Browned Butter Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

14 Tbsp/200 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup/100 g white sugar
3/4 cup/150 g dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup/240 g peanut butter

1. Preheat your oven to 375º F.

2. Here’s the secret of this recipe: brown the butter! Put the butter in the pan and brown it. Do this carefully. You have to use your nose and eyes to make sure the butter is browned and not burnt.

3. Mix the sugars, salt, vanilla extract, eggs and peanut butter in a bowl. Allow the browned butter to cool for a few minutes and add to the mix.

4. Mix in the flour. Do not over mix or you’ll develop the gluten and end up with a disagreeably chewy cookie.

5. Form the dough into balls, spread them out on a baking sheet and compress with a fork. Sprinkle some sugar and sea salt on top of the cookies.

6. Here’s the second secret of this recipe: don’t over bake! You want a moist, not hard cookie. Depending on your oven you’ll probably bake somewhere between 8 and 10 minutes.

This cookie is a pandemic accident. I set out to make Josey Baker’s chocolate chip cookie which is based on a recipe in Cooks Illustrated. What makes that cookie so good is the browned butter. I made my dough and went for the chocolate chips only to discover that we had no chocolate chips. Not wanting to risk the ‘rona with a run to the market, I reached for a cup of peanut butter and dumped it in. Success!

Saturday Linkages: Congrats Nithya Raman!

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A Sasquatch in the Garden?

I keep a mental note of all the objects I’ve dug up while gardening over the years. The soil surrounding our house has mostly thrown up broken milk bottles from the days of the milkman. I’ve also found a lot of what I think are perfume bottles. Mostly though my shovel hits chunks of long buried concrete. Then I curse.

But this week, while we’ve been working on version 5.3 of our difficult to garden steep front slope, I uncovered the strangest object I’ve ever dug up: what appears to be a cast plaster footprint. In my fevered imagination and search for click bait blog headlines, this discovery proves this existence of Sasquatch. Alas, it’s a bit small unless we consider the possibility of a loose baby Sasquatch. More likely, it’s someone’s art project. Some years ago I also uncovered what looked like the beginnings of an attempt to carve a stone bust and I’m guessing this foot cast might be by the same aspiring artiste. Or maybe it’s the work of an aspiring Sasquatch researcher practicing making plaster foot casts?

Babylon Ain’t Falling

Anyone else tense this week? Some random thoughts on the eve of an election:

  • I’m going to stick my neck out here and predict that there won’t be a civil war anytime soon here in the Heart of Babylon. We might have some isolated incidents over the next few days that the press will amplify. But most folks on all sides of the political spectrum are too busy just coping with the effects of a pandemic and the demands of family and work to storm the Bastille. I could be wrong. We’ll see how well this post ages.
  • Doomscrolling twitter and looking at the news too much isn’t healthy. It leads to paranoia and the feeling that a civil war in the Heart of Babylon is imminent.
  • Whatever happens in the next week it’s not time to make brunch reservations. In this election we face a choice between a kind of incompetent proto-fascism (real fascists would organize the buses better at their rallies) and neoliberalism. Proto-fascism is worse but neoliberalism sows the seeds of fascism by worsening conditions for working class and middle class people. In short, neoliberal austerity, international trade deals and anti-labor measures create an opportunity for right wing populists. To be clear I think we need to first evict the fascists and then take on the neoliberals. It’s a long game–they’ll be no brunch for the rest of my life.
  • My LA neighborhood is a liberal bubble. There are no Trump signs. But there are plenty of signs screaming “VOTE.” I find this message irritating and condescending, especially when directed at young people. My response is “VOTE for what?” Give me something to vote for not empty platitudes like “Decency.” What does that even mean? How about Medicare for All? Access to higher education? How about not sending poor kids off to wars?
  • Don’t forget local politics. Everyone is distracted by the soap opera in Washington. Meanwhile, here in Los Angeles, our local politicians, almost all Democrats, are engaged in old-school corruption: suitcases full of cash, partying with developers at casinos and cavorting with sex workers.
  • Speaking of LA I have a message to the folks in the rest of this country: you don’t want our mayor Eric Garcetti in a cabinet position even though I’d love to see him be someone else’s problem. He’s another neolib who wants Uber to run everything.
  • Politics should not be about personal expression. It’s about working with other people towards a common goal. This has been an especially hard lesson for me. I think we’re all raised in a culture of self expression and social media only exacerbates this.
  • Political discussions are difficult when you base your identity on them. I have an only child’s sense of being Always Right™. I’ve done a lot of phone and text banking and knocking on doors for campaigns in the last 11 months. The lessons learned are: spend most of your time listening to what other people are saying. Ask open ended questions. Never tell someone that they are WRONG™. Pivot gracefully to what your opinions are. Don’t argue with people. This is all easier said than done and harder when you have political conversations with friends and family.
  • When you make calls for a campaign you quickly learn that you are a political nerd who spends too much time looking at Twitter. Most people are busy taking care of a crying baby, working the night shift on a job they hate and/or just trying to cope with life.

I’m going to leave the last word to Bertolt Brecht:

It takes a lot things to change the world:
Anger and tenacity. Science and indignation,
The quick initiative, the long reflection,
The cold patience and the infinite perseverance,
The understanding of the particular case and the understanding of the ensemble:
Only the lessons of reality can teach us to transform reality.

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I close with a quote that seems appropriate both for Halloween and for the political crises we’re in. It’s from one of my favorite books, Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? and builds off of Marx’s love of a snarky vampire metaphor:

The most Gothic description of Capital is also the most accurate. Capital is an abstract parasite, an insatiable vampire and zombie-maker; but the living flesh it converts into dead labor is ours, and the zombies it makes are us. There is a sense in which it simply is the case that the political elite are our servants; the miserable service they provide from us is to launder our libidos, to obligingly re-present for us our disavowed desires as if they had nothing to do with us.