Guys, I gotta get going on my 30 before 30 list! My 20s are creeping away and this list isn’t getting any shorter. Yikes! But I must admit that it makes me feel pretty good when people who don’t know me at my university think I’m a student even though I’m a faculty librarian, and that one of my coworkers thought I was about 25 until I told her I was 29. Woohoo! But anyways. 30 before 30. Cookies. Let’s get to the point here.
I put sandwich cookies as one of my 30 before 30 goals because I can sometimes be a lazy baker. I love baking, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the extra steps in recipes that I often avoid. [The steps sometimes and the entire recipe itself at other times. Just depends!] Chilling the dough, making a glaze, making brown butter, etc. Sometimes those steps just seem a bit nonsensical especially when they’re coming from food bloggers who come across as a little too authoritative and bossy. [Yup, I said it. I hope I don’t sound that way to any of you!] There’s nothing that irks me more than extra steps that aren’t always necessary. I know that sometimes they are, but do you know what I mean? Let’s discuss, and I’ll try not to rant. I often skip glazes for muffins/quick breads because they really aren’t necessary and because we can’t eat the recipe fast enough so the glaze gets a bit yucky. And it seems like every single cookie recipe nowadays in the blog world asks you to chill the dough for 2 hours or overnight. Who has time for that? Not me! A quick 30 minute trip to the fridge works, but if you aren’t at home baking all day most people don’t have time for that on a weeknight when you just want some cookies!! And brown butter. Don’t get me started. Like salted desserts, it’s just a trend. A trend that I hate. Ehhh, maybe it takes the taste of butter up a notch but I’m not a big fan. For me, in the blog world, these steps amplify my annoyance when bloggers rail against the lazy [hello!] who want to skip the steps and thus [to the blogger] will ruin the recipe. Not true, my friends! The cookies may not be as soft, the bread may not be as sweet, the butter flavor may not be as nutty. But what you make will still be good. </endrant>
But whatev. People are entitled to their passions. Some things about the “professional” food bloggers just tick me off! [And I can go on, but I’ll stop now. I’m sure they’re nice people in real life!] Sandwich cookies. I’m getting a bit ADD today, obviously. Sandwich cookies sound good in theory but I’m often too lazy to make them. When I put them on my list, I envisioned making homemade Oreos or some kind of chocolate peanut butter goodness. When I saw these Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, I knew I had to try them. And I’m so glad I did, even if they were a ton of work.
Go back and reread that paragraph about my complaints against baking and bloggers who say you have to do xyz or your recipe will be ruined!!! Oh so dramatic. This recipe, ironically, is finicky. The peanut butter cookies aren’t your traditional easy recipe. They’re crumbly and have almost a shortbread texture. But they are super peanut buttery which totally makes up for the crumbly mess of dough you’ll have, and the fact that you have to bake them one sheet at a time because putting them on the bottom rack of the oven will burn them faster than you can say peanut butter. Ha. It’s true! If you want, you can skip this peanut butter cookie recipe and use your favorite. Just make them smaller than usual because mini sandwich cookies are so cute and pop-able.
Those shortbread-y peanut butter cookies are filled with a divine homemade dulce de leche!! Alas, it is a bit finicky too, but just time-wise. All you have to do is cook sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler [mine is homemade], stirring occasionally for an hour to two hours. It’s easy enough to do when you’re home reading or watching tv or doing whatever else, so long as you can head to the kitchen every 15 minutes or so to stir it up. I know there are lots of ways to make dulce de leche [here’s a summary] but this is the only one I’ve tried. Making it in the can scares me. No matter how you make it, the resulting sweet, syrupy, caramely filling is the perfect center for crunchy peanut butter cookies. They look impressive and taste amazing. I’m sure they’ll be a bit at your next party!
Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk [14 ounce can]
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together with a wooden spoon. A mixer can also be used. Then add egg, peanut butter, and vanilla and vigorously mix together until well combined. Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup increments until combined. Dough will be crumbly and should just hold together.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on a ungreased and cool cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork: first in one direction, then the perpendicular direction to form a crisscross pattern.
Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes or until just golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool. Allow the cookie sheet to cool to the touch before adding more cookie dough to it. Keep dough refrigerated between batches. Dough should yield approximately 60 small one inch cookies.
While cookies are baking, prepare dulce de leche. Pour sweetened condensed milk into the bowl of a double boiler. I used a homemade one. Basically, you’ll need a large metal or glass bowl that can sit on top of a pot of simmering water without touching the water. This bowl should seal the pot so no steam escapes, because the steam is what causes the cooking effect. For more details, see this tutorial. After sweetened condensed milk is in the bowl, heat double boiler to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The longer the milk cooks, the thicker it gets as it caramelizes. The milk turns to dulce de leche as it gets to be a darker, golden brown color. The original recipe says to only cook for an hour but mine was nowhere near done by then. It took a good two hours. Cover and refrigerate dulce de leche until completely cooled–I just refrigerated this overnight. A good test for telling when dulce de leche is done is to stick a small plate in the freezer after about an hour of cooking. Remove plate from freezer. Carefully spoon a teaspoon of dulce de leche onto the cold plate and then return to freezer. In five minutes, check the consistency of the dulce de leche. If it’s what you like, great! If not, keep cookin’.
When cookies and dulce de leche are completely cooled, match cookies up by size. Spoon just under a tablespoon of dulce de leche on the flat part of one cookie, then cover with another cookie. Place on a single layer on a serving plate or cookie sheet and refrigerate until set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.