Magic in the middles: Cast a spell with these cookies

Chocolate and peanut butter have a truly symbiotic relationship: each brings out the best in the other. While Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have the corner on the combination in candyland, bakers can create a classic of their own. Our version is called Magic in the Middles. It was born when we were working on the Cookie Companion; one of our readers/customers plaintively asked us if we had a recipe for a cookie like this, and PJ went to town on the idea. She was extremely successful.

It’s simple: chocolate cookie dough surrounds a peanut butter center, and the whole is dredged in sugar before baking. In the oven, the cookie spreads out, and like magic, you end up with a peanut butter center between two wonderful chocolate layers

One of our former colleagues fell in love with and married a British lad, whose favorite culinary discovery in America was our beloved chocolate/peanut butter combination. I’ve made several “care package” batches of these for him since, including several dozen for their wedding. If he reads this I have no doubt I’ll get an email, wondering where the latest shipment is.

Ready to make some? Here goes.

First, whisk together the dry ingredients for the cookie. If the cocoa has lumps in it, it’s always a good idea to put it through a strainer first.

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Next, cream the sugars with the butter and peanut butter.

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Once they’re smooth (scrape at least once), add the vanilla and egg.

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Scrape, then add the dry ingredients.

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Here’s a funny thing. Sometimes recipes change on you over time. We tested this recipe repeatedy (and with great glee) several times before it went into the book. But in the many batches we’ve made since, we’ve found that every once in awhile, the chocolate dough cracks when they’re formed and baked, because it’s not QUITE moist enough. Depending on humidity, one’s personal measuring style, the variance in the size of the egg, and the protein in the flour, you may need to add one or two tablespoons of milk to the dough, or an extra egg yolk. If you double the recipe, definitely add an extra egg.

Now, to make the amount of outsides match the amount of filling to a “T”, the best method we know is to use cookie scoops. The tablespoon scoop is just right for the chocolate dough, and the teaspoon scoop is perfect for the filling. Scoop the filling out into balls and roll them up; you can freeze them if you want them to be a little more rigid and easy to handle.
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Now scoop the chocolate dough: don’t cheat (like I have) and heap the dough above the top of the scoop like you’re making an ice cream cone: you won’t have enough to make all 26 cookies if you do.

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Keep the dough level, and your outsides will match your insides. Put the chocolate ball in your palm; press a deep dent in it with your thumb.
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Now plop in the peanut butter ball,
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And pinch the edges together around it.

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Roll between your hands to round it up.

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Now give it a little sugar coating.

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Put it on the cookie sheet, with a good 2” between the cookies.
Once all the cookies are formed, use the bottom of a drinking glass to press them flat, about 1/2″ thick.

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In the name of demonstrating the occasional cracking I was telling you about earlier, I made two versions of this dough, one as written in the book, and another with an extra egg yolk. In the photos above I’m using the original version. The dough handles well, but when I press it down, a couple of cracks form at the edges.

The version with an additional egg yolk was a bit trickier to form (a bit floppier in my hands), but when they got their light squishing, they looked like this:

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No cracks, as you can see. The original version looked like this in the oven:

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Some cracks, but nothing fatal. I can tell you that if the chocolate dough sits around for any length of time or is put in the refrigerator, it dries out more and the problem is exacerbated. But if you make and finish the cookies in one go, it’s not an issue.

The wetter dough looked like this in the oven:

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Time to bake: 7 to 9 minutes, until you can smell the chocolate and the cookies look set.

So it’s up to you: easier to handle, no extra liquid. Ready for their beauty-queen closeup, add an extra yolk or a tablespoon or two of milk. Either way, you’ll win friends and influence people with these cookies.

Cool on the pan for a few minutes before moving them to a rack to finish cooling. As if they’ll last that long…..

