my favorite peanut butter cookies.

my favorite peanut butter cookies.

I begin this by saying something which echoes my bacon sentiments: I’m not a peanut-butter obsessed person. Some people live for it; I, quite simply, do not. It’s not that I don’t like it: on the contrary, on the days I want to feel most like my elementary-school self, I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat, throw some pretzels alongside, and am transported to a time where I made daily visits to the park and The Jetsons were the only ones who owned cell phones.

I was reminded, rather joltingly, of how different it is for present-day kids this week (I was lucky enough to see this post early on. At this point, the post has gone viral, so I guess lots of people had the same visceral reaction that I did.) More on that later, because it’s a serious topic, and one I feel deserves more weight than being thrown in with peanut butter cookies. I should say that I’ve been throwing around maybe doing a “hey, here’s what  has grabbed my attention this week” regular series of posts. Would that be okay with all of you? I feel like it’s a very natural progression for me at this point in the blog: I’ve always been about the food, and I’m still all about the food. Here’s the thing, though; now I know many of you, and on a friend-y sort of level. We talk about things, some of us email, I get a kick out of almost always finding out that we share common interests outside of our love for food. I wouldn’t mind being able to chat about everyday things, so long as you wouldn’t be bored to tears. My friend Natalie at Wee Eats has done a Thursday Things post for a while, and she’s totally going to think I’m stealing her idea, but I look forward to Thursdays specifically because of her “Things” post.

So that’s what I was thinking of doing. If you wouldn’t mind terribly, I may start writing something like that and see where it goes.

Anyway: peanut butter cookies. I think when someone’s not all peanut-crazy, you know if they love something with peanuts or peanut butter, they mean it. The bar is set slightly higher for those people, because it’s not like any old peanut thing can come along and wow them. I am that person. When someone says they’re making peanut butter pie, I don’t faint with joy. Those omnipresent peanut butter kisses you see over the holidays do not make me giddy. And yet, i have a favorite peanut butter cookie.

This one.

I’ve made it countless times, and when I do bake some up, it reminds me that peanut butter deserves more praise than I tend to give it. These are great cookies; easy to make, not at all greasy, and very pretty on a platter. In fact, I made these as one of my cookie tray cookies this year, and they were a runaway hit. My favorite thing? Aside from the bake-and-slice aspect (always, always a pleasure), I like the ring of crushed peanuts around the edge. It gives it a texture and layer of flavor other peanut butter cookies sometimes lack, and you’re guaranteed to get a bite of them every time. If you’re a fan of the classic chocolate/peanut butter combination, these are fabulous dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. When I do this, I dip them halfway in, mimicking the look of a classic black and white cookie. One warning: you have to fish out the errant peanut chunk every so often, but it’s worth the effort.

This time I went straight-up with them, which is my favorite way. I never think of them except during the fall and winter, but truly, they’re a year-round choice that almost everyone likes. I think these are best on the slightly underbaked side, with thinnest crisp edge and soft insides reminiscent of the no-bake variety, but with that warm-from-the-oven taste. To get them this way involves some special care and a little babysitting, but it’s well worth it.

Adapted from Essentials of Baking: Recipes and Techniques for Successful Home Baking by Williams Sonoma. I do believe the original recipe is in my first edition as well as the revised edition currently available.

My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies.

• 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup light brown sugar (I barely ever have a preference between light and dark, but for this recipe, I do. I think it matters)
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature (I like Skippy Natural. Also, I just like saying that I like things with the word “skippy” in them)
• 3/4 cup finely chopped salted peanuts (i’ve used both dry roasted and cocktail peanuts, and I think they both work here)

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, and salt and whisk together until incorporated. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (Or in a large bowl using an electric mixer), combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat on high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on high-speed for another 1-2 minutes until your batter looks homogenous and there are no streaks of fat, and scrape the bowl down again. With your mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated, scraping the bowl once to make sure there are no dry pockets, especially at the bottom. Add the peanut butter and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds or so.

