I’ve been making peanut butter cookies since I could spell “peanut butter cookies.” Albeit with the original Master Chef, Podie, my great-grandmother. So when I set out to perfect this quintessential treat for the masses, I thought it’d be easy. I got more than I bargained for because over the years these cookies somehow became ubiquitous with soft & chewy. Honestly, I don't think any self-respecting peanut butter cookie wants to be associated with those descriptors. Peanut butter cookies should be robust, balance salty/sweet, and actually taste & smell like PEANUT BUTTER. When you take a bite, you should feel the crumbs crumble and detect the nuances in texture as this slightly sandy cookie goes from crisp, to flexibly dense, then finally nonexistent.
After trying to remix some go-to recipes and researching new ones, I quickly discovered that all the recipes are basically the same. So I had to start from scratch. I got in over my head quick and produce batch after batch of subpar specimens that were (in the words of samplers) “bland” or “health-bar-tasting.” I browned butter, I rolled things in different sugars, I toasted nuts, and I even managed to stuff a batch- all to no avail. Then I quit.
Our customers continued to request peanut butter cookies so I had to man-up and make it happen. I needed inspiration. I let my mind wander back to the stress-free baking days of my youth when I wasn’t responsible for making sure things came out right. Podie told me to add more; I added more. She said to mix longer; I mixed longer. She told me to hurry up and get the cake in the oven before the batter dies, and I rushed- despite not grasping the concept of cake mortality. She herself was the measuring cup, recipe book, and timer packaged in a human form. Cooking was supposed to be fun, and I was overthinking.
Back in the day, baking cookies wasn’t this complicated. We used Focus Hope peanut butter and Crisco, and that was that. I remember those being the best cookies I’ve ever had, regardless of their tendency to burn on the bottom in Podie’s oven. I will never be truly satisfied with any peanut butter cookie because of those deliciously embedded memories. A few weeks from now, I'll probably be dissecting these and trying to improve them again. In the meantime, I hope these throwback inspired cookies transport you to a peanut-butter-loving memory of your own.
As for those of you looking for those soft/chewy/counterfeits- not today. ☺
~peace, love, & peanut butter
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