Read, rate, and comment (please!) on our Magic in the Middles recipe.
Buy vs. Bake

Magic in the Middles: $3.19 for one batch, 12¢ each

Pepperidge Farm Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, $3.59 (13 cookies) 28¢ each

Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Cookies $3.39 (8 cookies) 42¢ each

Susan Reid
About

Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently enjoying her fourth career after stints in advertising, running restaurants, and teaching at the New England Culinary Institute. She joined King Arthur in 2002 to ...

comments

  1. Amy @ MomsToolbox

    OH MY GOODNESS! I have been searching for this recipe for YEARS… at least 15 of them!
    I made these in college and they were all the rage. Somehow I lost the recipe and have looked everywhere, except for here. (And I have been on a mission.)
    A few years back I tried to replicate and came close, but not as close as I will later this week. I am sooooooooooooo excited!!! Cookie exchange/ contest here I come! :) Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this recipe!!!

    We aim to please, Amy – Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  2. Laura B

    How well does this recipe freeze long-term – either whole cooked cookies or just the dough? I suspect if I made the cookies with extra milk in the choco (and of course the yolk!) in their entirety, pressed, then froze prior to baking they would be OK, but am unsure about the finished product.
    That, Laura, is an intriguing question. I’ve frozen all kinds of drop cookie doughs for up to 2 months; and this recipe is really not all that different from a drop cookie. I’ve never done as you suggest (once people know these cookies are on the horizon, the clamor begins and it’s Katie, bar the door). I think you should try it. I’d let the cookies defrost thoroughly before baking so the texture of the filling and the outside are the same. Susan

    Reply
  3. Barbara

    Do I need new glasses? Or am I missing the step where the peanut butter is mixed with the confectioners’ sugar in the blog? It’s shown in the recipe itself, though.
    Dear Barbara: No you don’t need new glasses. It’s such a simple thing I guess I didn’t think it was necessary to have in both places. Susan

    Reply
  4. Beth

    Susan, are these the same cookies as “Buckeyes”?
    Beth: They’re very similar; and they’re described that way in the cookie book. A lot of buckeye recipes I’ve seen are more like candy than cookies. Given OSU’s recent fate vs. Penn State, perhaps these will provide solace for the faithful….Susan

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    I remember trying these when the recipe was published in the newsletter and I did have trouble with the outer dough being very dry. I often make cookie dough and put it in the refrigerator for a few days before finding time to bake, so that must have been why it was so dry. The cookies still tasted fantastic – one of the best recipes I ever tried.

    Reply
  6. Stephanie

    These sound amazing, and I plan to make them as is, but I was also wondering if there was anything you could sub the peanut butter with to make a different variation for those who dont like pb?
    You could also try almond butter. Frank from KAF.

    Reply
  7. Joyce from NC

    This cookie sound wonderful, especially as my favorite food combination is chocolate and peanut butter! I have a question on scoop sizes. I never seem to get the same amount of cookies as a recipe says it will have so I am wondering what size your teaspoon and tablespoon scoops are? I have two, one is a number 40 and the other is a number 20 (these are Pampered Chef scoops). Are they equivalent to your tablespoon and teaspoon? I appreciate any help you can give on this. Thanks! The tablespoon is a 40 and the teaspoon is a 100. Frank from KAF

    Reply
  8. Beth

    Susan, I may have been the one to mention Buckeyes, but I’m for the Nittany Lions all the way!! Oh, and GO PHILLIES!! (They’ll wrap it up tonight).

    Reply
  9. Julia

    re: chocolate dough cracking
    I haven’t tried this but maybe wetting your hands (with water) instead
    of flouring them when shaping the chocolate dough might keep
    the dough from cracking. The recipe sounds yummy!

    Reply
  10. Terri

    I ended up making these today. I had more of the peanut butter balls than chocolate, but after making the first cookie, I was thinking that the PB balls were too big because it took some work to get the chocolate cookie around it. However, when I bit into the baked cookie (QC, of course), there wasn’t enough “magic” in the middle, so don’t skimp on the filling! They still tasted delicious and the cookies are huge!

    Reply
  11. Christian Carter

    These look amazing! Would Nutella work as a filling?
    I think so. The key is to make sure the filling and the dough have similar densities, so the cookies will spread in the oven. Susan

    Reply
  12. Judy

    I have made these many times as they are my son’s favorite. They are pretty easy to make- the chocolate dough is easy to work with- and they always come out perfect! I am sure most kids (probably grown-ups too) will love these!

