The origin of the peanut butter cookie started with the 1884 invention of nut butter. It was hoped that it could be used as a substitute for butter or lard. Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, invented a hot grinding stone to process roasted peanuts into a paste that he used to make into candy.
It took another fifty years to make it into the cookie we recognize today, with the distinct criss cross markings made with the tines of a fork. That recipe was featured in a newspaper, the Schenectady Gazette, on July 1, 1932.
Well, nothing seems to stand still long. Our globalized and curious society now has an even larger repertoire of ingredients with which to experiment. This recipe, from Krysten Chambrot in the New York Times food section, replaces a little Japanese miso with some of the peanut butter. Miso adds a slightly salty and earthy dimension that I think makes these cookies more sophisticated. Also, instead of making the crisscross design on top of the cookies, Chambrot’s recipe, in these anxious times, provides you with the opportunity to flatten the cookies by slamming them on the kitchen counter, twice.
I field-tested these cookies with quite a few people because although I loved the flavor, I wanted to make sure that most people would enjoy them. The feedback was positive. Although miso has a flavor that is not associated with sweet desserts, with enough sugar and the crunchy topping of crystals of demerara sugar, it is clear that this is a sweet treat.
This recipe requires at least six minutes of beating, so it helps to have a stand mixture. Also, be sure and watch your timer if you want to keep them chewy and moist. Overbaking makes them hard. Remember that they will continue to bake for a short while even after they come out of the oven. Over-baking is not a total disaster, as they can then be dunked in tea, coffee or milk.
A varied selection of miso is available at Yamashita Market at 114 Union St. While you are there, check out the beautiful bowls, plates and other dishware.
Also, thanks to all the people who wrote in about the Lemon Crinkle Cookies. I really appreciate your feedback and expertise. Maryann Schnitter mentioned in her note that to keep cookies from spreading too much while baking, she always puts her dough in the refrigerator for a few hours. A great idea.
Peanut Butter-Miso Cookies
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
cup white miso
¼ cup chunky peanut butter
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup Demerara sugar, plus more as needed
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder. Whisk until well blended. Set aside.
Use a standing mixer if you have one, or in a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter, light brown sugar and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, for about five minutes.
Add miso and peanut butter to the mixing bowl with the butter and sugar, and continue to mix at medium speed for about one minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated, and mix a bit more if needed. Add egg and vanilla extract, and mix until just combined. Do not beat.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, and mix on low speed until flour mixture is incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two batches until all of it is incorporated.
Place 1/2 cup Demerara sugar into a small bowl. Scoop out about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll between your hands until it is round. The recipe can make about two dozen medium sized cookies. If the dough is too soft, you can put the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to firm the dough up slightly. Put the ball of dough into the bowl of Demerara sugar and turn to coat. Transfer each ball to a parchment-lined baking sheet, arranging them about three inches apart. Repeat with all of the dough.
Refrigerate the tin for two hours or overnight. (Even 15 minutes of refrigerator time will help the dough firm up, and the flavors combine. The longer the dough is refrigerated, the more mellow the flavors will be.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, until crisp at the edges and slightly puffed in the middle. They should still be underdone in the center. Pull out the baking sheet and hit it against a counter. Place back into the oven to finish for about 3-4 minutes. When cookies are firm at the edges and slightly puffed in the center, pull them out and again hit the baking sheet against the counter. The cookies should appear flat and crinkly at the center.
Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for a few minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack. Store fully cooled cookies in an airtight container; they should retain their chewy texture for a few days.