Culture shock: It can be a good thing…and delicious!

Fran Sun / Photo

Fran Sun

I feel like I start almost all my columns with some quip about the differences between Australia and the United States, and this one will be no different, I’m sorry to say. Who knew there were so many differences, what with us speaking the same language (well, sort of) and all? It’s almost as if they’re just about as far apart as two countries can get! And boy, they really are, as I discovered during all 36 hours of travel between here and Australia when I flew back with my husband and our then-8-month-old last year. There are a lot of similarities too, of course. But we’re not here to talk about that, are we? Not today my friends.

Let me regale you with a tale from Down Under. When my then-boyfriend, now-husband, was visiting me in Australia while he was living and working on Guam in 2015, we went out for ice cream. I ordered a sundae and my husband ordered a milkshake. The flavors he requested were chocolate and peanut butter. The employee stared like my husband had two heads. Two particularly gross heads. I think he thought it was a joke. That’s right, in those days chocolate and peanut butter in a dairy treat was a pretty much unheard of combination. Nowadays with the increasing popularity of things like Reese’s in Australia, it’s becoming more accepted. Also, growing up, it was always called “peanut paste” to me, and I still have to mentally check myself to say “butter.”

Anyway, it’s still a flavor combination that I find a little hard to take. It’s just so much of both things. I’m truly undecided as to whether I enjoy it or not. I know for sure that I enjoy it in tiny doses: one bite of a cookie is enough for me. Speaking of which, that is the recipe I’m here to share with you today.

I’m always looking for new, fun and impressive but not too time-consuming things to bake for the ever-continuing flow of Airbnb guests we have had over the last couple of months. While the snow stays, so do they, which is wonderful of course, but I am also ready and waiting for spring to arrive.

My latest addition to the rotation has been a real winner with my chocolate-and-peanut butter-loving husband. Rich chocolate cookie dough wrapped lovingly around a center of sweetened peanut butter — sounds good, right? It is. Slightly more time consuming than your average cookie recipe, but truly worth it. Rave reviews have been pouring in. Here it is:

Chocolate peanut butter cup cookies

(adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen)


  • 2/3 cup (170g) peanut butter (smooth/creamy processed brands work best)
  • 2/3 cup (80g) confectioners’ sugar
  • Large pinch of sea salt or kosher salt


  • ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (95g) brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (65g) peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3⅔cup (55g) Dutch-process cocoa*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (175g) flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

To make the filling, combine all three ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until well combined. I like to be precise so as to avoid waste when I measure these out, so I recommend making each ball around 10g or 0.3 ounce if you have a precise-enough food scale, but if you don’t, they’re about the size of a heaped teaspoon. When you’ve made them all, pop them into the freezer on a plate or tray to firm up.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Line a large baking tray or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cream the butter, sugars and peanut butter until smooth and creamy, preferably in a stand mixer, but a hand-held works just fine if you need a workout. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Sift in the cocoa and baking powder and mix thoroughly. Add the flour and mix until JUST combined and flour has disappeared.

Each cookie needs between 26 and 29g (about one ounce) of dough, which is around 2 tablespoons worth. If you have a cookie scoop, a #40 is the one you need to use. Place about 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl for coating the completed cookies later. Take your filling balls out of the freezer. Place a measured piece of cookie dough in your palm and flatten it. Place the filling in the middle and wrap the cookie dough around the filling ball completely. Roll the assembled cookie in the granulated sugar and place on the sheet. Repeat for the rest. If you’ve measured accurately, you should have 22-24 cookies, so you may have to do two batches if you have only one baking sheet or tray.

Bake for 8–10 minutes, which won’t seem like a long time, but remember, we’re only baking the outside crust of cookie dough around the filling. Let them cool for 5 minutes on the tray, then transfer to a cooling rack. My husband says that these cookies are at their peak at “between 2 and 48 hours” after leaving the oven. So there you have it!

* You can find this at the Rutland Area Food Co-Op, or on Amazon or other websites like King Arthur Flour. If using normal baking cocoa, you might need to search for how to adjust it to make up for the different process used.

Steve Peters

Steve Peters is a cook, gardener and baker living in Rutland.

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