There’s something really irresistible about the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I guess we can applaud those Reese’s folks for that one, but I have to think the addiction went back even farther than the humble peanut butter cup. Not being a nut person myself, I find I can usually make an exception with peanut butter, especially if it is paired with chocolate. I adore peanut butter cups, and peanut butter M&M’s are the bomb. (Surprisingly, I don’t like peanuts at all, but I will tolerate a handful of peanut M&Ms. Strange, I know. That’s just odd little ol’ me.)
This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment was the tricky-looking Peanut Butter Chocolate Whirligigs from Baked Elements. Having read on Baked’s blog not too long ago that one of Baked’s top testers found these challenging herself, I needed to take a pretty deep breath before attempting these, as they looked fussy from the get-go. I like a baking challenge, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never been fond of rolling things up, jelly-roll style, with gooey fillings inevitably oozing out and making a huge mess all over the place. If there is a choice between making a drop cookie and a rolled cookie, I go with the former nearly every time.
In an effort not to insult your intelligence, readers, I’m going to attempt not to go through the recipe step by step (as I have done with previous blogs) starting with this blog. Instead, when applicable, I’m simply going to tell you about my experience along the way and offer some tips or pointers I discovered. This recipe, in itself, is pretty lengthy and involved, and detailing my step by step process in this could generate a lengthy blog. I don’t want to bore you.
Basically, Baked’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Whirligigs are a slice and bake cookie, which can be the easiest and handiest type of cookie you can make. In essence, you make the dough, roll it into a log, and keep it in your freezer or fridge for a long time, slicing off and baking the cookies whenever you need them. The fanciful – and trickier – factor with this recipe is that you first must make a peanut butter cookie dough that needs to be very well-chilled in order to work with it. It was, I gotta confess, annoyingly rather soft; if you chill it good enough, you can work with it however. That being said, allow yourself some time to make these cookies – maybe even a couple days. You then roll the peanut butter dough out, slather it with rich and melty dark chocolate, then carefully roll it all up – with guidance from parchment paper – in cinnamon roll fashion. The tough part I encountered with this process was that, in addition to the soft dough tearing in spots, that luscious chocolate filling just kept pushing and spilling its way out as I slowly rolled it all up. Yes – if you are like me, there will be a few choice words uttered in your kitchen. Just be patient, slow, and careful. My second roll was much smoother than my first. Cut yourself some slack. The dough roll is chilled good until firm, then the cookies are sliced off and baked.
I was thankful for Matt’s note at the start of this recipe that the whirligigs should be “fun and whimsical” and each cookie should have its own personality. Setting up such a disclaimer is reassuring to perfectionist bakers like myself. As you will witness from my photos, the swirls in these cookies did not come out “perfect”. Sometimes – some might even argue that often – imperfection is beauty indeed. My mind – which typically would fret at this detail – was really able to relax and go with the rugged imperfection in these cookies this time around. I realized it was inevitable; the chocolate inside, when chilled, gets extremely firm and harder to slice into, pushing against the softer dough on the exterior, and in general, you might wind up with some misshapen cookies. You can manipulate the slices a touch with your fingers, if need be, before popping them in the oven. I liked the rusticity and whimsical quality of these cookies as they baked. You may be surprised how big they round out and puff up in the oven. I know that I was.
If you’re a chocolate and peanut butter fan, you will really appreciate these gems. If you don’t over-bake them too much, they should be slightly crisp, maybe tender in a few spots, with a firmer texture to the chocolate (once they are completely cooled) which fast melts in your mouth.
Many could argue that one should be altruistic to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and make these with milk chocolate; milk chocolate and peanut butter seem to be a perfect match. I personally like both. The recipe calls for dark chocolate, which I used – and I really appreciate the sharp, bittersweet taste of dark chocolate against the creamy, earthy peanut butter, but some folks may not like this contrast. If you’re one of them, by all means, give milk chocolate a try and let me know what you think. Milk chocolate will definitely produce a mellower and perhaps more balanced flavor palate against the peanut butter. When I make Ina Garten’s peanut butter chocolate chunk (drop) cookies (a favorite cookie with Jake and I), I usually use half Ghirardelli bittersweet and half Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips, because I like the combination of the two with the peanut butter. I couldn’t go completely milk chocolate; I have to have some dark in there to provide some sharpness. I like to get deep and dark with my chocolate, what can I say? (Share your opinion on this by voting in the confidential poll below!)
My end verdict on the whirligigs? They’re fun, they’re whimsical, and they delightfully pair two favorite flavors into one rustic and funky cookie. They would be fantastic milk dunkers… or delectable ice cream sandwiches with vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The work and slight fuss that go into them produces a nice payoff. I’m not certain I would make these all the time, but as with most things, I’m positive that practice would make them perfect over time. They would be a great summertime picnic cookie, and I have no doubt kids would go nuts over them (no pun intended).
*Unfortunately, shortly after posting my blog, I went to move a few things on my kitchen counter and knocked the container holding these cookies to the floor – totally smashed and in crumbs! So sad. These cookies, in other words, are brittle!
Here’s the link to Baked Sunday Mornings so you can attempt your own:
As always, please visit the blogs of my fellow BSM bakers to view and read about their wonderful whirligig creations! Thanks for reading and happy baking, friends!
Finally, just for fun… please vote in my poll and let me know what you think!