Monday, March 15, 2010
On Saturday, the husband and I decided to do our taxes. Last year was rather traumatic, as my employer didn't withhold enough throughout the year, and we ended up shelling out a big chunk of cash. To preempt a repeat, this year we each had additional taxes withheld. We expected to break even, if not get a return.
Sadly, Uncle Sam gave us a big old punch in the gut. Once again, we owe a ton of money.
I know we are not alone. But we both make modest salaries, and the fact that we have to pay more in addition to what we've been paying all year, especially in light of my impending joblessness, landed us both in tears. Well, just me.
Now, I'm a pretty typical liberal. I'm pro-choice, pro-gun control, and pro-gay marriage. I think pot should be legalized and that everyone should have health care. And I believe that pitching in to help those who have less is the right thing to do. You know, spread around the wealth. Some of you would probably think I'm a socialist, which is fine. I stand by my beliefs. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm getting the short end of the stick with this tax business. And why am I punished because I can't afford to buy a house and don't want kids? Shouldn't there be some of us keeping the rental market afloat and not overpopulating the planet?
The husband looked at the percentage of our annual income we're paying in taxes.
"If I'm going to pay this much," he said, "where's my &*%$ universal health care?"
The rest of the weekend was spent trying not to think about the taxes, my crumbling job situation, and Frances not being well. To get your mind off things, I find it's best to spend time with friends, get out of your house, and busy yourself with small projects. Such as chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies.
I know, it took me long enough. I'm wound up. But here we are.
I'd been eyeing this recipe for awhile, which is from Baking Illustrated. The base is chocolate icebox cookies, which sounded pretty good on their own, but then I noticed that the book recommended them for sandwich cookies, with any number of possible fillings: chocolate ganache, vanilla, mint, peanut butter. Peanut butter!
The dough is basic. Mix it up and form it into logs and let them chill for a few hours. Slice and bake them while you make your filling of choice. Then make cute little sandwiches out of them.
I think everyone likes sandwich cookies, and I'm almost inclined to say it doesn't matter what the filling is. They just seem special. Let's break it down: for something that passes as a single cookie, you actually get two, glued together with some delicious creamy filling. What's not to like?
Nothing, I tell you. And I found the process of assembling the dough, baking the cookies, filling them, and sharing them with the husband, neighbors, and friends very therapeutic. While it can't solve many problems, a good cookie can temporarily smooth life's rough edges, something I'm sure we all could use now and then.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
From Baking Illustrated
Makes about 30 sandwiches
2 c flour
1/4 c. sifted Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 t. salt
16 T. (2 sticks) unsalted softened butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 t. vanilla extract
2 oz. melted and cooled semisweet chocolate
Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the yolks, vanilla, and melted chocolate and beat until incorporated, 15-20 seconds. Add dry ingredients and mix at low speed until a dough forms and is thoroughly mixed, 25-30 seconds.
The dough should be soft but not sticky. If the dough is sticky, chill it for 10-15 minutes. Divive the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough on a clean work surface in a log measuring about 6 inches long and 2 inches thick. Wrap each log in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. (Dough can be frozen up to one month).
Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions. Heat the oven to 325. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap dough logs one at a time and with a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices (or thinner if you prefer). Place them on baking sheets about 1/2-1 inch apart.
Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14 minutes (or a little less, depending on how thin you slice them), rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack with a spatula.
When cool, fill with peanut butter cream.
Peanut Butter Cream
Combine 1 cup smooth peanut butter, 4 T. softened unsalted butter, and 1 c. sifted confectioners sugar. Beat until smooth and fluffy.