A Christmas cookie that stands the test of time
By Ellen Margulies
Just kidding about that top headline, BTW. And now for our regularly scheduled blog:
For every Christmas since I can remember, one cookie has always made an appearance somewhere within the Margulies enclave: the Peanut Blossom, typically plainer than its rolled and cookie-cuttered brethren and, unlike its sprinklier sisters, adorned only with a single chocolate kiss.
It’s such an ingrained holiday tradition in my family that we tend not to eat it any other time of year. There are lots of recipes out there to choose from, some of which call for things like shortening (no), milk (nope) or almond flour (hell no) and everything in the centers from Rolos (no) to peppermint (hopefully not with peanut butter).
As for me, I thought I’d stick with Mom’s classic. She’s been using this recipe since the 1960s, and it’s a good one. I had to fight with her to give up the recipe — “You’re going to post this on the Internet, aren’t you!” — but she ultimately relented because I am her favorite (sorry, Jan, Karen, Paul, Cyd, Nola, William, Josh and especially Kaiti).
Granted, I did go a little off-book today. My dough seemed really crumbly when I was rolling the balls, so I either over-floured or under-peanut buttered. Before rolling the second batch, I added in a heaping spoon of peanut butter and remixed the dough. Things went much more smoothly after that. All told, I ended up using about three-quarters of a cup of peanut butter instead of the half-cup called for in the recipe.
I also experimented with red and green sugar sprinkles, because Christmas, and for the last four cookies at the end I went completely wild and stuffed two with red-and-green M&Ms and did the traditional cross-hatch on the other two.
All told, I got 40 cookies, with all but the test dry-crumbly batch and the last 4 wonky experimental cookies going to the client office party tonight. Also, these things are a total beyotch to transport. Cookies be breaking apart, kisses be falling off. I suggest doing this as a fun togetherness activity with kids or when you plan to feed a big crew at home. Unless you have the money and cargo space to load about 4 at a time into a tray to take them wherever you’re going.
I also got the warm fuzzies from remembering all those Christmases of yore — did I ever mention I’m from Yore, NC? — and getting into an argument with my mom about why she should always, always share the recipe. (Love you, Mom! MWAH! You’re my favorite mom of all time!!!)
Hopefully, these will inspire you to try this recipe or share your own baking tradition with us (hop on in those comments — don’t be shy!). Don’t forget to check out Laura’s blog from yesterday, which is also all about dat Christmas cookie. Next up for me, baking-wise? Wrestling my mom’s shortbread recipe away from her. Maybe if I promise not to post that one…
Mickey’s Super-Secret Totally Awesome Peanut Blossoms: The Ellen Edition
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup room-temperature butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter, add more as needed to make dough pliable
1/2 cup sugar, plus another ½ cup for rolling
1/2 firmly-packed brown sugar
1 unbeaten room temperature cage-free egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Assorted sprinkles or sugars in smaller bowls if you’re feeling funky
40 or so unwrapped Hershey’s candy kisses, plus more for snacking I mean quality control
- Pre-heat oven to 375.
- Sift together first three ingredients. Or, if it’s no longer 1968 where you live, put them in a medium bowl and shake them around a bit.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and peanut butter.
- Gradually add the brown sugar and the ½ cup of white sugar.
- Add the egg and vanilla, then blend flour mixture in gradually, mixing thoroughly.
- Shape dough into balls using rounded rounded spoonfuls. These won’t necessarily be perfect orbs, which is fine because you’ll be flattening them later.
- Put remaining half-cup of sugar in a shallow pasta bowl or on a dinner plate. Roll each ball in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet. (I lined mine with parchment paper.)
- Bake for 8 minutes, remove sheet from oven, place candy kiss on top, pressing down firmly until cookie cracks around the edges. Return to oven 2-5 minutes until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen, plus a few more at the end to play with.
Random tips for better baking
Expect a couple of mishaps — a kitchen covered completely in sugar, including a floor that crunches when you walk, and maybe a cookie that accidentally slides off the spatula and falls into the stove, possibly. It’s all part of the holiday fun.
Don’t worry that you don’t have a fancy-ass Kitchenaid mixer or a large kitchen; I have neither of those things.
I treat myself to new baking ingredients every December, so don’t be trying to bake with some crusty old baking powder you’ve had since 2008. Your cookies will taste like crap, and it will not be my fault or, as much as we enjoy blaming her for stuff, my mom’s.
Do have the kisses unwrapped and a cooling wire tray at the ready. You can use the same cookie sheet over and over, or have two to swap out (but who wants that extra washing-up?).
Make sure you leave the butter and the egg out long enough to come down to room temp; it really makes a difference. I used Land O’Lakes salted butter — get the good stuff. And I’m serious about those cage-free eggs, folks. We’ve got to start taking some responsibility around here. Harumph.
For your first batch, maybe don’t fill up the tray. Does anybody’s first batch of a recipe really turn out? I went ahead and baked off a dozen, just to see how my oven would react, etc., but I should have just baked six at first.