Life in school makes me feel like I’m in a time warp, like I’ve never left it. Only this time I’m more of a bystander, surrounded by teenage drama, growth spurts, birthday tau poks (boys!) and the occasional adolescent angst. At the end of it all when I see how much my students have grown and matured over time, I truly taste the meaning of my vocation. Watching my very first batch of students graduate made me realise how inexplicably attached I was to this class of rambunctious and big-hearted boys. Even after they changed classes, these boys never fail to remember my birthdays; they are like the little brothers I never had. I wished them well and sent them off to another phrase in life, with nothing less than copious amounts of home-baked Peanut Butter Cookies.
Being a teacher allows me to witness the growth of young boys into young men, their formative years shaped by the environment and people who surround them. I witness these kids starting out full of candour, vivacity and beaming with the enthusiasm of one faced with fresh challenges. Yet over the years, I also see the tired faces, lives bogged down by an endless stream of examinations under a relentless education system that has little tolerance for failure and mediocrity. Yes there are gradual changes made to the system which perpetuates such attitudes, yet before these changes are fully in effect, these young minds will continue to shoulder the burden of others’ expectations.
I often tell my students to “live the life they have imagined”, they can only tell me that their lives have already been imagined for them. This is the jaded voice of the 21st century teenager.
On a sweeter (actually salty) note, here’s the recipe I adapted from David Lebovitz.
My version omits all that salted caramel sauce shuhpaz that Lebovitz has and focused on the peanut butter. It cuts out much extra work too, this is really a fuss-free cookie. For that gritty salty taste I like in these cookies, I used a mixture of creamy and crunchy peanut butter, topped off the cookie with some crushed peanuts and popped them in the oven. Really quick and easy, the only thing that feels like eternity is the wait for them to be ready. Using Top flour instead of regular AP flour also rendered them crunchy and light, with a butter cookie texture. If you have 30 minutes to spare and a bunch of boys to feed, this is the recipe for you.
Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120g) brown sugar molasses
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature (cold eggs = heavier batter, so be patient and wait!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (200g) creamy salted peanut butter + 1/4 cup (100g) of crunchy salted peanut butter
1 3/4 cups (250g) top flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
*Optional: a handful of chopped peanuts as a finishing touch before baking
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. 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.
3. Beat in all the peanut butter.
4. In a separate bowl, 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.
5. Scoop up tablespoon-sized portions of the dough and roll each piece into a ball with your hands. Space them 2cm apart (they will spread so do space them out. Yes, I learnt it the hard way when I ended up with a giant united nations cookie on my first try) on the baking sheets, then use a fork to gently press them down so that you get those patterned lines. Decorate each cookie with some chopped peanuts (if using)
6. Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway, until they are light-golden brown and the edges barely start to darken. (watch your oven like a hawk after the 10th minute, they burn easily!)
7. Remove from oven to cool completely before packing them into an air tight container. These cookies will feel chewy when they are first out from the oven but will turn crunchy as they cool.