Nuts About Chocolate
Peanut butter, that quintessentially American sweet and salty spread, reigned supreme in my childhood diet, finding its way into my lunchbox in a thick layer between slices of soft white bread (sometimes with butter or with strawberry jam) or in melt-in-your-mouth cookies with the classic tic-tac-toe grid pressed into the top.
Gradually I came to appreciate how that salty richness mingled perfectly with creamy milk chocolate, how the two flavors balanced each other, brought out each other's strengths. I even attempted a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake one time while visiting my grandmother (though I admit, neither of us was terribly impressed with the result).
And though nowadays you'll find me using my peanut butter in somewhat more sophisticated and savory ways, such as in dipping sauce for spring rolls or on a sandwich with carrot salad, I still love combining peanut butter with chocolate.
So this weekend when I decided to do some baking for the returning students as well as for myself, I pulled out these two old favorites and dressed them up for the slightly more adult but still nostalgic palate found among most undergraduates (and grown-ups) of my acquaintance.
Yesterday I made chocolate charms, a crisp shortbread cookie made more intensely chocolatey with the addition of black cocoa and laced with a hint of cinnamon. Most of the dough I shaped into small balls that spread into truffle-like mounds that I dusted with cocoa powder.
But for myself, I flattened a few morsels and let them bake in thin rounds. Once they had cooled, I spread them with peanut butter goat milk fudge from the farmers' market and enjoyed my own twist on sandwich cookies.
Crisp and crunchy met smooth and creamy in an utterly decadent cookie treat. I admit to overindulgence: I had three such cookies... but they were well worth it!
This morning I pulled out my peanut butter brownie bar recipe and whipped up a pan full of peanut butter shortbread with a rich dark brownie and a handful of chocolate-covered peanuts on top. And again, those two flavors proved to be a perfect match.
The old commercials used to herald chocolate and peanut butter as the "two great tastes that taste great together," and I've always believed that to be true. With examples like these, can I doubt it?
And I'm sure all the lucky recipients of these cookies will be nuts about them, too.