Do you like your cookies thick?
Thick or thin? Crumbly or curvy? Sturdy or soft? When Desserts Magazine contacted me to kitchen test Magic in the Middles, a recipe from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion - The Essential Cookie Cookbook, I thought it would be a straightforward review addressing the standard questions: Does the recipe work? Do you like the finished product? Would you bake these cookies again? Little did I know that through some of my own fine tuning on the fly, I would be happily asking myself these points twice - for two different cookies. The answers were incongruous: no, yes, and yes. Here's why:
Magic in the Middles is one of King Arthur Flour's old-time favorite cookie recipes. A chocolate and peanut butter creation which recalls an iconic candy classic and translates it into a baked good, the recipe is time consuming with multiple steps, which can be frustrating for the novice baker. Essentially two recipes (one for the chocolate dough, and one for the peanut butter filling tucked into that dough), you will need plenty of counter space, mixing bowls and stamina to perform the careful measurements and assembly-line production. These caveats are not reasons not to bake these crowd-pleasing treats - as long as you keep in mind that a little water, which isn't noted in the recipe, will go a long way toward moving along your batches of cookies from the oven to a serving platter.
The chocolate dough, though all ingredients were well incorporated, was remarkably thick and dry, too thick and dry to be properly shaped into the small cups meant to contain the peanut butter centers. After four attempts resulting in misshapen broken dough that ill concealed the peanut butter, I employed my old trick of desperation used when pie crust is too crumbly to work: don't be afraid to add incremental extra water, no matter what the recipe says. A fat-based dough will get tough if it is over handled, but it is usually over handled because it is too dry. I added two tablespoons of water, working it in with a wooden spoon.
It made a great difference. The dough was softer and pliable, like modeling clay, and considerably easier to shape, although surprisingly, my experimentation was not quite over. After assembling and arranging half the batch on a cookie sheet, I noticed the raw cookies heavily cracked along the edges after depressing them with the bottom of a drinking glass. Not knowing if this was to be expected, I added an additional two tablespoons of water to the remaining dough. This time, the dough was exceptionally soft and pliable, like pizza dough. Unable to form well-defined cups, I flattened the dough in one palm with the heal of the other to form a three-inch disc, gathering up the peanut butter filling by closing my fingers around it. It created a perfect seal. I worked through the assembly of the remaining cookies with ease and speed.
As expected, the slight moisture modifications produced two very different baked results, the first ones were substantial with dense peanut butter centers; the second ones, soft and delicate with thin veins of peanut butter. Both versions had their advocates and disappeared very fast. And, yes, I would bake them again. Both ways to please everyone. So, now I ask you. Have a look at the photos. Which would you prefer, thick or thin?
Magic in the Middles - From The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion - The Essential Cookie Cookbook - Copyright © 2004 - All Rights Reserved - Reprinted by permission
Reminiscent of a chocolate peanut butter cup candy (or a buckeye, if you’re into homemade candies), this recipe is one that’s been making the rounds for years. We guarantee these will disappear in a snap, whatever the audience—from hungry kids after a soccer game to your coworkers gathered around the office coffeepot.
Yield: 26 cookies ● Baking temperature: 375°F ● Baking time: 7 to 9 minutes
1 1/2 cups (61/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (11/2 ounces) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (31/2 ounces) granulated sugar (and extra for dipping)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2⅜ ounces) smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
F I L L I N G
3/4 cup (7⅛ ounces) smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
● Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
● To make the dough: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the egg, beating to combine, then stir in the dry ingredients, blending well.
● To make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.
● To shape the cookies: Break off about 1 tablespoon of the dough, make an indentation in the center with your finger, and press one of the peanut butter balls into the indentation. Bring the dough up and over the filling, pressing it closed; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
● Dip the top of each cookie in granulated sugar and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Grease the bottom of a drinking glass and use it to flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick.
● Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they’re set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cookie, 38 g): 171 cal, 9 g fat, 4 g protein, 7 g complex carbohydrates,13 g sugar, 2 g dietary fiber, 18 mg cholesterol, 98 mg sodium, 132 mg potassium, 37 RE vitamin A, 1 mg iron, 9 mg calcium, 62 mg phosphorus, 6 mg caffeine.