Food — The unheralded peanut butter cookie

The unheralded peanut butter cookie

By Amy Diaz

Finally, sweet, nutty treat may be getting the kudos it deserves

Peanut butter cookies are the unsung heroes of the cookie world.

Chocolate chip cookies get most of the attention, sugar cookies are the most decorated, flashy new recipes offer adventure.

Peanut butter cookies are the stalwarts. They are generally beloved, easy to make and almost always tasty (whether overbaked or a little soft, it’s hard to mess up a peanut butter cookie).

I’ve seen quite a few peanut butter cookies lately — a bakeries, sure, but also as part of bigger desserts. Perhaps the peanut butter cookie is finally getting some of the attention it deserves.

The cookie

For me, it starts with the criss-cross.

That fork-one-way, fork-the-other-way pattern that gives the cookie its visual signature. These plaid-wearing cookies seem charmingly retro — kitsch cookies. Even at the end of an upscale gourmet meal, peanut butter cookies seem to require a glass of milk and, perhaps, a dab of that marshmallow fluff for dipping.  These cookies are a crowd-pleaser because, when made with creamy peanut butter, the cookie is smooth and kid-friendly (assuming the kid, of course, is not allergic). But, thanks to the nutty flavor, which increases and deepens with baking, the cookie is equally satisfying to adults.

The cookie’s ingredients are simple and peanut-butter-focused, with few flavors to get in the way of the nut. Which means that when picking a peanut butter to cook with, you should choose a cooking butter as you would a wine — something with richer, deeper flavors. Likewise, remember to keep peanut butter buttery—this is not a place to pull out the natural stuff. Find one of the processed brands that offers a flavor you enjoy.

The peanut possibilities

But despite the cookies criss-cross old-school appearance, the cookies have a lot of new cuisine possibilities.

Cooked smaller and crisper, these cookies are a great complement to all sorts of ice cream desserts. Think vanilla with peanut butter cookies and a drizzle of caramel or chocolate with peanut butter cookies and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Small cookies serve as a perfect addition to a plate of items ready for a dip in the chocolate-filled fondue pot.

Large peanut butter cookies can serve as the outsides of an ice cream sandwich. Spread an inch of vanilla, chocolate-swirled or butterscotch ice cream on cookies about the size of your palm. (Use the flat side of the cookie for the insides of the sandwich.) After constructing ice cream sandwiches, freeze until you’re ready to eat and then serve on a plate with a drizzle of caramel, fudge or raspberry to fancy up the cookie. Drizzle syrups through the criss-cross to accentuate the plaid.

Of course, the peanut butter cookie doesn’t have to have accompaniment. Rich and creamy with a taste that’s more buttery and, of course, nutty than that of many other standard cookies, peanut butter cookies are a great, light way to end a summer meal. Serve with a citrusy white wine or with tart lime daiquiris.

The recipe

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon hot water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup flour

Mix softened butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Add water and peanut butter and blend. Sift together flour and baking soda,  slowly add to peanut butter mixture, mixing as you add.

Drop 1/2-tablespoon-sized scoops of dough on lightly greased cookie sheets. Smoosh lightly with floured fork and then smoosh again in opposite direction.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Variations

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies

Use chunky peanut butter  and mix in about 2/3 cup of crushed peanuts (put peanuts in a plastic bag and whack with a meat tenderizer or the back of a wooden spoon).

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Replace 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup of oatmeal and add in an extra tablespoon of peanut butter. For an extra bit of sweetness, add about a 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips to the dough.

Chiperrific Peanut Butter Cookies

Add 1/4 cup each of butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips. Scoop chip-heavy cookies by the teaspoonful and forgo the criss-cross pattern on the top.

Chocolate-dipped Peanut Butter Cookies

After cookies are baked and completely cooled, melt a large chocolate bar of milk or dark chocolate in a metal bowl sitting over a saucepan full of nearly-boiling water. With finger or with plastic tongs, dip each cookie halfway into completely melted chocolate. Pull out after dipping and let chocolate run off. Dip again and then place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Allow cookies to harden in a cool (65 degrees or less) place.

PB & J Cookies

Do not criss-cross cookies and leave dough balls slightly rounded. After about 9 or 10 minutes in oven, pull cookies out of oven and make a small crater in each cookie with the back of a metal teaspoon. Place a little less than a teaspoon of jelly in the crater and return to the oven for remaining 2 to 5 minutes.

Peanut Butter & Honey Cookies

Substitute 1/2 cup of honey for the white sugar.

- Amy Diaz 

 
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