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The secret ingredient in these peanut butter cookies? Miso

There is something addictive about this sweet-salty combo.

There is something addictive about the combination of salty-savory white miso paste and salty-sweet peanut butter. This cookie, crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside, hits all those marks.

These combinations shouldn’t really work, but they magically and deliciously do. What exactly is behind this phenomenon? We have five primary tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. Umami is a relatively newly discovered taste, and in Japanese refers to savory or delicious notes.

Contrary to what you probably learned in elementary school, each taste bud can sense all of these tastes. We taste sweet in order to fuel our bodies with carbohydrates. We taste sour or bitter to protect our bodies from something potentially damaging. We taste salt to provide our bodies with a necessary nutrient.

Salt is also a flavor enhancer. If you mix sugar and salt, the salt enhances the sugar flavor. Chefs call this flavor “layering,” and if you get the mix just right, not too sweet and not too salty, your brain receives a positive biological response.

Another reason we love sweet-and-salty combinations is because humans are omnivores, and we’re wired to desire a variety of foods and tastes. Eventually, we’ll tire of the same taste over and over again. If you constantly eat sweets and only sweets, at some point you’ll lose your taste for them. The same goes for salty.

This cookie is a perfect way to satisfy both of those distinct tastes.

Miso and Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup smooth peanut butter

3 tablespoons white miso paste

3 tablespoons honey

1 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¾ cup coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts

For the topping:

½ cup finely chopped dry roasted peanuts

¼ cup Demerara sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

To the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, add the butter, peanut butter, miso paste and honey, beating until smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl to make sure all ingredients are combined.

Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl.

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat just until smooth, 1 minute. Add the coarsely chopped peanuts and beat just to combine.

On low speed, add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. The longer the dough is refrigerated, the more mellow the flavor will be.

Make the topping: In a small mixing bowl, combine the finely chopped peanuts and Demerara sugar. You can also do this in a small food processor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper. Using a ¼ cup cookie scoop, form a dough ball and then roll the ball in some of the topping. Place six balls on each cookie sheet and flatten each with a fork to about ½ inch thickness. Sprinkle any remaining peanut topping over each cookie.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes until golden brown and crisp at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes or until firm, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool the pans, wipe off the parchment with a paper towel and bake the remaining cookies.

Makes about 24 big cookies.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski