Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Eggless peanut butter cookies

My young cousin Hema is visiting from India, and she’s apparently determined to “learn cooking” from me. The irony is that I’m not doing much cooking at all at the moment because my mother’s here – I know, it’s not fair to leave it all to her, but the thing is, she’s at home all day and I am at work all day… so, given the circumstances, it all works out conveniently well for everybody (yes, especially me.) Anyway, I do cook on weekends, so I’m not taking total and unashamed advantage… or so I like to believe. (Kind readers, please don’t stick the needle of derision in my pathetic little bubble of denial!)

So the project for the day in the cookery department was a simple one, courtesy Hema – peanut butter cookies. It didn’t strike me to ask about her choice till later, although I remember thinking that it seemed a bit strange – well, very American, in other words. When I did ask her, eventually, where she’d eaten peanut butter cookies before, she replied that she never had. Then how did she come up with that suggestion? Apparently, because she likes peanut butter.

Oh. Right.

So peanut butter cookies it was. And in consideration of my mother shunning eggs and everything containing eggs, we made the cookies eggless.



Now I’ve never eaten peanut butter cookies before. I wasn’t even a fan of peanut butter till fairly recently, and even the jazzed up chilli-hot Indian-style “peanut chutney” didn’t quite tempt me. As for the American fascination with peanut butter-and-jam (I refuse to call it jelly) sandwiches, I’ve been known to accuse it of being weird… but everything comes full circle and I now am forced to admit that I’m rather partial to peanut-butter-and-orange-marmalade on toast… something in which I try not to indulge too often!

Anyway, to come back to the point, since I’m not burdened with a sweet tooth and there aren’t any takers for cookies in my house, I’ve never really tried my hand at baking cookies.

I’m actually going to deliberately deviate from the point now – fair warning, right? My first attempt at baking was a recipe for lemon cookies. The recipe seemed simple enough, so I beat and mixed and rolled the dough into balls and placed them on a tray and gave them spreading space - everything seemed to be going swimmingly well as I put the trays in the oven.

The recipe said to bake the cookies for 8 minutes; eight antsy minutes later, I checked the cookies – they were still soft, so back inside they went for another few minutes. They remained stubbornly soft 10 even more antsy minutes later, and I was certain that the recipe had got the baking time wrong. So I just went on baking them. Eventually when the cookies had firmed up through the centre (the edges had gone extremely brown – pretty much black - by then) to my satisfaction, I took the trays out. The recipe instructed me to let the cookies cool for 3-4 minutes before removing them from the tray, so I waited the requisite number of minutes, then tried to detach a cookie to taste it.

It didn’t budge.

I tried again with another cookie, trying to lift it off the tray.

The entire tray rose in the air, but the cookie stayed firmly attached to it.

I tried chipping them off off with various things – a spatula, a knife, a cake slice, even a chisel… but the cookies just crumbled into bits. Pete tasted the bits and said that they were nice (which was very kind of him, because those things were anything BUT nice)… but comforting though his words were, I wasn’t – and am not – as dumb as I looked, and I knew I had a first class disaster on my hands. Or on my trays, to be literal. So I dumped everything in the bin – cookies, crumbs, tray and all.

I blame the recipe, of course I do. I didn’t know that cookies firm up as they cool… why would I? I’d never had a proper oven, never done any baking… and the recipe didn’t think to mention that little fact. To be fair, I guess to experienced bakers, that particular fact is basic knowledge – so basic that they just assume everybody knows it. But I didn’t… so when the cookies felt soft, I assumed that they hadn’t baked enough. And so it turned out a recipe for disaster.

I didn’t try baking cookies for ages thereafter, so making these peanut butter cookies cookies was more or less a “first” for me and Hema both. I didn’t quite know how they would turn out, but one thing I knew for sure – I would stick to the baking time specified!



As it turned out, we must have underbaked the cookies a little, for they stayed just a wee bit soft in the centre even after cooling. But they tasted so good – slightly salty, somewhat sweet – that I don’t think anybody minded.

Recipe for:
Eggless peanut butter cookies



Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup demerara sugar (or brown) + extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with non-stick paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and water. Reserve.

2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.



4. Beat in both sugars.

5. Stir in half of the flour mixture.



6. Add cornflour mixture and continue mixing, then add the remaining flour mixture and stir it in.



At this point I found the dough to be very very dry, so I added milk, tbsp by tbsp and kneaded it until the dough could be rolled into a ball. (Or rather, my cousin did all this under my - ahem! - supervision!)

8. Roll the dough into 1" balls. Arrange the balls 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets (the cookies wont spread much).



With a fork, flatten the dough balls and make a criss-cross pattern on top.

9. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake in a 180C/350F oven for 15-16 minutes, until the cookies are dry on top.



10. Remove baking sheets from oven and let the cookies remain on the sheets for 3 minutes,



then remove to racks and let cool completely before storing in an airtight box.


24 comments:

Kalai said...

Oh, goodness! I can totally relate to your baking experience. I remember trying to make brownies and left them in the oven for too long. I wound up with chocolate hockey pucks. It was terrible!! Your cookies look perfect, though. I love peanut butter, too. Am bookmarking these. :)

Suganya said...

