My mission: a peanut butter cookie that is indulgent, but not heavy
Making good peanut butter cookies is not hard. Most recipes are pretty straightforward and, with all that sugar and fat, pretty forgiving. But here’s my beef with peanut butter cookies: they’re often too flat, dense, and oily for my taste. I like a more cake-y peanut butter cookie. And I'd like it to be able to touch a napkin without immediately making it look like it's been dabbing up a greasy slice of pizza. As for New Year’s resolutions, I’m all for moderation in 2012. If I’m going to eat just one cookie, I want it to be perfect.
So I’ve been experimenting. Of course, that required putting moderation aside temporarily, for the sake of research. I had never questioned the notion that, to make the best peanut butter cookies, you had to use mainstream creamy peanut butter brands. It made sense to me that no-stir, ultra-smooth Jif and Skippy would blend better. And then there’s the nostalgic call of these familiar brands.
If you like natural peanut butter, it makes a great cookie
But after making several batches with Jif and Skippy, I realized that I don’t actually like them. Before this cookie-baking experiment, it had been so long since I had eaten these brands that I must have lost my affinity for them. I find them too smooth, to the point of being greasy. They made the cookies feel kind of texture-less and mushy. So I switched to the brand that I’ve been buying for the past few years: Once Again. I usually get the crunchy kind but bought the creamy, no salt added variety for the cookies. A little grainier and darker than the big brands, it added a pleasantly sandy texture and a more natural appearance.
A little leavening, please
But to really get the lighter, more cake-like texture, I had to count on baking soda and baking powder, which is often missing or used in smaller quantities in other peanut butter cookie recipes. Now I’ve got exactly the kind of peanut butter cookie I like: soft, peanut-y, indulgent and rich, but not greasy or heavy. So good, I even allow myself to eat two.
Makes 3 dozen
Preparation time: 30 minutes active time, plus 3 hours chilling time
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (if using salted peanut butter, reduce to ½ teaspoon salt)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dipping
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup creamy all-natural unsalted peanut butter, at room temperature, well stirred
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together until lightened, about 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla and peanut butter until incorporated. Add the flour mixture gradually and mix on lowest speed until just combined.
- At this point, you can either: divide the dough in thirds and wrap it up in plastic like three 1-inch thick logs of compound butter OR simply wrap the whole mess of dough in wax paper or plastic wrap. Either way, chill the dough until firm, at least three hours.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- If the chilled dough hasn’t already been formed into logs, do it now. With your hands, roll the dough, one-third of it at a time, on a lightly floured surface or a silicone sheet until the log of dough is about 1-inch thick.
- Slice up the logs into approximately 2-inch lengths.
- Dip one end of each little cylinder of dough into granulated sugar and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner, sugar side up.
- Make the classic peanut butter cookie lattice pattern by pressing down the back of a salad fork into the sugared end of the dough. Press down a second time at a 90-degree angle from the first set of fork marks. The dough should be a little squatter now, about 1 ½-inch thick discs. Bake for about 10 minutes. until the edges and raised ridges just begin to brown and the cracks no longer look wet, but still slightly moist.
- Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool further. I think they’re best when eaten warm. Once they’ve cooled, store them in a sealed container and they’ll stay moist for a day or two.