If there’s one thing that reminds me of my childhood – and I’ve been thinking more about my childhood since my mother passed away recently – it’s peanut butter cookies. The ultimate comfort food, this cookie is simple, sweet and captures the essence of every kid’s favorite spread – the next best thing to scooping peanut butter out of a jar and eating it outright. (And don’t tell me you never did that!)
As far as I’m concerned, a cookie can only be called a peanut butter cookie if it has the crosshatch pattern on top, made by flattening the ball of cookie dough with the tines of a fork. Whoever came up with that idea met two practical needs at once: providing a way to shape the cookies easily and giving them a distinctive identity.
Here’s a Wikipedia entry for the origin of peanut butter cookies. It seems we can thank George Washington Carver for promoting the idea to increase the demand for peanuts.
I turned to my mom’s Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book for a traditional, old-fashioned recipe to bake this weekend. This was a popular cookbook in its time and mom was awarded hers as part of a prize package from the Hawaii County Fair for her blue-ribbon entries one year.
Baking methods have changed since her edition was published in 1955 (original copyright was 1942). I’ve eliminated the sifting. I’ve also replaced half the vegetable shortening of the original recipe with butter. Shortening produces a crisper cookie, but butter gives richer flavor, so I split the difference. I also reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup since desserts tended to be sweeter in those days. If you like a sweeter cookie, increase the granulated sugar by 1/4 cup.
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Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 3 ½ dozen cookies
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, well beaten
- In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
- In a large bowl, cream peanut butter, shortening and butter; gradually add the sugars and cream thoroughly. Add the egg and blend.
- Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix well. Chill dough for 1 to 2 hours to firm up.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Form dough into balls 1 inch in diameter and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Flatten with a fork dipped in flour, making a crisscross pattern.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on pan for 5 minutes and using an egg turner, gently remove cookies from the sheet and cool on wire racks. Store airtight.
- “Packed” brown sugar means to compact the sugar in the measuring cup. Brown sugar is light and airy and you will get a different measure if you just scoop it into a cup versus using a spoon and packing it down as you continue to add more sugar until you fill the cup.
- What does “cream” mean? To cream in this recipe, beat the peanut butter, shortening and butter with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer until light and fluffy; gradually add the sugar and beat in thoroughly until the sugars are fully incorporated; then add the egg.
Recipe adapted from Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, P.F. Collier & Son Corporation (c. 1955)
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