As I mentioned, for eleven months of the year, I'm not much of a baker. Then suddenly December arrives and stirs all these wonderful memories of afternoons spent in a fragrant kitchen with my mom, and I develop an atavistic yearning to bake cookies. Of course, recently I've also had a perfect excuse – the London food bloggers' annual cookie swap which seems to have become a bit of an institution, and a wonderful one at that. Last year I only made one kind of cookie, but this year I had two in mind – one old and one new. The old one was something I used to help my mom make as a kid (by pressing the nut on top of each!) and I had recently developed a huge craving for them: peanut butter cookies!
This plan was aided and abetted by Moira in the form of authentic American supplies. When Moira came to London for the bloggers' salt and butter tasting, she stepped off the train with a goodie bag for me, full of post-modern, ironically witty (I hope!!) culinary gifts like Hostess Twinkies, Cupcakes, Ho ho's and Suzy Q's. More of those in another post. But at the bottom of the bag were a few things that fascinated me far more. Firstly, there was a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Hershey's peanut butter kisses (a little obsession I developed on our recent trip to the USA…), and packets of Hershey's chocolate chips and Reese's peanut butter chips. I didn't even know the latter existed up until that point! They are curiously compelling – shaped like little miniature Hershey's kisses with decidedly firm texture, but defintely the taste of peanut butter. Fascinating and, I'm sure, nothing like nature intended. But then there's nothing like the lure of the exotic and forbidden
I know my mom's recipe for grondboontjiebotterkoekies is written by hand in a dog-eared index book back home in Port Elizabeth – sadly completely out of my reach. So I was a little stuck for a recipe. As I was pondering this problem and idly fiddling with the peanut butter chips packet, my eye alighted on… a recipe on the back. Hurrah! Because although my mom may not have taught me to remember her peanut butter cookie recipe by heart, she did teach me that companies only put their most fabulous and foolproof recipes on their packaging ;-) Thanks Mamma!
All I will add is that because we don't have an electric mixer in the house (a side-effect of living abroad and owning a houseful of stuff locked away in storage on another continent – and having a husband who treats this as an excuse never to buy another kitchen gadget again…), these cookies took a serious amount of effort to mix. I mean – picture creaming together butter, vegetable shortening, peanut butter and flour – armed with nothing but a wooden spoon! More like Hershey's double-arms-of-steel-cookies. But otherwise ridiculously easy and ridiculously popular with my family and friends. Enjoy!
HERSHEY'S DOUBLE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES (makes about 48 cookies)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 62.5g) butter, softened
1/4 cup (62.5g) shortening (I used vegetable shortening)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 2/3 cups (one 10 0z. package) Reese's peanut butter chips (optional – if you leave them out the cookies just won't be "double" peanut butter. Instead, press a single roasted peanut onto the top of each cookie before baking)
Heat oven to 375F. Combine flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt. Beat butter, shortening, peanut butter, sugars and egg in a large bowl on blender's medium speed until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating well. Stir in peanut butter chips. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart (they spread!) on an ungreased cookie sheet (I lined mine with baking paper). Using a fork dipped in addititional granulated sugar, flatten balls to about a 1/4 inch thickness by pressing tines of fork in 2 different directions to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool slightly, remove from baking sheet to wire rack to cool completely. Pour a glass of milk or a mug of coffee, sit back and snack!
And if you like cookies, why not make a donation to the Menu for Hope campaign and put yourself in line to win one of a number of cookie-related prizes for only $10? So far we have raised an astonishing $29,630 for the UN World Food Programme – way in excess of last year's $17,000! Well done. Now let's see if we can get to $34,000 and double last year's total. Please? Just one little bid?