These cookies have a deeper richness when baked with peanut butter that’s made with only peanuts (ideally roasted) and salt. Be sure to get the salted variety; unsalted can be bland at best and beany at worst. Sometimes it’s labeled natural or old-fashioned, but there’s no industry standard, so checking the ingredient list is the only way to tell. Peanut butter spreads loaded with extra sweeteners, fats and stabilizers may give you more consistent results but lack the earthy nuttiness of the pure stuff. Laura Scudder’s all-natural old-fashioned nutty tastes extra toasty; Trader Joe’s crunchy salted makes dough balls that hold their shape well; and Whole Food’s 365 crunchy has a nice proportion of chopped nuts. Try those or whichever you like enough to eat straight out of the jar.
Salted Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Smash and mix the butter into the brown sugar with a wooden spoon in a bowl until the butter is no longer visible and the sugar resembles wet sand. Add the peanut butter, vanilla and egg and mix until well combined. Lift the spoon out of the dough. If the dough drips off in globs, refrigerate or freeze it until stiff. Cold dough will bake into taller cookies too.
Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto the prepared sheets, spacing 1 ½ inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with salt and then with peanuts.
Bake one sheet at a time until darker brown around the edges and dry on top, 9 to 11 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets on a rack.
PB&J sandwich cookies: Spread a thin layer of thick jam on half the cookies and sandwich with the others.
Peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream sandwiches: Sandwich small scoops of salted caramel ice cream between cookies and freeze until firm.