The Cookie Jar: Peanut Butter Cookies

Around this time of year, most bakers and cooking websites all talk about apples. I already gave you one so, unless one of our other authors decides to indulge you, I’m afraid you’ll have to get your apple fix elsewhere. Here, my fellow ninjas, we will be talking about cookies.

That’s right, it’s time to bring out the recipes you’re thinking about making as Christmas gifts and giving them a whirl now. Don’t take a chance on that unknown recipe – sure, the picture looks good, but the outcome may be disappointing. The last thing I want is for anyone to be screwed when baking crunch time hits.

If you haven’t yet been to the grocery stores and noticed, the holiday cookie publications are already coming out. Now’s our chance to get in on the action. I usually pick up Martha Stewart’s (haven’t seen that one yet) and the Better Homes & Gardens cookie mags. We’ll be delving into those as we progress. Today, we’re starting off with a classic: Peanut Butter Cookies.

Why a classic? Well, a classic cookie is a sure thing. Also, I was in the mood for peanut butter.

Choosing a classic cookie recipe is a problem for anyone because there are always a million of them and it’s hard to tell which recipe would be better than the other. Not only that but, let’s face it, I’m not going to make twenty different cookie recipes and then subject myself to a taste test. I’m also not the greatest at making my own cookie recipes and, since there are pastry chefs in the world who far exceed my talents, I am happy to use theirs.

Still, with my cache of cookbooks, I have a million peanut butter cookie recipes. So then I narrowed it down to two peanut butter cookie categories: salt or sweet?

I’ve been on a juxtaposition-fix with my desserts for a little while now, where I like to have salt and sweet mixed in together with my cookies. The fixation came to me after talking to a friend who said his wife loved sweet, while he liked salty. It reminded me that a cookie that contains both wins over both palettes. A salty/sweet peanut butter cookie fits perfectly. If I were to go with a honey-sweet cookie, sometimes it can go too overboard on the taste.

We’ve talked before about Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking, From My Home to Yours, an award winning compilation of must-haves for any baker’s repertoire. This is where I dug out a fantastic recipe for a salty-sweet peanut butter cookies. It isn’t too sweet or saturated with peanut butter, and the texture is crisp on the edges and chewy on the inside. It has the added bonus of looking really beautiful when it comes out of the oven – something else to keep in mind for the holiday season.

I shared one other recipe from Dorie Greenspan and, after having delved into the rest of her book, I strongly encourage all AwK ninjas to pick up a copy. That said, this will be the last recipe of hers that I share on the site.

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan and Baking, From My Home to Yours

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter – crunch or smooth (not natural)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts
1/2 cup sugar for rolling

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. As with all basic drop cookie recipes, the next step is to take the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground nutmeg) and mix them together in a bowl. I’ve said before that I don’t do that – to me it’s an added step. I skip that and do extra mixing later.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter for about two minutes, until light and creamy. Add the peanut butter and mix. They will be light and fluffy goodness.

Resist sticking your fingers in that and add the eggs, one at a time, and mix for 1 minute. I did do the eggs separately because I really wanted to make sure the eggs were thoroughly combined and that the fluffy egg whites give me the most bang for my buck.

Add the dry ingredients. Because I don’t combine them separately, I add the smaller ingredients first (baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, salt) and the half cup of flour. I mix those thoroughly with my mixer, then I add two cups of flour and mix until it just disappears into the rest of the batter.

Mix in the chopped peanuts.

Now put the 1/2 cup of “rolling sugar” into a small bowl, or something you can use to roll balls of the cookie dough in. Using a spoon (I use a regular dining spoon) measure out a flat tablespoon of cookie dough and roll it into a ball. The important thing here is to try and get your cookies to be the same size. Don’t get lazy toward the end and start dumping whatever into your spoon just to get this baking over with! You’ll be disappointed later when you have a million different sized cookies. It just doesn’t look as good when you’re giving them as gifts.

Put the ball of dough into the sugar and roll it around, giving it a light coat.

Place the balls two inches apart on parchment or silicone covered cookie sheets. With a fork, press a crisscross pattern on the top of the cookie balls. Bake for about 12 minutes Usually I have to watch the cookies carefully after they go into the oven, but these kept to the time limit. To accomplish this, it’s important that you keep all of the cookies the same size, as I said earlier. When done, the cookies will be slightly colored and a little soft. Allow them to sit on the cookie sheets for a minute or two before transferring them to a cooling rack using a wide, metal spatula.

Get a copy of Dorie’s book, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the holiday cookie publications!

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