By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
One of the first recipes I recall mastering was peanut butter-potato pinwheels. Stirring powdered sugar into leftover mashed potatoes created the base dough, which was rolled thin (more or less), then spread with peanut butter, rolled up and refrigerated for 24 hours (though I could never wait that long to sample). Those pinwheels were a thing of gooey beauty and the pièce de résistance of my youthful culinary efforts, and I’m still grateful to my older sister Pat, who bigheartedly sampled every concoction I proudly placed in front of her. I’m also forever grateful to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the cereal dude), who invented the U.S. version of peanut butter in 1895.
Peanut butter dates to the Ancient Incas and Aztecs, who roasted, then mashed the peanuts into a nutritious paste. In 1904, C. H. Sumner introduced peanut butter to the public at the St. Louis World’s Fair, where he sold $705 worth of the concoction from his popular concession stand. Since then, peanut butter has become a beloved American staple.
Jif was my childhood favorite, though my mother rarely bought “overpriced” name brands, so it was a treat I’d dip a spoon into whenever I babysat for an affluent family and spied it in their cupboard of abundance. By the time I reached adulthood, my price-sensitive mother could afford Adams, which she knowingly declared the best peanut butter in the universe. She consumed it, slathered on toast, every single morning of her life. She stored the jar upside in her cupboard, before stirring up the unhomogenized mass, after which she’d right the jar and place it in the fridge.
Now, both Jif and Adams are owned by Smuckers, who, along with producing a whole line-up of their own brand, produces 15 different kinds of Jif! My guilty peanut butter pleasure is still the one of my youthful palate – sweet and creamy Jif. I don’t store mine in the cupboard. It’s just too tempting, inches above the silverware drawer and the spoons that glide so easily into this beloved treat. Nope, I store the calorie- and fat-laden staple in the freezer. And, shamefully, I’ll share a dirty little secret: though more difficult to spoon up, frozen peanut butter is the bomb!
If you’re looking for a more natural or organic brand, look no further than your favorite grocery store. At Yokes, you can grind your own, choose from more than ten brands in the Nature’s Corner aisle, or more than 20 brands in the bread aisle. You can buy creamy or chunky, with honey, swirled with jelly, with or without oils or sweeteners, powdered, in individual packets and squeeze tubes or plastic and glass jars.
According to the statistic keepers at the National Peanut Board, peanut butter is consumed in about 90% of U.S. households, where the average child will consume 1,500 PBJs in their youth. It takes about 540 peanuts to produce a 12-ounce jar, and men prefer chunky over creamy (preferred by women and children).
I was never crazy about PBJs, and, not unlike my mother, one of my breakfast favorite foods is toast and peanut butter. My kids and grandkids love it too, and we like the bread lightly toasted — no butter, just lots of peanut butter slathered on top. Another favorite of mine is the vintage Beech-nut sandwich: a clubhouse, spread with peanut butter instead of mayonnaise (along with baby food, back in the ‘20s, Beech-nut manufactured a popular peanut butter).
I love peanut butter in recipes, like satay sauce, a popular dipping sauce that originated in Java and is popular throughout Southeast Asia (and the U.S.), served with grilled meats, skewers and spring rolls. Peanut butter is also a delicious base for soups and is a popular ingredient in West African stews.
Other excuses for me to have peanut butter on hand include making massive batches of peanut butter cookies for the grandkids, who line up to help roll them into balls and flatten with a fork. As a child, I remember my mom cautioning me to make sure the balls were uniform in size. By the time my kids came along and gathered around her table, she really didn’t give a damn about quality control, and now, I try to remember this as well (watching pea-to orange-sized balls land on the cookie sheets).
This is my all-time favorite recipe for peanut butter cookies and you don’t even have to be a kid to roll them out and flatten with a wet fork. Quality control is optional.
Peanut Butter Cookies Recipe • makes 3 dozen cookies
These cookies are soft and a little crunchy. The sea salt adds a little pop to the sweetness.
• 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 pound soft butter (2 sticks)
• 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tbs pure maple syrup
• 1 cup peanut butter, (preferably Jif)!
• 2 large eggs, room temperature
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup salted peanuts, ground in food processor, like bread crumbs
• Sugar/sea salt
Adjust oven rack to low center position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
In bowl of stand-up mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with electric mixer, stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary. Beat in peanut butter and maple syrup until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Gently stir dry ingredients into peanut butter mixture. Add ground peanuts; stir gently until just incorporated.
With 2 tablespoons dough, roll into large balls, then roll in granulated sugar, and place them 2 inches apart on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Press each dough ball with back of dinner fork dipped in cold water. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, but not top, 10 to 12 minutes (they will not look fully baked). Cool cookies on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep, in an airtight container, up to a week (if they last that long)!
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal