Peanut Butter Sandies

Baking isn’t always fun. You have to follow the directions minutely. I have spent many white-knuckled nights with cakes that wouldn’t cool, custards that set too fast, and piecrusts that glued themselves to the counter. Baking is the high-stakes challenge of the home kitchen, and I like a quiet life. Thus, baking is a gentle chapter for me.

Except for my peanut butter cookies, which have a cup of revenge stirred in. My career as a stay-at-home mother lasted all of four months and is remembered by all as one long nervous breakdown. It’s not like I was powering through a high-octane Wall Street career before I became a mom; in fact, I was a freelance writer and spent most days having unstructured time at home in my pajamas. But when the baby arrived, I didn’t know what to do with him all day, or what to do with myself when I couldn’t read and write and cook as I pleased.

It wasn’t pretty.

One of my few solaces was the walk from our apartment in the West Village to a bakery in Chelsea, where the peanut butter cookies were (and are) nourishing in every way. They are salty and sweet, soft and sandy, rich and caramelized at the same time. I spent so much time there that I finally braved the strangeness of breast-feeding in public, a distinctly odd feeling until you’ve done it. When feeding my soul with that cookie and my baby with milk at the same time, I felt a little less dark about the future.

Many prescriptions later, when I had recovered my senses and made the leap from stringer to New York Times staff reporter, I confessed my feelings to the bakery’s owner and asked for the recipe. It wasn’t for publication—I was pregnant again and living uptown, too far to walk with a stroller, and I wanted to ensure a steady stream of peanut butter cookies for myself.

Not to sound grand, but as a reporter for the Times Dining section, when I ask someone for a recipe, I generally get it. Not from this chef, who felt it was important for him to protect his intellectual property.

I (obviously) sulked over this for years.

Sulking didn’t help.

What helped? Finding the recipe online, posted by a home cook who had taken a cooking class with the owner. She didn’t even like the cookies, but she’d heard that other people had a thing for them. The recipe worked like a charm the first time out. I’ve since improved upon it. It may have taken years, but revenge was sweet—and chunky

Peanut Butter Sandies

The City Bakery is one of my favorite places to eat in New York, a bustling all-day canteen that serves all kinds of New Yorkers and all kinds of food—sweet and savory, breakfast and lunch, blueberry muffins and banh mi. Everything is good and some things are great, like the pretzel croissants and the sandy-soft peanut butter cookies. The City Bakery reminds me of the New York subway system (in a good way), because it’s democratic and efficient, and the people-watching opportunities are great. As far as I know, its only flaw is that the owner refused to give me this recipe when I asked for it. So I managed to acquire this bootleg copy, posted online by a home cook who once took a cooking class with him. Note there is no leavening in the dough, so the cookies will not spread out or rise while baking.–Julia Moskin

LC Crumbly, Sweetly, Salty Peanut Buttery Goodness Note

These cookies are slightly crumbly yet tender mounds of sweetly and salty peanut buttery goodness. Enough said.

Peanut Butter Sandies Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 50 M
  • Makes about 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 1/4 cups (18 ounces) peanut butter, creamy or chunky, it matters not
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and position the oven rack in the center position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated and brown sugars, and salt until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter and eggs and mix well. Add the flour and mix just until well combined.
  • 3. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop the dough (2 to 3 teaspoons per cookie) onto the baking sheets, leaving a 1-inch space between them. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  • 4. Bake until golden, 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the size. Slide the parchment paper and the cookies onto a wire rack and let cool. The cookies will be very crumbly, especially when warm.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Kate S.

Feb 06, 2013

Dangerously good. If you’re even contemplating a diet, stay far, far away from these cookies. I followed the recipe exactly as written for the first batch, but couldn’t resist adding 2 cups of chocolate chips and a generous teaspoon of vanilla to the second batch. They were irresistible both ways. They’re very crumbly cookies and I’m glad the recipe warned that these don’t spread at all in the oven, otherwise I would’ve worried I did something wrong. Try to make the scoops of dough as neat and tidy as possible before putting them in the oven because they’ll look exactly the same when you take them out (if you’re worried about such things). I used flaky sea salt both in the cookie and to sprinkle on top and it provided the perfect level of saltiness and crunch; this isn’t the place for table salt. I have a tendency to reduce the amount of sugar in baked goods by up to half but I don’t recommend doing that in this recipe because you need the stated amount of sugar to ensure the sandy texture. Plus, I didn’t find them to be overly sweet for my taste.

Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Feb 06, 2013

I have to confess that I’ve been on an almond butter kick lately, so that’s what I used in this Sandies recipe instead of peanut butter. I brought these cookies to my husband’s tennis match today and boy did these cookies fly off the serving tray quickly! I loved the rich, buttery flavor of these cookies combined with their sandy quality. There’s the perfect amount of nut butter to flour in my opinion. I like the salty-sweet combo achieved by sprinkling the tops of the cookies with a bit of salt. Overall, these addictive and tasty treats were a big hit! Next time I’ll be sure and try them with peanut butter as recommended. The only comment I have on the recipe itself is that they actually took 15 minutes to bake until they were golden. After checking them at 10 minutes, they were still pretty soft in texture.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Feb 06, 2013

We’re not huge fans of peanut butter cookies, but this cookie won us over. It has a great texture—firm but a little on the crumbly side—although we especially liked the taste. The peanut butter flavor was subtler than what’s found in most peanut butter cookies.

Testers Choice
Ayanna Fews

Feb 06, 2013

I absolutely LOVED this cookie! I loved them so much that shortly after making them, I had to pack up the majority of them and take them to a friend’s house because I clearly couldn’t be trusted to be alone with them in the house! The texture of this cookie was perfect, a true “sandy” texture, and they were so soft and had a wonderful peanut buttery taste. I used creamy peanut butter. I loved the addition of the salt—whatever you do, don’t leave off the salt! When you catch that bit of salt, it takes this cookie to another level. I never thought that I’d rave about a “simple” peanut butter cookie, but this one was truly special. My friend and her family all loved these cookies and couldn’t stop coming back for more! I had to quickly leave after the drop-off because I wanted to start back in on eating them! These cookies are very fragile when you first take them out the oven. They really do need some time to cool on the parchment paper before moving them to the rack. This’ll definitely be one of the cookies in my Christmas gifts. I’ve already been thinking about other variations on this “sandie” cookie—I think next time I’ll make it with Nutella!

Testers Choice
Anne Petito

Feb 06, 2013

This is one of the easiest, least stressful, and tastiest cookies I’ve ever made. The ingredients are few and basically what I have on hand in the house anyway. I also love the recipe’s ratios because it’s easy to halve and/or double as desired. The cookies don’t spread out, as promised, which I appreciated because I could fit a larger amount on the sheet without worrying about the cookies melding together. The recipe only instructs one to scoop the dough onto the sheet but I rolled the dough into balls just so they were all even and this worked well. I used creamy peanut butter but I imagine chunky would be just as tasty and give the cookie added texture. The light sprinkling of salt at the end is key! Yes, these cookies are crumbly, but in a wonderful and not unmanageable way. These are light and peanut buttery but very balanced and highly addictive. A new addition to my cookie jar for sure!

Testers Choice
Jenna Helwig

Feb 06, 2013

When I saw this recipe I jumped at it. I LOVE the peanut butter cookies at City Bakery. They’re so dense and creamy. Mmmm. I had high hopes for this recipe and they were pretty much realized. I find that peanut butter cookies often seem greasy, but not these; they had a lovely smooth texture and a rich peanut buttery taste. One caveat: Despite what the author wrote, my cookies did spread somewhat. Also, as long as I let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet I didn’t have any problem transferring them off the sheet.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Feb 06, 2013

I really love the ease with which I can put this cookie dough together. It doesn’t take long and is practically mess-free. This could be pulled together quickly if I needed a treat or light snack for a surprise or last-minute visit from family or friends. This cookie has intense peanut butter flavor in a delicate bite-size nugget—the flavor is much bigger than the appearance of these little cookies would lead you to expect. They really are delicious, and I couldn’t stop at just one cookie. After reading in the recipe that the cookies wouldn’t rise or spread, I lightly shaped them into flat rounds. This worked well and produced a cookie pretty enough for teatime, but packed with enough flavor for dessert. It was a knockout and I’ll be making them again.

