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As you know, I am revisiting the cookbook that started it all in my culinary life, the 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book (BCPCB). Last week I handed my priceless “antique” to my hubby and asked him to be ever-so-careful turning the pages as he picked out the next cookie recipe for me to try. He chose Peanut Butter. Big surprise – there could be 1001 cookie recipes in a book, and my man will pick out Peanut Butter.
Once again the recipe called for shortening instead of butter, although it was noted that half butter can be used, which is what I did. I mixed the simple batter together using peanut butter that I had just made in my Vitamix (hmmm, reminds me, I need to share some recipes for the ridiculously delicious nut butters I’ve been making in that baby!). The recipe stated that the dough should be chilled, then rolled into balls and pressed with a fork. Of course that’s not what I did. I got out the disher I normally use to scoop cookies, scooped out balls of dough onto a silpat-lined baking sheet and then popped the sheet into the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up the dough balls. Worked great.
And not being one for twee little steps in cooky making (holy smokes! I just wrote “cooky” without even thinking about it, which is the weird spelling they use in the BCPCB! Does anyone know when Americans started spelling “cookie” with an “ie” at the end?) I sought out a more efficient way of flattening the cookies than making the traditional criss crosses with a floured fork. My trusty meat tenderizer to the rescue!
I waited for my sweetie to come home from work so he could be the first to try my Old School PBC’s. When he walked in the door he remarked how wonderful the house smelled and wasted zero time tucking into the cookies. I watched him as he closed his eyes and enthused, “Mmmmmmm….those are SPECTACULAR!” He then proceeded to eat 5 of them! I’m not a big fan of peanut butter cookies because they are usually dry and crumbly, even if the centers are chewy – but not these. They were perfectly cooked through (i.e. not doughy in the centers) but also uniformly chewy. Again, we can thank the shortening for that delightful texture. We can also thank the shortening for the fact that these cookies stayed fresh for several days. Here is a link to the recipe if you’d like to try them: Betty Crocker’s Peanut Butter Cookies
I compared this recipe to some modern versions and realized this old-school recipe has much less peanut butter than is currently typical, plus the addition of some shortening instead of all butter. I’m going to guess that the trace amount of water in butter, plus the extra protein from the greater amt of peanut butter are what cause modern peanut butter cookies to be more crumbly and to go stale faster. Take home message? If you have a recipe you love, try using half trans fat-free shortening instead of all butter. And if you are really a risk taker, dial down the peanut butter and some of the flour to boot. I think I’m going to keep kicking it old school for awhile…