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Blog

one year closer to...?

Andrea

I sit at our dining table in the morning, a heaping spoonful of almond butter resting on top of my oatmeal, a dollop of jam alongside it. The windows are open to let the cool morning breeze whisper past my skin, and through them I hear kids squealing as they make their way to the school bus stop on the corner by our house. I find myself lost in thought, reminiscing about the past and contemplating the future, each almond butter + jam-laced bite taking me further into my own head.

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I’ve been eating a lot of PB+J lately. Actually, to be more accurate, AB+HJ - almond butter and homemade jam. I just can’t seem to get enough of it. I’m slathering almond butter and jam on my Kashi waffles and toast, mounding it on top of oatmeal or sandwiching it between two slices of whole wheat bread for a quick and satisfying lunch. I partly blame the incredible amount of jam we have in our refrigerator right now - a few ounces of each flavor we made that wasn’t quite enough to process in a canning jar, plus a delightful fig jam made by some dear friends after a reconnaissance fig-gathering mission to some public trees down the street. But even more than the excess, I blame the fast-approaching end of Summer.

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As we transition into Autumn, I find myself in a very nostalgic frame of mind. This time of year seemed to have so much more significance in my youth, always marking the start of a new chapter in my young life. Going back to school, with its new clothes and fancy backpack filled with blank notebooks and freshly-sharpened pencils signified another year of progress. I’d eagerly seek out friends I hadn’t seen in 3 months to discuss our summer vacations, who’s dating who, class schedules and the fact that we were one year closer to graduation, college and “real” life.

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In college, the return to another semester was bittersweet. I was studying architecture, and while I was eager to tackle the challenges that a new design studio - with its new city, site and building program - offered, I was also wary of letting go of a care-free summer job in exchange for the stress of all-night charrettes and design reviews in front of a panel of my peers and professors. But still, there was the seeking out of missed friends to discuss summer internships, who’s engaged to who, how we had finagled our schedules to allow for one or two(!!!) days without class and the fact that we were one year closer to graduation and finding our “dream” jobs.

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And now, here I am. Post undergraduate and graduate degrees, working in my field for a firm I respect designing projects I enjoy, one year closer to...what? For the first time in my life, I am settled into a place with no “end” in sight. I am happily married, living in a city I adore, with a job I enjoy waking up for. There’s no impending school, or graduation, or job search in my future. Its a comfortable feeling, but is at the same time a little bit unnerving. And when I’m feeling a little bit unnerved I seek additional comfort in food. Of late, that food has been the AB+HJ combination.

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It was only a matter of time before my latest obsession made it into a baked good. And then, this recipe showed up in my reader to push me right over the edge. I made the cookies, which have a classic butter cookie texture laced with the flavor of high-quality natural peanut butter, and was initially disappointed with the pre-jam outcome. I was looking for a softer specimen, and was worried that when sandwiched on either side of a dollop of jam this cookie would, well, crumble. So I quickly searched for a new option, found a recipe that boasted a softer outcome and incorporated oats(!!!) and decided to try a thumbprint version. I loved the chewiness that the oats added to the cookie, and the fact that the jam-to-cookie ratio was more equal than the sandwich version. But, after all that worry, the sandwich cookie turned out to be really fantastic as well, with or without the addition of a little blackberry peach jam.

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Each of these cookies is really wonderful on their own. I recommend filling and sandwiching only the amount of cookies you and yours can eat in a day, as they will get soft when stored in an airtight container with jam. On their own, in a ziplock bag, the cookies maintain their texture for a full 5 days.

I think that each of these recipes would be wonderful with almond butter in place of the peanut butter.  When I made the suggestion to Brian, who is very traditional in his dessert choices and hates to see a good thing tampered with, he vetoed it.  That was ok, the tried and true PB+J combo was a success both in taste and nostalgia-induced comfort.

PB+J Sandwich Cookies

recipe from the new york times

makes about 18 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound [2 sticks] unsalted butter, softened, plus more to grease cookie sheets

  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter [I used creamy]

  • 1 egg

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, more for work surface

  • pinch salt

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tbsp milk, or as needed

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup high-quality fruit jam [I used this one]


Method:

  1. Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter together with an electric mixer.  Add egg, and beat until well blended.

  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, adding milk as necessary to make dough just soft enough to handle.  Stir in vanilla.

  3. Shape dough into a log about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  [I suggest making two logs...the amount of dough makes one very long log that is difficult to transfer to the fridge].  Wrap dough log[s] in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  Can be frozen if wrapped well.

  4. Heat oven to 400*.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Remove dough from refrigerator and cut slices between 1/8" and 1/4" thick from log.  Try to make the slices as even in thickness as possible.  Place on baking sheets and sprinkle with sugar.

  5. Bake until edges are lightly browned and centers are set, about 10 minutes.  Cool for about 2 minutes on sheets before using a spatula to transfer cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

  6. Sandwich flat sides of two cookies together with a heaping teaspoonful of jam.


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PB+J Thumbprint Cookies

recipe for cookie from foodnetwork.com

makes about 3 dozen thumbprint cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/2-cup creamy, natural peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 egg

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • 1 cup quick oats (I used rolled, and they were fine)

  • 1/2 cup high-quality fruit jam (I used this one)


Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350* and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Cream the butter and peanut butter together in an electric mixer on high speed.  Add the sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until combined.

  3. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and oats together in a separate bowl and add to the wet mixture.  Mix until well combined.

  4. Roll dough into 1-inch diameter balls and place on baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  Using your pinkie finger, make a deep indentation in the top of each dough ball, being careful not to press all the way down to the baking sheet.

  5. Bake in the top half of the oven until cookies are golden, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and re-shape indentations while cookies are still pliable, if needed.  Let cool completely.

  6. Once the cookies are cool, place on countertop and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Spoon a teaspoonful of jam into each cookie.


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