Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut...

Although I was a little sugared out after yesterday's chocolate making lesson, I have house guests this weekend and no tour of hostess duty is complete without baking something for my boarders. After all the time I spend writing here about my kitchen experiments, I feel it would be somewhat unfair not to share with people who come to visit me. So, despite lacking my usual enthusiasm, I set out to find something to bake for my family.

I was prepared to bring an end to the Martha embargo this weekend, after weaning myself from her recipes for nearly a month and a half, but all the recipes I've been most excited to tackle from her book once I finally returned to it contained chocolate, and the idea of eating more chocolate at this point turned my stomach a bit. (Shocking, I know! I didn't think it could ever happen to me either.) Instead, I turned once more to my new Alice Medrich book, even though I find it, on balance, less inspiring than Martha's, for a variation on classic peanut butter cookies. I actually have an old, family recipe for peanut butter cookies that I don't really ever hope to improve upon, but these new cookies caught my eye because they were encrusted on top with chopped toffee-covered peanuts.

Toffee peanuts are a bit of an obsession of my mother's, who then introduced them to her siblings, and they became a bit of a family-wide addiction for a while. Since I knew both my mom and my aunt would enjoy the toffee peanut aspect of the cookies, I ran over to Jewel to pick up a can, as well as a jar of natural peanut butter, which I don't keep in the house. (I'll stick to the emulsifier-laden, processed within an inch of its life version for making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, thanks.)

Despite the extra effort and mess that came from trying to stir up a full jar of separated natural peanut butter, the cookies were easy to make, largely because Medrich gives all measurements in weights and volumes, so I could employ my digital kitchen scale and save myself a bunch of measuring. The only labor intensive part was rolling the tops of each cookie in the crushed peanuts, but even that was fairly straightforward. I was pleased to discover that the finished cookies had a chewy, moist texture, whereas my go-to peanut butter cookie has a crumbly, sandy consistency, and I think the chewiness paired nicely with the crunch of the peanuts on top.

The toffee flavor was a bit lost, aside from adding some additional sweetness, but I loved how the shiny, candy-covered peanuts looked on top of the cookies. It was almost like they were covered in sparkly peanut glitter. The toffee peanuts help elevate what would otherwise be a basic cookie to something pretty and special, and I think these would make a lovely gift to someone if you wrapped them up in cellophane with a bit of ribbon.

Toffee Peanut Cookies
adapted from Alice Medrich

1 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 c. natural, but not unsalted, peanut butter
5 oz. toffee peanuts, coarsely chopped

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar. Whisk in the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter, add the flour mixture, blending with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until evenly incorporated.

Cover the dough and refrigerate for an hour or two and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 325.

Pour the chopped nuts into a shallow bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and coat the top and sides heavily with the chopped nuts, pressing in any pieces that fall off so that there are no bare spots. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies 15-18 minutes, until they are lightly colored on top. The cookies will be very soft to the touch, but will firm up as they cool. Cool cookies completely on wire racks.

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