In my experience, the who’s-who of American-style cookies has typically included chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar, and peanut butter. If forced to rank them, I would declare chocolate chip as the obvious winner, followed by sugar, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. In other words, I’m not really a peanut butter cookie person.
However, while stuck at home during the early days of COVID lockdown, I found myself craving cookies — any cookies. The only thing that mattered was which ingredients I had (or didn’t have) on hand. Since I was lacking flour, my options decreased significantly. But then I thought about the mythical soft and chewy flourless peanut butter-based cookies I’d heard about over the years. Their lack of flour made them perfect for my circumstances, so I put aside my feelings and decided it was time to seek the truth.
Chef Google, I discovered, has a million and one different variations of this same recipe. Some with leavening, some without, some with salt, some without (not to be trusted!), and all with various types and quantities of sugar, peanut butter, and bake times. Despite these differences, all follow the same basic principle: egg, homogenized peanut butter, and sugar can be combined and baked into a deliciously soft and chewy flourless cookie. So with that as my starting point, I looked around my pantry and set out to customize this basic set of ingredients into a peanut butter cookie that even I could love.
When I thought about my favorite foods with peanuts, it was spicy and savory dishes that came to mind. Papaya salad. Peanut sauce. Cracker nuts. I began to realize I enjoy the flavor of peanuts most when they’re matched with bold heat, high salt, funk, and texture. So why not introduce these elements into a cookie dough?
Inspired, I reached for yellow miso in the back corner of my fridge — a scoop of the fermented paste, I decided, could add really nice character and salinity. Next my hand gravitated towards a half-empty jar of chile crisp. Its crunchy fried soybeans, chiles and peppercorns, warming spices, MSG, and fermented black beans seemed like such an obvious choice that I couldn’t believe I’d only just thought of it. As I began to taste the cookie coming together in my mind, I knew I was on to something good. Once I combined the ingredients and adjusted the seasoning, the hyper-craveable spicy-savory-sweet peanut butter cookie of my dreams started to take shape. And the next thing I knew, I was someone who likes peanut butter cookies.
Note: If you’re also craving a spicy-savory-sweet peanut butter cookie, here are a few things to keep in mind when you try this recipe:
- Emulsified creamy peanut butter (i.e. non-separating) is essential to its success. Without flour, the dough relies on homogenized peanut butter for its binding properties. So save the nice stuff for toast. My choice pick is Skippy Natural,