Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Peanut Butter Muffins

To continue the peanut butter theme this month, I now turn to a recipe booklet produced by the venerable Everett Cooperative Preschool, where yours truly got her academic start nigh these 35 years ago. It is hard to imagine a booklet less likely to come home with any school-aged child today. For one thing, there’s an entire section devoted to goodies made with peanut butter. For another, there’s the unselfconscious reliance on snacks made with corn syrup, margarine and canned biscuits – sometimes in the same recipe. (Rad.) But these “flaws,” coupled with the fact that the recipe booklet was clearly typed on a typewriter and is riddled with typos – both grammatical and cooking-related – make it pure Time Capsule fodder.

Lining the muffin tins is fun for all ages.
There are more than a few things wrong with these muffins, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, the thing that is totally right. Muffins really are a great thing to make with a preschooler. Fortunately, I have one, and he helped line the muffin tins, stir the dry ingredients and mix the wet and dry together, all the while adding little bon mots that make this age so great: “They’re going to love these Mom!” or “Oh, I can’t watch!” when I spilled some batter out the side of the tin.

And now, a few caveats. First, the recipe wants you to pour the hot melted margarine/peanut butter combo into the beaten eggs – which is a sure recipe for something, all right: Peanut butter scrambled eggs. Be sure to let this mixture cool down first.

The original recipe also fails to inform you when you should add the 2 T. of sugar. I chose to do so with the dry ingredients.

Do NOT add this hot mixture to your eggs!
Next, the recipe states to bake the muffins at 425-degrees for 25 minutes. I thought both the temperature and cooking time seemed excessive (and a quick look in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook confirmed my suspicions) so I took it down by 25 degrees and 5 minutes (for standard-size muffins).  I’m glad I did, because they were nicely browned in 20 minutes.

Combining wet and dry.
I am willing to overlook a wide variety of eccentricities – in recipes and in life – if the payoff is worth it. In this case, it isn’t. The peanut butter taste is so faint as to be almost non-existent. In fact, if I didn’t know PB was the star ingredient, I would guess it was a browned butter muffin, and not in a good way.

This recipe harkens back to a time when it was okay to feed your kid bland, “safe” food. The irony being, of course, that peanut butter is on the top of many, many kids’ unsafe lists today.

It is always fun baking with my son. A while back, he coined the term “pupcakes” to describe cupcakes or muffins made in our mini-muffin tin. To hear him refer to these Peanut Butter Muffins in such a sweet way made trying this recipe worthwhile. But there are so many delicious and equally easy muffin recipes out in the world, I grant you a pass on these.

Peanut Butter Muffins (with original typos!)
2 c. sifted flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Talbespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup chunky style peanut butter
1 cup milk

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into mixing bolw; make well in center. Beat eggs till foamy. Melt margarine and peanut butter in small saucepan; add to eggs; stir in milk. Pour into well in flour mixture; stir lightly and quickly, just till moistened. (Batter will be jumpy.) Pour into greased muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake at 425-degree oven 25 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 10-12.

·      The recipe does not specify, so I used skim milk. If you’re going to give these a go despite my warnings, I suggest trying something richer.
·      Bake standard muffins at 400-degrees for 20 minutes; check mini-muffins after 10.

"Mama" muffin and her "pupcakes."
Why Don’t You …
·      Stick around while I try more of these preschool recipes? I can’t wait to get to the inappropriately titled “Pizza Wackers,” and the unreal-sounding “Raspberry Delight” which features Jello and melted ice cream.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

A classic combination: Cookies & Milk!
My sister-in-law Jess is an enviable woman: beautiful, intelligent, kind and classy. She won my family over immediately, including my notoriously slow-to-warm daughter (now her biggest fan), with her easy-going charm. We were thrilled when she became my brother’s missus last year

Yes, to look at her she’s the total package. But then you’d learn, as we eventually did, of her one tragic flaw. You see, Jess cannot stand the mouthwatering, beloved, classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

Look at all these name brands!
I know. You’re thinking: “Throw her over!” Not like chocolate and peanut butter together? It’s downright un-American, isn’t it? Disturbing in the extreme.

Like in-laws the world over, I’m hoping to fix Jess. If the Time Capsule can cure me of my snobbery toward Cool Whip and margarine, surely it can help Jess overcome her dislike of one of the world’s great – dare I say ultimate – flavor duos. And so, in honor of her birthday later this month, I pay tribute to my sweet sister-in-law with these delicious cookies that any sane person without a nut allergy would be, well, nuts not to love.

You'll want to eat the batter at this stage ...
These Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies are included on a recipe card with eight other delights that I hope will soon make their Time Capsule debut. I’d date the insert to the mid-‘80s based on the package design of the featured ingredients, among them Nestle Toll House Morsels and Peter Pan Peanut Butter (peanutty!).

Easy and quick, these need little updating. Next time, I would add the entire package of chocolate chips and try not to eat as much of the batter. It’s dangerous, and now you’ve been warned. If you have more willpower than I do, you’ll discover a cookie bursting with peanut flavor and crunch, and ooey-gooey melted chocolate.

... and this one ...
Before posting this entry, I texted my brother one last time to confirm that things hadn’t changed since I saw them last at Christmas – Jess still disliked peanut butter and chocolate. He replied in the affirmative and added, “it is her most annoying trait!” But some things in life are more important than dessert. So if this remains Jess’s most annoying trait, than my brother is indeed a lucky man. He and Jess go together like, well, peanut butter and chocolate.

... and this one.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1-1/4 cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour
¾ measuring teaspoon baking soda
½ measuring teaspoon baking powder
¼ measuring teaspoon salt
¾ cup Peter Pan creamy peanut butter
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ measuring teaspoon vanilla extract
5 measuring tablespoons milk
1 egg
One 6-ounce package (1 cup) Nestle Semi-Sweet Real Chocolate Morsels
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Use an ice-cream scoop for portioning.
·      I am loyal to Jif peanut butter, no matter what the recipe says. I am also loyal to real vanilla extract. No imitation here! (I’ll save that for the margarine and Cool Whip!)
·      I baked these on Silpats – those silicone baking sheet liners.
·      Don’t you agree it’s a little irresponsible of this recipe to insist on putting the word “measuring” before all of the smaller measurements, than totally disregard that emphasis when it comes to the larger quantities? Me too.

So delicious! Are you listening Jess?!?
Why Don’t You …
·      Use crunchy peanut butter and save a step?
·      Enjoy these while enjoying another classic combination: Cagney & Lacey? Mulder & Scully? Tango & Cash?