So I found this HBO documentary called The Weight of the Nation and I started to watch it last night – for work and stuff – and I got terribly depressed. It’s all about the obesity crisis and how we (well, Americans anyway) are getting fat and how basically we need to eat only fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. And I thought, dear god, what am I doing? Writing a blog about cake and cookies and all that stuff that makes you fat. And I’m sharing it. I’m a bad bad person. I got terribly sad at the idea that maybe what I do is wrong on very many levels. Then obviously, I pulled myself towards myself and said, hey. There’s no high fructose corn syrup in my baking. Or stabilisers. Or preservatives. Or e-numbers. This is the good stuff. Pure. Simple. Butter. And I was reminded of dear Julia (Child – for those of you who may need clarification) and chef Garth (who taught me almost everything I know) who said something along the lines of ‘no butter no taste’. So I recovered from the guilt I felt over supplying you with recipes that, used and eaten to excess, will make you fat but really just make the day better, and made you these totally extravagant, over the top cookies. (For the record I planned to make these cookies before I saw the documentary and not because of it. This isn’t a fit of rebellion or anything.)
This recipe comes from Baked Elements. If you’re a New Yorker, (which as we know, I am not, but sometimes, on some days, do wish to be) you’ll probably have heard about this bakery. It’s in Brooklyn and it makes the most amazing cakes. It’s very American – there are some cakes in this book that scare me on a level – like the Oopsy Daisy cake (buy the book and look it up!). Baked Elements is all their favourite ingredients divided into chapters. So there’s cinnamon and chocolate and cheese. There’s also peanut butter and lemon/lime. There’s no chapter on coconut which is how I knew we were going to be friends. I (coincidentally) have the original book in my Amazon basket, waiting for pay day. But this is the book I bought at Books for Cooks when I was in London on Saturday. It had a recipe for spice cake which swung the vote (the Princess was voting – you can read about her spice cake obsession here). So I figured for Wednesday baking day, I’d try something out of this new addition.
I started this recipe on Tuesday evening because there’s a fair amount of chilling involved. Basically you make the dough, chill it, roll it out, chill it, fill it and roll it up and then chill it again before slicing and baking. You need to find something to do in all the chilling hours (mostly about 3 at a time but up to 24). I read, went for a swim and watched more of the HBO doc. The original recipe uses smooth peanut butter but I only ever have crunchy so I used that. I also used sunflower oil (and not the recommended canola), only 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, golden caster sugar instead of granulated sugar, only 300g of the dark chocolate and golden syrup (not corn syrup, whatever that is). I think my cookies are pretty winning personally. Particularly since the rolling up bit is slightly technical and I was worried that I’d made a mess of things. I didn’t!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies
Adapted from Baked Elements
For the dough:
2 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
170g butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup golden caster sugar
3 tbsp sunflower oil
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter*
1 egg plus 1 yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
300g dark chocolate (70%)
1 tsp golden syrup
This makes about 21 cookies per log.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt and set aside.
Beat together the butter, sugars, oil and peanut butter until creamy and light. This takes a fair while. Scrape down the sides and then add in the egg, yolk and vanilla. Beat everything until combined.
Add in half the flour mixture and stir in gently. I did this by hand so as not to over-mix things. Add in the last of the flour, stirring until just combined.
Divide the dough in half and place each piece on a lightly floured piece of baking paper. Flatten it down into a disc of sorts and then fold the paper up around the dough so it’s completely covered. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight (or for at least three hours). The flatter your disc is now, the easier it will be to roll it out in the morning.
In the morning take the first piece from the fridge, unwrap it and roll it into a rectangle (keeping it on a piece of baking paper) until it is about 1/2cm thick and roughly 25cm by 15cm. (I didn’t actually measure it when I rolled it out but that seems about right). Mine also weren’t very rectangle-ly (as you can see in the photos below).
Return the rectangles to the fridge for another chill session whilst you make the filling.
For the filling melt the chocolate and syrup in the microwave, heating it in 30 seconds spurts and allowing it to rest slightly between zaps. (You can also do this on a double boiler). Stir to combine. Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes.
Remove one of the rectangles from the fridge and, using a pastry brush, smear it with chocolate, leaving a 1cm gap at the top of a long side. You can be quite generous with the chocolate which will start to harden as you brush.
Using the baking paper, roll up the rectangle into a log. I turned the first edge over by hand and then used the paper to roll up the rest. Wrap it tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate again for three hours. Do the same with the second rectangle. I put one log in the freezer to use at a later date (I don’t need that many cookies all at once).
When your three hours is up and the log is quite hard, preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Undo the log from all it’s wrapping and slice it into 1 and 1/2 cm slices, using a hot knife. If the cookies fall apart (a few of mine did, especially the ends), just squish them back together with your hands.
Bake evenly spaced for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned and you can move them along the tray with your thumb. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes on the trays and then transfer to cool completely on wire racks. Eat.
*I use organic peanut butter with no added sugar or salt. It’s blended with the peanut husks still on so it’s a lot darker than regular peanut butter. It is also amazing.