Peanut butter cookies are wonderful in general, but when you add homemade peanut caramel to the middle of them...well, I don't know if it gets better than that. The cookies are dense and peanut butter-y, like they should be, and the caramel is soft and salty and delicious.
I also made the cookies much larger than they're supposed to be. For a recipe that's supposed to make 50 cookies, I got 25. Whoops. More room for caramel, is what I say. And you want as much caramel as you can get. I would eat this caramel with a spoon. Actually, I did eat this caramel with a spoon, because the recipe makes a ton of extra. Ice cream? Apple dip? There are a million possibilities. Another note about the caramel is that it doesn't totally set. It's not runny, but if you, say, poked a finger into it, your finger would come away sticky. Just something to think about.
To to sum up: peanuts+salt+caramel=make this now.
From David Lebovitz via The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes 50 small or 25 medium-sized cookies
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (200g) creamy salted peanut butter (regular, not natural, is best)
1 3/4 cups (250g) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or glucose
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped roasted salted peanuts
Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
With an electric mixer, or by hand, make the cookie dough by beating the butter, brown and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. If using an electric mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Beat in the peanut butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and stir until there are no patches of flour.
Scoop up tablespoon-sized portions of the dough and roll each piece between your hands so they're as smooth as possible so they don't crack at the edges when performing the next step.
Space them 1 1/2-inches (2 cm) apart on the baking sheets, then use the rounded end of a wooden spoon, or your thumb, to make a depression in each one. Don't worry much if the sides crack; push them back together.
Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during cooking, until they are light-golden brown and the edges barely start to darken. Remove from oven, and while they're warm, press in to reinforce each depression with the end of the wooden spoon. Let cool completely.
Make the salted peanut caramel by warming the cream in a saucepan or microwave, and setting it aside. (Don't skip this step! If you add cold cream to the caramel, the sugar will crystallize too quickly. If this happens, immediately stir the mixture vigorously over low heat until the sugar melts again.)
Cook the water, 1 cup sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a caramel, gently swirling the pan only if necessary (to ensure it melt and cooks evenly) until it turns a nice golden brown. (This always takes longer than you think it will, but once it starts happening, it goes quickly. My very imprecise measure of timing is this: I wait until I start to get nervous that it's about to burn, let it cook for another twenty seconds, and then take it off. In terms of looks, if you add the cream to the caramel and it still looks translucent and dark, then it's burnt. It should be golden and cloudy.)
Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the hot cream in a slow, steady stream.
Cool until warm and pourable, then add the chopped peanuts. Spoon some of the caramel into each cookie, letting it set for about an hour, if you want to drizzle them with chocolate.
Storage: Cookies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for 3 to 4 days. The unbaked dough can be rolled into rounds and stored in a heavy-duty freezer bag in the refrigerator or freezer, until ready to bake.