Friday, July 13, 2012

my perfect cookie

So it appears I have a lot to say about cookies but this post is packed with tons of information so lets get to it.

In the past I've had issues with peanut butter cookies. I would have a vision in mind of how I wanted them to turn out but after pulling them out of the oven... disappointment would takeover. No matter how diligently I would follow the recipe the cookies would turn out flat and so hard you could break your teeth on them. I felt defeated and upset that I wasted my time and ingredients on these "cookies" that were more suitable as paperweights than as a dessert.

But then I realized that it wasn't my baking skills at fault... it was the recipe. 

We all know that baking is a science. Every ingredient is there because of how it effects the end result. When you break the recipe down and learn what each ingredient does you can figure out what changes need to be made to get your ideal cookie out of your head and into your mouth.

My ideal cookie is thick, soft and chewy. Not too moist but not too dry.

I didn't go to culinary or pastry school. But I do have an internet connection and the patience to read through hundreds of websites, chat forums and recipe comments to gather loads of information on how to bake the perfect cookie. Seriously I devoted an entire day to research and then the next day to practice batches. Thats not pathetic right? All in the name of a good cookie. 

Enough talk. Here is the recipe I came up with. It makes around three dozen medium-ish sized cookies.

thick, soft, chewy, not too moist but not too dry peanut butter cookies
3 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (what?! trust...)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar  
1 cup softened butter (don't melt it!)
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
about a cup or so of peanut butter chips (optional)

Bake at 350 degrees for around 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown, checking often. 

As to not make this post anymore wordy than it already is here are some helpful links if you're doubting any of these ingredient choices. And more importantly why they were chosen. 

A few more notes on my recipe:
- Be careful with how you measure your flour. Typically I would dip my measuring cup into the flour and level it off with a straight edge. This method tends to pack in more flour than necessary leaving you with dry cookies. A more accurate method would be to mix the flour first to loosen it up then spoon it in your measuring cup and finally level it off. 

- I only used 1/8th of a teaspoon of salt because there is plenty of salt in peanut butter as it is. Plus I had SALTED butter. If I had UNSALTED butter I would have upped the salt a little.

- I used a mix of dark and light brown sugar (this mix is called golden brown sugar) because I felt using 100% dark brown sugar made the cookies turn out too sticky. Sticky isn't an adjective I used to describe my ideal cookie but you might!

- A lot of bakers suggest melting the butter before adding it to the dough. I've tried this in the past and the results are no good. The dough ends up too wet and oily. The cookies have a funny texture and a weird look to them. But if you like doing this and the results it brings then by all means go for it! 

- I added more peanut butter to my cookies than most peanut butter cookie recipes call for. Most recipe comments I read said they couldn't taste the peanut butter. You can in these cookies. Especially with the addition of peanut butter chips.

- Cold dough holds its shape better than room temperature dough while baking. If you want thicker cookies keep the dough chilled. I formed all my cookies before baking and kept them in the fridge until I was ready for them. You could also throw them in the freezer and have fresh baked peanut butter cookies whenever you want. 

- Oh, and use parchment paper while baking. I've suggested this before and always will.  

I drizzled melted semisweet chocolate over the top to make them extra yummy (extra pretty too!) These cookies were soft and chewy well after they came out of the oven. I couldn't tell you how long they'll be good for because they were all gone by the next day.

The cookies on the left were from my test batches and the cookies on the right were the ones I brought to my cousins graduation party. The cookies on the left were truly perfect (and were made from the same recipe as above). But a last minute decision to add more flour to the dough on the right left my cookies a bit dryer than I would have liked. Oh well. Lesson learned. They were still really good.

Just remember that a good cookie is defined by the mouth of the beholder. If our vision of the ideal cookie differs in any way I encourage you to figure out what differences you should make to the recipe! The time spent doing so is well worth the end results.

What makes a cookie perfect to you?


  1. Wow.
    Thanks for changing my life for forever. No joke.
    As a (formerly?) terrible baker I appreciate your candor.
    Even girls that can't cook can bake better than I can lol.
    Off to buy pb chips =)

    1. Hahaha, well hopefully this brings you into the "awesome" category of baking skills!
      And I'm here if you need help with anything!
      I plan on doing more cooking/baking posts in this style : )

      Good to hear from you again!

  2. Can't wait to try the recipe. LOVE that you are so into the mechanics of it - do you get Cook's Illustrated magazine? If not, don't - I'll get it for you!

    Your blog is just like you - intelligent, attractive and very detailed! Love it! - Colleen S.

  3. Wow Colleen! What a complement!!! : ) I'm so happy you like my blog!!

    And no, I don't get Cooks Illustrated. I've seen it at the store and it looks like a great resource!

    Hope to see you soon!

  4. WOW! The BEST Peanut Butter cookies EVER!!!! Thanks so much for this amazing recipe; it's perfect. My husband is in love with these; I made a batch Saturday for a party yesterday and added little chunks of caramel along with the PB chips, and sprinkled the top with a tiny bit of Himalayan sea salt - they were a hit!