December 29, 2012

Better Nutters

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We kept to our schedule and baked through the holiday and onto the next cookie recipe in the book, Thomas Keller's version of the Nutter Butter. The consensus from the bakers is that it is a relatively time-consuming cookie to make. If planned in advance though, the efforts are well worth it. The cookie is delicious, particularly the buttercream filling which we all raved about. Of course if not in the mood to bake, you know you can always pick up a hefty 4" Better Nutter at Bouchon Bakery.

12 cookies (3-3 1/2"), metric measure, convection bake

My name is Aaron and I am a Peanut Butter Addict!  I love everything peanut butter and waited patiently for this cookie.  This cookie was a huge hit for everyone that was lucky enough to pry one from my greedy hands.  I baked them in a convection oven, those of you taking notes will notice that I usually bake in a traditional oven but I was out of town and was lucky enough that my hosts didn't mind my taking over the kitchen.  I want everyone who tackles these cookies to know two things, they are a ton of work, but they are worth it.  Be sure to read the recipe over at least twice to know how long it will take and everything you will have to do to make them perfect.   

The butter cream is amazing, even before the addition of the peanut butter.  I added peanut butter to the entire batch of the buttercream to have enough to fill all the cookies.  My recipe was measured on a scale in metric and it yielded four, 3 1/2-inch sandwiched cookies and eight, 3-inch sandwiched cookies.  I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter and would love to figure out how to make those!

metric measure, standard bake, 18 minutes

These cookies are really fun to make if you do the different components ahead. Day 1- make and chill the dough. Make the buttercream filling. Day 2- roll out, cut and bake the cookies then fill. All the components can be frozen so if you want to have fresh cookies, you can assemble relatively quickly. I froze the unbaked cookie cut-outs on a sheet tray and separately, the filling. When needed, I can just bake off the cookies and re-warm the filling.

I used a fluted round cutter which was an error on my part as I was thinking of the TKO, but they are cute nonetheless. The dough was really easy to work with. 2 hours was enough time for the dough to chill and I rolled it straight on a well-floured surface rather than between parchment.

How does it compare to a real Nutter Butter? I prefer the cookie on the store-bought one for the firmness and crispness but I like Thomas Keller's filling better. It is a lighter buttercream so it's not so rich and you can eat more cookies, which is always a good thing. Excuse my Martha ending.

7 cookies (3 1/4"), standard measure, standard bake, 14-16 minutes
Ingredient to note: European butter

This recipe took me a long time to complete. I didn't dedicate one day to making these cookies, but split it up over many days. First, I made the cookie dough. That was easy enough. I used dark brown sugar instead of light, and European style butter. One thing I noticed about using such high fat butter, is it takes a lot longer to soften to room temperature. I usually use a microwave to help the process along if I'm short on time. I used roasted unsalted peanuts, and roasted them again for 10 more minutes. I used organic creamy peanut butter.

The dough was very sticky, I'm guessing from the peanut butter. I chilled the dough overnight. The next day, I meant to finish the recipe entirely, but ran out of time, so I just rolled and cut the dough. I used a 3 1/4 inch round cookie cutter. The dough was difficult to roll out to the proper thickness, thank goodness I have an adjustable rolling pin! I got 10 rounds from the first roll out, and 4 more from the second. It seemed a waste to throw out the rest of the dough, so I used a tiny flower shaped cookie cutter to get 12 more mini cookies. The dough was hard to work with, and I had to constantly re-chill it. Once it was all cut out, I popped it in the freezer overnight. 

I baked off the rounds, at 325 standard oven for 16 minutes, only 14 minutes for the little ones. While the cookies were cooling, I made the buttercream. I've never made this kind of buttercream before. In the book, it's listed as "basic buttercream", but I know it as Italian Meringue Buttercream. I've made a swiss meringue buttercream before, and they are similar, but the technique is different. In the swiss version, you heat egg whites and sugar, then beat them, then add the butter. In this version, you make a sugar syrup, then pour the hot syrup into beaten egg whites, and add butter. Either way, the frostings are both super rich and light at the same time. This one was no different. Truly amazing! And worth the effort. Although I made the recipe as directed, I only needed a little over a cup for the peanut butter filling. More frosting for later!
To assemble the cookies, I used a 1M star tip, and piped a beautiful swirly rose in the center. So pretty! I had enough frosting left over for maybe 1 more full size cookie. I noticed a few cookies were rather delicate, and bent or broke in half while being sandwiched together. Maybe the dough was too wet? All in all, a delicious cookie, but a lot of work. I wonder if I could achieve similar results by rolling the dough into a log and slicing off rounds as I need them? That might be more practical. 

PS- until this cookie, I have never had a Nutter Butter. After this cookie, I doubt I will, as I can't imagine they will compare to these from scratch.

Earl's Better Nutter Squares

Wow, That was a real test of technique and skill. I have never made butter cream before. Had no idea thats how it was made. A few things I learned from this recipe. Always read the entire recipe, including technique. I usually scan the ingredient list only. Lesson learned... This cookie took a better part of the day to make. No problem as I just happen to be off on this rainy Sunday. A wise cook once said, 'its not the mistake, but the recovery that makes a great chef'.  Turned out my KitchenAid mixer gears stripped (from bread dough yesterday). Also, midway through the recipe the battery went out on my digital scale. Wow....

The cookie dough part of the recipe seemed easy enough. Once again, I found myself not liking the portions, as I wanted to make sure I had lots to share at WS Post tomorrow. So, when I rolled the dough out, rather than using a round cookie cutter, I cut into squares. (I kind of remember NutterButters being squarish peanut shaped). The only change was that I used roasted salted peanuts, and I liked the results. Cookies came out a bit dry, or so I had thought anyway. Turns out there is a reason for that.

