It’s National Peanut Butter Cookie Day! Let’s celebrate and eat cookies!
But first, let’s learn things so we can reward our learning by eating all of those cookies. Let’s start at the very beginning. Peanut butter. God’s food. I’m sorry if you have a peanut allergy, but I guess that just means more peanut butter for me. Silver lining.
Peanut butter was invented by the Aztecs back in the early 1400s, but it wasn’t until Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yup, that Kellogg) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895 and patented the process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts that we got something more closely resembling the butter we have today. Though it existed, it wasn’t really a thing here in the U.S. until the early 1900s when Dr. George Washington Carver started to promote the peanut crop as a replacement for the cotton crop which had been destroyed by the boll weevil. Considered by many to be the father of the peanut industry, he developed more than 300 uses for peanuts. His publication, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption” advocated peanut butter as a substitute for butter or lard in recipes, and shared three cookie recipes which called for merely crushed nuts, not the puree that we use today. "Modern" peanut butter was officially introduced at the St. Louis World’s fair in 1904.
In 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield began selling a number of brands of peanut butter in California. These peanut butters were churned like butter so they were smoother than the gritty peanut butters of the time. He received the first patent for a shelf-stable peanut butter, which would stay fresh for up to a year because the oil didn't separate from the peanut butter.
Now that we know a little bit about the star ingredient, how did all of this turn into one of our most loved cookies? While cookies containing peanuts in some variety were not uncommon, not until Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, published in 1902, did a recipe actually call for peanut butter. Her recipe instructs shaping the cookies into balls, not as we often times see them today. Today, peanut butter cookies often have a trademark hashtag imprint on the top, and the first time that these fork marks were widely instructed to be placed on the cookie tops was in a recipe from Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes in 1933, and it was from this time on that peanut butter cookies became popular in kitchens across America.
Now, time for cookies. My mom collected this recipe at the tender age of "before-high school." I’ve heard time and again how Arthur Munch (her childhood best friend) of Buffalo, New York’s mom made the best peanut butter cookies and how even then back in the day, mom thought enough to secure the recipe. Tweaked to be her own, of course, it’s really easy to remember (everything, you’ll see, is in ½ cup increments) and never fails to be a fan favorite.
Makes about 18 cookies
½ cup butter, unsalted
½ cup crunchy peanut butter (preference: JIF)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, large
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cup flour
1 cup peanut butter chips (preferably Reese’s)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a stand mixer (or, by hand, if you choose), cream the butter, sugars, and baking soda until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat another 3 or so minutes until fluffy and well incorporated.
Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Slowly add the flour and mix until the mixture forms one ball.
Mix in the peanut butter chips. Don’t over beat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough, about 1 TB at a time, into balls and place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart (12 cookies per sheet). With a fork, press the dough down to flatten the cookie.
Bake 9-12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool about 3 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Chew on this:
Why the hashtag? No one quite knows, but it serves as a useful distinguishing marker, especially those who may suffer from peanut allergies.
Chrissy Barua lives in Lincoln Park and successfully lawyers by day despite an addiction to bad movies, cookies, and travel. She'll be bringing you monthly doses of delicious as she tries to track down the best grandma recipes she can find. (Follow her on her other cooking adventures at The Hungary Buddha Eats the World.)
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