Last week, I began a pursuit of peanut butter cookie perfection. Peanut butter cookies are Papa’s favorite. That was my inspiration.
I need to remember everyone has their own idea about what makes a cookie perfect. But for me, it’s a cookie with thin, crisp edges and a chewy heart that bends, not breaks, when I bite it.
Not sadly, it took three batches of cookies to achieve my ideal. The first two batches were a B+ or better, but I wanted an A or an A+.
We could have eaten them all, but we gave most of them away. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to help with my research.
I Learned How To Bake Better Cookies Without Turning On The Oven
I’m most definitely a science nerd. And a little bit
lazy, er, I mean I try to be efficient.
I did a little research about the things that make cookies chewy. Cooking and baking actually involve a lot of science.
Here are some of the interesting things I found. It helped me locate the exact recipe for peanut butter perfection.
- Brown sugar makes cookies chewier than white sugar because the moisture content is higher.
- Shortening makes chewier cookies than butter because it is all fat. Butter tastes great but has milk solids and water.
- Use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour because the protein content is higher.
- Choose recipes that use baking powder instead of baking soda because the cookies spread less.
- Master chef Alton Brown suggests adding a little bit of milk.
- Chill the dough for an hour before baking. The center stays cooler and bakes more slowly.
- Lower the oven temperature.
- Reduce the baking time.
- Use parchment paper. It helps the cookies avoid the direct heat from the metal. You can use the same sheet for an entire batch of cookies, and you’ll never need to rewash a cookie sheet.
The Surprise Ingredient That Makes Peanut Butter Cookies Chewy
I use butter in everything. Julia Child was a role model for me. I love her quote, “With enough butter, everything is good.” She also said, “Fat gives things flavor.”
It turns out butter does make cookies taste great, but shortening makes them chewier. I don’t use shortening very much, but I discovered that butter-flavored shortening is the secret.
I found the recipe for the perfect peanut butter cookie of my dreams on a package of buttery Crisco sticks! And guess what. It uses only brown sugar, no white sugar at all.
Sticks of shortening live in the cupboard, not the refrigerator. That means they are soft and ready to use immediately. First, I beat the shortening and brown sugar together.
Then I added the eggs, vanilla, peanut butter, and that little bit of milk Alton Brown suggests. When that was all fluffy, I added the baking soda and salt.
I only made one change to the original recipe. I increased the amount of salt by a smidge. And I used kosher salt.
Finally, I added the flour gradually at a slow speed. I continued beating the dough gently and stopped right when the flour was fully incorporated.
Now It’s Time For The Cookie Dough To Chill Out
This is the hard part! The dough tastes as great as the cookies, maybe better. But I want the cookies to have a soft heart after they are baked. That felt like a very long hour as I anticipated my cookie nirvana.
Cover the cookie sheets with parchment paper. I learned this trick years ago when I managed a hotel. Every evening we greeted the guests with fresh baked cookies, perfect every time, thanks to the non-stick parchment paper.
Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place them 2″ apart on the cookie sheet. You will see how much they spread and can adjust the placement after the first sheet is out of the oven.
The criss-cross mark of intersecting fork tines is an indication of peanut butter cookie authenticity! This step also flattens the dough ever-so-slightly. This way, they bake perfectly.
Here’s a batch ready for the oven! Interestingly, this recipe called for a higher oven temperature of 375 degrees than the first recipes I tried.
It’s Show Time Now Taste These Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies
The suggested bake time is only 7 or 8 minutes. A quick bake in a hotter oven gave me the results I have been craving! Hooray!
It was very, very hard for me to wait until the cookies were cool. Any warm cookie can be chewy, but the real test comes when the cookies reach room temperature!
Can I bite one and see teeth marks? Oh the suspense!
Oh, happy day! Perfection! Check out this soft-hearted cookie with just a hint of salt in each bite! Pure bliss! As you can see, I incorporated some, but not all, of the tips for chewier cookies.
In fact, I did the opposite of one of the suggestions by raising the oven temperature. Who knew? You’ve got to experiment!
Cooking and baking do involve some science. I’ve always said my kitchen is my laboratory and my playground.
And, for me, everything is always a labor of love. I hope you love these cookies as much as my “researchers” did!
- 1/2 cup Buttery Flavor Crisco shortening
- 1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp salt
- Beat shortening and brown sugar together.
- Add egg, peanut butter, milk, and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.
- Add baking soda and salt, beat until combined.
- Gradually add flour. Beat on slow speed. Stop when flour is incorporated.
- Chill dough for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll dough into walnut-size balls and place on parchment-covered cookie sheet 2" apart.
- Press fork into the cookie. Repeat in the opposite direction.
- Bake 7- 8 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before moving onto a cooling rack.
- Store in an airtight container.
Each of our daughters has a signature cookie that everyone loves. Maybe someday they will let me share them! I’ll keep asking! What is your favorite cookie?
If you enjoyed this recipe today, please share it on your social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I’d sure be tickled and ever so grateful, thank you!
Love, GB (Betty Streff)