Saturday, March 14, 2009

Super-Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

Just a quickie post about yet another very simple but satisfying recipe.

Last summer when I was moving, I promised a coworker of mine cookies in exchange for his box- and furniture-lifting skills. But not just any cookies, for this particular coworker is very finicky about what makes for a good cookie: not too sweet, not too doughy, no chocolate, etc.. Since I didn't want to be wasting my time making something he would scoff at, I asked him to bring me his mother's cookie recipes - his particular standard for what all cookies should be. He gave me three recipes: molasses, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter. This recipe is for the latter, which is probably the easiest cookie recipe I've ever made. In fact, when I first saw the ingredient list I thought there must have been a mistake - that is, an omission - in the ingredient list.

Here's what you need for one batch of cookies (makes about two dozen):

1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter (your choice as to smooth or chunky)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Only four ingredients! For cookies! No flour, no butter, no nuts, no chips. So simple!

Can this possibly produce something edible? Keep reading...

The only sort of un-fun part of this recipe is what comes next:


As we all know, peanut butter is a uniquely sticky, stubborn substance. It doesn't mix particularly well with our own saliva - a phenomenon I once tried to capture in song with a catchy little number called Peanut Butter Stuff Me* - let alone with sugar, egg, and vanilla. If you have the initiative to involve your mixer, then you're home-free. Personally, I hate to drag out the Kitchen Aid for a four-ingredient recipe. What's the point of simplicity if I have to wash my mixer when I'm done? So I opt for good ol' elbow grease.

When you've got the ingredients reasonably well combined, roll the mixture into 1 1/2" balls, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. (Leave sufficient space between cookie-balls for the cookies to spread as they bake.)

At this point the recipe just says to press with a fork, but if you don't mind getting another dish dirty, my Mom and I recommend pouring a little sugar onto a dish and first dipping your fork in that (you may have to press one cookie first to accumulate enough grease for the sugar to stick to the fork). With your fork nicely sugared-up, press each cookie-ball with your fork in the traditional criss/cross pattern.

Place the cookie sheet in a preheated 350-degree oven, and bake for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, depending on degree on desired crispness, and keeping in mind that cookies will continue to bake (and therefore harden) after they're removed from the oven. I generally start checking them at about eight minutes, because an overdone cookie is not a particularly appealing cookie - to me, at least.

And there you have it. Taste one. They're very yummy - not too sweet - pretty much just solid peanut butter, with a little sugar so you know it's a cookie, and a little egg to hold it all together.
* This was followed by the lesser-known but slightly more tuneful Eatin' Jelly with Mom and Dad. I'll readily admit that at age 5 (or 6?) my song compositions weren't especially complex or clever, but both are catchier, if less didactic, than the annoying Peanut, Peanut Butter - And Jelly song. (Although one of my nephews used to love that song as a little kid, so I hold no grudge against its having made the big-time while my humble offerings remain in virtual obscurity...)

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