I wanted to use up some of the 10 jars of nut butters languishing in the fridge, so I decided to make peanut butter hazelnut cookies, which would use up the peanut butter, the hazelnut butter, and the peanut hazelnut butter. Heidi Swanson raves about the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for peanut butter cookies, so I used that as my base, subbing out some of the flour for wheat germ, because I wanted to use it up. The recipe calls for roasted, salted peanuts, which I didn’t have. It was either use unroasted, unsalted peanuts, or… the Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili peanuts I’d been happily snacking on since my friend Robbie introduced them to me a few years ago. I decided to give the Thai cookies a chance. I used the peanuts as they were, bits of kaffir lime leaves, red chilies, and all. If you can’t get Trader Joe’s lime and chili peanuts, then you could try just adding in ground up chili peppers, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup peanut butter, lightly salted (or a mix of p.b. and other nut butters)
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup roasted peanuts (if you have them, you can use Trader Joe’s Thai Lime and Chili roasted peanuts or cashews instead, and use just 1 chili and 7 lime leaves)
- 1 to 5 small dried red chilis (depending on how spicy you want them)
- 7 to 12 kaffir lime leaves (depending on size)
- Take out butter and eggs. Let them come to room temperature.
- Adjust oven rack to low center position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the chilis and kaffir lime leaves to the bowl of a small food processor. Process until they are in very small pieces. Add the peanuts, and process until the nuts are a bit bigger than bread crumbs.
- Mix the dry ingredients: Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
- Mix the wet ingredients: In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.
- Gently stir dry ingredients into wet mixture. Add ground peanuts; stir gently until just incorporated.
- Refrigerate the dough until cold (about 1 hour, or about 10 minutes in the freezer).
- Roll dough into medium sized balls (about 2-3 tsp. worth of dough each). Place them about 1.5 inches apart on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Press each dough ball with back of dinner fork dipped in cold water to make crisscross design.
- Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, but not top, 9 to 11 minutes. (They will not look fully baked.) Cool cookies on cookie sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
- Cookies will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 7 days.
Cook’s Illustrated says that the white sugar yields crisp edges and chewy centers, while the dark brown sugar is for flavoring. The baking powder is for leavening, but the baking soda isn’t for leavening since there’s no acid: it’s there to help the cookies brown, If your cookies are too oily you didn’t use enough flour. If they’re too dry you used too much flour, or (more likely) cooked them too long.
The cookie dough texture was excellent, and it was delicious. I could detect a hint of lime, but more prominent was the persistent warm, spicy glow it left in the back of your throat after a taste. I don’t think I would have known there were hazelnuts in the recipe, but the nut flavor was more complex than a typical peanut butter cookie, and the peanut flavor less in-your-face.
I made three cookie sheets of cookies. The first batch were smallish, about 2 inches in diameter. I accidentally had the oven at 375 instead of 350 and after 10 minutes they were starting to brown on top and burn on the bottom. After the cookies cooled they were a bit too dry. The second batch were also 2 inches in diameter, and I cooked them at 350, and pulled them out after 10 minutes. The texture was better, but they were still a tad dry. The third batch I made slightly larger, maybe 2.5 inches in diameter, and they were definitely the best, moist, buttery, crystalline and crumbly. They didn’t hold together that well though; you had to treat them tenderly or they’d easily break into five pieces. The lime flavor was generally not detectable, but every once in a while I’d get a piece of kaffir lime leaf and there’d be a limey burst of flavor. The hazelnuts were not detectable at all, and the peanut flavor was present, but sedated. This recipe is excellent. I’d definitely make it again.
Update summer 2008:
I tried making a vegan version of these cookies, substituting canola oil for the butter and apple sauce for the eggs. The texture came out a little hard and greasy, but the lime and chili flavors were more predominant than in cookies made with butter. I think it might be worth trying a combination of the two recipes.
I made these cookies again using all peanut butter this time, but with thai limi cashew nuts instead of the peanuts (since apparently Trader Joe’s discontinued the thai lime peanuts). I ground the cashews a little too fine–almost to a sandlike consistency. I omitted the wheat germ by accident, and used artificial vanilla extract. Derek really liked the cookies. He gave them an A rating, i.e., excellent. Other people seemed to like the cookies as well. Derek’s only complaint was that the cookies could have been slightly moister. I think the recipe is fine, and I simply overcooked them. My brown sugar was pretty dried out, but I compensated for this by leaving out the wheat germ.
These cookies spread during cooking quite a bit, so make sure to leave room between them. I like the 2.5 inch cookies the best, but they should be quite a bit smaller before putting them into the oven. Maybe about 2-3 tsp. of batter, then flattened with a fork. I prefer these cookies a little undercooked. In my oven about 10 minutes (on parchment lined cookie sheets) seems to be right for 2.5-inch cookies, but it depends on how cold the dough is. If the dough is very warm they get much puffier and the fork prints aren’t as visible. The recipe says the cookies should be a little brown around the edges, but I think it’s not necessary. They should look cooked, but not brown. If you want them a bit crisper rather than soft, then take them out when they’re just an eensy, teensy bit brown. Otherwise the cookies will be a little dried out for my taste. I brought these cookies to work and everyone was raving about them. I added extra chilies and lime leaves, but I think I could have added even more! I’ll measure next time. For future reference, the ingredients in the original Trader Joe’s lime and chili peanuts: Ingredients: peanuts, thai lime leaves, chile, spicy seasoning (lemon grass, lime powder, chili powder, sugar), salt, canola oil, rice bran oil.
When the dough got warm we had trouble getting nice clear fork criss-cross marks in the cookies. It seems best to refrigerate the dough between batches. This time I left in all the chilies from the Trader Joe cashews and also added one more, as well as a bunch of extra lime leaves. I also added more nuts this time, maybe 1.25 cups worth. But I left out the wheat germ. I cooked each batch for 9-10 minutes. Everyone said the cookies came out perfect. Spicy with plenty of lime flavor, nice moist, soft texture, and good peanut flavor.