Twice as Tasty

Fresh Ground Peanut Butter Cookies

Combining fresh-ground peanut butter and chopped peanuts with just the right balance of sweet and salty makes these everyday cookies worthy of special occasions

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

I long loved the idea of peanut butter cookies, but one bite usually disappointed. They were often excessively sweet, with butter and salt smothering the nuts.

The culprit, I decided, was the peanut butter. Many recipes specify chunky peanut butter, with its smooth body and occasional crunchy bits. But most brands include in the jar the flavors I find overpowering – oil, sugar and salt – and the cookie recipes still add these ingredients.

When I looked deeper, I discovered that most recipes specifically steer people away from unsweetened, unsalted natural peanut butter. When I swapped it in, the reason became clear: the “cookies” were more like peanut slabs. So I experimented, adjusting the ratios until I baked up chewy, nutty cookies.

I found the best flavor with dry-roasted peanuts from a self-grind machine, a setup at many supermarkets and natural food stores. Pairing fresh-ground peanut butter and peanuts that I finely chopped with a sharp knife or food processor gave just the right chunkiness.

With that resolved, the rest of the ingredients look much like a standard cookie recipe, without overloading the sweetness or saltiness. I’ve switched from refined brown sugar, essentially white sugar coated with a little molasses, to organic dark brown sugar for all of my baking because I can see the difference in the texture the moment I open the bag. You can taste the difference in the cookies. Pure vanilla extract, especially homemade, also becomes apparent. These might be everyday cookies, but they stand out anytime I put them in a holiday cookie lineup.

Fresh Ground Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 60 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup fresh-ground, unsalted peanut butter, room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

10 tablespoons milk

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1-1/3 cups unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

In a large bowl, mix the butter into the peanut butter. Cream in the sugar, and then mix in the egg, vanilla and milk until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until just incorporated; fold the peanuts into the dough. Cover the dough and freeze it for about 20 minutes, until easier to shape.

Form a spoonful of chilled dough into a ball and place it on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the balls about 2 inches apart, until the sheet is full. Using the back of a fork, press down on each ball in a crisscross pattern.

Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes, until just set. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for one minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Scrape any crumbs from the baking sheet and continue baking the remaining dough. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.