Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

I was going to the fleadh in Derry at the weekend, and of course, snacks are an essential part of festival gear for me. I tend to require a snack in the wee hours, and I rarely make it to breakfast, so it’s important that my snacks be a balanced meal. Like peanut butter cookies. Because peanut butter contains protein, and then there’s the cookie bit for carbs, so they give you enough energy to make it until lunch. Yes, this is how I rationalise eating large amounts of peanut butter cookies.

chewy peanut butter cookies

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

makes about 50

1/2 c (114g) unsalted butter, softened (so that you can whip it with the peanut butter)
1 c peanut butter (I used crunchy)
3/4 c (168g) caster sugar
1/2 c (100g) brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c plain flour (156g)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
extra caster sugar for rolling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, sift together to flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together on medium-high until light and fluffy. Beat in both of the sugars until fluffy and blended, followed by the egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Finally, beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.

4. Roll a bit of the mixture into a 2cm ball, and then roll the ball in some caster sugar to coat it. Place the ball onto the cookie sheet, and repeat, spacing the balls about 2cm apart (they will spread in the oven).

5. Bake 10-12 minutes (they will not look quite done, but this is what you want) and let cool on wire racks.

Margarita Cupcakes

So, a few weeks back, we were having a party and we wanted to make sure that everything we served qualified as finger food. And so I found myself looking for a good, somewhat sophisticated summer cupcake. I was searching high and low (on the internet) trying to find something that I thought encapsulated the flavours of summer…and then I read about margarita cupcakes. I couldn’t find a recipe that I totally approved of, so here’s my take on it. Make sure you have limes. Lots of limes.

margarita cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes
makes about 30 cupcakes

3 c all-purpose flour (325 g)
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature (225 g)
2 c sugar (450 g)
4 eggs
3 limes, zested and juiced
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c butter milk
1/2 recipe of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, plus two limes zested and juiced for flavouring and 1 tbs tequila
tequila for glazing
extra lime zest and sea salt flakes (salt the rim!) for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit (160 degrees Celsius). Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together to remove any lumps in a medium bowl.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Beat in the lime juice and zest.

3. Add the flour in three batches alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.

4. Spoon the batter into pre-lined cupcake tins until they are 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes.

5. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Once the cupcakes are out of the oven, glaze them with the tequila set aside for that purpose. Once they are completely cool, top with the meringue buttercream, and sprinkle some lime zest and sea salt for garnish.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I recently made a birthday cake for someone, and I was looking for a good frosting to use. Buttercream always strikes me as far too rich, and also, it’s not great in warm weather (melting frosting is not pretty). Enter meringue buttercream. The egg whites used in meringue buttercream stabilise the butter, making it great for piping designs and warm weather. There are two types of meringue buttercream: Italian and Swiss. Italian meringue buttercream involves making a sugar syrup and then pouring it into already-whipped egg whites. Swiss meringue butter involves heating the sugar and egg whites in a double boiler. Some people prefer Swiss meringue buttercream because you heat the egg whites (food safety and all that). I prefer it because it doesn’t involve a candy thermometer or me try to experimentally figure out if something is in the soft ball stage. So without further ado, I present to you Swiss meringue buttercream.

swiss meringue buttercream
Swiss Meringue Buttercream in action

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes 10 cups, give or take (so if you’re making 30 or so cupcakes, you can definitely halve this)

10 (300g) egg whites
2 1/2 c (500g) sugar (doesn’t have to be caster, but that’s what I use)
680g unsalted butter, cool but not cold, and cut into cubes
1 tbs vanilla extract (plus a little more if you’re not using any other flavourings)
a pinch of salt

1. Wipe everything that you’re using (bowls, utensils, etc.) with lemon juice and a paper towel to get rid of any residual grease.

2. Put the egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler. Gently whisk the sugar into the egg whites.

3. Heat the egg white-sugar mixture over gently simmering water until the sugar has completely dissolved into the egg whites and the mixture feels hot to the touch.

4. Transfer the egg white mixture to a mixing bowl, and beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites are thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm to the touch. Do not proceed until the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm, or the butter will melt.

5. With the mixer speed on low, add the cubes of butter one at a time. If the mixture curdles, keep beating and it will come back together. When the butter is completely incorporated, add the salt and vanilla and any other desired flavourings, and frost away!