If you were born after the '50s, there's one holiday cookie that will instantly make you nostalgic for your childhood: the peanut butter blossom. It's hard to imagine a world without sweet peanut butter cookies paired with milk chocolate Hershey's Kisses, but such a place existed before 1957. The origins of this retro dessert trace back to the legendary Mrs. Freda F. Smith from Ohio, whose original recipe won the Pillsbury's Bake-Off Contest. One huge fan of these timeless sweets is Salon's resident pastry chef, Meghan McGarry of Buttercream Blondie.
"I would bake peanut butter blossoms every year over the holidays with my Nan growing up," McGarry recalls to Salon. "So many life-long memories are made in the kitchen. A couple of years ago, I came across Nan's recipe when I was cleaning out my cookbooks to work on my own. In an instant, happy thoughts of our time baking together rushed through my head. I smiled."
To honor Nan and the other grandmothers like her who've passed down their own versions of this retro recipe to the next generation over the decades, McGarry did what she does best. The pastry chef gave classic peanut butter blossoms one of her signature dessert makeovers, which reinvents them for adults who are still kids at heart. Her grown-up version of these nostalgic cookies are perfect for Halloween, because they're no tricks — just treats. But you'll want to print out the instructions to add to your own recipe collection so you can revisit it throughout the year.
The result: McGarry's Easy Peanut Butter Cups, which feature bourbon peanut butter cookies, a spiked dark chocolate ganache, peanut butter drizzle and flaky sea salt. The bourbon, brown sugar, peanut butter and sea salt all work together to create the perfect salty-sweet bite. Upgrades aside, these easy-to-make cookies still taste like nostalgia.
This new recipes solves an age-old problem: When you press a chocolate Kiss inside an traditional peanut butter blossom after it comes out of the oven, it feels like it takes forever for it to set. Sometimes, they fall out as soon as you take a bite. And there's no sadder fate for a piece of chocolate than seeing it wind up on the floor.
To solve this, McGarry swaps the traditional Kiss with her homemade bourbon dark chocolate ganache. McGarry makes her cookies in a mini-muffin in order to create a cookie cup. When you take her cookies out of the oven, you immediately create an indentation in the center of each one. This creates a cup to hold the ganache, ensuring that every bit of chocolate ends up where it belongs: your mouth.
While this dessert would taste perfect if you stopped there, McGarry takes her makeover one step further by dressing up her cookies with a simple yet refined peanut butter drizzle. As the old adage goes, "The more peanut butter, the better." And the icing on the proverbial cake is flaky sea salt.
One of the best part about these cookies is how easy it is to personalize them. While McGarry recommends dark chocolate for the ganache, you can pick your favorite chocolate (or whatever you have on hand). You can swap the flaky sea salt with crushed honey roasted peanuts if you prefer something on the sweeter side. Rainbow sprinkles also add a festive touch around the holidays.
The moral of the story? Your kids aren't the only ones who get to enjoy something sweet over the holidays. Whether you're looking to treat yourself, host a few friends over or gift a treat to someone, these cookies are the perfect bite for every situation. They'll make time stand still.
This is the the sixth in a series of McGarry's series of go-to seasonal bakes for Salon Food. It follows an apple loaf cake, which was a warm welcome to fall; and apple crisp bars, which magnified the star fruit of the season; and apple crumb cake, which served up nostalgia in a no-fuss bake. It also joins two brand-new cookies: apple cranberry oatmeal and Irish cream pumpkin. If you're looking for a kid-friendly Halloween recipe, check out her spooky spider cake.
Peanut Butter Cookie Cups:
- 1 and 3/4 cups AP flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste, or extract
- 2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 2 tsp. heavy cream
Peanut Butter Cookie Cups:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
Click here to access the remainder of Meghan McGarry's Easy Peanut Butter Cookie Cups. And don't forget to follow @ButtercreamBlondie on Instagram for more ways to bake through the holidays.