Having go-to recipes is fun. I get a funny little thrill when I can say, “Oh, yeah, this is my go-to recipe for awesome cookies,” or “Isa’s Bakery-Style Berry Muffin recipe from Vegan Brunch is a no-fail delight.” It makes me feel like a real cook, y’know, like I’m starting to chalk up a sizable amount of experience points in the kitchen. Go-to recipes are solid and reliable; the results are predictable and comforting in that predictability. I appreciate that in a recipe. I really do.
But sometimes, you’ve just gotta mix things up a bit.
I’ve been craving super-chocolaty cookies for a few days now, so last night I decided to rely on a fall-back recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance – the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. I’ve made these a few times in the past – and mentioned them once – and even when I make them too big and kind of obscene-looking, they still taste damn good with cherry or apricot preserves in the center. But after my post on innovation in the kitchen, I felt like messing with a good thing. I meant to do it that very night, but it was late and I live with my parents and I didn’t think they’d appreciate me banging around in the kitchen and whatnot. So my experimentation was postponed ’til last night.
And, oh, what a lovely experiment it was. I decided to use Hershey’s Extra Dark cocoa in my cookies, because I’ve fallen hard for the beautifully dark color and sinfully rich depth of chocolate flavor that Dutch-processed cocoa imparts to baked goods. And I also decided that the perfect pairing for dark chocolate cookies just had to be peanut butter. So I made two versions of these chocolate-peanut butter delights; for most of the cookies, I just put a small bit of peanut butter into the thumbprint-y center of the cookies. I thought it’d create something like the inversion of those peanut butter cookies that are ubiquitous at holiday parties, you know, the ones with Hershey’s Kisses in the center? I imagined a cross between those and the original Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. But because I’d mixed the peanut butter with confectioner’s sugar to make it a little more solid and to sweeten it up, it didn’t spread in the center like jam usually does in thumbprint cookies and thus just kind of made a little peanut buttery blob in the middle. Which, if you think about it, is pretty akin to those holiday cookies. It just wasn’t what I was hoping to achieve; I’d wanted it to spread out a bit, to create a little pool of peanut butter… not a lump. See what I mean?
(This photo is horrible. Please forgive me.)
Luckily, my second experiment yielded much yummier results. I added enough confectioner’s sugar to the peanut butter so that it reached an almost dough-like consistency, and then I rolled this into smallish logs and twirled them with thicker logs of the chocolate cookie dough, creating a marbled, swirly-type effect. I used to make clay beads with this technique all the time, and cookie dough is just edible clay, right? Heh. In any case, the marbly cookies were the stars of the bunch – the contrast between the rich chocolate and the salty, stickier peanut butter is amazing. I wish I’d done this for all the cookies!
All in all, my experiment was a success, I’d say. Reese’s were always my favorite candy in my pregan days, and I think I’ve found a way to approximate that flavor contrast in cookie form. Hooray!