Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Peanut Caramel

peanut butter cookies

I promised a bunch of holiday-friendly recipes this month, and this one is a doozy! Peanut butter cookies, filled with salted peanut caramel—do those sound as good to you as they do to me?

The recipe is from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, who is one of America’s best bakers. Her name might not be on the edge of your tongue, but she’s been quietly rolling doughs, mixing up batters, and baking off custards in this book, which is an encyclopedic authority on baking that tips the scales in both the breadth of recipes, and the actual weight itself.

And I thought my soul was a bit weighty.

When I was asked a few months ago to write a quote for the book jacket, I rifled through the preview pages, bookmarking a slew of recipes I plan to make.


The classics, often with a tasty twist, are well-represented here; Chocolate Velvet Poundcake, Lemon Bars (which are next on my list), and Chocolate Toffee Scones, are just a few. When I got my copy last week, I loved that the more challenging recipes have plenty of full-color photos, showing making and draping feather-light tuiles, rolling out a buttery slab of puff pastry, and crystal-clear shots of what yeasted breads look like each step of the bubbly way.

French peanut butter

There’s a misconception that you can’t get peanut butter in Paris, which isn’t quite true. Most ethnic stores carry certain brands and even the supermarkets, like my local Franprix, have started carrying jars of Skippy. The crunchy organic stuff, however, is still playing hard-to-get and it gets valuable real estate in my luggage on overseas trips. (Although I’m not a fan of excess plastic packaging, I appreciate those plastic jars and rest much better on the plane knowing that my clothing down in cargo won’t arrive slathered in peanut butter. And believe me, thanks to my Yankee thrift, that plastic jar gets re-used over and over and over again.)

This recipe takes Peanut Butter Cookies to the next level, with a puddle of gooey peanuty caramel filling the cookies. I had some crème fraîche in my fridge, which I used. But for you ‘substitutors’ out there, it was a bit too tangy, even for my taste. So I recommend sticking right up close to the ingredients that she calls for, including using regular smooth peanut butter, rather than the natural stuff. Otherwise the batter and the cookies will be dry and crumbly. Which doesn’t bother me in the least, since I can hoard my natural peanut butter for snack-time and not share it with anyone else.

So there.

peanut butter cookies

Cindy advises that you’ll likely have some of the filling leftover, and she was right; I had what looked like twice as much filling as necessary. So next time, I’m going to try making half a batch of the peanut caramel, although if you’re anything like me, I don’t think you’ll have a hard time figuring out what to do with it. It would make a scrumptious sauce for pouring over ice cream or as a dynamite glaze for a banana cake or muffins. I would say one could just drink it up, but that would make me a glutton for salted peanut caramel punishment, wouldn’t it? Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing, come to think of it.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanut Caramel
About 50 cookies

Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

Instead of making the peanut caramel filling, you could fill the holes with chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, or even a spoonful of jam. Concord grape jelly would be especially fun, for the peanut butter & jelly effect.

I also didn’t have salted peanuts (really…I’m not just hoarding them, like my natural peanut butter), and used plain roasted peanuts and added a sprinkle of fleur de sel over the cookies, just after I filled them with the peanut caramel. Yum!

For the cookie dough

  • 8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (200g) creamy salted peanut butter (see Note)
  • 1 3/4 cups (250g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the salted peanut caramel

1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or glucose
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (100g) finely chopped roasted salted peanuts

optional: 4 ounces bittersweet, semisweet, or milk chocolate, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

2. With an electric mixer, or by hand, make the cookie dough by beating the butter, brown and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. If using an electric mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Beat in the peanut butter.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and stir until there are no patches of flour.

5. Scoop up tablespoon-sized portions of the dough (Cindy, and I, recommend using a small ice cream or cookie scooper, to make it easier) and roll each piece between your hands so they’re as smooth as possible so they don’t crack at the edges when performing the next step.

Space them 1 1/2-inches (2 cm) apart on the baking sheets, then use the rounded end of a wooden spoon, or your thumb, to make a depression in each one. Don’t worry much if the sides crack; push them back together.

6. Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during cooking, until they are light-golden brown and the edges barely start to darken. Remove from oven, and while they’re warm, press in to reinforce each depression with the end of the wooden spoon. Let cool completely.

7. Make the salted peanut caramel by warming the cream in a saucepan or microwave, and setting it aside.

8. Cook the water, 1 cup sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a caramel, gently swirling the pan only if necessary (to ensure it melt and cooks evenly) until it turns a nice golden brown. (For detailed instructions, read my post How to make the perfect caramel.)

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the hot cream in a slow, steady stream.

9. Cool until warm and pourable, then add the chopped peanuts. Spoon some of the caramel into each cookie, letting it set for about an hour, if you want to drizzle them with chocolate. (Leftover caramel can be used to make Chocolate-covered salted peanut caramel cups.)

Storage: Cookies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for 3 to 4 days. The unbaked dough can be rolled into rounds and stored in a heavy-duty freezer bag in the refrigerator or freezer, until ready to bake.

Note: For best results, use regular smooth peanut butter, if available.

art&soul.jpg

48 comments

  • Whoa man those look good. I kind of want to eat the peanut caramel sauce with a spoon though and skip the cookie entirely.

    Thanks David!
    Nick
    http://www.macheesmo.com

  • Oh, David..these look outstanding! I love this idea of making them into thumbprint cookies filled with the caramel and crushed peanuts. This cookie recipe looks suspicously like the one I use, which is so good I just can’t imagine it getting any better, er..until now! I have been keeping a jar of your caramel sauce in the fridge at all times for the past two months and use it primarily to dip cookies in. The oreos (gasp!) have been flying out of the house dressed in this sauce! So good!

  • Ohhhhh!

    I have a fat new nephew who lives about an hour away by car. I’ve never been an “oh lookit the cute baby!” person, at least not until now. As anyone can tell from the rather heavy rotation he’s been getting on my blog, this little fatty has won a place in my heart.

    Since he arrived in September, I have been bartering with his mother–visits and baby-snuggling in exchange for freshly baked cookies and treats.

    Last time we met for coffee and nephew-cuddles, I learned his mom has an especially soft spot for peanut butter cookies. I suspect this recipe will be good for at least two or three visits!

    : )

  • those look delish.

    Oy no wonder you’re going nutty over there w/ the net going..well off. : P

  • these look sinful–what a treat-thanks David

  • Oh Billy, these look great.

  • As often, when I read articles on this blog, I’m thinking : “he’s got to be kidding”. I’m so making those cookies soon. But I have to go jog before. And after. Because I’m sure that once you taste one, stopping is not easy.

  • I want to make these for my husband, who is a peanut-butter-loving fiend, but also a health nut. (Seriously, he runs 10K every day. I don’t understand it. I just drink red wine.)

    Anyway, I really want to make these with organic peanut butter. If I replace part of the peanut butter called for with butter-butter, will that avoid the dryness? There’s got to be a way to get good peanut butter cookies without resorting to the trans-fattys. Please, David, help!

  • Wow, these look so good! One question: the recipe for the caramel lists water, salt and corn syrup as ingredients, but none of these show up in the directions for how to make the caramel. Do I mix these in with the sugar before heating, or …?

    Thanks in advance. Can’t wait to try these, although I’ll be attempting a dairy-free version.

    Grrrr..thanks for noting that. Since my internet connection goes down every 43 seconds, and I need to re-boot, I couldn’t re-check the recipe after posting. Will try and fix that…-dl

  • Oh David, this is so unfair… can’t you post low carb for a while?

  • These look amazing, and I want to add them to my cookie rotation this holiday season. I’ve always been a little intimidated by caramel, so I really appreciate all the tips. My only question on your recipe here is: when do you add the heavy corn syrup and coarse salt? After the heavy cream?

    Also, thank you for the cookbook recommendation. It looks absolutely amazing!

