Monday, June 24, 2013

Gluten-Free, Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies


And the parade of favorites continues.  

My affection for peanut butter cookies began when I was in elementary.  Mrs. Prim, our next-door neighbor, would occasionally babysit my siblings and I in the afternoon when our parents had to stay late at work.  And without fail, whenever we would ring the doorbell, she would greet us at the door with a plateful of warm, peanut butter cookies.  Soft, chewy, lightly golden brown, and with the trademark criss-cross hash-marks, they were melt-in-your-mouth amazing.  I loved those afternoons, peanut butter cookie in one hand, a tall glass of cold milk in the other, and crumbs all over my smiling, chubby face. And when the doorbell would ring again, signaling my Mom or Dad's arrival, she would always flash a knowing smile and give me one more to take with me - like it was our little secret.

Now, just to be clear, today's recipe is not for those cookies.  Recreating a memory is extremely difficult, if not impossible in many cases, and if I tried to replicate Mrs. Prim's peanut butter cookies, I would just end up baking in circles, the outcome never quite "measuring up."  And honestly, thinking about how much sugar and butter was undoubtedly involved in the goodness of that cookie, I don't know if I'd want to make that cookie.  No, today's cookie gets its goodness from its satisfying heartiness, a rich, yet understated sweetness that flirts with savory, the novelty of nori, and the nostalgic rush of tasting something reminiscent of a comforting moment in time. 

I remember how Mrs. Prim would smile when she would watch us enjoy her cookies.  She would beam, most likely from happiness and pride, but also from contentment it seemed.  Happy to see her love of baking inspiring joy in the lives of others, happy to share a cookie that was most likely her favorite as well.  And baking these cookies recently for a going-away party, and simply taking in how people would close their eyes upon first bite, or start with a small nibble that quickly crescendoed to a gobble, or the eye contact upon finishing their cookie that said, "Thank You" more eloquently than words could ever capture, I now know the beauty of that feeling.

And more than a recipe or a dessert, it is that feeling that I hope to share with you.



Peanut Butter Cookies 
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, & Vegan

Active Prep Time:  10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Baking Time: 17-20 minutes
Yield:  about 2 dozen 1.5 tablespoon-sized cookies

1 c (120g) unsalted roasted peanuts
1/2 c (60g) teff flour
2 tablespoons (20g) coconut flour
3/4 c (80g) tapioca starch
2 heaping tablespoons (20g) ground golden flax
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt

1/2 c (50g) quinoa flakes

1/2 c + 2 tablespoons (85g) coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons hot water

1/3 c (70g) non-GMO canola oil
1/4 c (70g) smooth peanut butter
1/4 c (75g) blackstrap molasses

1/3 c (75g) unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1/3 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

nori gomasio, to garnish (optional)

What you'll need:  food processor, two medium mixing bowls, small bowl, spatula, 1.5 tablespoon-sized baking scoop, parchment paper, insulated baking sheet, fork, cooling rack

1.  Place whole peanuts in food processor and run until you've achieved a fine grind - about 10-15 seconds.  You do not want it to be overly coarse, but you also don't want to run the processor until you start to create peanut butter.  I don't know if it'll help, but I think of the target texture as large-grained sand [see photo below].
2.  Add remaining dry ingredients except for quinoa flakes to processor and pulse 3-4 times to combine thoroughly.  Transfer dry mixture to one of the mixing bowls and add quinoa flakes.  Stir to combine with spatula.
3.  In the small bowl, combine coconut palm sugar and hot water.  Mix until you form a thick, wet paste and the crystals have started to dissolve.
4.  In the other mixing bowl, combine remaining wet ingredients.  Mix until well combined and uniform in color and consistency.  Add coconut palm sugar paste and mix until incorporated.
5.  Gradually fold wet mixture into dry mixture with a spatula.  The resulting dough will be moist and sticky.  Chill in refrigerator for up to 15 minutes to allow the flours/starches to hydrate and bind.
6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
7.  Scoop dough into roughly 1.5 tablespoon-sized balls spaced 2" apart.  Roll each into a smooth ball and then flatten to about 2/3".  You can do this with the tines of fork, creating that classic criss-cross calling card of the peanut butter cookie, or with your fingers if you don't feel like being fussy.
8.  If you'd like to prepare the cookies the way I did, sprinkle some nori gomasio on top of each cookie and lightly tap into the surface of the dough.  Nori gomasio is a simply delicious condiment of toasted sesame seed and seaweed with a little salt and sugar that can be found at most Asian grocers- it imparts wonderful flavor and texture.  You can also feel free to leave them plain or sub just sesame seeds or a garnish of sugar crystals.
9.  Bake for 17-20 minutes.  The color of the dough will lighten from a deep chocolate to a golden brown, and the cookies will expand/rise, but only marginally.  They will also be lightly firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.  Flavor will be best when no longer warm.

Peanuts: Before and After.

Folding the wet mixture into the dry.

Chilled dough ready to be rolled, forked, and sprinkled.

While optional, I love how pretty the nori gomasio is.

These cookies toe that fine line between sweet and savory, which is how I love my desserts.  Ambigous, dynamic, and incorporating as many tastebuds as possible.  And they can hit the spot any time of day, whether you enjoy them after dinner, after school or work, or right after waking up as a breakfast on the go.

I hope you enjoy my homage to Mrs. Prim's legendary peanut butter cookies.  But again, more than anything, I wish for you to enjoy the exhilaration of sharing them and the joy that served as their inspiration, still paying itself forward. [grateful & wistful sigh]

6 comments:

  1. Well, I think I called in my comments in regards to your instagram photo of these cookies. Yes, I have fond memories of the neighbors and making peanut butter cookies with them. We would always take at least 1 dozen home with us. The way that you make your peanut butter cookies reminds me of how I make my almond macaroons. Sweet and Savory should always go hand in hand =) They've got matching lockets and live together in a quaint cottage, in my fairytale =p

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  2. Matching lockets and a quaint cottage....that makes me smile. It is a good memory, isn't it? Mrs. Prim and her peanut butter cookies. Thanks for the comment, ading!

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  3. Such nourishing ingredients! They look like a cookie SHOULD look!

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    Replies
    1. Your comment just made my day. :) Thank You! I agree!

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  4. These look wonderful, Jonathan. Now I'm hungry!

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    Replies
    1. Mission officially accomplished. :)

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All the Best,
Jonathan

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