Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Marble Chunk and Honey-Roasted Peanut Cookies

Though I love the challenge of making overly-complicated, fussy, restaurant-style desserts, there are times when I crave the simple comforts of a home-baked cookie and a big old glass of ice-cold 

whole milk. Classic chocolate chip cookies are probably my favorites, but they are a bit over-exposed, so occasionally I put my own spin on them, as in my Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies. 

They’re made from a half-chocolate, half -traditional chocolate chip cookie dough that’s full of chocolate chunks and pecans, and combined in scoop to make a pretty-cool-looking marbleized

 cookie. There’s lots of chocolate action in these delicious cookies. Another one of my favorites is a classic peanut butter cookie, which I learned to make years ago working at the test kitchens of Skippy 

Peanut Butter (a dangerous job, especially if you were determined not to gain 10-20 pounds). I’ve adapted the recipe quite a bit since then, and now add honey-roasted peanuts to the dough, which

 catapults these cookies into superstar status. The heady scent of these cookies in the oven may even remind you of taking a plane trip back in the good old days, before peanut allergies became so prevalent, and honey-roasted peanuts were the snack du jour.

Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies

Makes about 60 cookies
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened alkalized (Dutch-processed) cocoa powder, sifted
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet bar chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups pecan pieces

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Have 2 ungreased baking sheets at hand.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium-high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour mixture at low speed, mixing just until blended.
4. Transfer 1 3/4 cups of the dough to another bowl and set aside. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dough in the mixer and mix on low speed until blended. Add half of the chocolate pieces and about half of the pecan pieces and mix until blended. Stir the remaining half of the chocolate and pecan pieces into the remaining light-colored dough. Fill half of a 1 tablespoon scoop or measure with the light dough, making it well rounded, not level. Fill the remaining half with the chocolate dough. Roll the doughs into a ball and place it on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten it into a 1 1/2-inch disc with your palm (wet it first, to prevent sticking). Repeat to form more cookies, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the lighter dough just begins to color. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 60 cookies
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Jif—don’t tell the Skippy people), at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts

1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
2. In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter and peanut butter together at medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the granulated and dark brown sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients and chopped peanuts until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 30 to 45 minutes, until the dough has firmed up.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stack two baking sheets on top of one another (or use an insulated cookie sheet), and line with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Using a 1-tablespoon scoop or measure, scoop 12 portions of the chilled dough onto the cookie sheet, spacing them evenly. Using your palm (wet it first, to prevent sticking), flatten each scoop slightly into a disc. Using a fork, making a cross-hatch indentation on top  of each cookie. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until they are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center. They will firm up as they cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.