December 11, 2008
Okay, people, let’s hear it: how are you holding up? Is cookie fatigue setting in? I mean in your own kitchens, though I suppose you could catch a slight case of cookie fatigue just from hanging around here this week. First it was pistachio-dried cherry cookies and then it was chocolate-espresso snowcaps. And now it’s these peanut butter pinwheels, which—let me tell you—nearly gave me cookie fatigue and them some. In fact, it had me ready to throw in the spatula.
Thankfully, I recovered and the confections will continue to emerge from the oven. But for a short time on Sunday, when I made these stripey cookies, it was dicey. You see, I committed the cardinal sin of cooking/baking: I didn’t read the recipe through before baking the cookies. There, I said it.
Before you revoke my home baker license, at least let me give you the grizzly details. I was already two batches of cookies (the aforementioned pistachio-cherry and chocolate-espresso lovelies) in for the day when I intrepidly embarked on the third. I let some dark chocolate melt in a steamy glass bowl set over a pot of gently bubbling water. I swirled in some chunky peanut butter, creating a more American version of Nutella that took all my willpower not to spoon directly into my mouth, cookies be damned. Next, I went to cream the butter and sugar, as instructed by the recipe …
But with a sinking feeling, I realized that the recipe did not list butter among the ingredients. And while I had sticks of the stuff waiting in the wings, I had No Idea how much to use. So, first, I used too little (one stick, hoping the recipe’s author was all about nice, neat amounts). I ended up with a raggedy dough more reminiscent of confetti than of a supple ball that could be rolled into a broad, smooth surface.
So I did the only reasonable thing and threw in another stick of butter, because, well, I was getting a little hysterical. The dough came together but it was very sticky. Which made it difficult to press into a 12-by-8 inch rectangle. And tricky to slather with that heavenly peanut buttery melted chocolate. And nearly impossible to roll up, sleeping bag-style, into a slice-able log. There were some clenched jaw moments, a few Blago-esque profanities and perhaps even a foot stamp. Nothing like the holidays to bring out the best in me!
But, you know what? They kinda worked. Sure, I’d envisioned perfectly round disks, swirled with a psychedelic spiral of chocolate, and instead got squashed oval things. But don’t we all like our Christmas cookies to have a bit of a homespun edge?
So the moral of the story is that the recipe below—at least in terms of the butter—is an approximation. Because I’m certain that one stick is too little butter, and I’m pretty sure that two sticks is too much (though I think the two sticks business might have worked better had I quickly rolled the dough into a rectangle and then chilled that before slathering it with chocolate and rolling). My guess is that 1 1/2 sticks would be perfect (it’s what we scientists call the “Goldilocks Approach.” Who’s up for a little holiday experimentation? If you try this out, do let us know how it goes!
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pinwheels
6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter [I used natural peanut butter and it worked well]
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature [UPDATE: see Ellen's comment below. 2 sticks it is.]
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, and remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into egg mixture and beat until combined well.
Halve dough and roll out each half between sheets of wax paper into a roughly 12- by 8-inch rectangle. Remove top sheets of wax paper (if they stick too much, chill dough briefly to firm up slightly) and divide chocolate filling between rectangles, spreading it in an even layer. Tightly roll up each rectangle jelly-roll fashion, beginning with a long side and using wax paper as an aid, to form a 12-inch log. Wrap rolls in wax paper and then foil. Chill rolls until firm, at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Working with 1 roll at a time (keep remaining roll chilled), cut rolls crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and arrange slices 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in batches in middle of oven until pale golden and set, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer warm cookies to racks to cool.