Interpreting a Hundred-Year-Old Peanut Butter Cutout Cookie Recipe


I love peanut butter cookies, so when I found a hundred-year-old recipe for peanut butter cut-out cookies I had to give it a try.

Here’s the original recipe:

peanut butter cut-out cookies
Source: American Cookery (March, 1917)

When I made this recipe, it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. When I combined all the ingredients, I had a thick batter instead of a dough–and there was no way I could roll it out. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with the original recipe, but I decided that the best way to salvage it was to add additional flour – lots of flour.Β  The resulting soft dough rolled out nicely.

The verdict: The cookies were nothing like modern peanut butter cookies, but if you can totally suspend expectations, the cookies were good. The old-fashioned cake-like cookies had a hint of peanut butter, and are lovely with milk or coffee.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Peanut Butter Cut-out Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 48 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 2/3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 400Β° F. Place theΒ  butter, peanut butter, and sugar in a mixing bowl, stir to combine. Stir in the egg and milk, then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled.

On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 9-11 minutes.

49 thoughts on “Interpreting a Hundred-Year-Old Peanut Butter Cutout Cookie Recipe

    1. I always hate to give up on a recipe – and after I added additional flour this recipe turned out well (though it tastes different than the ubiquitous peanut butter cookie with the criss-cross pattern on top).

  1. I wonder why it came out like batter instead of dough when you followed it exactly. How frustrating. Do you think the milk was different back then, creamier maybe? The end results look great, though.

    1. I think that there was a typo in the original recipe, and that the amount was incorrect for one of the ingredients. I’m not sure which amount was wrong, but I’m guessing it was either the amount of milk (too much) or flour (too little) since it turned out like a batter.

  2. I can’t imagine a peanut butter cookie without fork tine prints on top. That’s the way Mom always did it, just to avoid the rolling and cutting, but I take lazy to the next level: make balls of dough, dip the bottom of a glass in sugar, then smoosh them. Easy-peasy!

  3. My youngest son loves peanut butter cookies,I will give this recipe a try only I think I will back off on the baking powder. Maybe by half. I’ll let you know how it goes. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m looking forward to hearing how it turns out. Something was definitely off with this recipe, and it will be interesting to learn how a different adaptation turns out. My daughter helped me make this recipe, and we also thought that it seemed like a lot of baking powder. When we rolled out the dough (even with the extra flour and after we chilled it), it was still quite soft and we worried that the cookies would spread out too much when they cooked. But they didn’t. Instead they puffed up into a soft raised cookie. I think that it probably was because of all the baking powder.

      1. I finally got around to making these cookies. I did do some changes.. 1/2 cup of butter ,1/2 cup of brown sugar,1/2 cup of white sugar ,I used old heavy whipping cream ,it had soured already,instead of milk, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda . They were wonderful!! My hubby wanted to take them to a meeting that he had.. son overheard him asking and quickly replied” back off of those cookies ,their mine.” πŸ˜„
        Tried to send a small picture of them but it didn’t work.:(

        1. Thanks taking a moment to let me know that you made them. I like how you adapted the recipe. It sounds really good. Your comment about your husband made me smile.

  4. I never heard of such a thing.. cut out PB cookies! Sounds interesting. I would roll in a log and slice them thin. Too lazy to roll out!

    1. These cookies would be nice to try as something new for peanut butter lovers. Maybe a nut on top of each cookie might work too.

    2. I’m not sure that this dough will be firm enough to create a log that could easily be sliced – but maybe it would work if you continued adding flour until the dough was stiff.

  5. I like the idea of cut out peanut butter cookies, but no doubt the amount of flour mentioned can’t be correct.
    I think that “1/3 cups flour” is probably a typo for “1 1/3 cups flour” – which is more or less what you ended up with.

    1. You’re probably right. I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it– but “cups flour” is plural while all of the other measurements which called for less than a cup use the singular.

    1. I’ve made it once. I try to do a “new” hundred-year-old recipe each week, and time just doesn’t permit me to make a recipe more than once. If you make this recipe, if you get a chance it would be wonderful if you could add a comment about how it turned out, any adaptations you made, etc. Other readers considering making a recipe find it really helpful when people who have tried it previously share their experiences.

        1. I didn’t change the amount of peanut butter. This cookie definitely had a more delicate peanut butter taste than more modern recipes. If you use more peanut butter, you’ll have let us know how it turned out.

          1. I ask because I have found that the peanut butter cookie recipes I like best have a cup of peanut butter instead of the usual half. Just wondered if you noticed the same. πŸ™‚

            1. If you generally prefer cookies that have a relatively high ratio of peanut butter to other ingredients, you’d probably want to make a similar adjustment when making this recipe.

    1. I didn’t sift the flour – though I don’t think that sifting it would have resulted in thicker dough. I could be thinking about this incorrectly, but I believe that for any given volume of flour that sifted flour would weigh less than unsifted flour. To make the dough thicker, more flour was needed not less.

      An aside – I have a running debate with friends about whether it is necessary to sift all-purpose flour that comes in bags which say “pre-sifted.” I tend to think that it’s not needed; others are equally certain that it is.

        1. I agree about the flours – though I’m not sure about the old recipes. Since the directions in many old recipes was so sparse, my gut feeling is that different people interpreted them differently. πŸ™‚

  6. Your cookies are lovely. Interesting, I was just thinking the other day about the cake-like cookies. I have a couple recipes from the early 1900’s, but no peanut butter ones.
    I wonder if there was a typo that happened in the recipe. I’m glad you worked it out and they turned out so well.

  7. These look like sugar cookies! It’s interesting how different the texture and look of these peanut butter cookies are compared to modern-day, criss-cross-topped PB cookies!

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