Peanut Butter Paprika Cookies
There isn’t quite a word for “pie” in French. Tourte describes a double-crusted, enclosed pastry of some sort, but isn’t quite the same as pies in the States are. Like dishes from other nationalities and cultures, pie represents a tradition to Americans. Pies are a dessert we look forward to baking when fruit and berries come into season, and they are an essential part of our holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, as they represent something greater than two pieces of dough with fruit baked between them.
While classic pies will never be out of favor, a new generation of pie makers are mixing things up. There are my pals at Butter & Scotch, mixing booze and butter, The Art of Pie is a guidebook to making the basics, and I just got a preview of The New Pie by two non-professional piemakers that are shaking up the pie world.
So I was intrigued by Sister Pie, which sort of blew me away when I opened it. This pie book is different. What’s new about pie? Plenty, it seems.
Pie shops aren’t new in the States, but there’s a been a resurgence of them over the years, with the younger generation of bakers handcrafting pies (and using words like “handcrafting,” rather than “making”). One such person is Lisa Ludwinski, and while she wasn’t in Detroit the last time I went there, her shop, Sister Pie, seems reason to go back. The next best thing is having her book, Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery. Lisa’s enthusiasm and love for her subject jumps off the pages of the book, and that enthusiasm was contagious: I love it and want to make everything in it.
And when she uses the word “big-hearted” in the subtitle, you can feel that in the writing, and in the photos, which celebrate the rich diversity of America, and presents a slice of life (and pie) in the midwest.
There are classic pies and riffs off of them, with crusts made of cheddar, rye flour, and aged Gouda. Pie flavors include Salted Maple (yes…and yes!), Coffee Chess pie, Pfeffernusse (with molasses and spices), Cranberry Crumble, Malted Lime, as well as a Cardamom, Tahini, and Squash pie.
I wanted to tackle the Toasted Marshmallow Butterscotch Pie, but admittedly, she calls it “one of our more laborious pies,” so I think I’ll just have to wait until I get back to Detroit to try it. (Actually, it’s just a three-page recipe and isn’t really all that daunting, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to use a slow-cooker that I recently opened, and the pork shoulder I’m cooking in it is turning into a three-day project, precluding me from focusing on anything else.)
But I was intrigued by the Cookies, Etc. chapter, which has brownies, scones, coffee cakes, muffins, granola and, yes – cookies! Seeing the words “peanut butter” and “paprika” together made have one of those – “Oof, why didn’t I think of that?” moments. And I decided to make them.
Like some of the discussions that will never be settled, I used commercial peanut butter for these cookies, and crunchy at that. The recipe said to use smooth, but a friend generously loaded me up with crunchy peanut butter from the States, two giant Costco-sized jars, which I’ve barely made a dent it. (The organic crunchy peanut butter I bring back in smaller jars seems to get used a lot more often, mostly as an afternoon snack.)
The recipe was simple to put together and had a touch of whole wheat flour, to make them extra hearty. I used some teff instead, which I had on hand, which made them a bit crumblier. But the co-star of the show here in smoked paprika both in the dough and on the outside, in the sugary crust. The smoky flavor is a nice contrast to the rich peanut butter, with a touch of salt that bridges the savory and the sweet.
The cookies puffed up a bit while baking, so I gave them my “whack down” treatment, which you may remember from my Salted Butter Chocolate Chip cookies from a while back. A simple, delicate smack with a spatula, when the cookies emerge from the oven, compresses them slightly and gives them a chewier texture, and makes them extra irresistible.