Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

With the price of peanut butter getting ready to skyrocket, what better time to bake an enormous batch of peanut butter cookies? But, the belly wants what it wants, and what it wanted was peanut butter cookies. I am no peanut butter snob, but I can taste the difference between Skippy and Jif. I know a spoonful of Peter Pan when I taste one. I won't buy store brands because they never get it right. Ok, maybe I am a peanut butter snob. When I was a kid, choosy mothers chose Jif, but my mom inevitably picked Skippy and my grandmother always had a jar of Peter Pan.

Recently, I have been buying the Smart Balance brand. It started with a coupon, but continues because I really like the deep roasted flavor. You open the jar, and it's three shades darker than any other peanut butter, smells roasty and delicious, isn't too sweet, and has just the right amount of salt. However, my latest jar was a huge tub of Planter's. Yes, Mr. Peanut makes peanut butter. It's not quite as deep and rich as the Smart Balance, but it was pretty cheap (again, it all comes down to the coupon).

So, when you google peanut butter cookie recipes, you get endless claims that these cookies are the world's best, the ne plus ultra, the apex, the epitome, the whatever best-est synonym came up in the thesaurus. It all depends on what you like, I guess. I like these. They are not fancy, they are just easy and peanut buttery. And whole wheaty, which obviously makes them health food. You probably should eat two. Or three. But then you need to give the rest away, a dozen at a time.
Everything you need to get baking!

What You Need
  • 125g (1 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 150g (1¼ cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 225g (2 sticks, ½ lb) butter
  • 340g (12 oz, 1¼ cups) peanut butter
  • 140g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
  • 150g (¾ cup, packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla butternut extract
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar (for rolling dough balls)

What You Do
I got 20 cookies per sheet, and I still had to bake four batches.
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cream butter and sugars together (using the stand mixer) until light and fluffy.
  3. Add peanut butter and keep mixing to incorporate. Add eggs, one at a time. Add extract.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture. Mix only until the flour is incorporated. The cookie dough will be soft.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour. Don't skip this step.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  7. Form the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter, then roll each ball in some granulated sugar. Space the cookies about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a fork to press the classic crosshatch pattern onto the cookie tops, flattening them slightly.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes. The cookies will not look quite brown enough, but trust me, take them out of the oven. Cool them on the sheet for a minute or two before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
What You Eat
Surprisingly, I got exactly 72 cookies. Exactly. I was extremely virtuous about not sampling the raw dough. If you eat a spoonful of dough, and no one would blame you if you did, you will only get 71 cookies. If you diligently make 6 dozen, though, each cookie will have precisely:
Calories 82 Protein 1.8g Vitamin B6 1.8%
Fat 5.1g Vitamin A 1.7% Folate 2.2%
Saturated Fat 2.2g Vitamin C 0% Vitamin B12 0.29%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.82g Calcium 0.62% Pantothenic Acid 0.97%
Monounsaturated Fat 1.9g Iron 1.6% Phosphorus 2.9%
Cholesterol 12mg Vitamin D 0.75% Magnesium 2.6%
Sodium 47mg Vitamin E 2.6% Zinc 1.5%
Potassium 45mg Thiamin 2.0% Copper 1.7%
Carbohydrate 7.8g Riboflavin 1.5% Selenium 3.6%
Fiber 0.53g Niacin 4.2% Manganese 7.8%
Sugars 4.5g

What You Learn
Don't look away, or your cookies will get crunchy.
These 20 up front were left in the oven for about 2 minutes
too long. Still delicious, but not chewy in the center.
  • This particular recipe is modified from the classic recipe found in The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (my edition dates from 1986), although a cursory search on the Good Housekeeping website does not pull up my original recipe. Actually, these recipes use a larger sugar:peanut butter ratio. Mine are peanut butter-licious without being cloying or too sweet.
  • If you don't have white whole wheat, regular whole wheat flour is a fine substitution. If you use all-purpose flour, I would measure by weight not volume, using 275 total grams of flour, which by volume would be something greater than the 2¼ cups of combined flours.
  • King Arthur Flour has a Vanilla-Butternut extract, but I bought a less expensive version at the Kroger when I made a King Cake last Mardi Gras. I had not used it since, but it came in handy here. It was, dare I say it, a secret ingredient. It gave the cookies a little bit of a boost that plain vanilla just does not have. KAF also carries a peanut butter flavoring--wonder how that would work? Try it and let me know.
  • Refrigerate the dough. It will take a bit of time for the whole wheat flour to absorb some of the moisture, and the dough will stiffen to a workable consistency.
  • If you refrigerate the dough longer than about an hour, make sure to cover the surface with cling film to keep it from drying out. The dough can be refrigerated for a day or two until you have time to make the cookies.
  • If it's going to be longer than two days, you should freeze the dough. Freeze it as a solid mass, or if you are ambitious, make the cookie balls and freeze them individually on a cookies sheet. When they are frozen, store them in a zippy bag and pull out as many as you need to bake. To bake the frozen cookies, just add about 2 minutes of time, but keep an eye on them.

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