Being a classic American cookie, peanut butter blossoms were off my radar until some post-adulthood cookie exchange. These soft peanut butter cookies are shaped into balls and rolled in sugar for crunch before baking. When they come out of the oven, a Hershey kiss is pressed down into a center, crackling the cookie. Sometimes I'll spot unwrapped kisses, ostensibly designed for just this purpose, hanging out in the baking aisle of my local supermarket. Having tried and failed to embed chocolate gelt coins into cookies any number of ways, I realized that there was a cookie out there essentially designed for the purpose. Light bulb!
How to make blossom cookies
The technique here is simple: form the dough into balls, roll in granulated sugar, then bake in that form. While they bake--a quick 10 minutes--you get busy unwrapping the chocolates. When the cookies come out of the oven, when they're still piping hot and malleable, you take a chocolate and press it down into the center of the cookie. The cookie will crack, forming sugary fissures to accommodate the girth of the chocolate bit, hence, once imagines, the "blossom" bit. The heat of the cookies will also slightly melt the chocolate, adhering it to the cookie. When everything has cooled completely, the cookies are fine, sturdy hunks of peanut butter and chocolate goodness with a sugar crunch, to boot.
Rolling the cookies the right size for gelt
Hershey's kisses, the traditional topper for these cookies, are smaller than your average piece of gelt. You'll need to roll them a bit larger to get the crackle effect around the gelt. A good approximation to use is the diameter of your gelt pieces: that is, make your balls of cookie dough roughly the size of your gelt pieces. My gelt was on the larger side, so I got about 30 cookies out of the recipe; you might be able to get a few more if you use smaller gelt.
The good, the bad, and the parve
The recipe as I've written it uses shortening (I use Spectrum Naturals brand). I've experimented with other fats but shortening is far and away the best in terms of texture and ease of working with the dough. I didn't like the margarine (Earth Balance) in these, and neither butter nor coconut oil works as well. That being said, there are a lot of variations of the classic recipe out there that replace the shortening with butter, so if you want to avoid shortening, I'd go the dairy route and use ½ cup (1 stick) of butter in its place. The butter dough will be stickier and a bit more cranky about being worked with.
Looking for more Chanukah eats?
- Sufganiyot muffins - totally appropriate for breakfasting
- Classic potato latkes - all the secrets, revealed
Gelt Blossom Cookies (parve or dairy)
- 30 chocolate gelt pieces, unwrapped
- ½ cup shortening
- ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp milk, dairy or non
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C. Line two sheet pans and remove the gelt's foil wrappers.
- Beat the shortening and peanut butter together in large bowl until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add both the sugars and beat until fluffy, anotheer 2-3 minutes. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.
- Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the mixing bowl and gently mix into the peanut butter mixture. The dough will be soft and a bit crumbly, but hold together easily as soon as it's pressed. It should be comfortable to work with; no chilling needed.
- Shape the dough into balls about the size of your gelt, something like 1 ½" / 4cm. Pour about ¼ cup granulated sugar into a small bowl. After shaping the balls of dough, roll them in the bowl of sugar. Place them
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Immediately press a piece of gelt chocolate into center of each cookie; the cookie will crack around edges. Remove from sheet pan to cool cool on a wire rack. Cool completely, until the chocolate firms up again. (They're a little fragile when warm, but become sturdy when cooled.)