I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you can tell a lot about people by their favorite kind of cookie. There are the chocolate chip-lovers, straight-forward and classic; the snickerdoodle fans, pure and sweet; and the lemon bar enthusiasts, fresh and zingy. I actually ran through quite a lengthy cookie list the other day, pairing sweets with various human characteristics for an engaging personality study of baked goods (needless to say, my definition of productivity slips a bit during the holidays), but somewhere along the way I came across a cookie that I couldn’t quite peg down. The peanut butter cookie, in all its crunchy, chewy wonder, is something of a man (or woman) of mystery. It’s classic, yes, but not so classic that it makes the menu at every coffee shop in town. It’s also sweet, but a good kick of salt makes it much less sugary than its cousins in the cookie aisle. It’s simple in ingredients but complex in flavor, which just adds to the confusion. Who are you, peanut butter cookie? Who are you?
In all my years of cookie baking, I had never, until recently, made a peanut butter cookie. It’s a baked good that runs under the radar, I think. The gingersnaps, shortbreads and fancy pants cookies tend to steal the show in my kitchen, particularly around the holidays, but a jar of Peter Pan beckoned me from the cabinet last week and begged to be made into something special. I found a great recipe on Food52 and adjusted it ever so slightly to suit my family’s tastes. Now I can’t imagine how I went so long without adding peanut butter to the cookie repertoire. These guys were a knockout. Not too sweet. Not too salty. Not too chewy. Not too crunchy. So good but so not definable. And thus, I return to my quandary.
In truth, I could hyper-analyze the poor peanut butter cookie and its eaters for days, but I suppose none of that matters. The fact is, despite its ambiguous nature and not-quite-classic status, little peanut butter is one delicious guy (and thus my metaphor stops before there’s trouble. Yikes!). The salty, sweet flavor and chewy, crunchy combo make it pretty irresistible.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Adjusted slightly from Merrill, Food52.com
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Beat in sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until blended thoroughly. Add the salt, baking soda and flour, and beat until just combined.
Chill the dough for about an hour, then roll it into tablespoon-sized balls. Place balls of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, and use the back of a fork dipped in flour to make a cross-hatched pattern atop each cookie.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until cookies are lightly golden and edges just start to firm up. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
What kind of cookie are you?