The home that I grew up in, though happy and loving and magical beyond measure, was not one to be overrun by sweets. That’s not to say that we didn’t have our fair share of sugar on occasion — there were holidays, the intermittent Oreos and my mom’s famous mile-high snickerdoodles — but the typical weeknight request for dessert after dinner was most often met with, “Grab a piece of fruit” or “How about dipping a graham cracker in milk?” Now, for those who haven’t tried it, it should be said that dunking a graham cracker in an icy cold glass of milk does, indeed, yield rather cookie-ish qualities, so I suppose my mom was quite genius that way (though I was also led to believe that adding peanut butter to graham crackers was basically the same as the Nutter Butters my friends pulled from their lunchboxes, of which I’m still not convinced).
Sometimes I fear that I’m well on my way to building us a house of sugar, a place where the good-for-you foods pull a sad 1:2 haul compared to a profusion of baked good. Hansel and Gretel will undoubtedly stray here someday, only to find innumerable breeds of sugary morsels cascading from all corners of the house, just begging to be eaten by those little wide-eyed wanderers. Of course, there will be no kid-gobbling in this house, so please don’t let the reference alarm you. Though I do sometimes wonder if that witch was just a poor soul who loved baking more than her heart could hold.
These peanut butter marshmallow sandwich cookies are a gluten-free spin on dessert, which I was all for trying when I saw the simplicity of the recipe. It’s not health food by any means, but it’s a step outside of my usual repertoire and away from ingredients I oft hold too near and dear. There is no denying that Beany’s upbringing will be sprinkled with a bit more sugar than mine was, but I can — and will — do my best to ensure there’s variety and fun on the menu. And some nights, even when there are two kinds of cookies and a cake cooling in the kitchen, and she bats those big blue eyes and requests something for dessert, I will respond with the wild notion of dipping a few graham crackers in milk. Some recipes from my childhood were far too special to miss.
Peanut Butter Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies
Adapted slightly from Baker’s Royale
For the cookies:
• 1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the marshmallow frosting:
• 5 egg whites
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
For the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix on low until combined. Use a 1 ½-inch cookie scoop to drop balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the cookie with a fork by making a crisscross design. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they begin to golden up around the edges. Let them stand for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer placed over a pot of simmering water. Keep whisking until the mixture is 160 degrees F; the sugar will begin to dissolve, and the mixture will begin to foam and puff up. Transfer the mixing bowl to the stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment), add the vanilla and cream of tarter, and beat on medium-high speed until the frosting is cool, doubles in size and holds still peaks, about 12 minutes.
Place ½ to 1 tablespoon of frosting between two cookies, and smoosh them together. [Note: We like to keep these cookies chilly because it helps prevent the marshmallow from doing too much squishing out when you’re eating them. An airtight container in the refrigerator works really well.] Makes 12-14 sandwich cookies.
What was the sweets situation in your house growing up? Lots of treats? A fruit-counts-as-dessert scenario? Were you one of the lucky homes to have all the best sugar cereal? Man oh man, I could go for some Corn Pops right about now.