Saturday, January 12, 2008

Vegan peanut butter sandwich cookies

Before I talk about the amazing food I had on a recent trip to New Orleans, here is another one of the cookie recipes I promised.

I still can't get over this vegan cake recipe. It's so simple, so versatile, and soooo delicious. I've tried many different types of flavorings (including chocolate, green tea, and coconut) using the same basic recipe, and the cake always turns out moist and light yet full-flavored. I'm convinced that the secret is in the vinegar. Not only does the vinegar react with baking soda to produce the leavening, but the acid prevents the flour from forming gluten, which would make the cake hard and dense. It's an effective method for preventing doorstop syndrome, which victimizes countless vegan desserts every year.

Anyway, I've recently been experimenting with adapting the recipe for cookies, and they've turned out beautifully. All it really takes is reducing the water to 1/3-1/2 cup instead of the 2/3 cup for the cake. Using the chocolate cake recipe and reducing the water to 1/3 cup produces chocolate cookies which are incredibly fudgey and chewy with a crisp, caramelized outer crust, and the following recipe produces peanut butter cookies which are nice and crunchy but still kind of soft and fluffy in the middle - great for sandwich cookies.

I like it better than non-vegan peanut butter cookies because the lower sugar content and lack of butter makes them lighter and puts the focus on pure peanut flavor. I actually like to use roasted peanuts which are slightly salted to bring out the flavor even more (in which case you can reduce the extra salt in the recipe). Another thought was to use honey-roasted peanuts - it sounds good but I haven't tried it yet! And, of course you can omit the icing, but they do make excellent sandwich cookies.

My vegan cookie experimentation has been so fun and tasty, I'm on a mission now to veganize all of my favorite recipes.

Time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup crushed peanuts (optional)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 tbs vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicone sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and crushed peanuts (if desired). Add the wet ingredients and beat until evenly incorporated. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between scoops. A cookie scoop comes in very handy here to make uniform scoops so they fit together for the sandwiches. Flatten scoops of dough slightly with a fork.

3. Bake for 6-8 minutes, depending on desired crispness. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack or platter.

4. While cookies are baking, combine filling ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well-blended. When cookies are completely cool, assemble sandwiches by spreading a small amount of filling on the flat sides of half of the cookies with a butter knife or offset spatula. Sandwich with the other halves.

: spread a small amount of your favorite jelly on the second half of the sandwiches to make vegan PBJ cookies!

These cookies keep for at least two weeks in an airtight container.