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Why Do Peanut Butter Cookies Have Fork Marks? (Plus 5 Recipe Variations)

Why Do Peanut Butter Cookies Have Fork Marks? (Plus 5 Recipe Variations)

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If you are a cookie monster, and you know your sweet treats, you know that peanut butter cookies stand out from all other cookies. What is it that lets you know right away that the round golden brown confections are made from creamy (or chunky) peanut butter?

It is the criss-cross markings that are created with a fork that decorate the entire top of the cookie. But this isn’t the way this cookie started out.

The History of Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies are delicious baked goods that are favorites among anyone who loves peanuts, peanut butter, or just about any kind of cookies. They are made of peanut butter, brown and white sugar, eggs, butter, and all the dry ingredients that make the mixture into a cookie form.

Agricultural scientist George Washington Carver played a big part in promoting peanuts during his time as a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Carver was always trying to find ways for the local farmers to keep working their crops when they became depleted as overused cotton fields. He would work hard to develop uses for items to replace cotton and peanuts was one of the substitutes.

Carver created a bulletin that consisted of 105 recipes that called for peanuts. In the bulletin that came out in 1925, he included recipes for three different cookies that used chopped or crushed peanuts.

Soon enough, peanut butter entered the picture and became the main ingredient for the cookies.

When Did the Fork Tines Make Their Mark?

When people began making peanut butter cookies they were basically made the same way as most cookies: they were shaped into balls, dropped onto the cookie sheet, or rolled out into thin sheets and cut with cookie cutters.

It was in July of 1932 that mention was first made about pressing a fork on top of the cookies in a criss-cross fashion. The Schenectady Gazette was the first publication to mention the fork marks on peanut butter cookies.

The next mention came from the 1933 Pillsbury cookbook called Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes. While there was not a reason given for using the fork tines, many people felt that the dough for the peanut butter cookie was very thick and solid and pressing it down would make it more uniform so that it would cook more evenly.

5 Easy Variations of Peanut Butter Cookies

Okay, so you know you can identify peanut butter cookies by their criss-cross marks (would they be considered hash-tags today?) but if you think all peanut butter cookies are all the same, have I got news for you!

Here are 20 different types of cookies you can make starting with the best basic peanut butter cookie recipe I could find. Many of them do not even need the criss-cross markings!

1 – Basic One Bowl Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a combination of all of the regular peanut butter cookie recipes found online. This will be the base you will start with when you make any of the variations listed below. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

  • 1 cup brown sugar packed firmly
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  
  • Granulated white sugar (to roll cookies in)

Combine sugar, peanut butter and butter in a bowl. Beat on medium until well blended. Add in vanilla and egg and mix again. Add dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low until completely mixed.

Shape the dough in balls that are about 1 1/2 inches. Roll the balls in sugar, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten the cookies with a fork that you have dipped in sugar so it doesn’t stick. Once you have made the criss-cross design you can bake them for 8 to 10 minutes.

Try dipping them in chocolate for a little extra flare!

2 – Reese’s Pieces Cookies

Make the basic cookie recipe but do not flatten with a fork. Take a glass and flatten cookie lightly. Take a bag of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups and cut them into small pieces.

Put the pieces on top of the cookie and bake for 10 minutes.

3 – Nutty for Nutella Cookies

Use the basic recipe listed above. After making the dough make balls that are about 2 1/2 inches and press into a greased mini muffin pan.

After baking for 10-12 minutes, remove from the oven and let them cool for a minute. Take a teaspoon and make a small indentation in each cookie then fill it with Nutella.

4 – Good Old Fashioned Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

Follow the Nutella recipe exactly only fill with your favorite jelly or jam when finished. You may want to refrigerate them for about a 1/2 hour after filling.

5 – Flourless (Gluten-free) Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe calls for:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar firmly packed
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

You need to place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet for these cookies. Whisk the brown sugar and baking soda with the egg in a medium bowl until smooth.

Add in peanut butter, then fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into small balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten gently and bake for 10 minutes.

More Interesting Facts About Peanut Butter Cookies

  • The Girl Scouts of America have three different peanut butter cookies in their assortment:  Peanut Butter Tagalongs, Do-si-dos Peanut Butter Sandwich, and the latest, which is Trios made with chocolate chips, oatmeal, and peanut butter.
  • The company that makes the peanut-based cookies for the National Girl Scouts of America, they use around 230,000 pounds of peanut butter each week to make all three types of cookies.
  • It takes approximately 540 peanuts to make every 12-ounce bottle of peanut butter.

Mark your calendar – June 12th is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day! There is no known origin for this holiday, but do you really need just one day to celebrate peanut butter cookies?

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