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Baking Books: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook + 'The Nora Ephron' Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

Because everyone else is on a diet. And The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook, by Seattle bakery owner/restaurateur Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance, was one of the best baking books of 2012. And the idea of baking those "peanut butter sandwich cookies, aka 'the Nora Ephron'" (her favorite) is even more compelling after losing Ephron the same year her pastry tribute was published. As Douglas notes in the recipe introduction, the cookie recipe, which calls for two types of peanut butter, is the "most sought-after cookie recipe in the book." Fittingly, it also has the longest prose introduction in the book, the longest we've seen in almost any cookbook.

If you've been to Seattle, you've probably eaten at one of Douglas' restaurants. He owns eleven, plus Dahlia Bakery. No surprise: he has won the James Beard Foundation's "Outstanding Restaurateur" award. But we're all here for the bakery cookbook. Its pages are filled with breakfast sandwiches and brunch ideas, doughnuts (an entire chapter), and a slew of the bakery's daily rustic offerings. A chapter sampling: breakfast pastries (cornbread bacon muffins, cherry almond scones), cookies (cranberry-apricot oatmeal, ginger-molasses), pies (including the bakery's infamous triple coconut cream), tarts (that cornmeal-almond tart crust is already thumbnailed), cake (carrot cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting), puddings (Èclairs!), ice cream and sorbet (Oregon Pinot Noir raspberry sorbet), jams and jellies (rhubarb jelly).

All recipes we'll be revisiting this year. But first, those Nora Ephron cookies. Get the recipe after the jump.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies aka "The Nora Ephron"

From: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance

Makes: About 24 sandwich cookies, 3 inches in diameterRecipe Intro: This may be the most sought-after cookie recipe in the book, the cookie that makes it into Seattle Metropolitan Magazine's "Food Lover's Guide" year after year. Once, when director, screenwriter ("When Harry Met Sally"), and novelist Nora Ephron was in town, she stopped by the Dahlia Bakery and bought a few of these cookies. Later, she emailed me, saying this was her all time favorite and asked me for the recipe. Naturally, I sent it to Nora along with a big package of cookies.

A sandwich cookie takes more effort than a drop cookie, because you have to make both cookies and filling. In addition, this recipe involves a chilling step and requires the cookies to be "double panned." But the results are worth it for the best textured peanut butter cookie with the creamiest peanut filling.

After arranging the scoops of cookie batter on a baking sheet, slip another baking sheet underneath to double pan so the cookies bake more slowly and evenly. Since you can only bake 8 cookies per baking sheet, and the cookies must be double panned, you'll have to bake them in batches. Be sure to cool the baking sheets between batches before re-using them.

We use two different peanut butters in this recipe. Skippy creamy peanut butter makes the filling smooth and creamy. Adams crunchy peanut butter, which like other natural peanut butters must be well mixed before using to incorporate the oil, has just the right amount of almost-runny consistency and crunchy bits of peanuts to give the cookies the perfect texture. To re-create our peanut butter sandwich cookies, we suggest you use the same or similar brands. We prefer moist brown sugar, from a re-sealable plastic bag rather than from a box.

This recipe requires a 2 hour or longer chill of the shaped cookie dough, so plan accordingly. The amount of salt in the filling is a perfect balance to the creamy peanut butter, but if you are substituting table salt for the kosher salt called for in the recipe, be sure to cut the amount in half.

This recipe was inspired by Bouchon Bakery.

Special equipment: electric mixer, one ounce ice cream scoop (also called #50 scoop) (optional, recommended for the most uniform cookie sandwiches.)

For the peanut butter filling:

1½ cups creamy peanut butter, such as Skippy (14 ounces) (400 grams)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3 ounces) ( 168 grams)

2 tablespoons powdered sugar ( ½ ounce) (15 grams)

2 tablespoons honey (1½ ounces)(42 grams)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the peanut butter cookies:

1½ cups all purpose flour (8 ounces) ( 227 grams)

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 2/3 cups rolled oats, such as Quaker Old Fashioned (5¼ ounces) (99 grams)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened (11 ¼ ounces) (320 grams)

1/3 cup chunky peanut butter, such as Adams (3½ ounces) (125 grams)

¾ cup sugar (5¼ ounces) (150 grams)

2/3 cup packed brown sugar (5¼ ounces) (150 grams)

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the peanut butter filling, combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl using a whisk. Cover and chill the mixture until you are ready to fill the cookies.

2. To make the peanut butter cookies, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in the oats and the salt. Set the dry ingredients aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, chunky peanut butter, and sugars and cream on medium-high speed until very fluffy and pale, at least 3 minutes, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed.

4. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate each egg, and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients on low speed in 3 to 4 additions and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, going all the way to the bottom of the bowl to mix in the dry ingredients well.

5. Use an ice cream scoop to portion all the cookies in one ounce scoops (or use about a heaping tablespoon per cookie), placing the scoops on a parchment lined baking sheet. You should have about 48 cookies. (You can place all the cookies close together for the chilling step- you will space them for baking later.) Chill the scooped cookies for at least 2 hours or longer.

6. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange 8 cookies, spaced evenly apart and staggered, per parchment lined baking sheet. (Note: Do not flatten the cookies; they will flatten as they bake.) Set the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to "double pan", and place it in the oven. Bake until evenly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack about 10 minutes before removing the cookies with a metal spatula. Allow the cookies to cool completely before filling them.

7. To make a cookie sandwich, turn one cookie flat side up and spread with a little less than 2 teaspoons of filling. (If you have a one-ounce scoop, you can slightly under-fill it to portion the filling, or under-fill a tablespoon.) Top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently. Repeat until all the cookies are assembled into sandwiches.


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