Monday, July 16, 2012

Brown Sugar Peanut Squares

If you know me, then you know that I favor peanut brittle as well as pralines.  I was wanting to make some cookies and I did come across a few recipes, one had praline chunks mixed in and the other had crunched up caramelized peanuts on top.  Since the ones with the topper seemed to have more of the nut crunch for each cookie, I chose the ones with the topper.

These particular cookies hail from Columbia and are called "cucas" in their country.  The blend of brown sugar as well as peanuts are ingredients that seem to pop up a lot when it comes to baked goods for Central as well as South America.

The cookies, even though flat, have a soft texture.  They are basically a brown sugar
cookie and would be appropriate for high tea as well as brunch.  However, adding the frosting and caramelized peanuts on top, really turn them into an all around cookie.  It is those extras that really make me consider this recipe to be a definite keeper. Also, the texture contrast of the soft cookie with the crunch of the peanut topping makes for a great bite. This recipe makes about 30 cookies.

Brown Sugar Peanut Squares or Cucas
adapted from International Cookie Cookbook

1 cup or 2 sticks of butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup of packed dark brown sugar
2 1/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder

2 tbs packed dark brown sugar
3 tbs granulated sugar
1 cup finely chopped skinless unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

In one bowl, sift together the baking powder and the flour.  Set aside.  Fill another bowl with the butter and dark brown sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for about 1 minute.

Take out a wooden spoon and mix the sifted ingredients into the butter mixture until no dry streaks remain.  Place the dough between two long sheets of wax paper.  Roll out to a rectangle that it 1/4 inch thick.  I ended up with a rectangle 10X17 inches.  Place wax paper covered dough in the fridge to chill for 15-20 minutes.

During the chilling time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Also prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

Once chilled, remove the dough and lift off top sheet of wax paper.  Place back on top and flip dough over and then peel off the wax paper on the face up side.  Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut dough into rectangles, measuring 1 1/2 X 2 1/2.  Place each rectangle on a baking sheet about 1 1/4 inch apart. Continue to cut and place on sheet and then re-roll scraps, following the same instructions.

Place pan in oven and baked 8-10 minutes or until edges have turned more golden than the color of the cookie dough. Remove pan and let cool for 3 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
For topping, place granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once sugar has melted, stir in the peanuts.  Continue to stir and let cook until peanuts turn brown, crispy and fragrant.  If it starts to smoke and overheat, lift pan off burner to cool slightly and then place back on heat and stir. Do not let burn or over cook.  Empty contents into a heat proof bowl when done and let cool completely.  Once cool, you can break up any big clumps that formed.

In a small bowl beat together butter and brown sugar together until smooth.  Then beat in the powdered sugar until no dry streaks remain.

Then ice cooled cookies and immediately sprinkle the caramelized nuts on top and press them lightly into the icing.

Tips and notes:
1.  The nut mixture seemed too dry to me, so I added 1 tbs of glucose and let cook for about 15 seconds while stirring.
2. The frosting was too thick to spread, so I added some water and put in in a squirt bottle instead of spreading with a knife.
3. I used a 2 inch square cookie cutter, which was easier and insured straight edges.
                               **LAST YEAR- Black Casino Cake**