    Jenna: You add them in step #8, when making the caramel. Enjoy the cookies! -dl

  • A week ago, I was so excited to finally find peanut butter (SKIPPY smooth AND crunchy) at the supermarket (btw you can find them at Carrefour together with all exotic products labelled Produits du Monde!!!) and I even planned to make these cookies. But I realized today that there were 2 types of peanut butter one with sugar and one without and I didn’t know which one is referred to in all the peanut butter cookie recipes I’ve seen so far!!?
    Now it’s even worse: which cookies will I make 1st?? I mean: salted peanut caramel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could drink it! Yep!

  • My idea of the perfect cookie. Sweet and salty AND drizzled with chocolate. Talk about gilding the lily!
    What a recipe! I will use my precious peanut butter reserves to try this one.

  • Oh.
    My.
    God.

    My grandfather is a huge fan of peanut butter cookies – and salt – and caramel….all he’d need would be a tall glass of ice cold milk and a few green apple slices.

    Too delicious! I can’t wait for the next time I need something :P

  • These will be one of my christmas cookies this year…Thanks David

    check out my new foodblog….hope you like it :-)
    http://www.icelandicchef.blogspot.com

  • These cookies look as they can cure my broken heart.

  • My husband’s favorite: Peanut Butter Cookies.
    My favorite: Anything with caramel.
    Drizzle a little chocolate on top?
    Smiles all around.
    Thank you, David.
    This is tops on my “to bake” list, now.

    Cheers,

    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

  • Thanks David, good to know others love peanut butter as much as I do!

  • OMG these sound fantastic! thanks for sharing, david.

  • Cindy is a fabulous teacher. She was a fill-in instructor for a class of mine during an otherwise very forgettable culinary education. Thank your for sharing this recipe!

  • “The Art and Soul of Baking” is the heaviest cookbook ever. It weighs 5 1/2 pounds! It must have cost a fortune to mail a copy to you.
    The Nutella Biscotti with Hazelnuts and Chocolate were wonderful. The bananas foster bread pudding was a killer. Have you tried very many of the recipes? All of them I’ve tried so far are really, really good.

  • You can make your own natural style peanut butter in a good food processor. I do almond butter all the time. You’ll probably need to add a bit of peanut oil near the end, though usually the heat generated brings out the natural oils, it just depends on the nuts – it usually takes about 5 minutes total. You can also add a pinch of salt and sugar if you want to.

  • Kraft actually has these little caramel chips now…not nearly as tasty as this caramel but quick if you need a fix. I’ve taken to adding them to my chocolate chip cookies and then sprinkling them with a little coarse salt…these take that idea over the top. LOVED THEM!

  • Hot dang, and I thought Peanut Butter Buckeyes were the end-all in PB Heaven. Move over and hand me the caramels!

  • Hmmm..sounds like the cookie version of a snicker’s bar.

  • Salted peanut caramel… it doesn’t get any better!

  • David, these look absolutely irresistible and may very well wind up being the ‘gift cookies’ this year!

    A question about the preparation of the caramel…is there a possible substitution for the corn syrup, or is it possible to just omit it?

    Thanks so much for sharing these gorgeous treats ! :)

  • Aurora: The corn syrup is to prevent the caramel from crystallizing. You could use a pinch of cream of tartar or a little squeeze of lemon juice instead, although a small amount of an invert sugar, like corn syrup, will ensure it won’t crystallize once cooled.

    And for those with an aversion to corn syrup […not just you, Aurora : ) ], please note that this recipe makes 50 cookies, and there’s 1 tablespoon of corn syrup in the entire recipe, which is less than 1/16th of a teaspoon per cookie. Although that is assuming you don’t each the whole batch yourself. (Which I’m working on…)

    Then, it’s ayor!

  • Hi David,

    Can you please explain why you Yankees use corn syrup rather than just up the sugar levels. Is it possible to just replace the syrup with sugar in (the above) recipes?

