I love baking, but as much as I enjoy trying to master complicated specialties like French macarons and Sicilian brioche, the recipes I come back to time and again are the tried and true, old-fashioned favorites, like this week’s Classic Peanut Butter Cookies.
These peanut butter cookies are a staple cookie jar favorite in our home, and the recipe has been in my family for generations. I’ve been making them the exact same way since I was a little girl, and unless I leave them in the oven too long, they turn out nearly perfect every time: evenly golden brown, crispy edges, chewy center, and a punch of sweet and salty peanut butter flavor.
There are a variety of factors contributing the terrific texture of these peanut butter cookies. First, instead of using just one fat, I use a combination of both butter and vegetable shortening. The butter provides great flavor but has a low melting point which can cause the cookies to spread too much as they bake. Vegetable shortening has a higher melting point which helps to stabilize the batter and allows the cookies to better hold their shape in the oven.
I always mix the fats and the peanut butter together first, and then cream them with white and brown sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy and very pale brown in color, which takes at least three minutes with an electric mixer on medium-high speed.
In the creaming process, the sugar helps to aerate the butter, thus creating a network of bubbles that will be trapped by the leavening agents to create a light and crispy cookie. Once the batter has been well creamed, one egg and a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract are beaten in.
Air is key to creating the perfect texture, and I recommend having all the wet ingredients – peanut butter, butter, shortening and egg – at room temperature. Following this guideline will help ensure that, once combined, these ingredients will successfully emulsify and trap even more air into the batter for cookies that are evenly baked and wonderfully textured.
The dry ingredients are mixed together separately before being added into the batter, so that the leavening agents are evenly distributed. This recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda, and this pairing ensures that all those air bubbles you’ve worked so hard to trap will help the cookies rise as they bake. This combination also helps the cookies develop an even, golden brown color.
These peanut butter cookies are shaped first into balls and then gently flattened with a fork for that signature crisscrossed finish. Peanut butter cookie dough is fairly dense, and the crisscross flattening ensures that the cookies will bake evenly in the oven. The cookies will spread and puff up as they bake, and then deflate somewhat just before they are done.
This is a time-tested recipe for Classic Peanut Butter Cookies that are easy to make and practically foolproof, even for beginners (including kids and husbands, just in time for Mother’s Day).
Sarah’s Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
½ cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup shortening, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the peanut butter, butter and shortening on medium speed for 1 minute until well combined.
Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, fluffy and pale in color, at least 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue beating well until incorporated, about 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and stir together on the lowest speed, just until combined.
Roll the dough into 1 ¼-inch balls and place them on the parchment lined baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart as the cookies will spread as they bake. Dip a fork in flour and use it crisscross style to gently flatten each cookie.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies are the edges are golden brown and the centers are just a bit lighter. The cookies will puff up slightly as they bake, and then deflate just before they are ready to come out of the oven.
Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 30 seconds, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
If baking one sheet at a time, bake on the center rack of the oven; if baking two sheets together, position them in the upper and lower third of the oven, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes.
Cookies will keep for at least a week if stored in a metal cookie tin or cookie jar with lid.