July 4th brings out the all-American food fest. You know, hot dogs, hamburgers, cole slaw, potato salad and so on. Everybody’s cooking up a storm.
My own American favorite: Peanut Butter Cookies. First brought to the country’s attention by George Washington Carver (1864-1943), Tuskegee Institute’s famous teacher and promoter of the peanut crop. He apparently included some recipes for peanut-based cookies in a bulletin he put together early on.
Have you ever wondered why peanut butter cookies always have criss-cross fork marks on top?
It’s because the dough is dense and doesn’t spread easily. The fork flattens the cookie so it bakes evenly and the outside has a bigger surface area for crisping.
I guess you could roll the dough and cut out peanut butter cookies and they would bake just as well.
But then they wouldn’t be American Peanut Butter Cookies, would they?
Here’s my mother’s recipe. It doesn’t get better than these. They are compellingly sweet and salty at the same time, an old-fashioned taste that peanut butter cookie aficionados understood and loved long before sea-salted caramels came along.
My Mom always made these with Skippy peanut butter. I’ve made them with all other kinds, commercial brands and organic-bulk.
Skippy’s the best there is for these.
Peanut Butter Cookies
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, white sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a handheld mixer and large bowl) and mix at medium speed for about 1 minute or until the mixture is uniform and the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the peanut butter, shortening and eggs and beat the mixture for about 2 minutes, starting at low speed then gradually switching to medium until a uniform dough forms. Take off pieces of dough and shape them into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Flatten the balls between your palms. Place the cookies on the prepared sheet, leaving an inch of space between them. Press the top of each cookie with the flat, bottom side of a fork to make a crisscross design on top of each cookie. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the cookies are richly browned and crispy. You can freeze these cookies for 6 months.
Makes about 8 dozen