I’ve always had a penchant for peanut butter, especially when featured as a foil ingredient in one of many perfect pairings: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana, and of course, the ultimate combination, peanut butter and chocolate. The first candies consumed from my Halloween loot were usually Reese’s peanut butter cups, and as a Brownie, Thin Mints and Samoas didn’t hold a candle to my favorite girl scout classic, Tagalongs, or peanut butter patties. Despite my preference for peanut butter, I must admit it is an under-utilized item in my kitchen. But with this week’s SMS pick, Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies, I got to grab my jumbo jar of creamy Skippy and mix up a simple yet scrumptious batch of goodies, filling my home with a warm, nutty, comforting aroma that transporting me back to my childhood.
In these timeless treats, the peanut butter is front and center without any other flavors competing for attention. Charming and unpretentious, they are easy to whip up on a whim, with all the ingredients likely to be in your pantry. A few months ago when my Aunt Maggie and I got together for a baking date, we fell back on PB cookies after eliminating some flashier desserts that required items we didn’t have on hand. We actually used a similar recipe to the variation in the Sweet Melissa Baking Book, and though the differences were subtle, I think I preferred this latest version. Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner mentioned she selected this SMS recipe because it produced a simple and not so fancy cookie that would ultimately be an enjoyable crowd-pleaser. With soft, tender centers, crispy edges, a delicate texture, and predominant peanutty flavor, they definitely live up to their name and expectations.
Peanut butter cookies are actually a part of American culinary history. George Washington Carver, an African-American agriculturalist who promoted the peanut as a replacement for the cotton crop, compiled 105 peanut recipes from various cookbooks, agricultural bulletins and other sources. In his 1916 Research Bulletin called “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption,” he included three recipes for peanut cookies calling for crushed/chopped peanuts as an ingredient. Later, in the early 1920s, peanut butter was listed as a primary ingredient in the cookies.
And did you ever wonder the origin of the traditional criss-cross pattern? Leave it to Pillsbury to establish this characteristic look- the Peanut Butter Balls recipe in the 1923 edition of Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes contains the first known written instance of instructing the baker to press the cookies with the tines of a fork. Because of the dough’s density, it will not cook evenly without being pressed, and a fork is definitely a convenient tool in every kitchen to complete this job. The cross-hatched marking immediately identifies the peanut butter cookie, distinguishing it from any other variety, and adding to its delightfully rustic appearance.
These cookies were fun and fast to bake, and would be a great project to do with kids. Since this recipe edges out others I’ve made in the past, I think it will be a permanent addition to my cookie-baking repertoire. Thank you to Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner for her delicious down-home selection, and if you feel like filling your cookie jar with a batch of your own, head on over to her adorable site for the recipe. And you can see all the other SMS baker’s treats by checking out our blogroll, now featuring a few new members (myself included)!