Testers Choice
Renee H.

Feb 06, 2013

I love all things peanut butter so I was excited to try this recipe. When I read the description, however, I was a little worried. I like my cookies crisp on the outside and chewy in the center, yet these were described as “crumbly,” and me-no-likey crumbly. I halved the recipe since we had a busy weekend ahead—or maybe it was because I didn’t want to devour 3 to 4 dozen cookies by myself, I can’t remember which—and used dark brown sugar instead of light because that was what I had. I’m an avid underbaker, but even still I left these babies in for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges were just a tad golden. The end result is an ever so slightly crumbly yet tender mound of sweet and salty peanut buttery goodness.

Testers Choice
Eydie Desser

Feb 06, 2013

Quick and easy to put together and so yummy! These delicious little peanut buttery-tasting cookies, as promised, came out to be “sandy” and light, not cloying like a mouthful of peanut butter. I used Skippy extra chunky peanut butter. The recipe says to scoop out 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter for each cookie to yield 2 to 3 dozen cookies. My cookies were a little over 2 teaspoons each and were perfect three-bite pieces. Mine also took 12 to 14 minutes to lightly brown. So wonderful. Will make these again and again.

Testers Choice
Jean Moats

Feb 06, 2013

These cookies are delicious and easy to make. It’s hard to eat just one. I usually use kosher salt in my baking, but since the recipe said to sprinkle salt on top, I chose sea salt with a finer grain. The salt adds something to the taste but I’m not sure that it’s necessary. I used a small scoop that holds 3 teaspoons. I ended up with 86 cookies, which isn’t a bad thing since they’re delicious.

Testers Choice
Colleen Bloxham

Feb 06, 2013

Oh, but I do love peanut butter and this recipe, my friends, doesn’t disappoint. When a recipe calls for as much PB as flour, I know in my heart it’ll be a winner. This is delightfully rich, sinful, and pure yumminess, as all good cookies should be. The dough comes together quickly and easily, then a small ice cream scoop doles it out nicely onto the cookie sheet. The cookies are a bit delicate when they’re just out of the oven, so a gentle touch really helps. I used a PB that has nothing but peanuts because I find the ones with all the added sugar make things like this too sweet. I especially loved the finishing touch of salt, which lent a savory side to the sandies and made me smile.

Comments
Comments
  1. gili says:

    how funny that last night as i was baking the portuguese orange-olive oil cake so that my husband could take some to snack on during his golf game this morning, my son should walk into the kitchen and ask me could i bake some peanut butter cookies (peanut butter is his favorite), and i get this recipe this morning, it’s a sign i have to make these right away they sound divine.

    • David Leite says:

      gill, as I say, never look a gift cookie in the mouth. (But I strongly urge you to put one–or six–in your mouth.)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      gili, just curious what you and your son thought of the sandies…

  2. I am not a huge peanut butter fan but I remember way back when the school cafeteria ladies made sandy peanut butter cookies. We always tried to beg a second one. These look worthy of a try.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Abbe, we promise you, these too are worth begging a second if not a third and fourth….

  3. Laura R says:

    These may be the best cookies I’ve ever made. Wonderful!

  4. Janet Stein says:

    Delicious baking for a snowy Sunday. All of my sweet and salty taste buds are humming! I, too, had to bake these for a bit longer – about 15-18 minutes. I’ll be bringing them to Dinner-and-Downton Abbey tonight. Thanks, David. Cheers!

    Peanut Butter Sandies Recipe

  5. Carter says:

    Are we talking a “natural” type of peanut butter here vs. a more commercial brand containing sugar, like Skippy? Or does it matter? No one has specified what type they’ve used.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Carter, our testers used both a natural peanut butter and a commercial brand, and loved them both ways. I think that you could use either to great success.

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