There is a small town between Austin, Texas, and my hometown of Fort Worth that is called Hamilton. From the passenger seat of my parents’ SUV, it looks like any other small Texas town—there’s nothing remarkable about it from that particular vantage point, except that it is home to my family’s favorite pit stop, Dutchman’s Hidden Valley Country Store.I should say that we have always called it The Flying Dutchman. I don’t know why—that’s just what we’ve always called it. I’d like to tell you that we will change our ways and call it Dutchman’s Hidden Valley from here on out, but we won’t so I won’t. A 35+ year family habit is not easily broken.My dad began stopping at Dutchman’s Hidden Valley in the early 1980s on his way to visit my older sister down in Fredericksburg. He’d stretch his legs and grab a Bavarian ham sandwich before getting back on the road. When he met my mom, he introduced her to the store. Fast forward ten or so years, and she and my grandma began taking Eliot and me to Dutchman’s on our way to family reunions in Kerrville. And now, twenty years beyond that, my parents take the back route to visit my older sister again, this time in Austin. They say it’s because I-35 is a mess, which is true, but I think it’s actually so they can get a sandwich.I haven’t lived in Texas or driven the back roads in a very long time now, but a couple of Christmases ago I had the pleasure of riding with my mom from my sister’s home in Austin to my parents’ in Fort Worth. We were listening to Hamilton while zipping through Hamilton’s city limit (so meta!), when she suggested I call Dutchman’s and order some sandwiches. I did, and when we arrived we grabbed a couple of bags of chips and a Diet Coke to split, and in a snap decision, two old-fashioned peanut butter cookies. The sandwiches and chips and soda all tasted like they always have, but the peanut butter cookies were new to both of us and so much more than we had bargained for—not that we’ve ever been served anything less than perfection at Dutchman’s.Crispy, crunchy and not-too-sweet, with an almost-savory peanut butter flavor, my mom and I talked about them all the way home. Dutchman’s peanut butter cookies are probably the best I’ve ever had in my life, and I have thought of them frequently and fondly for the last 15 months. I’m still kicking myself for not grabbing another on the way out the door—I think they were 60 cents each.Now, I am sure I will end up in Texas at some point this year, but I don’t know when, and I am highly unlikely to find myself passing through the sleepy metropolis of Hamilton. My trips are rarely more than a few days, so road trips to get Bavarian ham sandwiches and chips and my newfound-favorite peanut butter cookies are difficult to squeeze in.This is all a very long way of saying that I have done my best to recreate Dutchman’s peanut butter cookies in my New York kitchen. I’ve done a pretty good job, if I do say so myself 🙂 These Crispy, Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies are crispy and crunchy (duh) and sort of sandy. They aren’t overly sweet—there’s barely 1/2 teaspoon of added sugar in each one—and while I believe Dutchman’s cookies’ savory edge may come from lard (rural Texas, y’all), mine comes from a smattering of roasted peanuts. If you want a sweeter cookie, you can swap all or part of the peanuts for chocolate chips, or leave the add-ins out entirely.Hands-down, my favorite part of this recipe is that it doesn’t require a chill. The dough is sturdy and easy to roll from the get-go, so the time between the moment the peanut butter cookie craving strikes and when they are baked and ready is mercifully brief. Oh, and these cookies hold up well for at least ten days and develop deeper peanut butter flavor over time, so you can eat them frequently and think of them fondly and not have to worry about when you’ll have time to bake more, or when you can get to a roadside antique store & sandwich counter in Hamilton, Texas, to get your fix.
Crispy, Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 80 small cookies
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment, set aside.
In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and peanut butter until fluffy. Add granulated and light brown sugars, and beat to combine. Mix in egg and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in chopped peanuts.
Scoop dough by the 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons), roll into balls, and set 2-inches apart on prepared pans.
Make the crosshatch. Lightly grease the back of a fork and dip in sugar. Press fork into each dough ball, then turn the fork 90 degrees and press again. Re-sugar the fork between cookies.
Bake cookies for 10 minutes, rotating pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the 5 minute mark. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, crosshatching, and baking with remaining dough, letting the pans return to room temperature between batches.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.