Sunday, December 25, 2011

Flourless peanut butter cookies

December 26th is Boxing Day, which means that you should really give the servants a day off, and present them with their Christmas boxes of leftover food from your feast, and some alms as well.

I personally have never had a maid, or lived in a house serviced by a maid.  My mother kept house, and also cleaned and maintained my grandmother's home for her entire life, including when I was very small. I know people who have maids now, but when I was growing up I only knew two families who had maids: The Brady Bunch and the nice rich lady I took art lessons from in my neighborhood.

The live-in maid at the rich lady's house wore a starched blue uniform (just like Alice) and would answer the door when I came with my mother after school.  I'd go to the lady's basement, which was set up as an enormous studio.  There was (and the memory is so clear I know that my mind isn't creating a retrospective fantasy) a ceiling-to-floor reproduction of  Georges Seurat's masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte on an entire wall.
There was every art supply imaginable, spanning from canvases of every size, to poster paints, to tissue paper, acrylics, oil paints, smocks, brushes, and clay.

Art was this woman's passion, and although she certainly didn't need the spare change she got from giving lessons, she wanted to share that passion with others.  Despite the fact she was giving art lessons to kids she took her work very seriously--the beginning of the sessions she would show us examples of techniques in famous paintings that she liked, and then we could create works of our own, using whatever medium we chose, as she guided us.  I remember painting lots of unicorns, hearts and rainbows (it was the 80s, and I was a little girl) and making lots of clay horses.  She never censored me, but instead showed me how to use different media, brush strokes and techniques so I learned from painting what was then my favorite subjects.  Then I'd wash my hands before I went home.  I remember first realizing that she must be rich because she had perfumed liquid soap (we only had bars of Ivory at home) and the bathroom sink had hand-carved, rose-shaped soaps she had made herself, which I knew instinctively not to use.

Since I have a rather asocial disposition, I've never wanted a maid, but the idea of an in-house art studio has its attractions. Although, after a certain point, unless you're very, very talented and dedicated indeed, attempts at art are no longer seen as cute crafts but instead as another 'c' word, with 'p' substituting for the 'ft.' 

I am very grateful for those art lessons--particularly since it was not something this woman 'needed' to do in a material sense, but rather was her way of taking advantage of the opportunities she had been given and using them well.

Baking for me, I suppose, absorbs some of my crafty energy. I made these cookies as a Christmas present for a gluten-intolerant friend. One of the nice things about flourless desserts is that they are so 'safe'--although there are gluten-free baking mixes and flours out there, not everyone can tolerate them equally well.

I made a version of this recipe when I started baking several years ago (called 'one-two-three-peanut butter-sugar-egg cookies'). It wasn't that impressed, but these came out much better. The addition of baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla seemed to help give the cookies a bit more structure and body.

There are many variations you can try with these cookies, so long as the add-ins don't contain gluten. Chocolate chips, peanuts, even jam 'thumbprint' cookies would work, as would topping it with a Hershey's Kiss for a classic peanut butter blossom.

Because this is such a fast, one-bowl recipe, it's also very easy to clean up, which is nice even if you do have a maid and don't observe Boxing Day. On some nights Alice needs to have her date with Sam the Butcher.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

-yields 12-15 large cookies-


1 cup of peanut butter (smooth, not a natural, separated variety)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 beaten, large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Incorporate peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a bowl, slowly stir in vanilla, baking soda, and cinnamon.

3. Scoop out dough onto the parchment sheets, make a 'criss-cross' shape with the tines of a fork.

4. Bake 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges.  Cool before removing from baking sheets.

Warning: these cookies are more fragile and delicate than 'normal' peanut butter cookies.


  1. She sounds extraordinary! Everyone always wants me to take up art again except I'm afraid it would be 'crap', as you said! I'll make these for my gf-free girlfriend! :)

  2. @Blonde Duck--I would give it a try, if people are encouraging you! Most people try to subtly discourage their friends from giving them crafts, so that's a good sign that they want you to take it up again!