A couple of years ago, I went nuts (haha) trying to find the perfect peanut butter cookie. It’s strange, because I don’t consider myself a huge fan, but I just got a craving and had to do some recipe research.
I made a dizzying number of recipes that I found online, but didn’t find the one. Part of the problem was that I had some idea/memory in my head that I was trying to recreate, which proved to be impossible, so I gave up (!!!). Until just recently when a new craving hit. This time I thought about my mom’s Joy of Cooking cookbook, and thought that if ever she made peanut butter cookies, that is likely where she found the recipe.
The Joy of Cooking that I have is a much newer edition, and my mom’s book is safely tucked away in a box somewhere in my sister Linda’s house, so I decided to look online, and lo and behold, I did find the peanut butter recipe from the 1943 edition of the Joy of Cooking on Hilary Gauntt’s blog, Heron Earth, along with a sweet story behind the food memory. I was excited to try it! The first tray of cookies seemed a bit too crunchy and almost over-baked, and then the second tray seemed under-baked. Not feeling completely satisfied with the results, I decided to take a look at some other classic cookbooks (including my newer edition of Joy) and compare recipes.
It turns out these other cookbooks, as well as the newer Joy, all have peanut butter cookie recipes, and their recipes have only half the amount of peanut butter… half! At some point, bakers must have decided to reduce the amount of peanut butter. Interesting. So you know I had to do a little experiment, and here is why: I think that the peanut butter cookies with only half the amount of peanut butter are not peanut buttery enough. I decided to make the 1943 recipe one more time, and instead of using a whopping one cup of peanut butter, I used 3/4 cup – a compromise. I also did this for a more practical reason: the peanut butter jar contains a little less than 2 cups of peanut butter, so if I want to get two batches of cookies out of it, I must use less than 1 cup per batch! Most peanut butter cookie aficionados will agree that Skippy (Jif is a close second) is the best peanut butter to use… it just behaves better, and it gives the cookies that flavor and texture that we have all come to know and love. At our house, for PB&J sandwiches or peanut butter toast, we like the natural kind of peanut butter, you know, just peanuts and salt, but for peanut butter cookies, it’s Skippy all the way, and the SUPER CHUNK please.
I followed the recipe (aside from the slight reduction in peanut butter), including sifting the flour before measuring. I weighed the flour after sifting and measuring it, and ended up with 200 grams of all-purpose flour. I also skipped the vanilla by mistake, and decided the cookies didn’t need the vanilla. The only other change I made was adding more salt to the recipe. I more than doubled it! I kept tasting the dough and found it was too sweet, so I kept adding salt until it tasted yummy. I may have needed to do this because of using unsalted butter, but who knows? Jacques Pépin says to always taste your food as you prepare it, and who am I to argue with Jacques Pépin?
These cookies are crispy, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness, and I don’t even love peanut butter cookies. But I love these. And my kids feel the same way. My work is done.
Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies
(Adapted from the 1943 edition of the Joy of Cooking)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter (Skippy or Jif)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt*
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour**
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer until creamy.
- Add the sugars to butter and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, and then the peanut butter, beating until well combined.
- Sprinkle the salt and baking soda evenly over the wet ingredients and mix well.
- Add the flour and mix until just combined (did you notice this is a “one bowl” recipe?)
- Scoop cookie dough into 1 1/2 inch balls (I use a cookie scoop for this) and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Dip the tines of a dinner fork in flour so they don’t stick, and then press into each ball of dough in a criss-cross pattern to flatten the ball. Bake on middle rack in preheated 375° oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies have browned along the edges and slightly on the top***.
- Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes 2 dozen cookies.
*If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe to just 1 teaspoon. If you are worried about the overall amount of salt in the recipe, taste your cookie dough as you go. Skippy peanut butter is so sweet that the salt balances it out, in my opinion.
**The original Joy of Cooking recipe calls for “bread flour”. I like to use King Arthur all-purpose flour because it is high in protein content, similar to bread flour, so it’s a good choice. Also, the original recipe calls for sifting the flour before measuring out. I suggest that you do this as well, unless you have a kitchen scale, and in that case, just weigh out the 200 grams, no sifting necessary.
***For crisper cookies, flatten the cookies a little more, or you can also bake the cookies until they have browned completely on top, but not burned! I did a little experiment and made one tray of cookies with half of them pressed down more, and half of them pressed down less. The ones that were pressed down more browned more that the chubbier ones. Either way, they are fabulous! I guess I do love peanut butter cookies.
As a final note, I did try making this recipe using natural peanut butter, you know, just peanuts and salt. The results were less than satisfying – the cookies were dense, and the flavor was missing a certain je ne sais quoi. That being said, a friend of mine tried both kinds (yes, if you are a friend of mine, sooner or later you will be subjected to taste-testing), and she preferred the ones made with natural peanut butter! But everyone else preferred the Skippy version. I’ll let you decide.