Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwich Cookies
I have this recurring dream. I sleep hard and I sleep deep and as such I don't often remember dreams. But I always remember this one.
I'm in an apartment. My apartment (which is not my actual apartment but you know dreams) and it's organized chaos. I'm trying to make the best of a very cramped space that I've very clearly outgrown and am attempting to reconfigure it to make room for a new project. I have an incredible sense of urgency about it but quite literally can't figure out how to make it work with my current space limitations. I'm stressed and anxious. I ultimately decide that I need to move to a bigger place so I'll have to get a roommate. And then, right on cue, I remember that there's a whole 'nother part of the apartment that I closed off. Ironically, in case I ever needed to get a roommate and they needed space. I go to it and behind the door is a home entirely un-lived in. The configuration is slightly different every time but there's always floor to ceiling windows encased in beautiful crown molding. There's a gorgeous chandelier (a nod to my mom for sure) and there's a long beautiful table in the middle of the living room. Aside from that it's empty. It's always street level. There's always a back patio (this last one had a BBQ and string lights...) and an expansive bright green lawn outside the windows. It's light and white and beautifully bright. I walk around from one room to another in a state of excitement and also mild confusion. I feel such a sense of relief and possibility and I think to myself, "Why the heck have I been living in that tiny space? What have I been waiting for? Why didn't I come in here a long time ago? It's exactly what I need. And there's room for everything. Everything I need for [whatever this thing is I'm hell-bent on starting.] And there's room for another person. There's room for everything." The thought process is the same every time.
I could draw about a million parallels on what all of that means. But I have this other recurring dream. An awake one. Of teaching. Actually I take that back. It's more of an intense sense of urgency to push people out of the day jobs they loathe and into the one thing that feeds their soul. I don't think that's indulgence. I think that's calling. And in calling lies purpose. And in knowledge lies the power to pursue it. Hence, the sharing of knowledge in teaching. I also think the chief reason we go through anything at all in life whether it's personal or professional, whether its the good, the bad, or the horrifically ugly, is to be able to come alongside others.
Since I started this blog people have been immensely generous with their knowledge. When all you want to do is share this thing but you find yourself constantly running up against the most ridiculous and seemingly irrelevant barriers it's the most frustrating thing. I've felt it. I often wish that all of this complicated technology, the social media, the relentless email marketing campaigns, and the 10 new ways to grow your subscriber list weren't things that I needed to care about. I wish that words like "conversion" and "engagement" and "lead generating opt-ins" would just go away. Not because they're bad. But because I don't really care. And also because I don't really understand. And because I don't understand these things eat up my time and just get in the way.
I think that food bloggers, through their blogs, are actually satisfying something much deeper within themselves. Feeding someone, hospitality, sharing a meal is the most intimate and gratifying form of service. In my opinion it's the sixth love language. But that's their thing. The thing that absolutely must come out. Sure there's a deep and simple love for food and a fascination with ingredients. The joy of cooking is a very real thing unto itself but it's far and away less prevalent than the love of loving on others. That's what they should be doing. That's what I want to be doing anyway. I mean, I started all of this in the first place to find community in a shared experience. To connect with other people by writing about life in the context of food. To process my own life by writing. To write and share recipes and take pictures of what I thought was beautiful. To essentially serve a digital meal. That's all. Not to spend hours on end creating high-converting graphics.
All that to say, I know that food styling and photography is a pain point for a lot budding food bloggers out there that just want to do the same. It's a pain point for me a lot of the time honestly. If I had the luxury of shooting everything in light-filled studio with props galore at my fingertips and a freakin' step ladder so I could get up over my tripod without risking my life this would be a lot easier. The picture would practically take itself. But I shoot in my home kitchen just like (most) everyone else. I don't have a 50k education in how to work my camera. And after 3pm the light in my little studio is so yellow thanks to the outside of the building that I may as well be shooting on the surface of the sun. But I have learned a lot as a professional food stylist in the past 6 years and if what I've learned helps clear the way for someone who just wants to get back to the real business at hand faster, I will gladly share it. So that's why I started the workshops. Here's how to take a beautiful picture so that you can get back to telling the world what you really have to say. Don't let this part be a barrier any longer.
I don't know what the big deal thing is that I'm up in arms about in that recurring dream but I feel like this might have something to do with it. The desire and sense of urgency to encourage people to come out from under their fears and empower them with knowledge in the one piece of the puzzle that I know about is palpable. It also sounds like a blast. And exponentially more meaningful than arranging french fries for a fast food commercial. So that's how these workshops came to be. I'm terrified on all counts. Primarily of all my tech platforms malfunctioning and making me look bad. Also of being on camera. The memory of having so much anxiety over a 7th grade art presentation that the teacher literally had pity mid-presentation and allowed me to sit down dawned on me walking back from the gym yesterday. Public speaking is not my thing. Welp, still do. Greater than fear itself is the fear of missed opportunity. Missed purpose. Missed passion.
The cocoa powder pic is recent but I took the ones of these cookies well over a year ago. Before I understood the value of a simple white card and the importance of white balance. Before I upgraded my camera and spent every dime I didn't have on a prime lens. I hesitated posting them. Every day is a learning experience. Every time I turn on my camera I get a little bit better. I am NOT a patient learner. I want to be the best yesterday. It's good to look back. Reflect on progress. And see how taking the time and making the effort to learn and practice have made a big difference. My hope with these workshops is to speed that process just a bit for anyone as impatient as I am. And perhaps I'll crack the code of that recurring dream along the way.
Peanut Butter Fudge Sandwich Cookies
This recipe is not nearly as involved as it might look. Both the cookie and the fudge come together in a flash and they freeze beautifully well either separate or sandwiched together. I use Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter in both recipes but anything will do. The cookies will be less sweet than what you may be accustomed to. It's intentional to offset the sweetness of the fudge.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the fudge:
1/2 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1-12 ounce bag dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet trays with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides once or twice. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Using the ice cream scoop portion the cookies into balls placing them 3 or 4 inches apart on your baking sheet depending on how big they are. Use a fork to make a cross hatch on the top and press the cookie into disc about a half an inch thick. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and bake for approximately 10-14 minutes until lightly browned rotating the trays halfway through baking from top to bottom and front to back. The cookies will still be a little soft in the center. While they cool, make the fudge.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the sugar and the milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for two minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the powdered sugar and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to cool for several minutes. It will firm up as it sits. Using the same ice cream scoop you used for the cookie dough, portion the fudge into round balls. Place each ball between two cookies and gently press together until the fudge reaches the edge to make a sandwich. In a mixing bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil stirring until smooth. Gently dip the cookies into the chocolate one by one using a spoon to help push the chocolate up the sides and transfer to wax paper to cool until the chocolate is set.