    Thanks,
    Andrew

    Hi Andrew: If you read through the comments, above, I answered that. In Europe, professional bakers use glucose and products like trimoline, to prevent crystallization. Both serve the same function as corn syrup in candymaking -dl

  • Someone asked about peanut butter without trans fats… Smart Balance makes both smooth and crunchy pb without trans fats. It’s in regular supermarkets.

    Off topic, but people loved the cheesecake brownies I made from the recipe on the site last month! Giddy with praise, I will try these wonderful-sounding cookies for the holiday potluck at work.

  • Thanks for your suggestions David, very kind of you…

    Really enjoying reading your blog, and all the visual treats as well :)

    Cheers!

  • whoa mama — on my list for baking next!

    merci beaucoup!

    what i always found hilarious when i was living in France was the over-the-top red white & blue (& stars & stripes) packaging on the peanut butter jars. my friends thought that it was like joke food (?) or something. but it’s really a very wholesome thing to eat, and outstanding in a good peanut dipping sauce.

  • Oh mother have mercy….

    My oldest daughter and I are in the process of making these…

    The cookie dough is delicious, the caramel is amazing, now they just need to cool and have some chocolate drizzled on them.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  • I just made a batch of these special peanut butter cookies using Reeses brand creamy peanut butter. My husband loves peanut butter cookies. As I completed each step, I had him taste the cookie and caramel separately. He thought each of them tasted great on their own but once he tried try the finished cookie with the salted peanut caramel filling, he had a big smile on his face. It was just delicious! Tomorrow, I may just try it with a drizzle of melted chocolate. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    Now…what to do with the leftover caramel…

  • I just made these tonight and they’re great! A couple comments:

    1) The caramel instructions page you link to is for dry caramel, and I think what the recipe calls for is wet caramel. Maybe you could put up a link to a wet caramel tutorial? I figured it out eventually, thanks to the internet, but burned my first batch.

    2) The caramel recipe is a liiiiiitle short when halved–I think it could stretch to fill all the cookies, but you’d have to go pretty easy on each one. I halved it and ended up with about seven empty cookies.

    Tomorrow these are being sent off to my father (belated Father’s Day!) and my sister (new baby congrats!)–thanks so much for the fantastic recipe and for maintaining such a consistently interesting website.

  • Looks like an excellent cookie for holiday trading party. I think I will try it this weekend.

  • These are fantastic. They were the “new cookie” we tried for this year’s holiday cookie repertoire …. I think they’ll be on the permanent rotation!

  • david, these looked so perfect that i had to make them. and then, and then, a string of obscenities: http://commentcards.blogspot.com/2009/12/disaster.html

    but, i will persereve. salted caramel will not be my waterloo.

  • Regarding Emily’s comment about half of the caramel not being enough for all of the cookies… I heeded that advice and went ahead making the whole amount in David’s recipe above and had way, way, way too much. Which is great (endless possibilities of how to recycle it into something amazing), but just wanted to note my experience. If I had halved the recipe, I would have still probably had some caramel left over. David — yet again another recipe that is truly amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with all of us!!

  • hi Justin: Glad you liked the cookies! I used the leftover salted peanut caramel to make chocolate-covered salted peanut caramel cups. I added the link at the end of the recipe, too. Happy dipping!

  • These cookies are becoming popular. I like to test recipes on people at work before I make them for an event, and they were such a huge hit at work, I had requests to make them for birthdays and such.
    One thing I am having trouble with though, my dough seems to be dry (especially by the time I get to shaping the last 10 or so cookies). I tried reducing the flour by 1/4 cup the second time I made them, but the results were still about the same. This isn’t a fail because the cookies still form and obviously taste wonderful…they just look like little volcanoes (http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2010/03/10/artsy-photo-of-the-day-92/).
    Any suggestions for getting them flatter? The ones I tried to make flatter cracked horribly when I pushed the hole in the center with my wooden spoon. [For reference, I am using unbleached APF, new brown sugar (it’s not dry and old), and a popular commercial peanut butter that has the same name as a Disney character]
    Again — you are fantastic. Thank you!

