Friday, February 9, 2024

Peanut Butter Cookies

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 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).

Friday, January 12, 2024

The Perfect Baked Potato, Part II (With Toppings)

I had America's Test Kitchen (ATK) recipe for baked potatoes for ages. The other week, I finally made one and posted it on my blog. Oh, my goodness ... Almost thirty thousand people clicked on it! Seriously, folks, it makes for an incredible baked potato.

Well, yesterday, Dan from ATK released yet another video on the humble spud. Coincidence? I think not. 

In this video's written description, you will find links to several unique baked-potato toppings. Enjoy.

Remember, be sure to sign up to get automatic new and exciting updates on Kitchen Bounty! 

(I am a real advocate of PBS's television series America's Test Kitchen and its magazine publications: "Cook's Illustrated" and "Cook's Country." I subscribe to both. I always learn something new or I am challenged to try something new, whether it's an ingredient, a recipe, or even a gadget.)

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache Topping

If you are ever stumped for a quick-but-welcomed dessert, look no further than peanut butter pie. Appreciated by children and adults (men love it!), it pushes all the bells and whistles from flavor to texture to looks. And there is really no serious baking involved. 

This version is from Richard Sax' incredible dessert-Bible of a cookbook, Classic Home Desserts. I have not made anything I didn't like from this cookbook. I admire and brag on his recipe for Quick-Apple-Cake, a favorite of Kitchen Bounty readers. 

This special-occasion pie is easy to prepare ahead of time. Simply refrigerate until needed. Just a warning: likely there will be no leftovers and people will want the recipe! While the graham-cracker crust is traditional, try the more popular chocolate-cookie crust. Or one from crushed animal crackers. Or just use a pre-baked pie crust of your favorite recipe.

This is a fun pie to dress up for holiday themes! Without make-up, it is still a knock-out-looking pie. But feel free to embellish and dress it up with chocolate curls, broken candy peanut butter cups, chocolate malt balls, whipped cream puffs, candy canes for Christmas, colored Easter eggs for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween  . . . Make an impression! Make it yours for a date to remember! 

From dining room table and fine china to picnic table and paper plates, a slice of this pie is always a winner anywhere it is served!

Makes one 9-inch pie; serves about 8


  • 1 cup graham crack crumbs (about 15 individual crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old fashioned or freshly ground)
  • 1 cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, well chilled
  • Topping

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
     1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, sugar, butter until well blended.  Press evenly into a lightly-buttered pie pan or plate, reaching up the rim, but not over the top of it. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove. Cool on wire rack.

    2. Filling: Beat cream cheese and peanut butter on medium speed until well blended. Add confectioner sugar, vanilla and beat until fluffy.

Whip the cream until not quite stiff. Fold a large spoonful into the peanut butter mixture to lighten it; gently fold in the remainder. Carefully spoon the filling into the cooled crust, spreading evenly. Loosely cover the pie and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. 

    3. Topping: Bring the cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan--just until you see tiny bubbles form on the side of the pan. Do not  boil! Add chocolate and stir until thick and smooth. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Gently spread the topping over the cooled pie. Decorate, if desired. Refrigerate until firm. 

This pie can be made 1 day ahead; cover it loosely with wax paper or plastic wrap (a cover if your pan has one) and refrigerate. (I place the pie on a plate and then turn a large-enough bowl upside down to cover it. For perfect cuts, dip knife into warm water per slice.)

NOTE: This is an expensive cookbook, but I got mine used, in mint condition, on-line for about six bucks. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

How to Make the Absolute Best Baked Potatoes + Video

Never did I ever think I needed instructions how to make a baked potato. 

Last night I scored a T-bone steak marked own eight bucks! I wanted a really good, classic baked potato to go with it. That's when I remembered this recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

Let me just tell you that it was the BEST baked potato I ever had. I'm not kidding. It was not at all gummy or overdone at the ends. The skin was not "slippery" or like wet chewy leather. Instead, the inside was dry and FLUFFY! The potato released easily from the skin. And, oh that skin--it was crackling! You will not be disappointed!

No more nuked potatoes for me. No more wrapping in tin foil. 

This is when it pays to have a countertop oven. I have a compact Breville convection oven. In fact, I never even use my conventional oven. It is storage for pots and pans. I baked mine on the "roast" setting at precisely 450 F degrees.

You will need an instant-read thermometer. A scale helps, too, but is not absolutely necessary.

A little green never hurt. I always try to keep both chives
and parsley going through the winter. If not available, use
some celery leaves. Of course, without guests, who cares?

This recipe calls for four, 9- to 10-ounce Russet potatoes. Choose the nicest you can find. I like to be sure the ends are rounded not tapered. You want Russets for their thick skin. Save the thin-skinned Yukon Golds for mashing. I halved the brine since I only made two. Next time, I'm not sure I will dispose the brine when done; instead, I will save for upcoming week. Why not?
  • 4 Russet potatoes, 7-9 ounces each (if you don't have a scale, weigh them at the market). Choose unblemished, non-bruised with few "eyes" and uniform in shape and size so they all cook evenly at the same time. 
  • 2 tablespoons salt. I used Kosher.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Vegetable oil (I used olive oil), about 1 tablespoon. Next time I will use bacon fat.

Scrub potatoes well. Using a fork or the tip of a sharp paring knife, lightly prick each potato all around--about a half-dozen times.

Roll in the salt brine. Remove to a rack to dry.

Place on a rack in oven (I used a simple rack I placed on top of oven rack) and roast until the internal temperature reaches 205 F degrees, about 45-60 minutes.

Carefully remove and brush with oil. Return to oven to bake an additional ten minutes.

Remove. Cut an "X" into each skin. Lightly push ends toward center. I have individual earthen, oval-baked bowls I put mine into. For those who love the skin ... you may want to serve with a side of Kosher salt for dipping.

These are Mason and Cash bowls from England. Martha Stewart made them
popular here in the States. They are getting more and more difficult to find.
If you spot them in a thrift store, grab them. They have so many uses.

I have not tried the goat-cheese topping in the video below. I enjoy a ton of butter, salt, pepper, thick sour cream and chives.