Butter cream was a first for me. I have to give a shout out to All Clad, and the Copper Core saucier. It was amazing how quickly I was able to get that sugar up to temp. Also, was really easy to stream the syrup into the egg white. Being that my KA mixer was out of commission, I was really nervous using a hand held. Turns out, it worked just fine. After whisking in the peanut butter at the end, I have to admit it was the first time I have licked the whisks in a long time. Just delicious, and I feel like I have the technique down for making butter cream. Lastly, I decided that since my cookies were square, I would not bother with piping the butter cream on. Rather, a manly man scoop of butter cream on each square is what I was feeling.

Now that I have eaten one (so far) cookie, I understand why the cookie was a bit dry. It really balances out the butter cream. I really love the flavor of this cookie. Too be honest though, I probably will never make it again. It was a lot of work, and I am still pretty fond of Nutter Butter's. The whole point was I learned.

16 cookies (3"), metric measure, convection bake, 8 minutes
Ingredient to note: almond butter

When I walk into the lunch room at work, I sometimes see a large jar of Peanut Butter sitting on the table with the rest of the Williams-Sonoma condiments. I’ve seen associates rush in during their 10-minute break and grab a spoonful and eat it with delight. I am amazed by how much people love the main ingredient to this week’s cookie. It fascinates me even though I’m not a fan of peanut butter. So here we are at cookie number four, (second for me) and I found this to be a challenge. As I began to embark on the study of this particular cookie, Aaron J. Clarke came to my rescue and suggested I use almond butter. So I decided to bake the Bouchon version and go out on a limb to include a second batch using almond butter.

Peanut Butter version:
I rolled the cookie dough unevenly and a bit thicker than 1/4 of an inch in some areas. I liked using the parchment paper which kept everything clean. I failed to freeze the cookies for 2 hours before baking them, but I did manage to refrigerate them for 1 hour before baking. I baked the first batch at 325˚ for 8 minutes. The cookies came out looking really nice!

The buttercream was difficult for me to make. I had trouble getting the sugar to reach 230˚, and the timing of the whisking the egg whites was off. I kept the mixer on low while the sugar reached the 248˚. All was well when the sugar was added, until I mixed the butter which made the buttercream very loose. So I followed instructions and refrigerated the buttercream for a couple of hours before adding the peanut butter.

Almond Butter version:
I purchased a jar of almond butter and found it too be gritty, so I emptied the bottle in my Vitamix to puree it. The consistency came out creamy but not anywhere as thick as the Skippy peanut butter. What I found different was when I creamed the butter and almond butter together I did not have to warm the mixer bowl with the torch as it was smoother and took less time to complete. 

The buttercream was a success the second time. I figured out that I needed to keep the pot on the stove instead of tilting the pan to see the temperature of the sugar. I also used a 1 qt sauce pan instead of a 2 qt.

The peanut buttercream was delicious and when I tasted the whole cookie, I was astounded. I enjoyed the combination of the oats and the peanut butter. I never would have thought I could enjoy such a cookie. The peanut butter was not overwhelming as I had imagined it would be. I tasted the almond butter cookie and it was just as delicious. I have to admit I put down the almond butter cookie to finish off the other. None of them crumbled. A happy ending.

Guest Baker: Amber Farley

Thanks to your blog, I now know that I'm not insane in thinking these cookies were a LOT of work! I tasted one unassembled cookie (pretty good, a bit crisp and chewy and not too sweet) and one bite of a completed cookie (omg delicious!). My BF declared these the best thing I've ever baked, and he likes them better than Dorie Greenspan's pb cookie. The buttercream was a challenge - that syrup gave me trouble. I got it worked out and ended up with perfect buttercream. As I was congratulating myself on the perfect collar I created for my pastry bag, i realized after it was full that I forgot to put in the tip.  D'oh!! So, no fancy fluting on the edges. I also made these smaller than suggested. I think I used a 2.5 in cutter.


  1. Fun blog! I just made the better nutters this weekend (and the macarons). Did any of you have trouble w/ the syrup? For the buttercream, my syrup hardended before it got to the temp. I had to add water to make it liquify again, and then it hardened really quickly when I added it to my bowl. For the macarons, it crystalized very quickly after I removed it from the heat, so my batter ended up a little grainy. I was wondering if the temps listed in the book were correct, or if I'm just not fast enough (it was about a 30second delay for the macarons). I did read that there are some errors in the book, so I was wondering if the temp of the syrup was one of them? Any thoughts?

  2. Amber,
    I'm so glad you're baking along! Please email us photos of your results and a short description, and we'll include you in our blog and Facebook page.
    Regarding the syrup, I don't think any of us had a problem like that, perhaps your candy thermometer isn't calibrated properly? Try testing it in a pot of boiling water, and if it reads anything other than 212 degrees F, it may be time for a new one! In any case, don't be discouraged and try the recipes again.

  3. Amber,

    I agree with Tania. I'd check the thermometer. For me the only time the syrup solidifies is while I'm pouring it into the mixing bowl and the beater just happens to whip some onto the walls of the bowl and solidifies there. Other than that it should stay liquid while pouring.

  4. Amber, Your syrup crystallized, thus the grainy result.

    Don't stir while syrup boils...just swirl the pan. Very important...make sure all sugar crystals are dissolved in warm/ hot syrup before mixtture reaches the boil.You either had sugar crystals still present that were undissolved or you introduced crystals from a spoon with undissolved crystals on it. Leave any spoon in a tall glass of hot water stove