  • Hi Justin: Am not sure why you’re having different results, especially if you’re using commercial peanut butter (which has additional fats added), so you might want to consult the original recipe in the book if you have it, for advice.

  • I don’t know which to exclaim first, GRRRRRRRRRRR or YUMMMMMMMM.

    I started off doing the caramel sauce, to get that out of the way first – since cookie dough I can handle – caramel – not so much.

    It took me 4 attempts. The first one was REALLY thin and a grayish beige color that just did not look right to me. The second batch burned to almost black. The third batch seemed to have the right color, but tasted burned, so I tossed it. The fourth attempt was still not right (I think), but usable (thank goodness since I ran out of cream). The color was perfect, but it just seemed too thin to me. When I think of caramel, I think of gooey and sticky. Maybe my idea of what this should have been like is wrong. I did add some butter in with the milk because I like a more buttery flavor to my caramel, but I don’t think that is what kept it on the thin side because it was thin before I add it. So, to make it hold together better, I added more peanuts. The taste, no matter what I managed to do wrong, was DELICIOUS.

    The cookie part, like I said, was easy. They cracked a bit on the edges as I put the spoon into them, but that was minor.

    The caramel sauce did its job on the cookie, and stayed in place without being runny.

    The only other small issue, was that I did not have any couveture in the house, so I drizzled them with some Ghiradelli semi-sweet baking chocolate. Tasted delicious, but will be messy.

    So, besides all of this, I gave them to my mom who LOVES peanut butter cookies (the only kind of cookie that she really likes) – she wiped out about a quarter of the cookies in a half hour! She’s already put in her ‘order’ for them in the future.

    Any ideas on what I did wrong on the caramel sauce, or is this how it’s supposed to be? I had plenty leftover, so my next challenge will be your chocolate cups with the caramel sauce. Of course, I’m about as good at tempering chocolate as I am with caramel, so I might be eating them with a spoon, but how can that possibly be bad????

  • Hi LR: It’s probably best for you to check against the original recipe in the book if you’re not having the same results as I am.

    For some caramelization tips, you might want to check out my post on How to Make Caramel, which has pictures to show how far to darken the sugar. Good luck!

  • I love this cookbook – so nicely written and photographed. I have made these cookies several times in the last 2 months and filled them with homemade strawberry jam (added with about 3 – 4 minutes left to the baking) and with chocolate ganache. All yummy! But I wanted to point out that I did use “natural” peanut butter, with great success – they weren’t crumbly or dry. I used a local brand (you may know it – the Food Mill, in Oakland), and also another organic kind that I ground to order – and both times the cookies were moist and chewy.

  • Oh my. Oh my oh my..

    These look too sinful. I’m a peanut butter lover to the extreme. I just made a batch of your salted butter caramels tonight and for a first attempt they look alright. I’ll find out tomorrow if they’re too runny or not. Maybe I’ll try my hand at these bad boys for the holidays. Although I’d have to superglue my mouth shut or there would be no coookies left..

  • I made these delicious cookies today in a sort of dry run before deciding which cookies to include in my Christmas gift packages. I absolutely loved the peanut butter cookie and the flavor of the caramel was wonderful, but I am worried about shipping them because the filling is quite soft and a bit more loose than I had hoped. Any suggestions for making it somewhat more like Snickers or Milky Way type of filling?

  • With the holiday cookie season coming up and a half-full jar of peanut butter, I thought the right course of action would be to make a batch of these.

    (Let’s ignore my forgetting to make the depressions BEFORE baking and ending up with giant cracks on the sides because I made the indentations right after removing them from the oven).

    Oh man. By far the best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had – just dense enough, not overly sweet, and far more full of roasty-nutty goodness than any other peanut butter cookie (or a spoonful of peanut butter – don’t judge me).

    Unfortunately I had no heavy cream, so I just used the leftover peanut butter to fill the centers. Was it the right thing to do? I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t harm the cookies any.