Friday is cookbook review day throughout the summer here at Fake Food Free. If you have a love of cookbooks be sure to swing back by for plenty of new ideas and recipes.
Baking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I envision the beach. Usually it’s rum drinks and ice cream cones.
But now that I think of it, during just about every beach vacation I’ve enjoyed, tucked somewhere in the line of swim shops and shaved ice is a quaint bakery with a window of cookies, brownies and candies. It’s always a highlight of the trip.
“I wasn’t always a beach girl,” she writes. “In fact, growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was more of a country bumpkin.”
Now how can I not love that? Just replace Pennsylvania with Indiana and Kentucky and bingo — you’ve got me.
Lei goes on to tell the story of how her love of food drew her from a non-food career to opening her own bakery. And how a love of the beach drew her to California. Minus the bakery, it’s a story I can most definitely relate to.
This cookbook was also a reminder of how diverse beach life can be. I grew up with vacations to the hot beaches of Florida and North Carolina. I never knew California beaches until two short years ago.
Here in the Bay Area we have beaches that are warm during the day (maybe) and breezy and cool at night. It’s weather that beacons a little baking. Maybe something like the Coconut Apricot Oat Crisps or one of the Happy Hour cupcakes like the Red, Red Wine Cupcakes with Blackberry Mascarpone Mousse in this book.
If you feel it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, the added Beachy Beverages section and the Peach Green Tea in the Frozen Pops section will get you through until you can bake up the cookies for the Malibu ice cream sandwiches.
Either way, a great perk of this cookbook is that the recipes are simple and straightforward. Each one fits to a page, and while there is no shortage of creativity, there aren’t any super long lists of ingredients and complicated steps either.
Being fortunate to have cool evenings in the summer that are perfect for firing up the oven, I had to go for something true to the baking theme of the book — cookies. Not just any cookie though, Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies.
My quest for good peanut butter cookie recipes has been going on since high school when I worked in a bakery that made the most outstanding version. I like peanut butter cookies every which way you can bake them – crisp and crumbly, soft and tender, with chopped nuts or without. I love that this recipe incorporated a few peanut butter chips, because it’s something I don’t normally do. I’ve been using Trader Joe’s peanut butter chips. I’d sworn off peanut butter chips in the past, but these have very few ingredients and work well in desserts.
These cookies have a firm, crumbly edge and a rich, tender middle. A perfect combination when it comes to peanut butter cookies. I used natural peanut butter with only salt and peanuts, because aside from a few favorite flavored versions, that’s about all I keep around. It worked perfectly so don’t be afraid to substitute it if that is what you use, too.
Old-fashioned peanut butter cookies
Makes about 23 cookies
From the book: Growing up on the East Coast, I would often head to Virginia Beach during spring break. This popular tourist destination boasts miles of sandy beaches as well as amazing fishing and boating opportunities. It’s also famous for its peanut specialties, including peanut brittle, peanut pie, and fried peanuts. When I hit the beaches these days, I love packing these soft and chewy cookies in my beach bag.
The heat of the sun warms the cookie just enough to bring out the aroma of the peanut butter and melts the peanut butter chips embedded in the dough. It’s like taking a bite out of a just-baked peanut butter cookie that’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious, all while being at the beach.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
Heaping ½ cup peanut butter chips
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, half and- half, and vanilla extract, and mix for an additional minute. Mix in the flour, chips, baking soda, and salt until incorporated. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a couple baking trays with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
3. Scoop the dough onto the prepared trays (I use a 1-ounce ice cream scoop). Flatten slightly with palm. Mark the dough with the back of a fork in a crisscross pattern.
4. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until edges are just set. Cookies will look underbaked. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool completely on the sheet trays.
Disclosure: This cookbook was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to write about it an received no compensation for doing so.
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Lori Rice is a freelance writer, recipe developer, food photographer and nutritional scientist. Fake Food Free is a creative outlet that allows her to connect with people from around the world who share a love of travel, food culture and cooking.