    Reply
  13. Alvara

    I made these cookies today to send to my daughter for Halloween. My son tasted them and said make some for us! I added the extra yolk to the chocolate batter and it was easy to handle. I made the peanutbutter filling as directed but it was a little dry. Maybe if I had used smooth peanutbutter instead of chunky it would have been more moist. I added a little milk to it to the mixture and it helped a bit. Thanks, PJ, they really are delicious.

    Thank Susan – she’s the Maven of Magic Middles! – PJH

    Reply
  14. Charlotte

    Will this work with a “natural” peanut butter or do I need to use one of the “regular” peanut butters with added sugar and hydrogenated fats? Natural peanut butter should work just fine in this recipe; the confectioners sugar will absorb some of the fat and the filling sits in the middle of the cookie. However, you may find that natural peanut butter doesn’t work as well in recipes where the peanut butter is incorporated into the dough itself. Tara @The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  15. Nicole Shugars

    These were great and I dare say rival the classic Pillsbury Peanut Butter Blossoms but inside out! My husband’s co-workers thing I am a genius in the kitchen — thank you for making me look good!

    Reply
  16. Nel

    Ah-HAH! Now I think I know why I had such plump cookies when I made these from the book. I do remember finding the dough a little hard to handle, and they didn’t spread out and get thin like in the picture. I’ll add more egg next time.

    Now that I’ve seen this recipe and know better how to make it work, I’ve got a quandary. Certain irresistably charming friends have been sighing, ‘What? No cookies?’ ‘No, no cookies…’ for a few weeks. I was thinking of making scrumptious Maple Walnut Creams to use all those fresh walnuts I’ve been gathering this month. But now that I see this recipe… Hmmm… not sure which it will be!

    Reply
  17. Jamie

    These look amazing. I am considering them for Christmas gifts. I have two questions:

    1. How big are they after being baked?

    2. How do I store them, and how long will they keep for?

    Thanks for the recipe.

    Hi, Jamie. After baking they’re 2 to 2 1/4 inches in diameter. They’ll easily stack inside a Pringles can, which is one of PJ’s best cookie-shipping tricks. To store, I’d recommend an airtight container, like a tin or plastic container with a snap-on lid. If you want to make them more than a week ahead of time, I recommend freezing them until you’re ready to ship. Susan

    Reply
  18. Dorothy

    This is one of my family’s favorite cookies. I always seem to have trouble with my dough cracking, I can hardly wait to try them with your suggestion of adding milk.
    I often make them and freeze them on a cookie sheet then transfer to a ziplock bag. We tend to eat them straight out of the freezer and not even bake them anymore.

    Reply
  19. Tom Mix

    Soemthing extra is needed to protect against an overly dry dough—another egg, yolk only, milk?
    The dough isn’t dry unless you let is sit uncovered or in the refrigerator overnight. In that case, the two tablespoons of milk or extra egg yolk described above are recommended. Susan

    Reply
  20. Kate

    Jamie, I laughed out loud when I saw your question “how long will they keep?” These are my family’s favorites. I make a QUADRUPLE batch and they have never lasted longer than the next day. Trust me, friends and neighbors come crawling out of the woodwork when you bake these. Storage won’t be an issue.

    Reply
  21. Kim

    I don’t have those cookie scoops you use, can I use a regular tablespoon and teaspoon and than roll them in my hands like I do for regular peanutbutter cookies?

    Sure, it’s just easier with a scoop, that’s all. Have fun – PJH

    Reply
  22. Barbara

    I made these cookies this morning, and sorry, but very disappointed. I used the appropriate size scoops, and did not have enough of the chocolate dough. I ended up getting about one dozen cookies baked. They are very rich.

    Reply
  23. Brooklyn

    I made these for my Election Night Party, they were gobbled up very quickly. I doubled the recipe, added an extra egg and a little milk. Seemed perfect.