This is when the “special care” begins: please assess you dough. In order to get that chewy, soft, melt-in-your-mouth softness, you have to push the limits of the butteriness. Translation: the dough is probably pretty soft at this point, which can (but not always) make it tricky to roll into logs. How your dough is right now is largely up to the temperature of your kitchen. What I do if I feel like it’s very soft is to stick the whole bowl right in the fridge. Check it every 15 minutes or so; after about 30 it should be firmed up slightly, maybe even less.

When you’re ready, get out parchment or waxed paper and tear two lengths of it large enough to roll up the peanuts and logs together. Divide your dough in half, and roll one half into a log maybe 8-10 inches long, patting the two ends so they stay flat. Lay the log lengthwise on the parchment, so it goes from left to right in front of you. Pour half the chopped peanuts in front of the log (on the long side opposite you, if that helps), nestled close to the dough. Pull up on the paper away from you, rolling your log gently but firmly over the peanuts (moving the nuts about as needed) until the perimeter is evenly coated. Wrap your log in the paper and twist the ends (like hard candy wrappers) to seal. Repeat with the other half of the dough, and place both in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

When you’re ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 325˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Time for babysitting, part two: the bake-off.
Remove one log from the fridge and slice it using a sharp, thin knife (a paring knife works well for this) about 1/2 inch thick. Place at least 2 inches apart on your baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, checking at the 7-minute mark.

Here’s what: everyone’s pan is so different. I use the Williams Sonoma goldtone ones from USA Pan, and i love them. They have special bottoms which sort of crisp up the cookies and get them a super even golden color, and if you’re a regular cookie baker, i can tell you that it’s one of the most practical and best purchases you’ll make for your kitchen. Pans all cook differently, so really watch your cookies, because although they are still delicious crispy (and indeed you may prefer them this way), there’s something magical and childlike about these if they stay soft when cool. What you’ll look for while cooking is to take them out and have them be impossible to remove from the pan right away. They will not have started to change color on top. If you touch them, they will feel very, very soft, but not wet. Touch the edge: it should feel set, but not hard.

When they’re done like this, resist trying to remove them from the pan until they are fully cooled. In fact, you’ll never get them off the pan until they are cool, so rather than waste your time, just stick the entire pan on top of a wire rack to cool, and immediately remove yourself from the kitchen so as not to be tempted.

And you will be tempted.

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18 Comments on "my favorite peanut butter cookies."

  1. I’m sobbing. And not because I don’t like peanut butter.

    My heart is so sad.

    And yes, I think you should talk about regular stuff. Because you say things so well.

    • shannon says:

      OMG now you’re going to make me cry again! If you had any idea how much i cried even just writing my dumb post…i get so emotional. And i saw an interesting comment from Amanda Palmer in re: someone saying “maybe i get over-emotional, but i really felt this post.” she retweeted with a very simple “emotional. not over.” Well put, i thought, because you can’t ever get too emotional when it comes to this.

      i can’t see my comment reply now….*blink* *lump in throat*

      i think it struck me because i just feel like probably there’s quite a few of us that can relate; either it happened (in the non-internet way) to us on some level, or we have kids we fear for, or will someday fear for. it’s just such an important thing to discuss and squelch, i think.

      i feel like maybe i would like to do a “regular stuff” thing. do you think? i could just write it to myself, but i like to hear all of your thoughts on things, too…just nice that we’re all sounding boards for each other. there’s comfort in that.

  2. Emma says:

    I’m sad from that video too. It brought me back to my early high school days, for sure. I think I made things way more miserable for myself than I needed to, and misread people hardcore (i.e. assumed they were evil and mean when they were actually far from it). I kind of wish I could do it again, and learn to appreciate others more, rather than just feeling intimidated by them for no reason. I’m so glad I’ve moved past that.

    These sound like great cookies for me. I like PB sammies, and love peanut butter cups, but tend to stay away from cookies and other sweets with peanut butter baked into it. This looks like a good PB jumping off point!

