Just because peanut butter cookies
Peanut butter cookies remind me of my Uncle James. More accurately, they remind me of my mother, Joy, who bakes them for her brother a few times each year. Christmas is a given, but she's been known to whip up a batch of cookies for his birthday, when he's not feeling well, or just because. I think just because is the best reason of all. Fresh flowers gracing Monday night's dinner table, a hand written note that doesn't mark a special life occasion — these are the things that make me smile.
Joy relies on an old, well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking for many recipes, and peanut butter cookies are no exception. They're crumbly and rich — wonderful cookies that remind me of home. One big whiff of the very peanut buttery dough transports me to childhood. My elementary school age self, slightly dusted with flour, stands at the kitchen counter, pressing the tines of a fork oh-so-carefully into the tops of the raw dough, simultaneously flattening and marking the cookies with a cross-hatch.
As a forty-something, I've strayed from my mother's standard recipe, adding coarsely chopped peanuts to the dough and often opting for the extra-large variety, which I find extra-appealing. I made a batch Tuesday night (regular size) and mailed half to Uncle James; the remaining cookies made it to work the following day. It's no one's birthday, (happily) no one is ill; it's a batch of Just Because Peanut Butter Cookies.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 28 cookies
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup lightly salted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, then add the peanut butter and sugar, beating until light. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until combined. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until well blended. Add the chopped peanuts (if using).
Roll the dough 1 1/2- inch balls and space them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten them slightly with the tines of a fork (I like to mark them in 2 directions, the lines running perpendicular to each other in a crosshatch pattern — old habit). Bake for 10-11 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.