Who can believe that August is already here?? Yikes..it seems like spring was only yesterday and now the stores are advertising “Back to School” sales and I’m trying to get in the mindset for Christmas. Lest I come across as one of those Überorganized people who plan vacations, parties and social events two seasons ahead let me dispel that myth right now…The reason I’m already thinking about Christmas is to update my “Holiday Cookies” class and put together a new batch of tasty morsels to share with guests. My friend Parker on the other hand is one of those people born with the near-freakish ability to organize EVERYTHING in nearly everyway. When I met her and her husband in one of my classes back in February they were already planning their annual Halloween bash! I on the other hand was just trying to make it through the month of February and figured I had until October 30th to plan what I’m doing on Halloween….maybe October 22nd if i wanted to be ahead of schedule.
I must admit it’s pretty cool to wake up and say “hmm…guess I’ll spend the workday testing cookie recipes”. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend the workday! It’s all fun and good until you start working on your 4th recipe in a row (tasting ingredients, tasting dough, and then of course the finished product) and your teeth are feeling like they’re going to crumble out of your mouth like a scene from a Saturday morning cartoon.
That’s exactly the reason I invited some friends to the cooking school this past weekend to be my “guinea pig” cookie testers. It’s a win-win as I see it…they get to “play” in the kitchen for the day and go home with an array of cookies. I get their feedback on ease of preparation and get multiple recipes tested at once.
The overall favorite of the day was my own creation (said with pride but not boastfully!) which I call a “Pay Day Cookie”. My original idea came from a cookie I recalled making once upon a time which featured crushed up potato chips mixed into the dough. The concept behind it I suppose was the contrast of sweet and salty (or someone trying to use up the last of the potato chips crumbles they couldn’t bear to throw out). I decided to play up the sweet/salty combo by incorporating salted peanuts and some peanut butter to underscore the peanut flavor. After testing that round the ol’ tastebuds decided they needed a bit more sweetness to balance out the salty components.
Originally I tried wrapping the dough around a chocolate and caramel Rolo® candy. Nah…didn’t like that method. I thought the doughballs were too big to wrap around the candy without creating a cookie built for two (and who wants to share?). Plus, once the candy was baked and cooled it had a tendency to become a bit chewy. For a moment I considered leaving it that way and approaching the manufacturer’s of Poli-Grip with the idea of using it as package marketing and promotion. I can see the advertisements now…”Martha Ray, denture wearer and avid cookie eater” (picture Martha Ray with her teeth stuck in a big gob of gooey caramel). Ok, maybe not. The final thought was to use Kraft® brand caramel bits (like mini caramel chips) in the dough so that there’s a taste of caramel but not so concentrated they’re hard to eat. Voila! One bite and the combination of peanuts, caramel, and potato chips conspired to taste just like eating a Pay Day® candy bar! Yeah…I know the candy bar doesn’t have potato chips but maybe it should…..
They managed to get through six recipes for me in about 3 hours but there’s still more testing to be done….any volunteers?
“Pay Day” Cookies
The salty & sweet combination of crushed potato chips, salted peanuts, and caramel bits makes these cookies taste like you’re eating a “Pay Day” candy bar. The caramel bits should be available in the baking section of the store with the chocolate chips. Make plenty because they can be addictive!
Yield: 3 dozen
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
4-5 cups crushed plain potato chips, divided use
1 cup salted Spanish peanuts
1 cup Kraft® Caramel Bits (usually available at Wal-Mart)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place peanut butter and softened butter in a mixer bowl and cream until fluffy. Add both sugars and cream until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix until blended.
Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Mix with a dry whisk or spatula to thoroughly mix. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until dough comes together. Once dough has formed, add 2 cups of crushed potato chips, peanuts, and the caramel bits and mix just until incorporated into dough.
Drop dough in tablespoon size balls (or use medium cookie scoop) into remaining crushed potato chips and roll to coat exterior of dough balls. Place dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 16-18 minutes, or until cookies are light golden on the edges. Cool completely and store at room temperature in a tightly sealed storage container.