    • shannon says:

      it’s like the very definition of “heart-wrenching.” It actually wrenched my heart; i could feel it. And it did the same for me: certainly i was never tormented to that extent, and probably i didn’t do a ton to help the situation either, and i got very defensive, but we were kids, you know? i think when you’re 14, you can’t reason your way through it as well as you can when you’re safely in your twenties. I always say i wish i could do it all again, but with an adult understanding of how to deal with it. Sometimes, however, i think that’s why we are the way we are now: it sucked then, but everything makes us who we are today, including the sucky stuff. I’ve seen a few people that had it all under control recently, and guess what? They’re kinda still the same people. so.

      me too! it’s hard explaining to people my like/indifference/not like (?) of peanut butter, because i do like certain applications of it, but not all. I reduced the sugar in these to let the peanuts sort of show through a bit more, and they’re so entirely simple…a favorite thing of mine, for sure. try them sometime. when you’re bored, because i would think you’d pretty much always have all the ingredients handy, and you could use a little snack driving that big fancy new truck around! :)

      • Emma says:

        I made these this morning! And I love them! :)

        I used chunky peanut butter because it’s what we had, and used maybe an extra 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts. SO GOOD! Thank you for introducing me to the first peanut butter cookie I’ve ever liked!!

        • shannon says:

          Emma! you are so welcome! I’m happy you love these as much as i do; good call on the chunky peanut butter (I see no reason why that wouldn’t work just as well). I’m honored to be the one to break the cycle of pb cookie dislike. *takes bow*

  3. Brianne says:

    My brother, a high school senior, had a lot of friends who were really self-destructive; the boy whose locker was next to his hung himself their freshman year. He wanted to be a good role model for his friends, but they had a really bad influence on his first few years of high school. I can’t even fathom some of the things he has seen and heard. Eventually he had to leave those friends behind. He’s become an outstanding role model over the last year; he was even recognized by our local paper as a graduating senior who has overcome some big obstacles to get to where he’s at today!

    He’s turning 18 (18! I can’t even believe it!) next week. I should send him some of these cookies to celebrate.

    • shannon says:

      so sad! it’s so hard for kids to be good role models – even when they want to be – if they are surrounded by kids like that. Almost impossible, truly, because peer pressure is just all there is in middle and the early years of high school, and it’s got to be like, intense to try and rise above all of that. And it doesn’t matter the school, either; i went to a very nurturing private school here (st. louis gets big props for their wide variety of private schools, i’ll say that) and bad influences were STILL rampant. My public school friends? I know it was worse there, but there are some very interesting bad choices you can make attending a private school with rich kids, too. I’m so proud of your brother for being able to pull it out and rise above it! I love hearing stories like that…good kids rock my world. Especially those which have dealt with adversity.

      Tell him i send my happy 18th birthday wishes, will you? I’m sure you made him something totally special over the holidays. :)

  4. When I read your first sentence, I thought that perhaps you had put bits of bacon candy into these peanut butter cookies (which would be AWESOME). But then i realized there was no possible way you had any leftover bacon candy. duh.

    That being said, these still sound awfully delicious without bacon. I love that they’re slice and bake! I’m totally going to make these and dip in chocolate as suggested. Nate will be so happy.

    I only recently saw that Amanda Palmer blog, and also saw the Amanda Todd video for the first time. Absolutely horrifying. It makes me so scared to have kids and raise them in this world. I hope that I can protect them, somehow.

    • shannon says:

      mindreader: i actually thought about doing that. I didn’t end up doing it, because exactly; the phrase “leftover bacon candy” doesn’t exist in nature.

      the slice and bake is the best part! Not that peanut butter cookies are labor-intensive, but there’s typically some sort of ball-rolling and fork-pressing involved. None of that here, and it also gives you that whole “hey, i can make these and just make them whenever” sort of feeling, which is my favorite baking feeling.

      Horrifying is THE word for it. I had a very lovely conversation just the other day with someone and she said the exact same thing. Surprisingly, this blog post hadn’t hit yet; we were talking about something else entirely. I don’t think any of us really know what we’re up against bringing kids into this world, that’s for sure. I’ve learned one thing since the Wee One got here; you gotta trust yourself and your instincts. You just have to block out everyone else’s theories and advice and at the end of the day, you have to parent with your gut and do it your way. And you have to parent with your whole self, and i always feel like if you do that, you’ve already protected them. I think we all just really, really are going to need to pay attention in an exceedingly close way with our (present and future) kids. And fix this, somehow.

