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Very Homemade Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

Something so blatantly obvious shouldn’t seem like a mystery. Yet, I assure you that if you haven’t done so before, the first time you make homemade peanut butter you will stare at it as though some miraculous transubstantiation or alchemy has just occurred before your eyes. Squashed peanuts do, in fact, turn into peanut butter. And they turn into really nice, pure, natural peanut butter.

And, you get to control what goes into it. For me, it was just a bit of peanut oil and kosher salt.

(Why do peanut butter producers not use peanut oil in their peanut butter…is it cost or do other kinds stay good longer?? Do you know? I do not.)

Put it on an apple. Sigh.

Eat it by the spoonful. Sigh. Dribble some honey on the spoonful of peanut butter…wait…

This is how this recipe was born. My friend Bill, whom my kids affectionately call “the bread guy” bought a book for me called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. It is a fun read. But the first recipe is for peanut butter. I have wanted to do this for ages and simply never got around to it. This pushed me over the line and now I’m very happy Bill gave me the book because the minute I put a spoonful of this peanut butter with a dribble of honey into my mouth, I knew that it needed to become a cookie.

While your kids may love this cookie, it is not necessarily a kid cookie. I take the cookie dough and roll it in a pile of sugar and kosher salt, so the finished cookie has a very pronounced salty bite. And, this is an unapologetically flat and chewy cookie. Flat, chewy, salty, real. Really, really homemade. Why all the salt? Well, it goes with the peanuts. But also, I recently bought a tub of cookies from farmers market favorite Paul Wackym of Wackym’s Kitchen (also found at Central Market). He had Salted Sour Lemon cookies that were magical. We bought a container and the kids and I wiped them out by the end of the afternoon. Salty sweet cookies have been on my mind ever since.

Recipe for Very Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies:

Ingredients:

Cookie Dough:
1½ sticks butter (¾ cup), softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup honey
1 cup homemade peanut butter (see recipe below)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Topping:
4 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons Kosher salt

Homemade Peanut Butter:
2 cups of roasted, unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons (approximately) peanut oil

Instructions:

To make peanut butter:

1. Place the peanuts in the bowl of a food processor and process for 3 to 4 minutes. The peanuts will go from dry and chunky, to minced and a little oily. Slowly but surely, it will turn into a pasty substance. Add a tiny bit of peanut oil at a time until it is a creamy and slightly chunky peanut butter. (If you are using it for any other purpose, salt to taste…but I add a lot of salt to these cookies so you do not need to add salt to the peanut butter for this particular recipe.)

To make the cookies:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar for approximately three minutes. Add the honey and mix to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing them to mix in fully between additions. Add the vanilla and mix again. Add the peanut butter and, again, mix it in thoroughly.

3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. In several additions, add it into the butter mixture, processing only until combined. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, on a small plate, combine the sugar and the kosher salt. If you like a very interesting and crunchy texture on a chewy cookie, consider using Sugar in the Raw, or another chunky sugar.

5. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a scoop or two spoons, form the dough into balls of about 1 ½ inch diameter and roll them between your hands to smooth them. You will need 9 balls for each cookie sheet. Prepare 9 balls and roll them in the sugar/salt mixture. Place the balls on a cookie sheet topped with a silicone baking sheet and press on them slightly to flatten. You can use a chopstick or the tines of a fork to decorate the tops of the cookies if you choose (these cookies puff up and then fall so only an impression remains…so skip this part if you want).

6. Bake the cookies for approximately 9 minutes, or until they are just getting golden. Remove them from the oven and allow them to rest on the cookie sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. This recipe yields about 30 cookies.

[These photos show the Sugar in the Raw version, and the method for creating the star pattern. The pattern is very subtle on the baked cookie and looks like a sea shell, to me.]

Note:

I made these cookies several times. In one of my batches I used chunky Sugar in the Raw instead of regular granulated sugar. I really liked the result. It left a definite crystal crunch on the surface of the cookies. This might not appeal to you, but if you are a lover of texture in food, this extra bit of something might just be your thing. I liked them both ways.

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