Often, my recipes are inspired by friends. They like to eat, and I like to bake–it’s wins all around.
Last week, my friend Sheila made a cookie request–actually, a cookie challenge. (One thing you’ll learn about me is that I always accept baking challenges. This is why at 6 a.m., I’ll end up with one eyebrow streaked with buttercream, flour dusted across my cheeks–aka baker’s blush–and 125 cupcakes to frost with my friend’s wedding a few hours away. But I digress. Back to the cookies.)
Sheila’s exact order was: “Do you have like an idiot-proof recipe for some cookies that even someone like myself can pull off? Something peanut buttery, maybe?”
I know she loves peanut butter cookies, so this ingredient was not a maybe. It was a requirement.
There’s a lot of simple peanut butter cookie recipes out there. But whenever I make them, it’s like Goldilocks and porridge–hard to find the right one. Too dry. Too grainy. Too sweet. This doesn’t even taste like peanut butter. But after three tests, I found the “this is just right” version.
Here’s how I fixed the too-dry, too-grainy and too-sweet cookie dilemma. Solving the dry and grainy problem was simple: Use all light brown sugar instead of white. Light brown sugar added moisture to the dough, and it’s smoother than granulated white sugar. I fixed the too-sweet problems by increasing the amount of peanut butter. Most of the flourless (yes, this recipe is naturally gluten-free) peanut butter cookie recipes have a one-to-one ratio of peanut butter to sugar. Increasing the peanut butter by a quarter cup while keeping the amount of sugar at one cup provided the proper PB flavor and kept them from being too sweet.
Sheila and all the other peanut butter cookie fans, this recipe is for you. Enjoy.
Simple Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Cookies + Pink Sea Salt
I did get a little fancy and sprinkle the cookies with Himalayan pink sea salt. Don’t have it? No worries; use whatever coarse sea salt you have. Or if you’re not a fan of the salty and sweet combo, leave the sea salt out. You can also leave out the chocolate chips and have a delicious, pure peanut butter cookie.
Makes 36 cookies (Or 35 if you’re like me and consume one cookie’s worth of raw dough. Sampling batter is a must.)
- 1 ¼ cups creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural. I haven’t tried this with natural peanut butter, yet. I’ll do that soon and let you all know how it works out.)
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 ounces bittersweet, dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (optional)
- Himalayan pink sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, add the peanut butter and baking soda. Beat on medium-high speed until it looks a bit fluffy; about one minute if you’re using a stand mixer and about two minutes if you’re using a hand mixer. Stop when the color of the peanut butter is a light tan.
- Add the sugar, egg and the vanilla and almond extracts to the peanut butter mixture. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture smooths and is no longer gritty. Stop to scrape down the bowl as necessary.
- Using a rubber spatula or large wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chunks.
- Using a one tablespoon cookie scoop, form the cookies into balls and drop them onto a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. Place the cookies about 1.5 inches apart.
- Using your hand or the bottom of a glass (a shot glass is the best size), flatten the dough balls and, with the tines of a fork, make a cross pattern on the cookies.
- Sprinkle the raw cookies with Himalayan pink sea salt. (I had to do this by hand. Grinding the salt directly over the cookies made them too salty, according to my taste-testers. I trust them.)
- Bake the cookies for six to seven minutes or until edges are a light brown and tops are barely set. It’s OK if the centers appear slightly underbaked. (The cookies firm up as they cool. Bake them too long and you’ll get a peanut butter cookie that crumbles after the first bite. Plus, it won’t taste a good. )
- Let the cookies hang out on the baking tray for 30 seconds to one minute. Then, transfer them to a rack to finish cooling. This will take about five to seven minutes.
- Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to four months.
- Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. To freeze the dough, form the cookies into balls, place them on a cookie tray(don’t let them touch) and let them harden in the freezer, about an hour. The dough will keep in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to four months.