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A Salute to the Peanut Butter Cookie

It was recently brought to my attention that there is such a thing as National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. And why wouldn’t there be? There are national days to celebrate just about everything under the sun. It only makes sense that there would be a special day for something as delightful as this cookie. Given this new knowledge and my well-known love for cookie baking, I felt it was my duty to eulogize the day with my thoughts on this wonderful creation known as the peanut butter cookie.

What is a Peanut Butter Cookie Without Peanut Butter?

Before there could ever be a peanut butter cookie, there had to be peanut butter. (It’s special day happens to be January 24.) Though many believe the origins of peanut butter began in the United States, according to Smithsonian magazine, it was actually invented several centuries before by the Incas. In the eighteenth century, a related concoction called peanut cheese existed in Suriname. Peanut cheese was more solid than peanut butter and could be cut and served like a piece of cheese.

It was not until the late nineteenth century that a Canadian, Marcellus Gilmore Edson, obtained a patent for a method of producing peanut butter from roasted peanuts. That patent was followed a decade later by another obtained by John Harvey Kellogg (of breakfast cereal fame). This patent was for what he called the “Process of Producing Alimentary Products.” He saw peanut butter as a health food and served it to patients in his Battle Creek Sanitarium.

Finally, Dr. Ambrose Straub received a patent in the early twentieth century for a peanut-butter-making machine, and the stage was set for peanut butter’s rise to fame. The various technological innovations and procedural advances in making peanut butter slowly transformed peanut butter from its “hospital food” beginnings to the American staple that is enjoyed today. It is either loved or hated; there is no squishy in-between!

Getting From There to Here

So, how does a substance created for the nourishment of sick people make its way into a beloved cookie that has its own day?

It began with an article in Popular Science News in 1887 that proposed replacing butter and lard in recipes with the marvelous new consumable called “peanut butter.” That was followed by the first peanut butter cookie recipe, which appeared in Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book in 1902. In that recipe, the cookie was left as a ball. According to Wikipedia, it was not until 1932 that the first reference to flattening the peanut butter balls with the tines of a fork, creating the iconic crisscross pattern, appeared in a recipe. And with that, a cookie star was born.

The Great Peanut Butter Divide

A quick search of the internet shows that the number one homemade cookie is the chocolate chip cookie, but the peanut butter cookie is always in the top three. I think the reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there are many people with peanut allergies. No one is going to like a cookie that causes them to swell or sends them to the hospital. Secondly, I believe the peanut butter cookie suffers the same fate as its main ingredient: you either love them or hate them, and there is no squishy in-between.

I have witnessed the great peanut butter divide in my own family. My mother loved peanut butter and would have it every morning on her toast or hotcakes. On the other hand, my father thought it was disgusting . . . even in cookies! My daughter loves peanut butter; however, my son will only tolerate it in M&Ms. My grandson doesn’t even like it in M&Ms, and yet my granddaughter loves it in all its forms. It is hard to be number one with such bias!

On to the Delectable Peanut Butter Cookie

Personally, I love peanut butter and I love what adding just a tablespoon of the stuff to almost any cookie recipe can do for the taste and texture of a cookie. I also love peanut butter cookies. I love the salty/sweet taste, and especially the moist, chewy texture that the peanut butter provides. When my Army son was serving overseas and I was sending him homemade cookies every week, I always avoided sending him a batch of my beloved peanut butter cookies. Just like his grandfather, his less-than-favorable opinion of peanut butter always inhibited his appreciation of the cookies. I never understood their willingness to deprive themselves of such a tasty treat, especially when they both liked peanuts! It was and is their loss . . . but then again, I love peanut butter and peanut butter cookies.

Despite my son’s aversion to peanut butter and any type of derivative cookie, I did eventually send a batch to him for one of his comrade-in-arms who was craving a bit of home and loved peanut butter cookies. It made me happy to be able to do this and to show my support for the troops. In addition, it gave me an extra day of baking in the kitchen that week. It also allowed me some peanut-butter-cookie-dough indulgence, as well as a few leftover cookies (that would not fit in the airtight box I was sending) for me and my daughter to enjoy.

So, it is in tribute to the amazing peanut butter cookie that I now encourage everyone reading this blog to head to your kitchen and whip up your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. Savor it for yourself or send it to someone somewhere who will appreciate this amazing delight. In case you do not have a favorite recipe, I have attached my own; the same recipe that I sent to that homesick soldier overseas. Enjoy . . . and Happy Baking!

Maggie’s Peanut Butter Blasts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the following ingredients together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes):
    1/2 cup peanut butter
    1/3 cup shortening
    1/3 cup margarine
    1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon corn syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 egg
  3. Add:
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. Continue to beat with electric mixer for about a minute.
  5. With a spoon, mix in:
    2 cups flour
    3/4 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets. With the tines of a fork, flatten each cookie to make the iconic crisscross pattern in the center of the cookie.
  7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (until edges show tinges of golden brown).

Maggie McCreath is a single mom with two grown kids. She received a degree in Computer Science from George Mason University, and has worked in the field for over thirty years. Her life has always revolved around her family. Her kids began as her pride and joy, and have grown into her best friends and confidants.

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