    And opposite to Barbara, I had lots of the chocolate dough left over! Luckily the filling couldn’t be easier to make.

    Now I just have to email the recipe to everyone because that was the big request…

    Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Mrs Kassey

    I made these yesterday nite and found I had insufficient peanut butter for the filling. I added crushed peanut (abt 2 oz). Anyway I did not buy smooth peanut butter. I always prefer the crunchy peanut butter. I added this to the dough. As I was preparing the balls, my son peeped into the kitchen and he said “Wow! Nice delicious. chocolaty aroma. Mum, after you bake, please place the container on the table where I can see it when I return home. It was fantastic and magical. Thanks

    Reply
  25. Patty

    I made these over the weekend. I used the extra egg yolk in the cookie dough and they turned out wonderfully. These may have replaced the current two top spots – chocolate chip and chocolate crinkles – as the favorite cookies in the house. I actually got 40 cookies out of the recipe, I guess I made them smaller. I scooped the cookie dough first, and then evenly divided the peanut butter filling, so I had the perfect amount. The cookies looked just like the picture and the taste is fantastic. While just a little bit time consuming, the recipe is very easy to make and easy to handle. I will definitely be making these as part of the annual collection of Christmas cookies!

    Reply
  26. Chris

    I have just come across this recipe when placing an order for my flour (which I love BTW), it looks wonderful. I am a Brit living in Oklahoma and I was thinking about making up packages to send to mygrown up kids that are living there, I do believe I it will be these great looking cookies. My daughters boyfriend is a chef so I do like pull out something really nice. Thanks

    Reply
  27. jami

    Did no one else have trouble mixing the powdered sugar and peanut butter? I found it nearly impossible to incorporate and in fact, I dribbled in some milk (probably 1-2 Tbsp, all told) to make it remotely stick together. I also had extra chocolate dough, so I had to whip up some extra peanut butter filling.

    Just realized, in rereading the recipe, that I forgot to smush them down with a glass. Oops! Mine came out cute, kind of domed with a peanut butter blob in the middle. I think I would like them better flattened though, so I will make sure to remember that next time.
    Dear Jami: The biggest variable in this recipe is the type of peanut butter used. Natural style can be more dry; and if you were mixing by hand I imagine it could be heavy going. This is one instance where the Skippy or Peter Pan is the most reliable choice. I generally buy the super market brand of peanut butter for baking in the test kitchen. Susan

    Reply
  28. Patty

    I made these again. (A request from the kids!) This time, I added mini chocolate chips to the peanut butter mixture. Awesome! My boys really loved the additional chocolate.
    Now there’s a dangerous and wonderful idea! Thanks for the hint! Susan

    Reply
  29. Patty

    OK – one more comment. I made these again (with the mini chocolate chips mixed in with the peanut butter!), rolled them into balls and put them in the freezer – individually freezing on the baking sheet and then tossing in a freezer bag. About a week later, Itook them out and let them thaw to room temp, then rolled in sugar and flattened. They were just as good as the freshly baked cookies. Just a tip for planning ahead.

    Reply
  30. Mary in Michigan

    I love your website and refer to it on a daily basis!
    Made this recipe yesterday and they are awesome cookies! Sent back to Maine with my son and his girlfriend this morning so will just have to make some more! I did notice the dough cracking because I forgot to add the extra egg yolk but will do that when I make again. Deelish!!

    Reply
  31. Megan

    I made these a few days ago and want to solve my problem…the taste was incredible…they just flattened out a lot in the oven so they didn’t look as pretty and the next day when taking them to a friend, the thin edges kept breaking. I read online about what makes cookies go flat….I think maybe the butter melted faster than everything cooked (I do live in AZ and it is quite hot here in the summer). Any suggestions? I want my cookies to look like those in your picture. I measured everything and did the extra yolk.
    Dear Megan: Sometimes it’s the peanut butter! If you’re using a natural-style version, the extra oil can create the symptoms you describe. You might also try adding an extra white instead of an extra yolk; the extra protein in the white may help hold the cookie together better. One more thing to try is chilling the cookies after you flatten them slightly, before you bake them. That would give the protein in the flour and eggs a chance to set before the butter runs away with everything. Good luck! Susan

    Reply
  32. Megan

    Thank you so much. I did use natural peanut butter so I’ll try all your suggestions. I loved how this cookie tasted, even flat, so I can’t wait to make them again! Thanks!

