The other day, while sitting at a coffee shop with a friend, she looked over to my laptop and saw that I was running through my subscription of food blogs on Feedly. I subscribe to many — I think the number of blogs in the "Food" category on my account exceeds 100 — and my friend was surprised to find that, in addition to the regular cooking and baking blogs, I followed a fair amount of vegan, gluten-free, and other special diet focused ones.
"But you're not even vegan!" she exclaimed, as she scrolled through at least five vegan blogs. "What's the point of subscribing to these if you're not even going to cook from any?" I started to protest, but she was right — with the exception of that month in which I went refined sugar-free, I have never adhered to any sort of special diet. I tend to cook with whatever ingredients I have on hand in my pantry; if the resulting dish happened to be vegan or gluten-free, it was accidental, never on purpose.
I explained that, truth be told, despite the majority of the blogs I follow, it was surprisingly rare that I actually cooked from any of them. Not out of disinterest — it's more that, with all my baking, I am a surprisingly minimal and lazy cook, working with whatever I happen to have on hand and never following a recipe unless it's for a special occasion. I tend to bake more from the baking blogs that I follow, but even those recipes get put on the backburner a lot because I've got my own to share.
Instead, I followed them all for inspiration.
As the words came out of my mouth, I realized how cheesy I sounded. But it's 100% true. One of the things I really enjoy about blogging is that it has exposed me to a wide network of people who are exceedingly kind, talented, and creative. Although us bloggers are technically "competing" in the same space, for the most part, everybody is incredibly supportive and generous. We're united by the same thing: a love of food, and our understanding of how it can bring people together. And even if the food is different from my own preferences — either because it's a special diet I don't follow, or it's a type of cuisine I'm not particularly familiar with, or whatever else — I still have so much love and admiration for it. Maybe even more so, because it allows me to see methods and ingredients that I wouldn't naturally gravitate to myself.
In fact, some of my favorite blogs are the folks whose cuisine is markedly different from mine. Laura Wright from The First Mess is one such example. Her blog, her photographs, and her writing are all beautiful, but her food is even more so. Even though I'm probably the least vegany blogger out there — it took me a really long time to like vegetables, and even now, I'm picky about which ones I like — I found myself bookmarking almost every recipe in her new cookbook. All of it was just so inspirational, with every page full of new-to-me processes, ingredients, flavor pairings, and more.
These peanut butter no-bake cookies are from The First Mess Cookbook. I was drawn to them because, as a baker, it's rare that I don't bake things. I'm also not the world's biggest fan of peanut butter, though I'm trying to change that. But still — something about their simplicity and their rusticness called out to me. Indeed, the cookies came together fairly easily with minimal equipment, and reminded me of a cashew cookie-flavored Larabar with a more peanut and almond tilt. Laura's use of just a hint of lemon is absolutely genius, cutting the sweetness of the dates and peanut butter and infusing the cookies with a subtle, citrus flavor. Enjoy!
Some baker's notes:
- For this recipe, it's important to use raw almonds. Not blanched! Blanched almonds won't have as much moisture as raw ones, and that moisture is essential for holding the cookies together. These cookies don't have a binder aside from peanut butter, processed dates, and the natural oils from the nuts. The more moisture, the better! It's also important not to skip the first step of the recipe, which instructs you to soak your dates, to get as much moisture as possible.
- If you find that your dough isn't sticking together, keep pulsing the mixture in a food processor more! You'll need to pulse them for longer than you think.
- And if it really won't hold its shape, you can cheat and throw in a tablespoon of maple syrup or melted coconut oil. Honey works too, but the cookies will no longer be vegan. Keep pulsing until the ingredients are pretty processed and the dough is homogeneous and not grainy at all. Patience is a virtue.
No-Bake Salted Peanut Butter Cookies
(barely adapted from The First Mess Cookbook)
For the Salted Peanut Butter Cookies:
(makes around 28 cookies)
- 1 cup (8.5 ounces) Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 cup (8.5 ounces) raw almonds, plus more for garnishing
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted, smooth natural peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
For the Salted Peanut Butter Cookies:
- In a small bowl, soak 1 cup Medjool dates in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, grind 1 cup raw almonds on high until you have a coarse meal, about 30 seconds.
- Drain the soaked Medjool dates and add to the food processor, along with 1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Pulse the mixture a few times to get everything moving, before turning the food processor on high speed and processing until you have a uniform "dough" that clumps together. This will take longer than you think — keep processing until the mixture turns sticky and clumps into chunks. Squeezing a pinch of dough between your fingers should keep it together.
- Once the mixture is sticky, use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the dough into balls and place on the baking sheet. You may need to gently pat each dough ball once or twice to help keep it together. Place on the baking sheet, and use the palm of your hand to press down to form a cookie. If using almonds as a garnish, press an almond into the center of the top of the cookie. Sprinkle the cookie with flaky sea salt. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.
- Place the baking tray of cookies in the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm up. The cookies can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.