I am sure you will have lots of 'don't s' for Hema ;)

Shruthi said...

I am completely a cookie person. I cannot tell you how desperate I am to eat those cookies in the pic.

Anonymous said...

Kalai: It's the little things that trip you up when you're an inexperienced baker, eh? :)

Suganya: More "don't s" than you can imagine! :D

Shruthi: Awwww... I'll eat a couple just for you, ok? :)

- Shyam

Anonymous said...

The cookies look so tempting .. Hema, shall I place an order for an oven !!! amma

Anonymous said...

Amma please do! But without Syamala akka's supervision I can guarantee more lemon cookies than peanut butter cookies :P --Hema

TheCooker said...

I,too, want to place an order.
My mother totally takes over the kitchen when she visits. Coming home and finding dinner already prepared/ planned...bliss.

Hetal said...

hey the cookies are so tempting...and they are eggless too..gr8!!would love to see u on my blog.

Shvetha said...

Shyam, what a couple of coincidences..the very first cookies I baked were lemon-olive oil ones. I baked, & baked & then some for probably 40 min in all!! Thankfully they neither crisped up nor did they morph into rocks!

Anonymous said...

I love peanut butter. But I don't care for eggs at all. So this is the best cookie for me. Peanut butter cookie looks so good. I am going to try. Thanks.

Ramya

Aparna said...

I have always loved peanut butter. And don't like PBJs either. I'm not a "jam" person but can vouch for the "PBM" (M for marmalade).
And if its made from peanut butter, your cookies can't be bad, right?

Anu said...

You could always visit, you know…. ;)

Anu said...

Shyam,

It’s a bit funny that communities in the same region, with supposedly the same backgrounds and lifestyles would have marked differences in their cuisines, isn’t it? Perhaps I make it seem simpler than it is, but when it comes to food, just as you say, all that matters is how good something tastes-or not.
Your comment reminded me of another lovable trait of Mum’s-her tendency to not exclude anyone or anything on basis of these religious distinctions. I say this in particular because she was miles ahead of her ‘elite’ counterparts, not even having gone to graduate school. I loved her philosophy of ‘Sarvam Brahmamayam’; especially in the kitchen, where the distinctions between ‘Smartha’ or ‘Iyengar’ or whatever else were blurred.

Anu said...

Whoo-3 whole reasons to cross the Atlantic! A week would be the minimum to do the area justice, I think; but I understand the whole vacation and time off and the ridiculous travel fares of late being be real pains to get past.
Something to look forward to, for sure...:)
Been putting off a trip to the UK myself; only raking up the number of strikes on my sister's tolerance list!

DK said...

hahaha! No i am not laughing at ur memory recall..am laughing @ my own! My first cookies batch was subjected my superior knowledge only to become as hard as a rock! its a wonder My teeth r still intact...Of course have baked 20 batches afer that..but I never never forget that little lesson of shutting my superior brainy logic session ..esp when baking ;-) cookies

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Linda said...

Oh Shammi, that lemon cookie story is just too good. Sounds like something that would happen to me! And of course it was the recipe, dear :)

PB cookies look fantastic! Little Hema must have had a blast, and the results are tempting me now :)

Diane said...

Oh BOY can I relate. I am such a bad baker (although getting better slowly). I have had countless disasters involving improvising when baking. Let me just say - "Improvising does not work when baking." Oh, it works gloriously with savory foods. But butter, eggs, sugar and the like - their alchemy is a stubborn little cliquey thing that doesn't take well to new arrivals or changing up the mix. At any rate, these look great. If I get over my fear of baking I may try them.

Jennifer said...

I'll be keeping this for later!! Can't wait to try it. I love your narrative and I relate to it but in trying to make homemade yogurt. Someone told me to heat the oven, turn it down, then set the boiled milk inside overnight. They never told me to turn the oven off!! Of course, like your cookies that refused to budge, I had a nice milk cake of sorts and a pot to place in the dust bin!!

Anu said...

Fantastic! More reason to justify the ‘rustic’ now..! ;)
How's things in dear ol' Blighty?

FoodieFriend said...

Hehehe...nice to hear about the horrible baking experience you had....
Sometimes it's so much of fun to share such experiences...We could have a tag on this!
And you learnt from it! Thats what makes the difference..
I'm a new blogger and relatively new @ cooking so was just roaming around to look for recipes...
Nice visiting your blog.
Happy blogging!

Anu said...

Shyam,

Coincidence, indeed! I must have caught a whiff of your Tikkis or something… :)

And what a fantastic idea, combining red quinoa with them…! I’m always on the lookout for such inspiration for incorporating it in my meals; so thanks!

(Busy..? Haven't gotten to see more examples of your culinary prowess of late...:) )

Divya said...

Hey Shyam..I made this..check this out!!
http://divyascookbook.blogspot.com/2008/07/last-weekend-was-boring-one.html

HP said...

I discovered a wonderful variation on this recipe by accident. I used bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) instead of baking powder (since I store them in similar jars). The result was a peanut cookie with the texture of naan kataai. Was quite divine and the batch disappeared in no time.