Great-Grandma Helen’s Peanut Butter Cookies


My kitchen has been off-limits for baking lately because we’ve been keeping the house super clean in case any potential buyers decide to stop in. We’ve decided to sell our house & downsize a bit, which is really exciting and scary at the same time. But I felt like I’d been away from here too long, and got inspired this morning to go ahead and make a mess.

When I imagine peanut butter cookies, I imagine them as palm-sized, fluffy & chewy, slightly salty and VERY peanut-buttery little pieces of heaven. They’re probably my favorite cookies ever, so when I stumbled upon this peanut butter cookie recipe from Great-Grandma Helen’s collection, I knew it would be just the thing to jump back into the swing of this project.

The first thing that worried me was that the base of the cookie is shortening. Shortening sort of yicks me out, and I really don’t like the whole super-awful-for-you nature of it, plus I really love the buttery awesomeness that only butter can provide… But sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the sake of experimentation and historical accuracy, so I pulled out my can of Crisco and got to work. The recipe is super straightforward:

Cream together 3/4c shortening with 1/4c peanut butter.
Add 2c sugar
Add 3 eggs (beaten)
Add 3c flour, 1/4t baking soda, & 1c chopped peanuts.

Place 3/4″ diameter balls on cookie sheet & press flat with a damp cheesecloth stretched over the bottom of a small glass.

So for the first round of baking this rather large batch, I followed the instructions to a T. The only alterations I made to the recipe were adding a pinch of salt, because, really, what cookie doesn’t need salt? It had to be done. And also, since I didn’t have any cheesecloth around, I used the bottom of a sieve to achieve a small gridded pattern that I imagined would come close to cheesecloth.

I always bake cookies on my silpat just for ease of release and saving myself from having to cut parchment, and it worked well for this recipe, but whatever you’ve got is fine.
Because there were no specific cooking instructions, the first batch I just took a wild guess based on other similar recipes and baked them for 5 minutes, rotated the pan, and then about another 6-7 minutes until I started to see a little golden brown around the edges. I let them cool a little while so I could test their texture, and despite the fact they looked perfect and the flavor was lovely, the texture told me immediately they were overdone. The color on the bottom is REALLY subtle, but apparent nonetheless:

The second batch, I brought down to about 10 minutes total, rotating in between, and it seemed much better. Despite the fact there was no color at all on the bottom, they were slightly crunchy on the outside but still chewy on the inside. I smashed half of this round with the traditional cross-hatch fork pattern, too, just to compare. This is the color you want to see on the bottom:

My third and final oven round was doubling the size of the cookies, so going from a tiny ice cream scoop to a larger one, and baking just til the sheen disappeared: approximately 12 minutes. I also sprinkled a tiny bit of kosher salt on the tops of these to give them a little flavor punch. Also I love salt on cookies. So, the size was quite a bit larger, about 1.5″ balls to start with, flattened out to almost palm-sized like this:

I’m not at all used to peanut butter cookies looking anything like this… They are almost white, and sort of have the look of pecan sandies, but when you bite into them — especially the larger, less-cooked version, there’s no mistaking that these are simple & spectacular classic sweets. I think next time, I’ll give this recipe a shot with butter instead of shortening, just to experiment. If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out!

Categories: Easy Peasy, Sweets | Leave a comment

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