When I came home this year for Thanksgiving, I had one mission to complete—return with large amounts of baked goods. In college apparently, one of the biggest commodities is the ability to produce and deliver home-baked, (or at least hand-baked), goods. As it turned out, the week following Thanksgiving was ‘reading week’ or the ‘dead’ week that precedes finals. The calm before the storm. The sweet before the bitter. Life before death. I had my mission and four days to complete it. And as any good mission entails, there were obstacles.
A plane ride and an El ride were the aforementioned obstacles—not easy when a suitcase and a couple extra pounds of baked goods join along on the ride.
Imagine a little college-aged kid, coming out of Midway airport with a large duffle in the chilly Chicago winter. Now add a train platform and two paper bags full of Oreo cheesecake bars, caramel toffee brownies, and Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. Of course, no one knew what these two shopping bags contained but even if they did, not many El riders are happy when you and your luggage take up the isle and a couple seats.
The El from Midway to school is…a voyage. Transfers, underground tunnels, tight escalators, smudged-glass escalators, tunnels traversing underneath streets lined with 70s-era mosaics in avocado greens and burnt oranges—and all of this ends on a old wooden train platform with weeds still growing out of the support posts in early December.
Not to exaggerrate, but the ride back to school brushes close to being an epic journey. Thankfully though, like any good transportation crossroads, the El stop at school is the hub of numerous coffee bars and bakeries.
Now how does this relate to Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies? How down this long tale come around? Well, while taking a break from moving, I stopped in a favorite bakery with my rolling duffel and bags of baked goods. Taking a cup of coffee, I sat down to admire the display case only to realize that one of the items in my bags, the Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, were far and above more delicious than anything before me. I knew that these cookies, without even sampling the pastries offered in front of me, were the most buttery, rich, crumbly, flaky, sweet, nutty, chocolaty…. item up for consumption.
Even if one doesn’t like peanut butter, these cookies are still for you. They are, unquestionably, the most delicious cookie I have ever made. And they sure as hell make a train ride back to school, and on towards finals, a little bit better.
Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies (epicurious.com)
Makes 16 large cookies or eight large sandwich cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup softened, unnatural peanut butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
A pinch kosher salt
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups (16 oz.) semisweet and/or bittersweet chocolate chunks and bits
1. Cream softened butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter until combined, and then add in the vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Mix until blended. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and mix in the chocolate chunks to the dry ingredients.
2. Add the dry ingredients and chocolate mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for 36 hours. It’s a long time, yes, so the estimated yield factors in the loss of a little cookie dough over the 36 hour chill.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with the oven racks set in the middle. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Scoop two tablespoon-sized cookie dough ball and round into spheres. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and squish the cookie dough balls down until ¾ of an inch thick. Place cookie dough balls two inches apart. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until lightly golden, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Let cool completely before filling. Goes great with milk.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup softened, unnatural peanut butter
1. Begin around 12 hours before baking cookies. Heat heavy whipping cream on a stovetop or in a microwave until boiling. Pour over chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave-proof container. Let stand until chocolate is softened and then whisk together until all the lumps are gone. Bring to room temperature or until spreadable before assembling cookie sandwiches.
1. Take about one to two tablespoons chocolate peanut butter ganache and spread on the bottom of eight cooled cookies. Place cookie pair on top and twirl until ganache is evenly distributed. Goes great with milk.