Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nutter Butters - the gluten-free, dairy-free version

For those of you who read my review of Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today) by Jennifer Steinhauer, we are going to keep this recipe short and sweet...peanutty sweet. If you haven't, you can read my review here.

This delectable book is where this peanutty-good recipe comes from. I reviewed the book and as with all cookbooks, the only proper way to truly review them is to start cooking - or baking, as it may be. I love Jennifer's book - the concept is awesome (who doesn't love a little sweetness in their life?), the treats are beautifully photographed (we all know that makes it better, no matter if they are real or not), and to make it that perfect book, the cookies - even made gluten- and dairy-free - were amazing!

A few notes on the baking of these beauties:

~ I used two pans lined with silicone baking mats and I used them a lot. My oven isn't convection, so I baked with one pan and filled the other. When the first was done, I took it out, placed the next one in and waited a few minutes to let the cookies cool. I then placed those on a baking rack and refilled the still-warm baking sheet. Normally, this is a major no-no in baking, but there was a lot of dough and a lot of cookies to bake. I had to keep the line moving. Somehow, it didn't seem to mess with the cookies much this time. Probably because they are a crunchy bunch.

One ready for baking, one just out of the oven. 

~ You can also put these guys closer together than two inches - they don't spread much at all, which is great. They hold their shape well and as we all know, making gluten-free cookies that require being cut out can be a challenge if the dough doesn't have the elasticity of gluten in it. They tend to break, fall apart, crumble, etc. These did great! They are rolled quite thin, so I used a fish spatula (very, very thin spatula) to transfer them to the baking sheets. I also prefer the scoop and drop method (scoop with the spatula, flip over the baking sheets and gently persuade them to drop onto the baking sheet by pushing through the slots in the spatula) for cookies like this so they don't get all bent out of shape. My first few, I tried to slide off the spatula. It worked okay, but I would recommend the less moving, the better. I wanted them to look like hearts, Picasso-versions of hearts.

~ I didn't find that I needed to flour the fork to prevent sticking when making the crosshatch. Use your best judgment. Maybe flouring the spatula would have been a good idea. Either way! Also, I was surprised at how far I could push the fork down, which seemed like they would go nearly through to the mat, and still have a cookie come out intact after baking. These guys are champs!

Just rolled, ready to rock. 

~ The recipes calls for a cooking time of 11-13 minutes. For my hearts, which I chose based on what I remember the size of a Nutter Butter to be, that would have been too long. Eleven minutes was a border-line deep brown and a minute longer, they would have burned. After the first batch baked for eleven minutes, I cut down the bake time to 10 - that was perfect. Use your judgment. If your medium-size cookies is the same size as my medium-size, aim for 9-11 minutes. If you have slightly bigger, aim for 11-13. If you are at high altitude, adjust accordingly, which is usually less, but that's a whole other can of worms.

~ See my note below about peanut butter choices, but whatever you choose, make sure it's at room temperature. All ingredients for this, and most baked goods, are best at room temperature.

~ About the filling: you may consider doubling the filling recipe. I've included the recipe in the book, but based on how many cookies I made, twice as much filling would have been better. Still good, but a thicker stuffing would have been more accurate to the memory of the Nutter Butter.

~ And lastly, I used a pastry knife to spread the filling onto the cookies. It was a very thick filling (which I thought was perfect and spot-on), but I wasn't sure how it would actually go through a pastry bag. This is what can happen with different peanut butters. Not a big deal. Still tasted awesome.

All teamed up, ready to spread. 

So, without much more ado, here is the recipe that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Yum!

Happy baking!

Nutter Butters - the gluten-free, dairy-free version

A little nibble...

Adapted from Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today) by Jennifer Steinhauer

Hands-on time: 50 minutes
Total time: 5 hours, 15 minutes

Makes 22 sandwich cookies (according to the recipe - I got 44 sandwiches!)

*Note: I used a natural no-sugar peanut butter that I buy, then add some Spectrum shortening or Earth Balance to, along with a little bit of sugar, if I'm feeling like making it sweet. If it's not fine sugar, powdered, or liquid (ie. honey, etc.), the sugar crystals won't dissolve. I'm okay with this. You can also buy natural peanut butter that has everything in it, just like the classic Skippy or Jif without the hydrogenated fats. In fact, Skippy and Jif now make their own natural peanut butters in chunky or smooth. Use smooth for this recipe. 

For the cookie: 

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter or Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter* at room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups gluten-free flour with 2 tsp xanthan gum (the recipe calls for bread flour, so I used 3/4 cup millet flour, 3/4 cup cornstarch, and 1 cup fine brown rice flour)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For the filling: 

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter or Earth Balance, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Pastry knife, butter knife, or pastry bag

1. Make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, mix the butter, sugars, and peanut butter together on medium speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Add eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla, mixing just until incorporated.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour(s), the xanthan gum, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour to the butter mixture in two or three batches, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally, mixing until the dry ingredients are incorporated well. (Mix any remaining pockets of dry ingredients in by hand, but let your mixer do it's job. This is gluten-free after all. You won't be messing with the potential gluten toughness here. You don't want to overdo it or underdo it). Shape the dough into a round and slide it out onto a piece of plastic wrap (I used a small glass bowl with a lid). Wrap the dough tightly, shaping it into a 1-inch disk, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

4. Unwrap the dough and place it between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper. (I used natural parchment and it worked very well.) Roll the dough out to a thickness of slightly less than 1/4 inch.

5. Using a bikini-shaped cookie cutter (the top of the bikini to make a peanut shape) or any medium-sized cutter, cut out the cookies and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use the tines of a fork to gently score the top of each cookie in a crosshatch pattern. You should flour the fork first, or else the dough will stick to the fork and the cookies may well break. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just begin to brown. Let cool completely on wire racks. Repeat, if you have more dough.

6. Make the filling: Turn half the cookies upside down. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat the 1/2 cup peanut butter and the 1/4 cup butter together on medium speed. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, powdered sugar, and the salt, and mix until smooth. It will be thick. Scoop the filling into a disposable piping bag/pastry bag or use a butter/pastry knife for spreading.

7. Pipe the peanut butter mixture around the perimeter of the upturned cookies first, then fill in the outlined area, using about 1 tsp per cookie; you don't want the filling squishing out the sides. (You can use a butter knife or offset spatula instead to carefully spread it.) Top each frosted cookie with one of the plain cookies to make a sandwich. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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