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Best Nonembarrassing ­Peanut-Butter Crazies 

Wednesday, Oct 4 2006
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Best Nonembarrassing ­Peanut-Butter Crazies

Every day they come, from far and wide, making the pilgrimage to the Downbeat Café with one thing on their minds: peanut butter. Or, more precisely, peanut-butter cookies: crispy, flaky, slightly crumbly, sand-dollar-size handmade cookies, pasted together with preternaturally smooth peanut-butter filling, that have developed a following. Some fans are casual snackers. Others are die-hard devotees. All are comforted by the sight of that giant glass jar on the counter, which fills up each morning with the day’s batch. And when that jar is empty, there is often panic. I’ve seen it happen: A customer in search of cookies enters, glimpses the barren glass and turns ashen with grief. Recently, a two-day cookie dry spell threatened to sow chaos and confusion into some people’s lives. “Now, they’ve started planning,” says Crissy Carter, who works the morning shift at the Downbeat. “They call in to make sure they’re here.” Arrangements are often made ahead of time to pick up a batch for a party. “I don’t even call them cookies anymore. I call them peanut-butter crazies!” says longtime Downbeat peanut-butter-cookie ­enthusiast Kelly Sears.

“It’s inspired by something from a Nancy Silverton cookbook,” says Dakota Bertrand, the head of the Downbeat’s tiny kitchen and creator of the cookie. Bertrand worked with Silverton for four years before coming to the Downbeat, where the owners have encouraged his experimentation. Other things came and went — cupcakes, blueberry turnovers — but demand for the peanut-butter cookies never waned.

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“I try really hard to keep them made,” says Bertrand. “But they’re a little labor intensive.” Each morning, Bertrand slices, forms and bakes sets of 24 to 40 cookies from foot-long logs of dough that are made in 10-pound batches. Bertrand then fries whole oats before mixing. The oats make the dough a bit crumbly, so it has to be pressed together for a nice textural density. The peanut butter in between is a hybrid of smooth and creamy, a blend that Bertrand says “took a lot of tinkering to achieve that exact right viscosity.”

Does the cookie have a name? “There’s no special moniker,” Bertrand says. “If someone comes up with something really clever, that’s not embarrassing to say, maybe we’ll go with that.” How about peanut-butter crazies? “I said not embarrassing.”

Downbeat CafÉ 1202 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park, (213) 483-3955

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