Monday, September 11, 2006

Crispy Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

It has been a while since I made peanut butter cookies. They're a great cookie to have in a basic baker's repertoire because they are almost universally popular (except to those with peanut allergies), even if you're not a fan of the nuts themselves. Basic peanut butter cookies have a slight chew to them, but you can really do a lot of different things with cookies that use it.
This variation on the classic peanut butter cookies comes from Maida Heatter's Cookies and makes a light, crispy cookie. They use whole wheat pastry flour, which is a finely ground whole wheat flour that can usually be used interchangeably with regular all-purpose flour, unlike the coarser regular whole wheat flour. If you cannot find whole wheat pastry flour, you can substitute 3/4 cup all purpose and 1/2 cup regular whole wheat to make up the total 1 1/4 cups needed. The cookies also use raw sugar, which is much coarser than regular sugar and, according to Maida, contributes to the texture.
Because they taste so light, these cookies are very addictive and definitely need a glass of milk to go with them. They have a good peanut butter flavor and you can't really taste anything "healthy" (they're not really all that healthy) about them, despite the use of whole wheat flour.
Judging from the differences between my batch and Cathy's batch, I would say that using a mainstream peanut butter (like Jif or Skippy) is better than using a natural one. I didn't have any problems handling or slicing the dough once it was cold, though the dough does have to be sliced quickly before it thaws. I completely agree with Cathy's comment that the cookies end up in perfect circles even if you slice them imperfectly. They spread a lot, and the spread covers up any flaws.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
(from Maida Heatter's Cookies)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup raw sugar
1 large egg

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, peanut butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, then gradually incorporate the flour mixture.
Spoon cookie dough into a 12-inch log on a large piece of wax paper, then roll it up and freeze it for at least 3-4 hours, until firm.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Slice roll of dough into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between cookies. If you don't have enough sheet pans to hold all the dough at once, store the unsliced dough in the freezer until ready to use.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until cookies are golden and slightly firm to the touch at the edges.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes about 48 cookies.