    Reply
  33. Emilie

    I’ve made these several times and they are always a hit! I’ve got a new question, though. I made some last week and froze half the batch after forming, shaping, and flattening them. Do you think I should let them thaw before I bake them? And if not, how much would I adjust the baking time? Thanks!

    Never tried it, Emilie, but try baking frozen, and adding maybe 90 seconds to 2 minutes? Watch closely to see when they’re done… PJH

    Reply
  34. Megan

    I’m back. I tried two options, the egg white and chilling the cookies and they worked much better, but I could sort of still see the lump of peanut butter after they cooled…..it did work much better, but I think I’ll still try regular peanut butter next time. Thanks! Just wanted you to know I appreciated your feedback!

    Megan

    Reply
  35. Dana Booth

    Been meaning to comment on these for a while. Made them at Christmas, without changing anything in the recipe, and they were absolutely WONDERFUL! Was concerned they would be dry ’cause I guess I’m used to a more wet dough like snickerdoodles or chocolate chip, but they were not dry in the least. Loved the texture of the chocolate part and the combo was heavenly. thank you!!
    Thanks, Dana! These have been a home run for anyone I’ve ever baked them for. I’m glad they worked as well for you ;-) Susan

    Reply
  36. Lori

    I am going to make these this week, had a question about the butter. Recipe says unsalted butter. If I use salted butter, should I omit the 1/4 tsp. salt called for? Or do I need to use only unsalted butter?
    Thanks!
    Yes omit 1/4 teaspoon of salt if you are using salted butter. JMD @KAF

    Reply
  37. chinchillalover

    Now I HAVE to make these!!!My brother asked for something peanut-buttery and chocolaty after we bought a 4 pound bag of chocolate chips at sam`s club.Vielen dank for yet another great recipe!!But still would this translate well into gf?(please say yes!!)

    Converting any wheat recipe to gluten-free must be viewed as an experiment. Some work great, other less so. Try beginning with a 1:1 flour substitution, using 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of g-f flour. Then adjust as needed. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  38. chinchillalover

    Uh,there seems to be a problem with your site.The first comment on this blog post says it was from 1999,but this blog says it was posted in 2008.I know unless there’s a time machine somewhere,that has to be a technical error.
    You are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. I will check in with our Web Team. Elisabeth

    Reply
  39. adriennesza

    I love these. They are my go-to cookie swap cookie. I always want the chocolate part to taste richer. Any suggestions?

    Try replacing 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder with and equal amount of Black Cocoa. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  40. dhgoodman

    Can this cookie be made with a caramel center?

    The secret is spread. Both the cookie and the filling need to spread at the same rate, or you’ll have interesting results! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  41. Angela

    I was directed to this recipe by a friend who makes them often and they turn out perfect every time. When i tried to make them today, they didn’t fllaten at all. I just ended up with big lumps instead of cookies. I’m wondering if I’m having difficulty because I live in a high altitude location. Are there high altitude suggestions for this recipe?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Angela- I don’t believe altitude is causing the problem you are having, I am guessing you may just have a bit too much flour in your recipe. If you read through this page here, I think you may find your next batch comes out a bit better: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html. If you’re still having trouble, please give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 1-855-371-2253, and we’ll do our best to help you solve the problems you are still having. Happy Baking and best of luck! Jocelyn@KAF

  42. Jane McClelland

    2 years ago, I developed an allergy to chocolate ;-(. Is there a peanut butter dough I can replace the chocolate dough with so I can, once again enjoy Magic Middle cookies?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Jane, my condolences on your chocolate allergy. We haven’t really tried this, so it will be a bit of an experiment, but you might want to try this one: Barb@KAF

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