Peanut butter and chocolate. Such a tried and true pair. Familiar, but somehow always still exciting because it’s jut such a perfect match. I was looking for something delicious to send in my Valentine’s Day packages to friends, but was worried about making anything too buttery knowing they would be traveling to either coast in non-refrigerated boxes for two to three days. My search took me around the usual online haunts, through the dessert archive of Pinterest, and then to one of my recipe notebooks where I clip and paste recipes that pique my interest from various magazines and newspapers. Call it antiquated, but it’s tactile and I like that in a hobby after spending so much time reading online all day. These notebooks of mine are pretty meticulous and organized, probably a lot like the famed fastidious journalings of Lewis and Clark…only minus the colonialism.
While looking through my dessert journal, I came across a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookie and while I was sure they’d be delicious, I worried they’d be too soft to mail. Note: if you’ve never made or consumed a flourless cookie or cake, the result is usually that the main flavor is much bolder and richer, while the texture of the food is more delicate, moist and chewy. Meaning, flourless desserts are amazing, they’re just not the most conducive to being handled by the USPS.
To combat the problem, I kept the cookies flourless as written, but added bulk to them with large chunks of dark and bittersweet chocolate. I also made them fairly large and avoided flattening them much in order to keep the cookies sturdy enough to travel, but still soft and chewy enough that they feel luscious and over-the-top. It also helps to not cook these for long. Mine were in and out of the oven in 8 minutes exactly and while that might seem like a short time for such big cookies, you don’t want to go further or the texture will get too crispy and you won’t get that dense, gooey bite you’re looking for when making something flourless. Use a timer, for sure.
While these cookies certainly aren’t any kind of “health food,” they are gluten-free (so long as your peanut butter is unopened or has never seen a knife that just spread jelly on bread containing flour) and use no butter or white sugar. I’ll admit that I normally wouldn’t bother making a dessert that met all three of these qualifications simultaneously, but my faith in peanut butter and chocolate convinced me this was the path to go and I’m one awesome recipe better for it. These are total keepers.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Yields approximately 30 cookies
2 cups of chunky peanut butter
2 cups of light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
12 ounces of dark and/or bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped
Note: You can certainly use chips here, but you won’t get that streaky pattern in the cookies or the melty blobs from the bar. The stabilizers in chocolate chips prevent this. Also, I chopped and threw in a few Hershey’s miniatures “Special Dark” bars because they were the last to go in our bag from Valentine’s Day. Someone – not me – ate all of the Mr. Goodbar and Krackle leaving only the bland stuff behind. Ahem.
With a handmixer, beat the peanut butter and the brown sugar together until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, the baking soda, the salt, and the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Stir in chopped chocolate by hand with a spoon, so as to not pulverize the chunks. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours. You can make this dough up to 3 days in advance, so long as it’s wrapped well. At this point, it’s also freezable.
When you’re ready to bake off your cookies, preheat the oven to 350° and line or grease two cookie sheets. Using a 2-inch cookie scoop or 2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie, drop rounded balls of dough onto the sheets leaving approximately 2 inches between cookies. Fill the baking sheets and then go back and gently flatten the top of each mound with your fingers. This will help the cookies level off, but keep their structure. Bake for 8 minutes – no more than 10 if you want a slightly crispier edge – or until the edges are lightly browned and the center is barely set. The chocolate in the center of the cookie might seem only barely melted, depending on the size of the chunks. This is ok, as they will continue to melt a little as they sit. Allow cookie to sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 more minutes.
When cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week. You can freeze the baked cookies, too. When eating cooled and stored cookies, feel free to bring them back to “just baked” stage with a quick 5-10 second zap in the microwave.