Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Peanut Butter Cornmeal/Quinoa Cookies

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Your basic three ingredient peanut butter cookie is edible, but it can definitely be bumped up a notch or two.  I've seen a few concepts floating around the internet that I wanted to try, so I split the dough in half and tried two new twists.  To one half I added cornmeal, and to the other half I added toasted, ground quinoa.

I've been on a bit of a cornmeal kick lately, though I'm not sure why.  After seeing this post by Pastry Affair, I couldn't resist trying peanut butter cornmeal cookies for myself.  I started out using her recipe but ended up changing a couple things to get the dough to a consistency I could roll into balls.  A typical three ingredient peanut butter cookie uses 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 large egg. This recipe uses less sugar and adds baking powder for leavening, vanilla for flavor and cornmeal for a little extra texture.  I added a hint of lemon juice like I always do when making peanut butter frosting.  I know it sounds weird, but the lemon juice brightens the peanut butter flavor making it extra rich and nutty.

The original recipe called for water to thin out the dough.  While the dough was fairly crumbly it didn't need as much water as suggested and ended up being too wet to form into balls.  I had to add extra cornmeal to stiffen it back up.  The dough was also very oily but at least this means you don't need to grease your cookie sheets.  

The cornmeal provided a coarse, hearty texture to these cookies.  They were crisp on the outside from the sugar coating but still chewy.  The exact texture is hard to describe, gritty is not the right word nor crumbly... they had a certain bite to them making them stick to your teeth just a little.  Out of personal preference I wouldn't add cornmeal again, but if you're looking for a gluten free option these will do the trick. I would suggest making small cookies then sandwiching peanut butter frosting in-between. Or just skip the cornmeal and try quinoa...

Quinoa (pronounced: keen-wah) has a high protein content and is one of the few plant sources considered a complete protein.  This post suggests that toasted quinoa has a flavor similar to peanut butter.  Quinoa is toasted in the oven and then ground to flour and used in a chocolate cake.  I was curious enough I had to try it out for myself and decided to use the flour in these cookies. 

To make the toasted quinoa flour I poured dry (uncooked) quinoa on a baking sheet and baked it in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  I baked the quinoa for 20-30 minutes or until it was golden brown and had a nutty aroma.  After cooling, I placed the toasted grains in the coffee grinder and ground until it was a little finer than cornmeal.  I wouldn't say it has a peanut butter flavor but it's definitely nutty.

The cookies with quinoa were also crispy around the edges but were still soft and slightly chewy.  The nutty notes from the toasted quinoa enhanced the peanut butter flavor.  This version was sweeter than the cornmeal cookies and had a hint of graham cracker flavor.  While I might not use this exact cookie recipe again, I will be using toasted quinoa flour in a variety of other recipes.  

Peanut Butter Cornmeal or Quinoa Cookies
inspired by Pastry Affair and Queen of Quinoa

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for rolling
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp water, or as needed
1/2 cup cornmeal or toasted quinoa flour* 
1 tsp baking powder

*To make toasted quinoa flour, bake uncooked quinoa at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden and nutty.  Let cool. Using a coffee grinder, grind into flour of a consistency just finer than cornmeal.  Measure out 1/2 cup and save any remaining flour for another use. 

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*In a large bowl, beat peanut butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat to combine.  Stir in vanilla, lemon juice and 2 tsp water.  
* Add cornmeal or toasted quinoa flour and baking powder, stir to combine. If dough is still crumbly add an additional 1 tsp water.  
* Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in additional sugar.  Place on ungreased cookies sheets and flatten with fork.  Bake 9-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.  Cool on cookie sheets 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.  

Food for Thought: "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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