The Original Peanut Butter Blossoms

published Dec 3, 2021
christmas
Peanut Blossoms Recipe

The signature Hershey's Kiss-topped cookie has remained popular for decades.

Makes3 dozen (2-inch) cookies

Prep30 minutes

Cook13 minutes to 17 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: JoJo Li

This recipe is from our Cookie Time Machine — a trip through the most iconic cookies of the past 10 decades, paired with 10 fresh twists for right now. Click here to see the most important cookies of the 1920s through today — and gaze forward with our Cookie of the Future!

Pinning down a cookie to represent the 1960s wasn’t easy, but in the end the peanut butter blossom was crowned the winner. Here’s why.

Coming out of the conformity of the 1950s, the 1960s are known today for their radical politics. Peace activists rejecting the military industrial complex; hippies rebelling against social strictures; feminists fighting back against a patriarchy that prevented women from having careers, affordable childcare, even owning a credit card; and Civil Rights activists fighting for their lives. But while the world was changing considerably, for most children, home life was not. There were still Saturday morning cartoons (although by the end of the decade, Fred Rogers and the Children’s Television Workshop were trying to change that with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street), there was still plenty of sugary cereal to be had, and, for the most part, moms and grandmas still stayed home and cooked. 

And there lies the rub. For although much of the social and political life in the United States was undergoing some pretty radical upheaval, change was slow in coming. Some movements were catching on pretty quickly. In fashion, the formality of the ‘50s was giving way to a more casual attitude about fashion, as girdles loosened and hemlines rose. Some women even dared to revive the wartime tradition of wearing pants. Technology was also rapidly changing, as Kennedy’s Moon Shot program ultimately resulted in spaceships that put a man on the moon — mere science fiction just a decade before. And while astronaut ice cream wouldn’t arrive until the end of the decade, the technological advances of food companies were making deep inroads into the American kitchen.

The 1960s were a tipping point of a shift in home cooking, moving away from scratch recipes and toward corporate-assisted cooking — using packaged foods as the primary ingredients in making a meal. From gelatin and whipped topping desserts (Cool Whip wasn’t invented until 1966) to the infamous French onion dip made with dried soup mix, the touch of corporate America was often felt on American plates. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: JoJo Li

While backlash against industrial food was also brewing, it too was slow-moving. The burgeoning environmental movement began to have national impact in the 1960s, but the full effects would not be felt until the following decade. Concerned about increasing industrial pollutants, a lack of knowledge about food systems and the ingredients in processed foods, and rejecting the consumerist lifestyle so embraced in the 1950s, Americans in the 1960s were looking for something a little different. While corporate America still held ultimate power over the majority of American food systems, other priorities were emerging. 

As complicated as the 1960s were, the cookies of the era were much simpler. Take the Peanut Butter Blossom. Although it was first introduced to the world at the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off Competition (which it did not win — an injustice that still burns for many fans), by the 1960s the cookie had taken American kitchens by storm. The recipe was printed on the back of Hershey’s Kisses bags, so soon it was on cookie plates throughout the country. Combining a chewy peanut butter cookie with a Hershey’s Kiss, the cookie broke the typical holiday cookie mold. 

Freda Smith of Gibsonberg, Ohio, had originally conceived of the cookie for her grandchildren. The apocryphal story goes that while making the cookies, she realized she was out of chocolate chips for her peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, so she substituted a Hershey’s Kiss. Freda was an active and experienced baker and had entered every Pillsbury Bake-Off Competition since the first in 1949. Even though her cookie did not win the grand prize, her Black Eyed Susans (renamed Peanut Butter Blossoms by Pillsbury) were inducted into the Pillsbury Bake-Off Hall of Fame in 1999 for the 50th Anniversary.

The Peanut Blossom cookie represented the 1960s well on holiday cookie trays. All-American peanut butter combined with Hershey’s chocolate made it extremely kid-friendly and a welcome respite from the more traditional white sugar, almond, and ginger cookies that typically graced Christmas tables. The casual simplicity of the recipe also fit the 1960s, as mothers increasingly traded the more formal dresses of the 1950s for more comfortable dressing gowns and pantsuits. 

The Modern Twist

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: JoJo Li

For a modern take on The Original Peanut Butter Blossoms, check out the Coconut Macaroon Blossoms.

Our Three Most-Loved Cookie-Baking Tools

Before you preheat the oven, gear up with these cookie-making essentials.

  • The Sheet Pan Every Kitchn Editor Owns: This sturdy, won’t-ever-warp pan is great for cranking out a ton of picture-perfect sweets. Bonus: It comes in great colors, which makes baking even more fun.
  • Our Tried-and-Tested Favorite Cooling Rack: We love these racks for their criss-cross design, which adds stability, makes sure your precious treats won’t slip though, and prevents the rack from wobbling or warping.
  • The Little Spatula That Every Baker Needs: This thin-but-sturdy spatula is great for gently loosening your cookies from the pan and transferring them to the cooling rack. It’s particularly handy for moving small or delicate treats.

Peanut Blossoms Recipe

The signature Hershey's Kiss-topped cookie has remained popular for decades.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 13 minutes to 17 minutes

Makes 3 dozen (2-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray or shortening, for greasing the baking sheets (optional)

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 3/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, such as Pillsbury

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup

    room temperature shortening, such as Crisco

  • 1/2 cup

    room temperature creamy peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 36 chocolate Hershey’s Kisses

Instructions

  1. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or shortening, or line with parchment paper. Place 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a small, shallow bowl.

  2. Place 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Place 1/2 cup shortening and 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

  4. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add in the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, then continue beating until well combined, scraping down the sides as needed, about 1 minute. Add 1 large egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat until combined.

  5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

  6. Scoop the dough out into 36 (rounded tablespoon) portions. Roll each into a ball. Roll each ball in the granulated sugar and place on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2-inches apart, 18 per sheet.

  7. Bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until small cracks appear in the dough, about 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, unwrap 36 chocolate Hershey’s Kisses.

  8. Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Immediately press a chocolate kiss gently into the center of each cookie so the cookie becomes a round with cracked edges. Return to the oven and bake until the cookies are just firm, 3 to 5 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The cooled cookies can be stored in a single layer in an airtight container (or separate layers with parchment paper or aluminum foil) at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Recipe adapted from the 9th Grand National Cook Book — 100 Prize-Winning Recipes from Pillsbury's Best 9th Grand National Bake-Off, published in 1958.