  5. Ashley says:

    I’m not PB obsessed either, and there are definitely some PB cookies out there that leave me quite ambivalent about the whole venture. Add some crunch and – egads! – dipping into semi-sweet chocolate? Genius, as usual.

    Hearing more from you, whether on food or on other areas, sounds awesome. It’s always exciting to see what interests other people, and you have a way of making things hilarious and real. I can’t wait!

    Also, I love the white ceramic Christmas tree in the photo background! We inherited my grandmother’s large tree, which has multicolored plastic “lights”. It’s one of our quintessential Christmas decorations.

    • shannon says:

      you, my dear, are going to either be responsible for my increased baking confidence or my head getting too big. :) a genius i am not, but i AM very flattered you think that. You make me smile, as usual. :)

      i really am happy that it sounds like all of you wouldn’t mind a “random things” post. I know i would, and i’m sure sometimes you’ll all be like “sheesh! yawn…” but i’ll try to not drone on and on. most of the time. maybe. I’m still trying to sort of formulate the first one on my head; i like to sit and think on things, so it’s in the works.

      it’s such a grandma thing, those trees! you know why i started collecting them? my grandma had/has one she puts out every year; just a singular one, green, and with multicolored lights, but it’s still the most beautiful one i’ve ever seen, and it’s been lovingly cared for for decades and decades. They remind me of her, because i know she still puts her little tree out on the buffet every year. I agree: it’s a must-have at christmas.

  6. Oh my God. I just watched the Amanda Todd video.

    Since I don’t quite know what to say yet, I’ll just say that I think a Thursday Things post would be great. And I’m glad you posted these cookies. I made some flourless peanut butter cookies yesterday from a cookbook I’d gotten for Christmas, and they were not very good.

    • shannon says:

      I’m sort of struggling with that too. it just doesn’t ever leave my mind completely, and it’s hard to sort it all out in my head because i have SO much to say, but then nothing seems adequate. It just seems like the right time to start talking about this stuff in more of a forum…just to bounce ideas and thoughts off of each other. Because i just keep going back to one thought: that there’s got to be a way to fix this so it doesn’t happen.

      oh no! failed cookies are the worst; i think that’s part of my cookbook paranoia: will it be as marvelous as i expect? Am i being unreasonable about things? I find myself retreating to cookbooks that are well-worn in my own library, but i’m trying to break the cycle. These cookies are from one of those much-loved books; trust me, i promise…they are delicious. They will not let you down.

  7. Yeah, I’m the girl that lives for peanut butter…and bacon! Love the stuff. Can’t get enough of it. Eat it right off the spoon. Yum! These look amazingly awesome. They’ve been listed. Also, I can’t wait for your new section; I think it’s a great idea.

    • shannon says:

      i know you do! I love people who have intense loves for things, though; certainly i do, but the peanut butter people? They know how to rock it. HARD. also the Baconites.

  8. First, these cookies look amazing – and we eat a lot of cookies around here, so I’m kind of an expert.

    Second, being is hard these days. Being a kid. Being a teenager. Being a grown up. Being gay, straight, young, old, different, or the same. It’s hard. Makes me think back to the days when you could eat a peanut butter cookie in school without risking someone’s life – the days when most of the kids I knew figured being nice to other people was the right thing to do. Maybe we should just bring nice back? You know, make it cool? Let’s do that, okay? For Stella and stuff.

    • shannon says:

      thinking about you surrounded by cookies makes me entirely happy. As did that bread photo the other day from school on facebook; it stirred something within me, and i’m still on my “I made pretzels” high, so i feel i may actually be joining you this semester! I kept my list of breads/syllabus. :)

      I know, right? It’s so hard out there. What’s worse? Since i wrote that post, i’ve watched ADULTS hate on each other, several times, right in front of me; and we wonder where kids pick this stuff up. I’m all for bringing back the days of safe peanut butter cookies and not letting anyone else put you down. I have some ideas, because yes, i GOTTA get this done before stella hits kindergarten. Or mommy will need a seat in the back row at school and someone will be really embarrassed.

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