Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies (aka The Easiest Cookie Recipe in the World)

I cannot believe how stingy I have been with this recipe. I forget about it at times, and go for a year or so without even thinking of baking it, but then we go through phases where I'll whip a batch up every Sunday afternoon for a month.

I ran across it again this afternoon after a two-year or so hiatus, when a pile of cookbooks began to tip dangerously from their perch and I found myself having to do something constructive with the mess. I was excited to see it again, this recipe. It is just so easy, you see; nothing that will impress company or anything like that. A very unassuming cookie, really, with its rustic shape, simple texture and flavor. Nothing special. I probably didn't bother posting the recipe before now because these cookies just didn't seem like anything to write home about.

That ease and simplicity is precisely why I love this recipe though. There are only three ingredients. No pesky all-purpose flour to sprinkle it's nutritional worthlessness all over the kitchen, no baking powder with it's long list of chemicals. You don't even need to plug the mixer in. It takes one bowl, a single measuring cup, a spoon for stirring and portioning out dough, and whatever baking sheet can be reached the easiest without sending down a hailstorm of crashing metal pans that have been balanced precariously for weeks.

Not that I have a tendency to pile things into towers in my kitchen...

I found this recipe a handful of years back in A Taste of Thomaston, one of those lovely spiral-bound Junior Woman's Club cookbooks that all small communities seem to put together for fundraisers. My mother finds these little gems at yard sales and never fails to pick up a handful to add to my collection. The older, the better, in my estimation, and I am especially fond of the ones that come from towns I have never even heard of. It is here, in these simple recipes that you can find oddball desserts like Tipsy Squire nestled in amongst 15 imperceptible variations on Chocolate Chess Pie.

I live for this kind of thing.

Here in the South, everyone has some dish that they remember fondly from church potlucks, county fall festivals, or any luncheon preceding or following a wake, wedding or shower. You can chase people down and try to get these recipes from them years later, but these just aren't the types of recipes that get written down and more often than not, no one else remembers the dish in the first place. That, my friends, is where these community cookbooks come in. If you want to duplicate a molded jello salad with canned fruit from the 1970's, hit me up. I bet I can find the exact permutation in one of these little mimeographed books.

If I remember correctly, I was doing due diligence on Peanut Butter Balls (only two varieties in this particular compendium) when I stumbled across this recipe, a few pages to the left, titled 'Unbelievable Cookies' by Martha Bell. Of course all the cookbook perusing had piqued my sweet tooth already, so when I happened upon a recipe that called for nothing more than peanut butter, eggs and sugar, I reached right over to start preheating the oven. I figured I had little to lose, maybe four minutes would be spent on the three succinct sentences of instructions, and it is always better to have cookies than to have not, yes?

Of course we loved them. And so I made another batch that very evening, and the day after as well. We are slightly fanatical about peanut butter to begin with - I cannot count the number of times I have caught one of my children (and even my husband) eating out of the jar with a spoon - so these were right up our alley, and I found that leaving them in the oven until the edges start to turn golden brown gives just the right crunch to the outside of the cookie.

Best of all, my less-processed pantry staples do wonderfully here, without any compromises in texture. Natural cane sugar works well, as does all-natural old-fashioned peanut butter, either crunchy or creamy, but conventional ingredients will do fine if that's what you're into. Perfection doesn't even come into play with these cookies, which makes them a favorite of my children, since they can measure the ingredients themselves, do the stirring, and even spoon the dough out onto the baking sheet. Undercooking the dough will yield a slightly chewier result, while a slight charring will crisp them up a little more. As you can probably tell, I've never met a batch of these that I didn't like.

And when I threw a batch of these together while I was clearing the dinner dishes this evening, the whole family cheered.


PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (from A Taste of Thomaston, makes a couple dozen small cookies)
  • 1 cup peanut butter, crunchy or creamy (conventional or all-natural)
  • 1 cup sugar (regular white or natural cane)
  • 1 egg
  1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Drop dough by approximate teaspoonful onto baking sheet, flattening if you desire.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes, until edges begin to brown.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow, can't wait to try these. Do you think they'd work with some chocolate chips in them, too? I can't resist gilding the lily.


Mama JJ said...

I keep seeing this recipe all over the place, but I have yet to try them. However, you may have just convinced me...

Sarah Beam said...

LAH - I'm not a big advocate of adding chocolate to this recipe, and if you know my recipes well, then you'll know this is a total aberration. These cookies are just so simple that if you try and complicate them in any way, the end result is less than stellar. What makes these great is their bare bones simplicity. I have a much better peanut butter & chocolate chip cookie recipe in my archives, if you're really needing the chocolate.

Anonymous said...

Made 'em yesterday with the kids. So simple - and mmmmm good.