originally came to me from my maternal grandmother. Back in the day, she mixed this by hand, with a wooden spoon, in the large yellow bowl I inherited from her. The first time I made the recipe by myself I marveled at upper arm strength of that little lady. I couldn't make the dough
budge! I needed a electric hand mixer, which burned out by the time I got the dough together. As a result, I didn't make these cookies very often. Having to buy a new hand mixer everytime I made these cookies made them too expensive.
Three years ago my parents gave me a Kitchen-Aide stand mixer for Christmas. I was floored! I couldn't believe they would get me such a cool, and expensive, gift. The first thing I made in that mixer were these cookies. My stepfamily had never had them because they were just too expensive to make. Everyone loved them and they've become a staple of our Christmas cookie baking tradition.
2 cups shortening
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
1 jar of peanut butter, 18 ounces **
5 cups flour, well sifted
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
** Find the cheapest peanut butter you can. Generic works well. The brand name peanut butters on the market do not give you enough peanut butter flavor, in my opinion. Organic peanut butters work well, if you don't mind mixing the peanut butter together first. Don't skimp on the vanilla extract. If you can afford it, get the best extract you can find.
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line up your baking sheets and, if you have Silpats, line your baking sheets with them. With the amount of fat and oil in this recipe, the cookies don't usually stick to the baking sheets, but using Silpat just makes clean up easier.
In a small bowl, crack your four eggs. Beat them well and then set them aside. In the largest bowl you have (five quarts is just big enough for this recipe) put in the shortening, sugar, peanut butter, extract and then add the eggs. Mix these ingredients together until creamy smooth. In a sifter, place the flour, baking soda and salt; slowly sift in the dry ingredients to the creamy mixture. Sift in about a cup at a time, mixing the dry into the creamy between cups. By the time you get the last cup of dry ingredients into the bowl, you will have a sore arm or a burned out mixer.
I don't usually chill the dough before I begin baking. The choice is yours. I use a measured tablespoon to place the dough on the baking sheets. They are half round and I then use a fork to flatten them out, making the traditional cross-hatch pattern on the dough. I can get 16 cookies on a baking sheet this way. The entire recipe makes roughly 90 cookies. I say roughly because we eat the raw dough as we go, so I don't know, exactly, how many cookies this recipe is supposed to make. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes and place on a rack to cool.