In addition to their namesake, classic peanut butter cookies call for butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. But you can get crispier, chewier, gooier, better results if you ditch most of these. Peanut butter, some sort of sugar, and eggs are all you need. Maybe you’ve stumbled upon this bare-bones style by way of Ovenly Bakery, or Shirley O. Corriher, or Susan Purdy, among other blogs.
Sweetened nut butter is the default, but unsweetened works wonders in its own way. Not only does unsweetened, aka “natural” (depending on the brand), nut butter lead to a less sweet, more balanced dessert, but it opens up a world of other unsweetened nut and seed butters, like sunflower, cashew, and tahini. In this recipe, we're using almond, which might be my favorite for its roasty, marzipan-y energy.
Note: You can swap out the granulated sugar for 1 cup (213 grams) of light or dark brown sugar. This will yield a cookie that’s less almondy, more caramelly. You can even do a mix if you’d like.
Freezing the dough blobs before baking helps the cookies look their best. Once they’re firm, you can also toss them in a container and store them in the freezer, for up to a month, to bake on a whim. No need to thaw—just add a couple minutes to the baking time, and let me know when to come over. I’ll bring the milk.
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
Heat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Combine the almond butter, sugar, and egg in a bowl and mix until smooth and thick. Use a tablespoon-size cookie scoop to drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a plate. Sprinkle with flaky salt if you’re using it, then pop in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm up.
Transfer the cookie dough blobs to the baking sheets, spreading out about an inch apart (you might have to bake a couple rounds). Bake for about 14 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the edges are just starting to brown and the tops are crackly.
It’s so important you let these cool completely before trying—that’s the only way you’ll get the contrast between a crisp crust and fudgy middle.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.