Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
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Packed with Peanuts

dining_HotPlateWith June 12 rapidly approaching, I decided to prepare for National Peanut Butter Cookie Day. These snacks formed the basis of my first cooking lesson; placing balls of dough on a cookie sheet and smashing them with the tines of a fork to form the characteristic matrix on top. My mom only allowed cookies that we made from scratch, so needless to say I was frequenting the kitchen by the time of my seventh birthday.

Three cookie recipes calling for chopped peanuts were included in a pamphlet issued by George Washington Carver in 1916. The recipe booklet was an attempt to stimulate demand for the ground nut crop which could replace boll weevil-infested cotton. Peanut butter came into vogue in the 1920s, and in 1923 a Pillsbury cookbook instructed bakers to press the cookie with a fork, presumably to facilitate even cooking of the dense dough. Traditional recipes use 45 percent less flour per cup of fat than do chewy cookies like the Toll House, giving them their signature crumbly texture.

Here in Santa Cruz at Brendon's Bakery (previously the Westside Beckmann's), the vanilla-scented 1.5-ounce Peanut Butter Cookies ($1) contained chips of peanut, were unusually smooth-domed and perfectly crumbly.

An intense peanut aroma wafted from Pacific Cookie Company's two-ounce cookie ($1). It fell into fine crumbles that practically melted in my mouth. It was the only cookie I found that was pressed with a grid pattern. I'm not a purist, really, I do favor the chocolate chip version.

The almost three-ounce cookie at The Buttery ($1.65) was sweet, loaded with peanut halves, and interestingly a bit crumbly and chewy at the same time.

If you must have a chewy cookie, Gayle's in Capitola ($1.25) is that and more. The 1.7-ounce cookie was dotted with peanut halves, and also incorporated big chunks of chocolate.

I'm really glad there's some milk in the fridge.

Brendon's, 2341 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 423-2566. Pacific Cookie Co., 1203 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 429-6905. Buttery, 702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-3020. Gayle's, 504 Bay Ave., Capitola, 462-1200.

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