Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

As I was putting the signature crisscross hatchmarks on these cookies with a fork Chris tells me they look JUST LIKE his Grandma's.  I proceed to tell him that this is how ALL peanut butter cookies look.  He asks why and I tell him I suppose it's for people who are allergic like my brother to know they should watchout because they're peanut butter and not a sugar cookie or similar looking goodie.

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookie Closeup

There's something about making those crisscross fork imprints that I also just find very relaxing.  It's like an artist putting their finishing touches on a masterpiece.  Yeah...I guess I'm kind of weird like that.  I really can't tell you why it's taken me so long to make this very traditional cookie.  It's always been a favorite and it's not difficult so it was an easy decision for me to add it to my 23 Things in 2011 List.  This one in particular was bursting with peanutty flavor, lightly crunch on the outside and oh-so-soft-and-chewy on the inside.  Perfect!

For this recipe I turned to the experts at Cook's Illustrated The New Best RecipeThe recipe article, as with all of the recipes in the book, go through a very thorough process talking about why each ingredient was selected versus other options you might find in alternate recipes.  For example, they determined that butter accentuates the peanut flavor while margarine and Crisco diminish it.  In terms of the peanut butter itself, the chunky style lends the best peanut flavor and they advise against using natural peanut butter because it makes the cookies sandy.  Of course the preferred brand itself is Jif...because everyone knows Choosy Moms Choose Jif!  To further boost the peanut flavor, they add ground up peanuts.  Last but not least, for the sugar, the brown sugar alone is too sweet but does lend a nutty taste to the cookie so that's how they arrived at a blend of white and brown sugars.  Genius.

In one recipe (but not this one) I remember reading that they did a comparison of the recipe using natural vs. artificial vanilla.  You'd think that the natural would be better tasting (especially given the price difference!) but in reality they found no detectable difference or even slight preference for the artificial version.  Nice!  Now I don't have to feel guilty about buying the Kroger Value brand of Vanilla :P.

Call me a nerd but I have to say that I enjoy reading the science behind each recipe.  What can I say, I'm an engineer by training so this is right up my ally.  I think it helps educate a budding chef and in the future would help you to create original recipes, too.  If you don't already have it, I really do recommend this cookbook.  What it lacks in beautiful pictures (my only complaint) it makes up for in quality content and educational value.  There are 1000 recipes in it and the tutorials (such as how to make a lattice pie, how to make homemade pasta, etc.) are fantastic!

One Year Ago: Pizza Bites and Spicy Sausage Dip

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookie

Yields: About 36 cookies 

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened by still cool
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup extra-crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup salted dry-roasted peanuts, ground in a food processor to resemble bread crumbs (about 14 pulses)
  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, silicone baking mat, or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.  Add the sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with an electric mixer, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, then the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Gently stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture.  Add the ground peanuts and stir gently until just incorporated.
  4. Working with a generous 2 Tablespoon each time, roll the dough into 2-inch balls.  Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.  To make a crisscross design, dip a dinner fork into a small bowl of cold water and then press the fork into the dough ball.  Rotate the fork 90 degrees and press it into the dough ball a second time.
  5. Bake until the cookies are puffed and slightly browned around the edges but not on top, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  (The cookies will not look fully baked.)  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack with a wide metal spatula to cool completely.
Source: The New Best Recipe from the Editor's of Cook's Illustrated, p. 781

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