I know, I know: peanut butter cookies are nothing new. But they’re my husband’s favorite, and to tell you the truth, I’ve never really been satisfied with the recipes I’ve found for them. I wanted little, dense, soft cookies that tasted really nutty. Instead I got crisp and airy, oily and bland, dry and gritty, sugary and enormous. I tried recipes with cake flour, no flour, cream cheese, and on. Finally, I took out a bowl and made my own recipe, tinkering with it time and again until I felt victorious (and my honey was happier than ever). Then I thought: what about almond butter? I knew its delightfulness but hadn’t tasted it in dessert form. Using my newly created peanut butter cookie recipe, I did a few trial runs and found that almond butter – though it acts a little different than its more common cousin — is just as easy, just as delicious… and just as loved in my house. The recipe for both cookies is simple and easy, made in one bowl with no mixer, then a quick stint in the oven.
Almond Butter or Peanut Butter Cookies [makes 25 - 30 little (1.25-1.5”) cookies]
- 3/4 cup peanut or almond butter (I prefer chunky nut butters that contain nothing but roasted nuts and salt, but please use whatever kind you like best)
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed*
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for peanut butter cookies)
- OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (for almond butter cookies)
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (increase to a rounded 1/2 teaspoon if your nut butter is unsalted)
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*For almond butter cookies, use 1/3 cup brown sugar. For peanut butter cookies, use 1/2 cup brown sugar. For either kind of cookie, reduce sugar by a few tablespoons if your nut butter already contains sugar.
Pre-heat oven to 325 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. If using natural peanut butter, give it a good stir. In a large bowl, mix first four ingredients plus the extract with a spatula until smooth, pasty and completely even in color. Add the flour (do not sift unless it’s particularly lumpy), salt and cinnamon, mixing until no traces of flour remain and dough holds together. It may be easiest to use bare hands for this step.
Make balls of dough that are a little smaller than a tablespoon (about .5 ounce) a piece. Place them on prepared cookie sheets. For peanut butter cookies, indent with a fork, bracing the sides of the cookie to prevent cracking. Almond butter doesn’t hold its shape as much but still needs to be pressed down for even baking, so use your thumb or the back of a spoon, adding an almond on top if you’d like. Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on hot cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes before touching or moving. With the mouthwatering aroma in your kitchen, this last act can be the hardest part.
With their trace of cinnamon, their moist brown sugar and their high share of nut butter, these little cookies pack a rich and flavorful bite in a soft and tender form. By avoiding electric beaters, sifted flour and egg whites, the dough is dense and delicious. And with this recipe’s simplicity and ease, you just might make both types — almond and peanut — in one scrumptious session. After all, don’t you need to taste-test both, side by side? (I did!)
Maybe next time… Though I haven’t tried it yet, I have a hunch that these cookies would take well to gluten-free flour. Either type would be delicious with chocolate chips or dipped in melted chocolate, just as they’d both make great mini-ice cream sandwiches. Peanut butter cookies hold indentations well, so get creative with what you press into them: perhaps a meat tenderizer for checkered look, or a heart-shaped stamp for extra sweetness. You can even fill your indention with jam or melted chocolate like I did here.
A final thought: A place and time exists for all kinds of cookies, even the versions of peanut and almond butter cookies I personally never crave. Just as there are strong and opposed opinions about how smooth or chunky a nut butter should be, so are there ardent feelings about the perfect qualities of its cookie form. I realize my cookies might not meet your ideals. Moreover, as happy as I am with the above recipe, I can see myself playing with it even further in the future; after all, the possibilities in this sensational sweet world are nearly never-ending…