The first dessert I ever made Thom was a batch of peanut butter cookies, delivered on the morning of Christmas Eve, back before we were anything more than coworkers who were somewhat attracted to one another. Those peanut butter cookies also happened to be the first thing I ever baked on my own so, as you can imagine, I was slightly nervous about handing them over to him. I was even more nervous when he opened the bag in front of me, pulled one out, and shoved it into his mouth because all I could think about was how terrible it would be if he thought they were awful. Thankfully, he thought they were the opposite of awful. In fact, he said they tasted exactly like the peanut butter cookies his Grandma Cassidy used to make. Cookies he hadn’t had since before leaving for the army, half a decade prior.
To this day I swear those cookies were the reason for our first date. Which wasn’t really a date. It was more of a Hey my friends and I do this thing at a truck stop every year on Christmas Eve and you should come. But I’m not going to give you my phone number because that would make it far too easy for you to back out. 11PM, there will be a big group of us. Show up if you want.
I almost didn’t. I drove around in my car, after family Christmas at my Oma and Opa’s, on the phone with one of my good friends (HI LIAM) (found you on the internets, you handsome thing!), waxing poetic about some random guy at work and how I wasn’t going to know anyone and LIAM. AM I OUT OF MY FUCKING MIND? He assured me I wasn’t and stayed on the other end until I parked my rusty 1992 Honda accord and got out. I hung up the phone, walked in (late) to a room full of strangers, and found Thom sitting in the back with the biggest grin on his face and that bag of peanut butter cookies on the table.
To this day, he says if I wouldn’t have showed up he probably wouldn’t have asked me on a real date. To this day I say if he hadn’t liked those peanut butter cookies, I wouldn’t have had the guts to show my face at the truck stop. And although these aren’t the cookies from his childhood (turns out recreating a vegan version is difficult when you forget to document the original recipe) (I tried eight times), peanut butter cookies in any form remind me of our humble beginning; of the days when we were both trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do with our lives and where we were going to make it happen. Little did we know, almost seven years later, we’d be living in Denver and I’d be planning our wedding while he cooks up the plans for post-nuptial travel. It’s kind of crazy and overwhelming to think back to where this all started, and I owe it – in part – to those peanut butter cookies. The ones that reminded him so much of his childhood.
Notes: If you don’t want to use spelt flour, all purpose unbleached flour will do the trick. Just the same, any gluten free flour (blend) will substitute well, but I prefer oat flour or this gluten free flour blend. If you prefer thin cookies, you can reduce the flour to 2/3 cup but they will be substantially thinner than the recipe below. Coconut oil is pretty crucial to this recipe so do not skip and use oils that are liquid at room temperature. You can use vegan butter in place of the coconut oil but I’ve been trying to minimize the use of it given its not-so-sustainable connection to the palm oil industry. If you prefer thick and chewy cookies, pull the cookies from the oven at the 12 minute mark and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes. If you’d prefer to omit the toppings, just flatten the cookies using the criss cross fork method. And if you want to mix the toppings into the dough, you can do that, too.
PS – Topping the cookies with pretzel pieces (in place of the peanuts) is also delicious. Just sayin’.
PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE-PEANUT TOPPING
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, solid
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the oil then stir in the almond milk. Cook just until the mixture is warm, but not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and sugar using a hand mixer on high speed, for 20-30 seconds. Add the almond milk mixture and the vanilla extract; beat for about 30 seconds, or until creamy. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix in the baking soda, sea salt, and flour just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes, although 12-24 hours is preferable to give the sugar adequate time to caramelize.
Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a 1/4 cup cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about 4 inches apart, then roll into balls. Mix the chocolate chips and peanuts in a small bowl and take about a tablespoon of toppings and smash them into the top of each cookie. You don’t want to completely flatten the cookies, but you want to flatten them until they’re 3/4-1″ thick. Transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill for 10 minutes. Bake at 350˚F for 14-15 minutes then allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer each cookie to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
Before transferring cookies to an air tight container for keeps, put them in the freezer for 10 minutes to solidify the chocolate chips. Cookies will keep in an air tight container for up to five days.
Yield: 8 big cookies