Salty, Sweet, Smoky: Peanut Butter Paprika Cookies

My cookbook collection has continued to balloon during the pandemic, and I recently bought a copy of Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski. For my first recipe from the book I decided to try the "Peanut Butter Paprika Cookies," which seemed like they would be both familiar and exotic.

Like most of the cookie recipes in the cookbook, these cookies require at least a day of chilling time before baking, so I started a day in advance. I creamed room temperature butter with creamy peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until fluffy; added eggs and vanilla; and mixed in the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and smoked paprika). I used Spanish smoked paprika that we bought from Dean & Deluca before it went belly up (so it's what I like to call "fancy pants" paprika), and it was quite pungent. I scooped out the dough (I used a #40 scoop and got 39 cookies from a batch), placed the scoops on parchment-lined baking sheets, covered them in plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge for 24 hours.
When I was ready to bake, I flattened the cookies with the palm of my hand, used a fork to make a criss-cross pattern on top, and sprinkled on a mixture of more smoked paprika, Maldon salt, granulated sugar, and turbinado sugar. There is only a half teaspoon of paprika in the cookie batter itself, but two and a half teaspoons in the mixture you sprinkle on top before baking. I ended up using all of the paprika-sugar-salt sprinkle, and as you can see in the photo above, the dark reddish-brown color of the paprika was prominent.

I tasted one of these cookies shortly after baking and thought that the paprika flavor was not that strong. On the second day, I tried another cookie and the paprika flavor had intensified considerably -- so much so that I thought it was too much paprika. This flavor combination was not particularly appealing to me; I thought the smoked paprika was competing with and distracting from the peanut butter flavor instead of complementing or enhancing it. But I know some of my tasters really liked these cookies, so the verdict on this salty-sweet-smoky flavor combination can definitely be a matter of personal taste.

Recipe: "Peanut Butter Paprika Cookies" from Sister Pie by Lisa Ludwinski, recipe available here from New York Times Cooking.