When trying to recreate a classic like the Nutter Butter, I'm not looking for a modern twist, a reinvention, or any kind of gourmet "improvement." I want the same Nutter Butter experience I had as a child, whether it's haute cuisine or uses a tub full of Crisco. And when I'm doing my research, I rely on a panel of reviews from other experimenters in the blogosphere. So today I eschew the upscale "better than the original" recipe from Thomas Kellers Bouchon Bakery that everyone seems to rely on, and go to one of my favorite sources, Serious Eats. The name alone implies just how serious they are about their, well . . . eats. Turns out their Nutter Butter submission comes from another favorite of mine, BraveTart, who has inspired more than one Instructable on this site!
Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, and BraveTart has already shared her own experiences with making Nutter Butters, so I'm here to try my own derivation of her recipe. I've seen so many that involve using oatmeal, which seems right to my palette. But when investigating the true ingredients of the original Nutter Butters, I see no oats, but an addition of graham flour. So while BraveTart achieves her perfect Nutter Butter texture with the use of Gluten Free rice flour, I'm going to give a combo of all purpose and graham flours, and see just what I think of that. I also doubled the amount of peanut butter in the filling recipe to give it the extra punch I thought it needed to make it just like the childhood treats I remembered.
Here we go!
Step 1: Ingredients
yield: 20 sandwich cookies, active time 30 minutes, total time 45 minutes
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) creamy peanut butter (based on Cooks Illustrated's taste test of best peanut butters, I used Skippy. I know, right?)
2/3 cup (5 ounces) sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup (3 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) graham flour (or all purpose flour)
1 ounce roasted, unsalted peanuts
For the filling:
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) creamy peanut butter (double the amount in the original recipe)
1/2 ounce cream cheese
1 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Step 2: Make the Cookies
While the mixer is running, add the egg yolks, one at a time. Turn off the mixer once both are incorporated and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Using a food processor, combine peanuts and flours. Process for about a minute, and then sift the mixture into another bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Re-process whatever chunks do not pass through the sieve, and sift again. Discard whatever chunks are left.
Turn the mixer to its lowest setting and add the peanut/flour mixture all at once. Continue mixing on the lowest setting until completely combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and form the mixture into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc with your hands, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 3: Bake the Cookies
Lay a sheet of cling wrap onto a cleared counter space. Place the dough on the film and another sheet of cling film on top. Because I found the dough to be so dry, this was the only way I could keep it together while rolling it out. Roll the chilled dough to a scant 1/8" thickness (you remember how thin those little cookies are!).
Alternatively, the Serious Eats recipe recommends flouring your rolling surface and using a metal spatula to loosen the dough from the counter top instead of using cling film. Alas, I have no such spatula.
Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes, and transfer to baking sheet.
Re-roll and cut any remaining scraps up to two times.
Here's a super awesome trick to make the patterns on top of the cookies, which I'm taking directly from BraveTart:
To make a Nutter Butter pattern on the cookies, place any remaining dough scraps in a mixing bowl. Mix with a hand or stand mixer while adding hot water, one teaspoon at a time.
Continue adding hot water until the dough has thinned into a paste. You can always add more liquid, but you can't take it away. Add slowly and let each addition mix in fully before adding more.
When the mixture reaches a frosting-like consistency, use a spatula to scrape it out. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a very small tip, or a heavy duty Ziploc bag with a tiny hole poked in the corner.
Pipe some sort of design atop each cookie. Four vertical lines and several horizontal hashes will give the impression of a Nutter Butter, but any design will do.
I, however, totally botched that part. For some reason I thought it was supposed to happen after baking. Oopsie doodle.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets after 6.
Let cool on the pan.
Step 4: Make the Filling and Assemble
Transfer mixture to a ziplock bag with the corner clipped off, or a pastry bag with a plain tip. Or just use a spatula and spread between the cookies, as I did (I wasn't using any fancy shapes).
Pipe or spread filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies, gently sandwiching the filling in between.
Since I forgot to make the designs on the tops of the cookies before baking, I thinned the remaining frosting with water and piped it on afterwards!
Step 5: Enjoy
If you manage not to devour them all in one sitting, you can store the rest in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and try it out yourself!