Peanut Butter Cookies: Why the Criss-Cross?

by Elizabeth Skipper | February 26th, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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cookies with gridWhen my mom made peanut butter cookies, she always used a fork and made criss-crossed lines on the cookies. Do I need to do this? Instead of using a fork, could I just flatten the dough?

When you think of a peanut butter cookie, the image that comes to mind is a dark tan colored cookie with a grid on the top. Somehow, nothing else seems right. That doesn’t mean, though, that’s the way it must be.

If you’ve made peanut butter cookies, whether using the simplest recipe which calls for just three ingredients, or a more complex one, you know that the dough is quite thick. Other cookies like chocolate chip also are made with thick dough, but they spread readily in the heat of the oven. Peanut butter cookies don’t.

Most of the recipes that I’m familiar with call for the dough to be formed into balls and then flattened. It matters not whether you flatten the cookies with something like the bottom of a glass, the flat of your hand, or a fork. If you use a glass, there’s no need to use a fork; the criss cross pattern is simply for decoration. If you don’t flatten the cookies first, then the fork does double duty – it performs both functions.

One very subtle result of creating the pattern is that the little tips of dough bake up crisper than the rest of the cookie, giving you both a bit of additional texture and deeper taste where the dough is more baked. You can also add texture by using chunky style peanut butter or adding chopped peanuts.

Bottom line, the answer to your question is, yes.

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3 Comments
  1. Jeannette says:

    Hi
    I love your articles.
    Can you tell me what to use for a “fat” to grease a gluten free and dairy free bread dough so it won’t stick to the pan after it is baked?

  2. Jane Wangersky says:

    Jeannette — Thanks for your kind words. We’ll pass your question along.

  3. If the bread is dairy free to avoid lactose, you could use clarified butter or ghee (the Indian version.) Because the milk solids are removed from it, all that’s left is butterfat, which many lactose-intolerant people can tolerate.

    Other alternatives are lard, refined coconut oil (the refined version is more processed than virgin coconut oil, but processing removes the coconut scent) or one of the vegan shortenings like Spectrum, which is made with palm oil, or Earth Balance, which is a blend of palm and other vegetable oils.

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