I lay awake at night, critiquing and organizing my favorite holiday treats. I want to bake all the right ones, and create Christmas traditions that run deep. I want Octave to say she has been eating her mama’s cinnamon rolls, peanut butter cookies, and biscotti, since her very first Christmas. I want her to remember that we didn’t have a Christmas tree, but rather a Christmas fort, because her daddy couldn’t bare to cut down a tree, and her mama would not settle for a fake one. A Christmas fort, because her mama used to beg her dad(bompa) to make her a fort every.single.day (he always did,) and because she still secretly wishes she could dwell in a whimsical fort, for the rest of time.
I don’t know why these things are so important to me, but the why is not as important as this very deep longing of mine. So this week, I am baking our memories. I believe those are the ones that last. Biscotti… baked, dipped, and eaten. Peanut butter cookies…baked and cooling. Cinnamon rolls…reserved for a play date tomorrow, and of course Christmas morning! Some people have a Christmas present check list. I have this.
We don’t have much to give Octave for Christmas, but I am so grateful for family and friends who have so generously sent us lovely gifts and treats for our little lady, we are truly so blessed. Gifts are really fun, and I am so excited to watch her open and delight in them. But this year and all the years to come, I am giving her baked memories, because those last forever.
Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 2 dozen
Recipe from Slate
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2-3 tbsp. cane sugar for coating
Favorite bar of chocolate if making blossoms (optional)
Coarse seat salt for garnish(optional)
A few important notes:
-When possible use the highest quality ingredients you can afford. For flour I love bob’s red mill or king arthur. For sugars I love wholesome sweeteners.
-Grass-fed, organic butter REALLY does make a difference, especially in cookies.
-You might be tempted to skip over almond extract, being as though it’s only a small amount and most people just keep vanilla in their cupboards. I can assure you, you don’t want to skip it. And if you don’t already have it, it is one of those you want around because it adds so much flavor to a lot of different treats.
-I used to tell myself “room temperature” was not very important in baking, mainly because I was just lazy. I have learned over time that it is indeed really important. The sugar and butter cannot cream together properly if the butter is too cold. Also, the egg is just as important. Adding a cold egg directly to the room temperature mixture will defeat the purpose, and affect the texture of the baked good.
-Around Christmas my mother always baked peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the center. However, knowing what I know about Hershey’s chocolate, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the kisses. My friend Jasmine told me I should just buy a bar of sustainable fair trade chocolate and break pieces off for the center. Brilliant, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. Either way, the cookies taste great alone or with the chocolate.
-For a healthier option you can replace the dark brown sugar for coconut palm sugar. You can also replace the white flour for spelt flour. I have made both versions a handful of times, and both turn out great.
In a stand mixer or with hand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Add peanut butter, egg, and extracts. Mix until smooth and creamy. In a small bowl mix together flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients while you are mixing. Mix until just combined. Let dough rest in the fridge for 2-3 hours(don’t skip.) Pre heat oven to 350. With a cookie scoop or tablespoon, evenly scoop dough into small balls. Roll in sugar and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Repeat with all cookies. Press fork into dough, both vertically and horizontally. If you are adding the chocolate don’t press the cookies, just leave them in their scoop and bake. Bake for 10-12 minutes. If adding chocolate, press a square of chocolate in each cookie upon taking them out of the oven. Once they are cooled they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, perfection!