These treats may have the nostalgic look of classic peanut butter cookies, but they hold a punchy little secret: a generous amount of spicy hot cayenne pepper, and a perfect amount of salt to go with it. The recipe comes from Samantha Seneviratne's new book, The New Sugar and Spice, which is so chock full of great recipes that I have dog-eared pretty much every page. I mean, hello Hot Honeycomb Candy, Plum Galettes with Hazelnut Frangipane, and Bay Leaf Rice Pudding! I can't wait to bake more from this book this fall and winter, so many of the spice-forward recipes seem like they would be a perfect fit for the holidays.
The inspiration for these chewy-crunchy cookies was Hot Mix, which is a super tasty spicy-salty snack mix, and dang, those flavors translate perfectly. Salty-sweet-hot snacks are my jam. When I made these guys I thought I had peanuts in my pantry, but discovered late into the baking process that I definitely did not (ehem, that's what happens when you don't do your mise en place...). I used chopped up cashews instead and they were fab.
Sam's Crunchy Peanutpepper Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for pressing
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup natural, well-stirred unsweetened peanut butter
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cayenne, and baking soda. In a large bowl, stir the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Stir in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the peanuts.
Scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place on the prepared sheets at least 2 inches apart. Using a fork dipped in sugar, gently press a crisscross pattern in the top of each cookie, flattening it out to a 2-inch circle.
Bake until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges and on the bottom, 12-14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheets on the racks, then move them to the racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for 1 month.