort falling long and hard, and probably a bit too easily. This cookie was it; my numero uno, the bee’s knees, bewitching rhapsody in peanut, easily out edging black and whites, the snicker doodle, and even Grandma A’s oatmeal cookies. Though pretty standard in many American kitchens, charmed- I viewed peanut butter cookies as rather snappy with their handsome tictactoe brandish. However most recipes left me disgruntled, merely kissed with a whiff of the nutty stuff and I pretty much abstained until I discovered that issue back in 1999. A few twists and tweaks later yielded what I not-so-humbly thought of as my secret weapon, a devastating bite of goodness that instantly delivered a state of content euphoria. Such I discovered, was the power of a good cookie.
It was an elevated baked thing rising out of the hands of babes and into the mouths of adults; toasted and earthy, almost gravelly with the unusual addition of buckwheat/rye/spelt flour (an idea born from eating PB on pumpernickel), a definite lick of salt, and a satisfying wallop of groundnuts. These sturdy half dollar sized buttons were more reminiscent of salty peanuts followed by a chaser of hoppy micro brewed beer than treacly PB&J on white bread. “Assertive spin off of a childhood classic,” they cried. And then, I lost that recipe.
Among other things, I have been quietly sulking for a few years now and in utter rejection of any other peanut butter cookie recipe out there. Too afraid to be disappointed, so substantial were they. But recently a little pang started murmuring inside which roused my stoic mantle and led me down an alley which involved super sleuthing, an out of character plea, the dismissal, and finally up to the moment, now. It is a little foolish describing a love for a cookie, a recipe, and above all, a peanut. But these singular things are never entirely removed from the others surrounding. Yes these cookies are hard to describe terrific, but they were also bites signifying a happy mingle of domesticity, friendships, and a certain place and time. Utterly shocked I was to lose the recipe I so carefully packed and unpacked twice. Contemplating my recipe-less situation and the effect of loss on love, it seemed finally clear that true powers are never really lost but endure, albeit perhaps in a slightly different guise. And that the only response is- to keep on baking.
‘Nutter Time Around Cookies makes about 3 dozen- A riff on a recipe from Bob’s Red Mill. I didn’t want to be caught in the trap of trying too slavishly to recreate PB#39, but I couldn’t help nudging it slightly in that direction. Amaranth gives the texture the slightest microscopic crunch which is very pleasing. Next time I would toast it up a bit before hand. Maybe the time after that I’ll try substituting in a bit of rye flour, after all some loves are hard to forget completely!
1 C amaranth flour
¼ C spelt flour
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter softened
1 C chunky peanut butter, most recipes specify not to use the natural PB but I do
1 C sucanat, I would knock this down to ¾ C sugar if I were using straight brown
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
Directions: Sift the first four dry ingredients into a bowl. In a medium mixing bowl place the rest of the ingredients minus the coarse salt. Start your mixing slow and amp it up to medium high for a few minutes. Stop the mixer from time to time to scrap the sides well. Add the pre-sifted dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture. And incorporate everything on low until just combined. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. when time to roll out cookies. Line at least 3 sheets with parchment paper. Grab a small knob of dough and roll quickly into a ball about the size of a quarter. After completing the balls, go back and lightly press down on each cookie top with a fork. I like the chic look of tine imprints in one direction only, but of course this is personal preference. I finish each cookie with a light sprinkle of coarse salt. In the oven they go for about 13 minutes. I am the sort who likes to burn marshmallows… therefore I definitely go a few minutes longer than that. Naturally good with milk and probably not too bad with beer either. Perhaps Santa would be a tad bit more generous with that kind of midnight offering.