Yesterday was the annual Newtown festival. Like all good denizens of the inner-inner-west, we made our gold coin donation, ate chips on a stick, watched the controlled anarchy that was the dog races, and got a tattoo about voting for a Party that was all for untrammelled frolicking in the bedroom (the tattoo washed off so I didn’t have to explain my new-found political consciousness to work colleagues today).
The weather was picture perfect. The sun was warm on the grass from early morning. Sunlight lit up canvas stalls, glanced off people’s sunnies, and snuck onto tree-lined paths. The clouds were small white, like so many baa-lambs (or Edelweiss, if you prefer), and rarely got in the way.
Even St Stephen’s got in on the action, putting on a jumping castle in the yard of its historic cemetery, next to its equally striking Moreton Bay Fig.
On a day like yesterday, I find myself stretching out under the sun, skipping down the street, and looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. No matter that Newtown’s identity is changing, the balance swinging between students, old-time bohemians, and new-generation hipsters. If we can still throw a party like this, surely we can all get along – sharing a sticky handful of fairy floss and slurping a real lemonade?
Then I came home and made dulce de leche and peanut butter pillows.
These cookies were, in their way, also a meditation on culture. I started with an American cookie, and gave it a South American makeover: all-American boy meets Argentine gal, my own Westside Story in a blob of dough.
If only the realpolitik was that easy.
Baking notes: the cookie dough is wrapped around balls of peanut butter and dulce de leche. The dough becomes very soft during baking and melds with the filling. This ensures a moist, not floury, cookie centre. It is similar to a short cut for liquid-centred fondant, which pops a piece of frozen chocolate ganache into the batter.
I used dulce de leche instead of the nutella called for in the original recipe. This gave the cookie’s filling a smooth, sticky caramel-sweetness that set off the peanut butter well (I haven’t met anything that isn’t improved by adding dulce de leche). Other changes were rolling the cookies in raw sugar and using crunchy peanut butter, both adding a bit more texture. Despite these changes, the cookies kept the gorgeous soft, crumbly, melting texture that makes them so appealing.
The recipe doesn’t hold back on sea salt. It cuts the chocolate-caramel sweetness so the cookies don’t become cloying. Think Lindt salted caramel chocolate.
And, Mr Gander said these were better than the cookies sold in cafes!!
Dulce de leche and peanut butter pillows
Adapted from a recipe by une Gamine dans la Cuisine.
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking Soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (approx 115 grams) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup dulce de leche
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 tbsp. granulated (white) sugar
3 tbsp. confectioners (icing) sugar
1/4 cup ground roasted cashews ( run through the food processor )
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1. In a small bowl, Sift the flours and baking soda together. Whisk in the sea salt and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla paste and peanut butter. Add the flour mixture a little bit at a time. Be careful not to over mix (here I used a wooden spoon rather than use the kitchen mixer). Stop beating when all the flour streaks are gone.
3. Cover and refrigerate for an hour while you make the filling and topping.
4. To make the filling, combine all the ingredients and mix well. You should be able to easily roll the filling into ball forms. If it is too sticky add more confectioners (icing) sugar. Set aside until ready to use. I divided the filling into 22 balls of roughly equal size.
5. To make the topping, mix all the ingredients into a shallow bowl and set aside.
6. Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
7. Measure out about 2 level tablespoons of the chilled cookie dough (or roughly divide into 22 balls). Roll each into a ball and flatten out onto the parchment paper. Place a ball of filling on top of the cookie dough, press in slightly. Gently fold the cookie dough over the filling so it is completely covered. Carefully roll into a ball and roll the ball into the topping so it has a nice coating. Place ball back onto the parchment paper and lightly press down with the bottom of a glass.
8. Place cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are a light gold.
Makes: about 20-28 cookies.