Recipe, photography and styling by Tanya Zouev.
Every now and then I get an overwhelming urge to cook something from my personal list of illicit foods, the things reserved for “now and then”. Food that I rarely eat but enjoy when I do. The plain and simple reason for this is that if I allowed myself to indulge these cravings regularly I would probably become the size of a double garage. And whilst I’m hardly what you’d call skinny, having the silhouette of a garage is not a particularly appealing concept to me.
Peanut butter resides on that list of almost-forbidden foods along with a string of others which include creamy-cheesy pastas (think spaghetti quattro formaggi), triple chocolate mousse cake and those hot chips from The Snag Stand with truffle aioli that leave all other hot chips for dead (and probably one’s heart as well). So one day a few weeks ago I had a hankering for peanut butter on something, but wasn’t entirely sure of what. I wanted sweetness, chocolate and salt, all together, and it had to be something crunchy.
Just briefly, whilst we are on the subject of sweetness, chocolate and salt, Michael Moss, an investigative journalist in the US spent four years researching the somewhat deadly combination of flavours which send us into bliss and make us want more. In fact he even described the sensation as “heated fat swimming over the tongue to send signals of joy to the brain”. Our opiate receptors get hit with the combination and boom! No wonder we’ve seen such a proliferation of salted caramel desserts in recent times. If you’re interested in reading his research further, his book Salt Sugar Fat explores the issue in great depth and provides some fascinating information.
Back to the recipe, I threw together batches of cookies made with different combinations of a variety of gluten-free flours to see what would happen. I finally arrived at a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter cookie that had just the right amount of crunch, sweetness and salt. These cookies are dark chocolate with chocolate chunks, crunchy peanuts, swirls of gooey peanut butter topped with flaked crystals of sea salt. The sort of cookie you want to dunk into a glass of cold milk or munch with a cup of tea. I’m just warning you here though, you won’t be able to stop at just one, they’re highly addictive. But don’t blame me, blame your opiate receptors. That would certainly make me feel better.
Makes approximately two dozen 5cm (2”) cookies. Prep time 20 mins, cooking time 25 mins.
1 cup raw sugar
110 grams (approx 3.8oz) room temperature butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped peanuts
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup crunchy unsalted peanut butter
salt flakes to sprinkle over
Preheat oven to 160˚C (350˚F).
1. Combine the flours, baking powder, cocoa and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla essence. Add the dry ingredients including the nuts and choc chips. Mix the egg with the grapeseed oil and add to the dry ingredients, stir to combine. Add the peanut butter then with a large spoon gently fold it through.
3. Using a tablespoon or a cookie scoop drop balls of dough onto a lined baking sheet and slightly flatten with your fingers.*
4. Bake for 25 minutes and allow cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets. They will be soft when they come out of the oven and will firm up when they cool.
5. Scatter salt flakes over cookies when cool if you love the salty-sweet combo.
* I really like using an Oxo cookie dough scoop for uniformity in my cookies, I know it’s a bit OCD but I love to measure out the dough this way.
Like much of my food styling in recent months, I prefer to let the food be the hero and use minimal props. I chose a board which I rescued out the trash in a hard rubbish council clean up that I painted dark walnut. The cloth is a vintage tea towel l dyed royal blue, the surface is a rescued timber coffee tabletop. The image has been lit with one Elinchrom flash in a soft box behind a scrim.