I’ve never had a homemade peanut butter cookie that I really liked. They’re either too sweet, too crunchy, or both. This recipe strikes a very happy medium. It uses honey instead of sugar; if you’re dead-set against honey, you can substitute regular sugar or packed light brown sugar, but there will be a difference in texture and flavor. I’ve never been a honey fan myself, but it works in this recipe. I don’t really know where I got the recipe, only that I found it in my recipe collection recently and decided on a whim to try it out. Boy, am I glad I did!
There are different things you can do with the ingredients of a cookie dough that will affect the overall texture, flavor, and structure of the cookie. But you have to be careful. When you bake, you’re not using a recipe, but rather a formula. There’s a specific amount of baking soda and/or powder that you need to add per cup of flour in order to make everything turn out right. Then there are the so-called “wet” ingredients–eggs, milk, water, oil, etc., not all of which will appear in a batch of cookies, but all of which also affect texture, flavor, and structure.
I was skeptical about this recipe because of the honey–it adds more moisture to the mix than sugar, which affects the texture. In this case, the honey works because of the moisture–it makes the dough, and therefore the cookies, softer. Flour absorbs moisture as the cookies bake; the more overall moisture there is in the recipe, the more there is for the flour to absorb. Any moisture that the flour can’t absorb contributes to the softness of the cookies after they’re baked. The original recipe said it makes one dozen, but I got at least three dozen out of the batch I made.
When you make a batch of cookie dough, the first thing you usually do is to cream the butter, which is how this recipe started out. But it deviates with the honey. Usually, when you add sugar–either granulated or brown, sometimes both–you get a light, fluffy, airy texture as you continue to beat the sugar and butter together. This recipe had a creamy texture when I was beating the honey and butter.
Then you add the eggs, and it usually curdles. You can minimize the curdling by making sure the eggs are at room temperature along with the butter; they will blend better this way. With the honey, however, there was no curdling; it remained creamy. The peanut butter added more creaminess and moisture, which is conducive to the moistness of the dough. Finally, there was the vanilla and dry mixture (flour, baking soda, and salt).
This dough wasn’t as firm as peanut butter cookie dough usually is, which ultimately will make it more difficult to roll into balls, but I have my cookie scoops and the 1″ scoop worked perfectly. I didn’t even pay much attention to whether or not they were uniformly shaped. Consider getting some scoops for portioning your cookie dough if you bake a lot. Read up on scoops (called dishers in the food service and restaurant world) in my post called “Disher, Disher, Who’s Got the Disher?” If you want to roll the dough into balls by hand, consider either chilling it for an hour or two, or flouring your hands periodically. A 1″ cookie scoop will give you cookies that are about 2″ across.
I absolutely always use parchment paper on my cookie sheets when I bake, and if it says to grease the sheets I use the parchment instead. I’ve never had my cookies stick. I very strongly recommend Reynolds parchment, because other brands can be too thin and otherwise difficult to work with. There’s no need to replace the parchment between batches. You’ll have some browning around the edges of the paper, but that’s normal. If you’re worried about creating too much waste with the parchment, you can get a reusable silicone baking liner; parchment is not recyclable because it’s coated in food-grade silicone, which is what makes it nonstick.
I baked my cookies at 350 °F. for exactly 10 minutes and they came out perfect; the recipe said 10-12, so you should check them at 10 minutes and add 1-2 minutes as needed. You should also always let the cookie sheets cool down between each batch. The sheets really only need to be cool enough for you to be able to hold your entire hand on the surface for several seconds without it feeling hot.
Almost all kinds of cookie dough and cookies can be frozen very well, for at least 3 months. You can form the dough into balls and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about ½” apart (you don’t need to keep them so far apart when you’re not going to bake them). Freeze them for about 2-4 hours. Remove them from the sheets and put them into quart-sized resealable plastic bags 1-2 dozen at a time. You can also make them slice-and-bake cookies, in which case you don’t need to do the crisscross step. Just form the dough into logs on a lightly floured surface, cover with foil, and label with baking directions. Freeze as above. Thaw for a day or two in the refrigerator and slice them about ¼” thick. Bake them as directed. Finally, you can portion the dough into plastic lidded tub containers with enough dough to make about a dozen in each container. Label the containers with baking directions and freeze as above, and thaw before scooping the dough onto your cookie sheets.
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Honey Peanut Butter Cookies
¾ c. honey
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
1 lg. egg, at room temperature
¾ c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1½ c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line cookie sheets with parchment and set aside. Cream together butter and honey with mixer on medium speed until thick and creamy, scraping bowl as needed. Beat in next 3 ingredients. Stir together dry ingredients; gradually add to peanut butter mixture, beating until well blended.
Drop dough by 1″ cookie scoop 2″ apart onto prepared cookie sheets. With fork dipped in flour, make crisscross pattern in tops to flatten cookies. Bake 10-12 minutes or until done. Remove from cookie sheets and cool completely on wire racks. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.