|My vintage Hall's Crocus Pattern cookie jar. It is basically
a heavy "crock", so it keeps cookies fresh.
Like most everyone in the whole wide world who grocery shops, I'm pinching pennies and careful with what money I have. I'm grateful I know how to cook which saves me quite a bit since I have the skills to cook with less.
Some birthdays are looming; to economize, I have decided to give homemade cookies. Who doesn't love a good cookie? They are personal. They are generally much appreciated. There is nothing to store (except calories) or to put together. Or take apart, unless you count breaking them in half to dunk into a glass of cold milk. And, they are fun to package.
(As an aside: When I gift food to people in a jar or a tin, I usually ask for it to be returned. Empty and clean! LOL . . . I mention that last remark, "empty AND clean" for two reasons. Older people will return a container with something in it as a thank-you. It's not necessary. Younger folks, which I've learned the hard way, often return your bowl, etc. "wiped" but not neccesarily washed. That's why I emphasize clean!)
Girl Scout Cookie-a-thons are now in full swing. But at six bucks a pop, I'll pass. I remember when they were 45 cents and my mom would buy a half dozen boxes from different kids in the neighborhood . . . Well, those days are long gone . . . I think Girl Scouts need a new business plan.
I don't post many recipes for sweets. It is tempting, thus dangerous. And, now that I'm not working, I have to be careful. With no audience to feed, the sweets hang around my kitchen until I consume them! To add to the dilemma, living in a large apartment complex, I rarely know my neighbors anymore ... and, truth be told, not sure I want to know some of them. But it's pretty easy to freeze cookie doughs, so you only need to bake what you need and save the rest for a rainy day or when that sweet-tooth hankering gnaws at you. Or some birthdays are approaching . . .
Most likely, your first peanut butter cookie was in the school cafeteria. I know mine was, but that was when the cafeteria ladies actually made the food we ate from scratch. Then, sadly, the government got all involved and home cooking by real experts was deemed unsafe and illegal. Processed, pre-prepared food became the norm . . . And kids are obese. Then the government created The Department of Education. And now kids are dumb . . . Do you see a pattern?
I digress . . .
PB cookies are pretty basic and simple. I've gone over dozens of recipes. The only controversy is butter vs shortening. Some use all butter; some use all shortening. Me, I like half and half, the best of both worlds and you can purchase butter-flavored shortening. All butter will cause your cookies to spread and be crisper. Shortening will make them rise a bit taller and, since it does not contain any water, a bit more moist. To me, the perfect PB cookies is crisp around the edge, a bit chewy in the middle ... One lady said she was going to use lard. Interesting. I'd love to know how that turned out, especially since lard is better for you than shortening or butter. And certainly better than any seed oil.
This recipe is the standard, all-American recipe for peanut butter cookies from none-other than Betty Crocker. My only true deviation is to first roll some of the dough in a cinnamon-maple sugar before giving them that obligatory criss-cross fork pattern. (I purchase the sugar from thespicehouse.com. If you never visited, you are in for a treat. I recommend purchasing the flat packs. They make storing so much easier, shipping is cheaper, and you can always fill your own jars.) I also add a teaspoon of vanilla.
For a future project, I intend to make a peanut butter-almond-chocolate pinwheel cookie. I think all those flavors would work well together.
Any kitchen utensil can be used to emboss a "pattern" on a drop or peanut-butter cookie. Get creative. Think beyond the criss-cross fork method. My favorite is a large "spider" I use to fish out items when deep frying, below are a few more examples from King Arthur Flour. This is a great chance to involve kids. Head up a scavenger hunt to find items that can be used . . .
- 1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup name-brand peanut butter, not "natural"
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in a large bowl.
Stir in remaining ingredients. The dough should be light and fluffy. Do not overmix which results in a "tough" cookie.
Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
Heat oven to 375F.
Shape Dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on an ungreased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
If desired, roll balls in sugar or flatten in crisscross pattern with a fork dipped into sugar. I prefer cinnamon maple sugar. Or skip sugar and dip fork in flour to avoid sticking.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.
Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to five days.
NOTES: Be vigilant on how long your cookies bake in the oven. A mere minute longer or shorter is enough to change the texture from soft and chewy to crisp. Use an accurate timer and, like pancakes, you may want to make a few first. Dark brown sugar will give you a tad more "molasses" flavor (or just add a few drips of molasses).