I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. It is a quaint little place when the economy is good, but aside from my most favorite ‘grinder’ sandwiches from our local Italian restaurant, you could hardly call it a ‘culinary draw’ to any real food enthusiast. In my youth, we grew up on chicken tenders and frozen pizza from the Schwann Man, and pretty much streamlined Diet Coke and sugar drinks.
I started baking because of my sisters. They would always bake for their boyfriends, and like the perfect kid sister, I would annoy them until they let me help. Needless to say, we didn’t have cookbooks from any culinary greats. There was no internet for research or Amazon to check reviews. Instead, we had Betty Crocker cookie collections that my mom probably got from my grandmother.
Any chance I got, I poured through them. Any ‘candy making’ pamphlet I came across, I saved. Even as a kid, I didn’t just want to make cookies for fun. I wanted to produce cookies, candies and cakes. I wanted them to be bakery quality and I couldn’t wrap my brain around the who/what/when/where/why to make that happen.
I’m also my father’s daughter, a total people pleaser. So when I packaged my first set of cookies for a friend and they loved the gesture, it became a global crusade to get EVERYONE cookies. It became a personal tradition, the night of Thanksgiving, that I would go to the 24 hour grocery store and load up on $200 worth of baking ingredients. I would bake all through the weekend and ship out boxes to loved ones that Monday morning. It became an obsession. Why make one person’s day when you can make the day of 15 friends!? 30 friends!? A college campus of friends!?After college it escalated further. One Christmas, I worked in a call center at our local phone company and brought in ginormous cookie platters enough to feed 200 people! NUTS.
When I moved to LA for acting and comedy after college, I would always bring treats to class. One cookie in particular was a hit with everyone, but especially my friend Jacole. It came from one of these old school books that was actually called The Favorite Brand Name Cookie Collection. These cookies were called Peanut Butter Secrets. MAGICAL.
Why were they special? Why were they a secret??? Because not only were they a peanut butter cookie with chocolate on top… but they had peanut butter cups INSIDE!!! I KNOW!!!
Well, the initial recipe called for Butter Flavor Crisco and we already know how I feel about man made or chemical products in baking. So I updated it and made a more ‘from scratch’ and dare I say, a bit more ‘gourmet’ version. It’s one of my all time favorite cookies!
Tip: I use an ice cream or cookie scoop to get out the dough. Then I push a peanut butter cup into the scoop and cover the rest with what has squished out. Much faster. 🙂
CHOCOLATE! PEANUT BUTTER! SEA SALT! I think the secret to these adapted cookies was in finding a decent peanut butter cookie recipe and using quality peanut butter cups. The sprinkle of salt, doesn’t hurt either. 😉
Anyway, for my JacoleyPoo, my honey and for countless other lovers of peanut butter and chocolate… This one’s for you. xoxo
1 c. butter
1 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
36-44 high quality peanut butter cups
1/2 c. salted nuts, chopped (for sprinkling)
1 T sea salt flakes (for sprinkling)
3/4 c. heavy cream
1- 11 oz. package of bittersweet chocolate chips
1 T honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
With a mixer, beat together butter and both sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Add peanut butter. Beat well.
Add dry ingredients.
When mixed thoroughly, scoop out a tablespoon of dough and wrap around each peanut butter cup.
Place on baking tray with parchment and bake for 8-12 minutes. (These cookies continue to bake and set on the tray, so as soon as you see a whiff of brown on top, take them out immediately. Or even a little bit sooner!)
To make ganache:
On medium heat, scald the cream in a small saucepan. Add the chips and let sit for five minutes. Whisk together. (If there are any lumps still in the chocolate, turn the saucepan on low and whisk continuously until the mixture is smooth).
Stir in honey and allow to cool 15 minutes.
Frost each cookie with ganache by dipping tops in chocolate or using a spatula. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and sea salt.
*If you can’t find dark brown sugar, you can use a cup of light brown sugar and 2 T of molasses.
*I use Skippy or Jiff peanut butter. Organic Trade Joe’s ‘almond butter’ style peanut butter cannot be substituted in recipes.
*I use Ghirardelli bittersweet chips and LOVE Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
*If you can’t find specialty peanut butter cups, Reeses are fine, too!