Peanut Butter Cookies Perfected

Peanut Butter Cookies Perfected

I’ve been looking for a great peanut butter cookie recipe for quite some time.  Up until now, I was never entirely satisfied with what I produced.  It was always too cakey or too dry or too greasy.  So it was with great anticipation that I decided to try the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe from “Baked:  New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.   I had heard nothing but raves in the online community about all of their recipes, so I had high hopes going in.  Had I finally found that perfect balance of moist, crunchy and, most important of all, peanutbutteriness? [Is that a word?  It should be.]

I decided to try their recipe as written.  I made the cookies in different sizes, flattening the raw dough before baking vs. not and various cooking times.  Having said all that, I wasn’t a happy girl.  The cookies had a pleasant flavor, but were still too flat, too greasy and just not peanutbuttery enough.  Back to the peanut butter drawing board.

Over the next couple of weeks, I made two more batches of cookies making changes each time to the original recipe.  By the third batch, I had what I wanted.  To solve the peanutbutteriness (again, should be a word) problem, I added 50% more peanut butter, 1/4 cup of chopped unsalted peanuts, 1 cup of peanut butter chips and more vanilla to balance that all out.  To solve the flattening issue, I changed the primary leavener to baking powder, added more flour and baked the cookies lower and slower.  Like with most cookies, I found that cooking time was key.  By baking longer and at a lower temp, I achieved the tender inside and crunchy exterior that I was looking for.

Peanut Butter Cookies Perfected

Print-Friendly Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy unnatural peanut butter at room temperature (See Note)
  • 1 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips

Note:  In my daily pb&j-making life, I use natural peanut butter.  My favorites being Kirkland Organic and Adams, when I can get it.  However, the best peanut butter cookies are made with “unnatural” peanut butters.  I’m talking about Jiff, Skippy, Peter Pan and the like.  These peanut butters contain sugar, salt and additional fully hydrogenated oils that prevent separation (but don’t add transfat).  If you use natural peanut butter (aka the kind that separates), the cookies will have a different taste and texture.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as necessary, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until they are incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy.

Add the peanut butter and beat until just incorporated.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture, the peanuts and the peanut butter chips and mix until just incorporated.  Take care not to overmix.  I’ll tell you one thing, the dough tastes awesome!

Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. TIP:  If you’ve got the time, the cookies are even better if the dough sits in the fridge for 24-48 hours before you form and bake them.  In fact, you can keep this in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Because we are baking these lower and slower, there is a significant danger that the cookie bottoms will become too dark.  To solve this problem, try using insulated baking sheets OR sandwich two heavy-gauge baking pans which creates a pocket of air.  That’s what I did.  Whatever you do, line your pan with parchment paper.

Drop 2-3 tablespoons of dough (I used a #24 ice cream scoop), spaced about 2 inches apart.  Press down on the top slightly so that it is a thick disk like a tall hockey puck.  Sprinkle each cookie liberally with sugar.

Bake for 14-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.   The cookies are done with the tops are lightly brown and they are about 3 inches wide.

They will still be a little soft when you press on them hot out of the oven, but they firm up as they cool.  Let them rest for one minute on the pan before lifting them off using the parchment.  Cool to room temperature.

Ta da!  Chewy and moist, but still a little crunchy and very peanutbuttery, this is my perfect peanut butter cookie.  Of course, it might be even better dipped in milk chocolate…as most things are.  Hmmmm.  Clearly, more research is needed.

UPDATE:  January 18, 2011 – Just returned from NYC.  Had a Peanut Butter Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar which contained finely chopped peanut brittle.  Note to self, must try this soonest.