Hello, everyone! How are all of you doing? We have survived another week of the pandemic. As I mentioned in my last post, I am adapting my cooking to the times, trying to make nutritious meals out of readily-available ingredients, and when it comes to desserts, making simpler treats that don’t take too much time and can be made in small batches, such as the peanut butter blossom cookies below.
During these tumultuous times, there is so much uncertainty around us, it can be truly hard to not worry about when things will go back to normal, or worry about the effect the pandemic has worldwide. I find comfort in three things. The first is knowing that humans have always found a way to survive and overcome some very, very tough events in history, from plagues to wars to tragedy to massive changes in the economy, so while things may not look promising right now, I trust in our resiliency and that we will come out on the other side of this stronger together. The second thing I find comforting is connection. A huge silver lining of the past few weeks has been receiving phone calls and messages from friends and family from all corners of the United States and from all over the world. I found myself laughing when chatting with a friend and smiling contentedly after reading messages from some of my closest friends from my high school years. The power of connection and friendship is greater than any challenges. It can remind us of the beauty of life and the wonder of being human, no matter how difficult life may be.
Lastly, I find comfort in the humble quotidian moments that make up our daily lives. Many of the things we do each day are pretty ordinary and mundane, things like sending emails from a laptop, washing the dishes, making the bed, doing laundry, helping little ones get dressed, and prepping meals. The pace of my life during the pandemic has definitely slowed down for me, so a part of me has tried to stay busy to avoid unnecessary worrying or feeling like it’s too quiet out there in the world and on the street. What happened is that somehow I started being more mindful in my tasks and found that in these trivial moments, I discovered that everything is important because it forms the fabric of our lives, stitch by stitch, hour by hour, and these everyday tasks make up a huge proportion of how we assign our time. Even if life is slower than before we all had to stay at home, life still has a lot of meaning, even in the small moments and brief encounters that are punctuating our lives during the pandemic.
Baking During the Pandemic
Luckily baking is a constant in my life, a hobby that I dearly love that also brings me much calm and serenity and a time to think of nothing but the task I have in front of me. The biggest challenge has been to cook and bake things that are appropriate to the times we are facing. My list of recipes for the month of April was going to include an elderflower citrus cake for Easter, lavishly-decorated European chocolate eggs, and a glazed ham. Without the possibility of gathering, we have postponed our Easter celebration, and I have switched my recipes like the one here below so that they are simpler, less wasteful, and adapted to smaller portions.
Peanut butter blossoms are a classic of American cookies. They are soft, nutty, and chewy and have a crackly, sugary crust, and are embellished with a solid milk chocolate kiss. It is a perfect combination of sweetness, saltiness, peanut butter, and chocolate. If you have kids, this is also a great recipe for them to help out. They can be the ultimate comfort of a tried-and-true classic and that is much needed when everything around us feels like it can change. Hope you enjoy them, and as always, let me know how you are braving these times.
Note for people outside the United States: if you don’t have access to peanut butter, or it’s too expensive, it might be easier and more affordable to find peanuts and make your own homemade peanut butter. It’s not difficult, it’s just an additional step. To make about 1½ cup of peanut butter, you would need 16oz of raw, shelled peanuts, ¼ tsp salt, 1-2 tbsp oil (if you have peanut oil, that would be best), and 2 tbsp honey. All you would have to do is roast the peanuts on a cookie sheet, placed in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes. The peanuts will bake until golden brown and glossy with the shimmering oil. Then transfer the roasted peanuts to a food processor fitted with a blade and pulse a few times until chopped. It’s ok to pulse the peanuts while still warm. Then run the blender continuously for 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the blender’s bowl and process continuously for 1 more minute. The butter will start clumping together. When you see this, you will need to process for 1 more continuous minute. After all of these steps, the peanut butter will be glossy, soft, and very thick. Add the salt, oil, and honey, and process for an additional 1-2 minutes. It can be as smooth or as chunky as you like, but smooth peanut butter is best for this recipe. The peanut butter can be stored in a jar and refrigerated. Lastly, if you don’t have access to Hershey’s chocolate kisses, which are very popular in the United States but I’m not sure if they are available elsewhere, you could use jumbo-sized chocolate chips as a substitute.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Makes 14 cookies
Prep time: 20 min.
Chill time: 30 min.
Cook Time: 10 min.
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup softened butter
- ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 egg, beaten (3 tbsp for use)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup + ¼ cup + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ cup sugar for rolling
- 14-18 chocolate kisses
- In a large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, white sugar, softened butter, and peanut butter. Whisk vigorously for 1 or 2 minutes. The mixture should have a light consistency.
- Crack the egg in an individual bowl and whisk it. Use 3 tbsp of the beaten egg, adding it to the butter and sugar mixture. Save the remaining egg for another recipe. Add the vanilla extract to the peanut butter mixture. Beat until thoroughly mixed.
- Add flour, baking soda, and salt to the mixture. Beat together, scraping the sides of the bowl regularly, until no flour streaks remain in the mixture.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap it, and store in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. This will make for a softer, chewier cookie than if you skip this step.
- While the dough chills, unwrap 14 chocolate kisses and store in the refrigerator until using them.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. While the oven preheats, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the ¼ cup of granulated sugar in a small bowl. Place it near the cookie sheet, which will be your working area for assembling the cookies.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a spoon or a small ice cream scoop, measure about 1½ tbsp dough to form 1 cookie. Shape it into a ball and flatten it slightly. Repeat with remaining dough to make a total of 14 cookies.
- Once the cookies are shaped, roll each one of them in the granulated sugar and place them on the cookie sheet 2 inches apart from each other.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes at 375°F. You should see the tops cracking. If the is not cracked, the cookies are not done on the inside. Do not over-bake the cookies. They do not need to be a dark brown color.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately use the refrigerated chocolate cookies, pressing one on the top of each cookie. Enjoy! Preferably with a glass of cold milk.
Note: This is a small batch recipe that makes only 14 cookies. However, if your household has only 2 or 3 people, 14 cookies may still be way too many to eat in one or two days. You can always use half of the dough to bake a smaller batch of 6-7 and leave the remaining dough covered in a plastic wrap or Ziploc bag in the refrigerator. The dough can last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. The baked cookies can last another 4 days if stored a tin or airtight container.