Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chocolate-Coated Peanut Butter Cookies

Like many Americans, I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. I decided to create an upscale version of a cookie combining these flavors, and here it is. It's a simple peanut butter shortbread cookie which has been coated with tempered dark chocolate. I applied a transfer sheet square to the wet chocolate and then let the chocolate set. Then I just peeled off the transfer sheet, and voila! Instant pretty cookie!! Well, ok, not instant, but at least it looks like something that took some work. I did another version of this concept in The Good Cookie (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). That was a buttery almond shortbread cookie in a heart shape, with a polka-dot chocolate design on one side. One thing to keep in mind when doing a labor-intensive cookie like this: make it large, at least 3 inches. You don't want to be spending hours and hours making small cookies with this type of design. Transfer sheets are sold individually at Fancy Flours, or in bulk at Kerekes. There are hundreds of great designs to choose from. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate-Coated Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies
Makes about eighteen 3-inch cookies

Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Special Equipment: 3-inch daisy-shaped cookie cutter; three 9 3/4-by-14 1/4-inch transfer sheets in the design of your choice

Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Chocolate Coating:
18 ounces bittersweet couverture chocolate

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, beat the butter at medium speed for 1 minute, to soften it. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well blended, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the peanut butter, salt, and vanilla extract and mix at medium-low speed until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Add the flour at low speed, and mix just until blended. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into two discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours (or up to 3 days).
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Place one of the chilled dough discs on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 inch (be aware that rolling them thinner will change the baking time). Using a 3-inch daisy cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies from the dough as possible. Arrange the rounds on one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 3/4 inch apart. Gather up the scraps, rewrap them, and chill for about 15 minutes before re-rolling and cutting out more cookies. Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, until they are just firm, but not browned. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer them carefully to a wire rack and cool completely.
4. Repeat the rolling and cutting procedure with the remaining dough until all of it is used.
Apply the chocolate coating:
5. Cut the transfer sheets into thirty-two 3 1/2-inch squares (the squares don't need to be perfectly shaped).
6. Temper the chocolate.
7. Place a cookie, upside down on a wire rack. Using a small, offset metal spatula, spread an even layer (not too thick, not too thin) of tempered chocolate over the cookie to cover it, spreading it right up to the edge. Immediately press the cocoa butter pattern side of a transfer sheet square directly onto the chocolate, pressing firmly but gently so that the sheet touches the chocolate all over the surface of the cookie. Transfer the cookie (with its transfer sheet attached) onto another wire rack, chocolate side up. Repeat the coating process with the remaining cookies, and allow them to set at room temperature for 2 hours. (If your kitchen is warm, refrigerate the cookies for 1 hour instead.)
8. Gently peel the transfer sheet off of each cookie. Serve the cookies chocolate side up.