The other day, I came across an old cookbook that Jim’s aunt Maria gave me. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies, from 1977. It’s covered in notes from Maria—her favorites, her leave ’ems—with charm that only an old, used cookbook can have. And it turned out to be a Christmas miracle; every recipe I’ve tried is delicious and practically fool-proof—the perfect pick me-up just as I got cookie fatigue, bored of the regular olds and needing some inspiration. Maida, who won a James Beard award for this cookbook, makes cookies exciting.
The whole wheat peanut butter cookie with raw sugar immediately caught my eye—it’s made of whole-wheat pastry flour, and the only sweetener is raw sugar. It’s probably a cookie conceived in the 60’s, a total hippie-cookie. What’s even more exciting though, is that it is good. Real good.
The cookies are crunchy, hardly sweet, and taste mildly of peanut butter. The nutty whole-wheat pastry flour reiterates the peanut butter flavor, as well as emphasizes the raw sugar’s crunch with it’s grainy texture. The texture, really, is the best part—at once buttery and crumbly, with crisp edges and a moist but not soft middle. Cracker-like.
It’s a very subtle, sophisticated cookie—an adult’s cookie just perfect sitting among the other Christmas chocolate, sugar, and gingerbread cookies. It could also accompany a cheese plate. Or—better yet—you could serve these late Christmas Eve, leaving a few with a tall glass of milk for that fat, jolly guy. Just remember the carrots for his donkeys.
Whole-Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 48 cookies
- 1 ¼ cups unsifted whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- generous ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ pound (1 stick) butter
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 1 egg
Sift together this flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In the large bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add the raw sugar and beat well, then add the egg and beat well again. On low speed gradually add the sifted dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating only until smooth.
Tear off a piece of wax paper about 16 inches long. Spoon the dough lenthwise down the center of the paper in a heavy strip about 10 to 11 inches long. Fold the long sides of the paper over the dough and, with your hands, shape the dough into a long, round or oblong roll, 12 inches long. Wrap the dough in the wax paper.
Slide a cookie sheet under the dough and transfer it to the freezer or refridgerator until firm (or as much longer as you wish).
Unwrap the dough and replace it on the wax paper. With a sharp knife cut the dough into slices ¼ inch think and place them 1 inche apart on unbuttered cookie sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes or a little longer, until the cookies are lightly colored and semifirm to the touch. Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back to insure even browning.
With a wide metal spatula transfer the cookies to the rack to cool.