Salted peanut butter cookies

It’s almost a month after New Year’s. Is it safe to blog about cookies?

This is one of the easiest, most decadent recipes I’ve ever encountered. I’m not kidding. These cookies are made up of exactly three ingredients: brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter. Not only does that make them gluten- and dairy-free, but it means there’s nothing to bulk them out or tone them down. The peanut butter is front and center, propped up by the sturdy molasses sweetness of brown sugar. I normally love giant cookies, but these are an exception–I tried making them big, but they’re so rich and sugary that I struggled to finish one. These are much more enjoyable when they’re a bit on the small side.

Unlike your traditional crumbly peanut butter cookie, these are chewy and moist, almost like a cross between a cookie and a blondie. When you bite into one freshly baked, it offers up a firm, slightly crisp outside and a translucent gooey middle. Let the cookies sit in an airtight container for a day or two, and the texture settles and evens out so they’re cakey all the way through (which I actually prefer).

The short ingredient list also makes these dangerously easy to whip up. Not that most drop cookie recipes are hard, but this one involves no measuring of dry ingredients, no creaming of butter and sugar, no adding eggs one at a time. All you need is one bowl, one whisk, and a measuring cup or two. The most time-consuming part is chilling the dough in the fridge until it’s firm enough to scoop cleanly–you could bake these right after mixing, but the dough is very squishy and tends to make a mess. (Though it did mean I got to lick my fingers a lot. So.)

The original recipe calls for a single flourish: a sprinkle of fancy flaky salt on the cookies before they’re baked. It’s a fabulous touch. But I can never resist gilding the lily, so I add just a hint of cinnamon–in my mind, peanut butter should never be without it–and a healthy dose of chocolate. The result is ridiculous, and fabulous, and pretty much everything I want in a cookie.

salted peanut butter cookies

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies (makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies–slightly more if you add chocolate)

Adapted slightly from Ovenly, via Smitten Kitchen

Note: You can make these cookies with any kind of smooth peanut butter, or nut butter for that matter. The original recipe recommends Skippy or another thick, processed (not “natural”) peanut butter. Conveniently enough, a 16-ounce jar of peanut butter contains just about enough for this recipe.

1 1/2 packed cups (320 g) brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 3/4 cups (450 g) smooth peanut butter (see note)

Two (3.5 oz) bars dark chocolate, chopped OR 1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and cinnamon until smooth. If the brown sugar has stubborn lumps, let the mixture stand for a few minutes to let the lumps dissolve, then whisk again.

Add peanut butter and beat until completely smooth; you shouldn’t see any lumps of peanut butter or sugar. Fold in chocolate (if using). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the dough has firmed up slightly and is easy to scoop.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350º F and position two racks to divide the oven in thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Scoop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets–I use a #40 disher, but you can also do heaped tablespoons and roll the dough into balls. Make sure to leave at least 1 inch of space between each cookie. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with salt. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, for 14-15 minutes, or until the cookies are set on top but still squidgy in the middle.

Remove the pans from the oven. Let the cookies cool for 5-10 minutes on the pans, until they release easily, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Make ahead: The dough can be refrigerated overnight before scooping; make sure it’s tightly covered. You can also scoop the dough onto a baking sheet, freeze until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag and store in the freezer for up to 4 months. Bake frozen cookies directly from the freezer, adding another minute or two to the baking time.

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