Magic in the middles: Cast a spell with these cookies

Chocolate and peanut butter have a truly symbiotic relationship: each brings out the best in the other. While Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have the corner on the combination in candyland, bakers can create a classic of their own. Our version is called Magic in the Middles. It was born when we were working on the Cookie Companion; one of our readers/customers plaintively asked us if we had a recipe for a cookie like this, and PJ went to town on the idea. She was extremely successful.

It’s simple: chocolate cookie dough surrounds a peanut butter center, and the whole is dredged in sugar before baking. In the oven, the cookie spreads out, and like magic, you end up with a peanut butter center between two wonderful chocolate layers

One of our former colleagues fell in love with and married a British lad, whose favorite culinary discovery in America was our beloved chocolate/peanut butter combination. I’ve made several “care package” batches of these for him since, including several dozen for their wedding. If he reads this I have no doubt I’ll get an email, wondering where the latest shipment is.

Ready to make some? Here goes.

First, whisk together the dry ingredients for the cookie. If the cocoa has lumps in it, it’s always a good idea to put it through a strainer first.

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Next, cream the sugars with the butter and peanut butter.

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Once they’re smooth (scrape at least once), add the vanilla and egg.

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Scrape, then add the dry ingredients.

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Here’s a funny thing. Sometimes recipes change on you over time. We tested this recipe repeatedy (and with great glee) several times before it went into the book. But in the many batches we’ve made since, we’ve found that every once in awhile, the chocolate dough cracks when they’re formed and baked, because it’s not QUITE moist enough. Depending on humidity, one’s personal measuring style, the variance in the size of the egg, and the protein in the flour, you may need to add one or two tablespoons of milk to the dough, or an extra egg yolk. If you double the recipe, definitely add an extra egg.

Now, to make the amount of outsides match the amount of filling to a “T”, the best method we know is to use cookie scoops. The tablespoon scoop is just right for the chocolate dough, and the teaspoon scoop is perfect for the filling. Scoop the filling out into balls and roll them up; you can freeze them if you want them to be a little more rigid and easy to handle.
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Now scoop the chocolate dough: don’t cheat (like I have) and heap the dough above the top of the scoop like you’re making an ice cream cone: you won’t have enough to make all 26 cookies if you do.

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Keep the dough level, and your outsides will match your insides. Put the chocolate ball in your palm; press a deep dent in it with your thumb.
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Now plop in the peanut butter ball,
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And pinch the edges together around it.

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Roll between your hands to round it up.

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Now give it a little sugar coating.

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Put it on the cookie sheet, with a good 2” between the cookies.
Once all the cookies are formed, use the bottom of a drinking glass to press them flat, about 1/2″ thick.

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In the name of demonstrating the occasional cracking I was telling you about earlier, I made two versions of this dough, one as written in the book, and another with an extra egg yolk. In the photos above I’m using the original version. The dough handles well, but when I press it down, a couple of cracks form at the edges.

The version with an additional egg yolk was a bit trickier to form (a bit floppier in my hands), but when they got their light squishing, they looked like this:

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No cracks, as you can see. The original version looked like this in the oven:

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Some cracks, but nothing fatal. I can tell you that if the chocolate dough sits around for any length of time or is put in the refrigerator, it dries out more and the problem is exacerbated. But if you make and finish the cookies in one go, it’s not an issue.

The wetter dough looked like this in the oven:

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Time to bake: 7 to 9 minutes, until you can smell the chocolate and the cookies look set.

So it’s up to you: easier to handle, no extra liquid. Ready for their beauty-queen closeup, add an extra yolk or a tablespoon or two of milk. Either way, you’ll win friends and influence people with these cookies.

Cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving them to a rack to finish cooling. As if they’ll last that long…..

Read, rate, and comment (please!) on our Magic in the Middles recipe.
Buy vs. Bake

Magic in the Middles: $3.19 for one batch, 12¢ each

Pepperidge Farm Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, $3.59 (13 cookies) 28¢ each

Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Cookies $3.39 (8 cookies) 42¢ each

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Jane McClelland

    2 years ago, I developed an allergy to chocolate ;-(. Is there a peanut butter dough I can replace the chocolate dough with so I can, once again enjoy Magic Middle cookies?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jane, my condolences on your chocolate allergy. We haven’t really tried this, so it will be a bit of an experiment, but you might want to try this one: Barb@KAF

  2. Angela

    I was directed to this recipe by a friend who makes them often and they turn out perfect every time. When i tried to make them today, they didn’t fllaten at all. I just ended up with big lumps instead of cookies. I’m wondering if I’m having difficulty because I live in a high altitude location. Are there high altitude suggestions for this recipe?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Angela- I don’t believe altitude is causing the problem you are having, I am guessing you may just have a bit too much flour in your recipe. If you read through this page here, I think you may find your next batch comes out a bit better: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html. If you’re still having trouble, please give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 1-855-371-2253, and we’ll do our best to help you solve the problems you are still having. Happy Baking and best of luck! Jocelyn@KAF

  3. dhgoodman

    Can this cookie be made with a caramel center?

    The secret is spread. Both the cookie and the filling need to spread at the same rate, or you’ll have interesting results! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  4. adriennesza

    I love these. They are my go-to cookie swap cookie. I always want the chocolate part to taste richer. Any suggestions?

    Try replacing 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder with and equal amount of Black Cocoa. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  5. chinchillalover

    Uh,there seems to be a problem with your site.The first comment on this blog post says it was from 1999,but this blog says it was posted in 2008.I know unless there’s a time machine somewhere,that has to be a technical error.
    You are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. I will check in with our Web Team. Elisabeth

    Reply
  6. chinchillalover

    Now I HAVE to make these!!!My brother asked for something peanut-buttery and chocolaty after we bought a 4 pound bag of chocolate chips at sam`s club.Vielen dank for yet another great recipe!!But still would this translate well into gf?(please say yes!!)

    Converting any wheat recipe to gluten-free must be viewed as an experiment. Some work great, other less so. Try beginning with a 1:1 flour substitution, using 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of g-f flour. Then adjust as needed. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply

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