Amy Eddings' Food for Thought: Peanut Butter Cookies

Friday, March 11, 2011

Would peanut flour make a peanut butter cookie more peanuty? After speaking with Peanut Butter & Company founder Lee Zalben, I had to give it a try. The idea gave me the permission I needed to do two things: bake (I don't need much prompting, but always worry about capitulating too easily and frequently to my sweet tooth), and enlist my colleagues in helping to write my blog.

My taste test is deeply flawed: I used two different recipes. Zalben had told me in our interview that you can't make a one-for-one substitution of peanut flour to white flour, so I couldn't do an easy substitution using my family's recipe. I asked Zalben if he could send me one specifically calling for peanut flour. 

I baked a batch using that recipe, and then a second batch using my family's recipe. While they both called for one cup of peanut butter and two eggs, the recipe Zalben sent from Southern Living magazine had less sugar (1-1/4 cups, compared to 2 cups), less baking soda (1 teaspoon instead of 2), and far less flour (1 cup of peanut flour compared to 3 cups of white flour).  It also derived all its oil from the peanut butter alone.  My recipe gets an additional boost of fat from 1 cup of shortening (I tried 1/2 a cup of shortening and 1/2 a cup of butter, since I don't like shortening all by its lonesome). 

My cookie turned out with a nice, dense crumbly texture, but it didn't taste very peanut-buttery.

The recipe Lee Zalben sent along was the clear winner. Its texture was different; it was soft and chewy.  It also wasn't very sweet, which can be a good thing, I guess. And it was far and away more peanuty.

Most of my colleagues agreed. They also revealed their cookie preferences during their taste tests.

Steve Nessen, our newsroom web producer, is in the Chewy Camp.  He said the peanut flour cookies had an "amazing texture."  

Reporter Ailsa Chang revealed a penchant for crumbly cookies: "I liked the wheat flour ones better," she said. "They taste buttery."

She also thought they tasted more like peanut butter, but ATC associate producer Jenna Flanagan put her in her place: "Amy's cookie doesn't say, 'Peanut butter' in my mouth," said Flanagan. Ouch.

Morning producer Brigid Bergin took that comment, and ran with it: "Your cookies are sweet and pleasant, but, without that classic criss-cross pattern on the top, I wouldn't know that it was a peanut butter cookie."

(Stabbed in the heart, with a fork!)

Financial 411 producer and business reporter Ilya Marritz called my cookies "dense and brittle," and said they would work better as a crisp. Guess he's in the Chewy Camp, too.

I'll have to try this again, and see if I can include peanut flour in my recipe.  I'll use less of it, too, and see if I can get a chewier result.

Here are the recipes:

 TRIPLE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES, as seen in Southern Living Magazine.

(also known as The Winning Chewy Cookies)

1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup all-natural peanut butter (creamy or chunky)

2 large eggs

1 cup low-fat peanut flour

1/4 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

1 teas. baking soda

1 teas. pure vanilla extract

1/8 teas. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, beat together brown sugar and peanut butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in peanut flour, peanuts, baking soda, vanilla and salt.  Roll dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. Place balls two inches apart on a cookie or baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Use a fork to make criss-cross marks on tops of cookies and to flatten to about 1/2-inch thick. Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are just set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.


(also known as The Losing Dense, Crumbly Cookies)

1 cup shortening

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teas. pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups flour, sifted

2 teas. baking soda

pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream the shortening and peanut butter with the sugars.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Beat in dry ingredients.  Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Use a fork to make criss-cross marks on tops of cookies and to flatten to about 1/2-inch thick. Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are just set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.


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Comments [3]

rh from NY area

I have seen restaurants with peanut oil and peanut product warning notices. But honestly, everyone I know in your position just does not take their kids out to eat unless they can 100% guarantee that no peanut or nut products of any kind are on the premises. And that of course is very very few places.

You can bet your bippy that any chef using peanut flour isn't going to have that as their first foray into nuts. I don't think it is the writer's responsibility to say "those allergic to peanuts beware" as most in that position are drastically aware of the potential threat.

Mar. 20 2011 07:51 PM
Mark from NJ

As the parent and acquaintance of a number of nut-allergic individuals, I found this an alarming story. It's already hard enough to scrutinize the ingredients of packaged foods, which must by law be labled as to content with common allergens highlighted.

The idea that restaurant chefs would begin to add peanut flour to a variety of foods as a protein booster and thickener -- particularly baked goods -- where it might not otherwise be obvious by sight, taste or smell, should make anyone with a nut allergy very wary.

I wish your story had pointed out this potential threat.

Mar. 18 2011 05:51 PM

Forgive me, Amy - I just can't find a contact place other than this - I love PB cookies and I'm glad you write this column - there's a book that someone who writes about food should read a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration which is well written and reads kind of like a medical anthropology text, copyright 1939 and fascinating. Good science - and it gives a deep appreciation of traditional foods from a different perspective. I actually found it online on a small farmer website but I lost the link. Verrry interesting. Thanks

Mar. 11 2011 07:59 PM

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