This afternoon, I've been listening to the raindrops beating down on the patio stones below my living room window, and working on my peanut butter cookie recipe. For some reason, I’ve been on a peanut butter cookie mission lately. In the last week, I have made 3 separate batches of cookies, tweaking the recipe a little each subsequent time in order to achieve what would be “my” perfect peanut butter cookie: chewy, with a strong peanut butter flavor, and a hint of honey. I’ve been conducting taste tests at the office, and with friends who have passed through my apartment or come anywhere into my vicinity in the last week (I brought a batch to the beer garden the other night and to coffee at another friend's place this morning).
As you have probably ascertained by now, I have a strong affinity for classic, simple recipes. Most of the baked goods on my blog thus far are things like brownies, coffee cake, or carrot cake. These are recipes I have made over and over, making small adjustments over time until I believe that the recipe has reached such a general state of reliability and deliciousness that it no longer needs messing with. Sometimes, I also add a slight spin to a classic recipe by making a whole grain version or adding a wild card ingredient to make it something really special. These peanut butter cookies fall in the category of classic recipe + a whole grain element.
And let's talk a little bit about peanut butter. In Europe, peanut butter is one of those things at which a lot of people turn their nose up, or at least curl their upper lip while shooting a look of disdain at the uncultured American who could love such a thing. I exaggerate. Well, at least a little. But it is true that peanut butter is not a respected ingredient over here. It baffles me a bit because, really, it's just ground up nuts, and is a whole lot less processed or candy-like than nutella or some of the other sweet spreads that are widely-accepted and loved in Europe (is it blasphemous if I reveal that I'm not a big nutella fan?). I think it has more to do with the fact that peanuts are one of those New World native plants (like corn, or cranberries), and is thus not a traditional part of European cuisine, which makes it somewhat suspect. And let's not forget that American food is often stereotyped as unhealthy, processed, and overly-sweet, so there is a natural disdain for American food the world over (that, or a cult-like following from those who have grown up with a Hollywoodized view of America and who want a piece of the culture for themselves). All this is to say that I think poor peanut butter has an undeserved reputation as American "junk", and it is my mission to right that wrong...
So, in going about achieving this very important mission, I can reliably report that Germans (and other Europeans) do indeed like peanut butter, if they give it a chance. They may like to protest the fact, but when peanut butter is baked up in a cookie like this, there is no protesting and instead only contented munching.
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
I started with the generic peanut butter criss cross recipe (a little internet research identifies that most of the “classic” recipes have the exact same ingredient ratios), and adapted it by adding a bit of honey, upping the peanut butter quotient, and swapping out half the white flour for whole wheat flour (whole wheat works really well with peanut butter – I think it adds to the nuttiness – sort of like a good PB&J on soft, whole wheat bread). Like most cookies, these are great fresh out of the oven, but I prefer peanut butter cookies once they have cooled, and yes, they are best accompanied with a cold glass of milk.
1/4 cup (2 oz/ 55 g) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) white sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (85 g) honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup (165 g) peanut butter
1 cup (120 g) whole wheat flour
1 cup (120 g) white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.
2. Cream together butter, sugars, honey, vanilla extract, egg, and peanut butter.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
4. With an electric beater, combine the dry and wet ingredients to make the cookie dough - it may not hold together as one sticky mass, but you will be able to form the dough into balls without a problem.
5. Roll out tablespoon-size balls of dough, and drop them onto a cookie sheet.
6. With the prongs of a fork, press the trademark criss-crosses onto the dough, flattening the dough balls into discs as you do so.
7. Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from oven when edges are just starting to turn golden. Remember, cookies are usually better when they are slightly under-baked and still chewy.