Saturday, June 9, 2012

Grown up Peanut Butter Blossoms

 My love for peanut butter blossoms began early.  I remember, as a child, stumbling in on dozens of them at my great aunt's house.  Aluminum trays covered her dinning room table, each containing neat rows of blossoms, ready to be served the next day at a friend’s wedding. The Kisses's points poked at their flimsy cellophane covers and begged to be eaten. 

When I was certain that my mother and aunt were too busy chatting to notice, I dove my chubby hand underneath the plastic and plucked two blossoms from their resting place. With some creative rearrangement of the other cookies, my aunt would never suspect. I skipped outdoors, blossoms in hand, and ate my pilfered snack undetected.

 Freda Smith created the peanut butter blossom for the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off competition.  While Mrs. Smith’s recipe did not win the grand prize, it was a finalist.  Afterwards, the recipe was printed on bags of Hershey’s Kisses, giving peanut butter blossoms national exposure and a tender spot in the hearts of millions.  Including mine.

Peanut butter blossoms are the cookies I sample first at weddings, baptisms, and graduation parties if they are present…and they usually are.  It’s for this reason that I’m devoting my first post to them.  Blossoms are the cookies I always start with, and it’s comforting to begin a new project in a familiar place.

Mrs. Smith’s original recipe is on file at the Smithsonian institute.  I’ve sent a request for it but the archivist tells me it may take a few weeks to receive it.  In the meantime I’ve created, what I believe is a worthy substitute. 

 A grown-up peanut butter blossom.

It calls for natural peanut butter, the kind you must stir with a butter knife to incorporate the separated oil. It’s time consuming, yes, and a bit messy but the result is well worth the effort; peanut butter cookies with a concentrated flavor and dense, chewy texture.  

While warm, I pressed dark chocolate Kisses in the center of each.  They make a most satisfying dessert.  Or you can eat them the way I do, as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee.

So while I’m starting with a familiar favorite, I’ve matured since my cookie-snatching days. I crave toothy, meaningful cookies now, not something I sneak for a sweet thrill. I think this version accomplishes that.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Adapted from

Makes about 4 dozen
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup natural style peanut butter

2 tablespoons milk

1 egg

additional sugar for rolling

48 dark chocolate kisses

Preheat the oven to 375oF.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, stir together the brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, peanut butter and butter.  The mixture will be crumbly at first, but keep stirring.  It should turn into a thick paste.   Stop stirring when you reach this point, you don’t want to over mix.

Next add the milk, vanilla, baking soda, and salt and mix until well-incorporated.

Shape dough into ¾ inch balls. Smaller is better with these guys since they tend to spread a good bit in the oven.  Roll the ball in a small bowl filled with the additional sugar.  Space them about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.  This is a good time to start unwrapping those Hershey’s Kisses.

When the cookies are slightly golden, remove from the oven and immediately press a chocolate Kiss into the center of each.  Remove them to wire cooling racks.  While cooling, the kisses become soft, almost runny.  You can place them in the refrigerator for about an hour to make them solidify faster.

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