As a child, I used to hate peanut butter. I don’t know if it’s because of the way that it sticks to the roof of my mouth, or how the very gooey brands tend to make a mess when spread on a piece of toast. I’ve always found it odd since I actually like peanuts a lot. This passiveness toward peanut butter extended until my teenage years, and I only “rediscovered” it, if you will, in the past two years.
Ever since I started long-distance running, a lot of other runners advised me to have a cup of coffee with a peanut butter sandwich and a banana hours before each race. Apparently they help keep you energized while you tackle the long road ahead. I had no problems with the coffee and banana part, but I was skeptical about the peanut butter sandwiches. After that first bite however, I began to wonder why it was I did not like peanut butter in the first place. Nowadays one of my favourite granola bar flavours is peanut butter.
It’s a good thing my Dad is a big fan of the stuff, because he makes sure we always have a bottle stowed in the pantry. It’s useful for when a craving hits, or for when you finally embrace your love for peanut butter and decided to make something out of it. But why is it that the first thing I always think about making with an ingredient I have never used before is cookies?
So how do I describe these cookies aside from the usual: “It’s so good it became one of my favourite cookies”? (Which it did by the way. And it’s really close to the top!) You see, as I was plopping these into our cookie jar, my 92-year-old grandmother happened to pass by the kitchen with her nurse at her heels. Upon seeing me, she peeked in through the door frame to ask me what I was doing. I run over to give her a piece, and after eating half the cookie, I see her whisper to her nurse. I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe she was just asking for some water to wash down the sweetness. But then the nurse comes to me and tells me that my grandmother requests two large pieces to be stowed away in her biscuit tin so she can eat it later.
Well this has never happened before.
I didn’t even know my grandmother likes peanut butter.
And more importantly: My 92-year-old grandmother is hoarding cookies in a biscuit tin? Haha!
Well, I know my grandmother is a big fan of butter cookies, and I am always trying to get around to making some for her, but it’s been a challenge because none of us really like butter cookies. Thanks to these cookies, I don’t feel so bad about taking so long to make those for her. Now I have all the more reason to make these Peanut butter Crisscrosses again and again and again!
These crisp cookies, although a bit sweet, are balanced by the salted nuts. Salt is pretty magical, isn’t it? Plus, the nuts provide a lovely crunch and make these unmistakably peanuty in flavor. If you don’t want them to be too sweet, you can omit the last step of plopping the dough into the sugar, which I am planning to do for next time. Just roll them into balls and make crisscrosses with a fork. The crisscrosses on top add the perfect final touch! They’re not a requirement but they certainly have become part of the identity of peanut butter cookies to me.
Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours, pages 78 to 79 | Makes about 40 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (do not use natural)
1 packed cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts
about 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling, if desired
1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium speed for a minute or two, until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute.
4. Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
5. Scrape down the sides and bottom on the bowl, and on low speed, add the dry ingredients carefully, mixing only until they just disappear into the batter. You can also do this by hand. Then, mix in the chopped peanuts. You’ll have a very soft and mushy, but pliable, dough.
6. If rolling, pour the 1/2 cup of the sugar into a small bowl. Working with a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between your palms into balls and drop the balls, a couple at a time, into the sugar. Roll the balls around in the sugar to coat them, then place on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
7. Dip the tines of a fork in the sugar and press the tines against each ball first in one direction, and then in a perpendicular direction. You should have a flattened round of dough with crisscross indentations.
8. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway during the baking time. When done, the cookies will be lightly colored and still a little soft. Let the cookies sit on the sheets for a minute before transferring them to cooking racks using flat wide metal spatulas. Cool them to room temperature.
9. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.
Storage: Placed in a cookie jar or airtight container, these cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature. If freezing to bake at a later day, they last for up to 2 months.
Here’s a quick question: How does Dorie do it every single time?