This recipe is for anyone reminiscing about old school lunches from back in the '70s. Up until about 1979 I was embarrassed to admit that I liked school lunches, but it turns out I'm not alone. Growing up in San Antonio, school lunches were good -- especially the Wednesday enchiladas and chocolate cake. It had a touch of cinnamon in it, but was not quite the same as classic Texas Sheet Cake. But what I remember most were the 10 cent peanut butter cookies. I've tried to recreate them with butter, but the only ones that truly come close are shortening peanut butter cookies. These have just the texture I remember.
You can find similar recipes by searching for "School Lunch Peanut Butter Cookies" or more specifically "Chicago Public School Peanut Butter Cookies". This version is based on a recipe from Anne Byrn (otherwise known as The Cake Mix Doctor). Snoop Dogg also has a really good peanut butter cookie recipe. I like it so much I finally just gave his Rolls Royce PB-Chocolate Chip Cookies their own page. But I think Anne Byrn's are more like the old school cafeteria cookies in terms of crumbly, sandy texture.
Anne Byrn's Maria Catholic High Version
Anne Byrn included this recipe in American Cookie, an interesting book that includes some history behind popular American cookies. She adapted it from a recipe featured in a 1961 Chicago Tribune profile of the cafeteria manager at Maria Catholic High School in Marquette Park. At Maria Catholic, Sister Maria Trinita baked the shortening peanut butter cookies for 1300 lucky girls. If you buy the book you can read all the little stories behind where these cookies come from! It's not her newest book, but it's one of her best.
Sadie's Peanut Butter Cookies
Also, if you are interested in trying another version, check out Sadie's Peanut Butter Cookies, another one close to the old school lunch peanut butter cookies. The only catch with Sadie's is you need to have cake flour. And her recipe calls for a mixture of shortening and butter.
School Lunchroom Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, weigh or sift before measuring (200 grams) -- See note
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup shortening (Crisco) (98 grams)
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter, sweetened type (130 grams)
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar, packed (110 grams)
- ½ cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons for rolling (100 grams)
- 1 large egg (54 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Have ready two ungreased baking sheets.
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and just ½ cup of the granulated sugar.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the side of the bowl. When fully blended, stir in the flour mixture to makes a dough.
- Put the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar on a large dinner plate or in a little bowl.
- Using a rounded tablespoon or a small cookie scoop, scoop dough and form 1 inch balls. Roll in the reserved sugar. Alternatively, you can just drop the dough directly onto ungreased baking sheets.
- Dip a dampened fork in sugar and press the cookies down, making a cross-hatch pattern. If you rolled the balls in te sugar, you don't have to dampen the fork.
- Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes (check at 8 if you made your cookies smaller or if your oven runs hot). I like to bake these pretty thoroughly so that they have nicely browned and slightly crunchy edges.
- Let the cookies cool and serve.