Sunday, December 24, 2006

Peanut Butter Cookies

This being the holiday season, I've been making more sweets than usual. Rest assured, I haven't been eating all the things I bake. Two days ago, I made about 6 dozen chocolate chip cookies and didn't eat one of them. Three days ago, I made just short of 6 dozen peanut butter cookies and didn't eat any of them either. In the case of the peanut butter ones, I'm not even tempted because I don't care for them. There's something about the texture that doesn't appeal to me. My husband, on the other hand, loves them and asked that I make a boatload for his students.

This recipe is very old and I have no idea where I got it. I can say that it's a huge hit with everyone who receives these cookies, including my former Japanese coworkers. My former boss told me he could sit down with a bag in front of the T.V. and consume large quantities of them.

These cookies are easy to make and probably a good recipe to try if you want your kids to help you make them. They aren't fussy (no dropping, rolling, or cutting) and the dough isn't sticky or troublesome. They're pretty much no fail as long as you measure properly and don't overbake.

This is also another recipe which requires no special ingredients though I will caution those who live in Japan not to use "peanutsu cureamu" and to be careful to buy actual peanut butter. Skippy is available in most Japanese markets which stock peanut butter and it works well. Additionally, do not use Japanese lard (commonly sold in tubes) as a substitute for Crisco. You can use "cake margarine" (keiki margarin I'd enter the katakana but I have no Japanese input on my PC) which is sold in the margarine/butter sections of supermarkets as a complete substitute for the combined Crisco and butter. There are different brands but you can distinguish it from bread spreads by the picture of a cake on the box. Inside the box, you get a light yellow block equal to one cup so you can substitute one entire box for the 1/2 cup of butter plus 1/2 cup of Crisco combined.

Peanut Butter Cookies recipe:

1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the Crisco, butter, brown sugar, and white sugar using an electric mixer. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the eggs, salt, baking soda, and vanilla and mix again. Add half of the flour (1 1/2 cups) and mix once more until it is incorporated. At this point, you will have to abandon the mixer as the dough will get too thick for the motor to handle. Add the remainder of the flour (1 1/2 cups) to the mixture and mix it by hand.

It will be mixed completely when it comes together (as above) and resembles soft Play-doh. Also, it shouldn't stick to your hands.

Roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You can do it all at once or you can do it as you need to fill cookie sheets. I usually do it all at once so it's simpler once I start baking.

Place the balls about 2-2 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet then press down with a fork to make a cross-hatch pattern (as above). Bake at 375 degrees F./190 degrees C. for 8-12 minutes until delicately brown around the edges. Allow them to cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing as they will be quite soft at first. Remove and cool on clean newspaper sheets (this absorbs oil). Makes 3 dozen. These cookies freeze very well.

This is what just shy of 6 dozen of these looks like. Since my cookie sheets are so small, it took 4 rounds with two sheets (one on the center and one on an upper rack) to get them all done and I was pretty worn out when it was over. If you also use two racks, be careful to rotate them at the midway point while baking so they cook evenly.

Depending on how carefully you roll the balls and how central your criss-cross marks are, these cookies can come out almost perfectly round. In fact, one of my former foreign coworkers seemed to imply that I hadn't made these cookies at home but rather bought them at a bakery because they were almost perfectly round. I explained to her that it was due to how they were made from round balls and squashed down but she still had an air of skepticism about the matter.

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