Americans love peanut butter
in their cooking, their candy bars, in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
and especially in Peanut Butter Cookies. Jean Anderson tells us in her
excellent book The American Century Cookbook that the first
published cookie recipe using peanut butter appeared in 1915, but it
wasn't until 1936 that a recipe resembling the peanut butter cookie of
today appeared in Ruth Wakefield's book Ruth Wakefield's Toll House
Tried and True Recipes. Of course, the classic crisscross pattern make
them instantly recognizable and that 'sweet and salty' flavor combination
make them irresistible. There is an ongoing debate about whether smooth or
crunchy peanut butter make the best cookies. There are statistics that say
women and children prefer the smooth type, while men go for crunchy peanut
Peanut butter has been an American favorite ever since its introduction at
the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Dr. Kellogg is credited with popularizing
it in the 1890s when, as a vegetarian, he wanted a substitute for what he
called "cow's butter". His answer was "nut butters" and since peanuts
(really a legume, not a nut) were the cheapest nut, that is the "nut
butter" he focused on. Peanut butter was first touted as a "health" food
and recipes for making and using peanut butter were in many vegetarian
cookbooks by the early 1900s. Today peanut butter is so popular that over
half the American peanut crop goes to its making.
Peanut butter is a smooth paste made from roasted
peanuts. The peanuts are ground, and then salt, a sweetener, and sometimes
a stabilizer (to keep the oil from separating) are added. There are two
types of peanut butter, and the ones that are labeled "Old-Fashioned" or
"Natural" do not contain a stabilizer which means the peanut butter will
separate and you will have to stir the peanut butter before using. Now if
possible, when buying peanut butter, try to buy ones that do not contain trans fats,
which are labeled as "partially hydrogenated oil" or "hydrogenated oil".
Cookies: Preheat oven to
350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two
baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of
your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugars until
light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Beat in the peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla extract
and beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking
soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat until
incorporated. Fold in the chopped peanuts, if using. (If the batter is too soft
to form into balls, place in the refrigerator for about an hour or until firm.)
Roll the batter
into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet,
placing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, using the tines of the fork that has
been dipped in white granulated sugar, make a crisscross pattern.
Bake the cookies for
about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove
from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Can be stored at room
temperature, in an airtight container, for about a week. Freeze for longer
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