My favorite cookie when I was a kid was the classic Peanut Butter Kiss my grandmother made, warm from the oven with the chocolate kiss on top still soft. Someone far more clever than I had the brilliant idea of subbing in Hershey’s Hugs—what Hershey’s describes as a Hershey’s milk chocolate hugged by sweet white cream—and adding some food coloring to the dough make Valentine’s cookies (hers were bright fuchsia and super fun).
I dialed it down a bit and added just a few squirts of red to the dough and then rolled them in red sugar leftover from Christmas baking. Also, you might notice from my photos that in a moment of a peanut butter addict’s overkill, I added 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips to my grandmother’s recipe. Go for it. Or don’t. (But I say go for it.) Finally, if you live near a Vons, Pavilions or Safeway supermarket, their generic Organics “O” Creamy Peanut Butter is my favorite for baking.
Peanut Butter Hugs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup organic creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup Spectrum All-Vegetarian Organic Shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
2-3 squirts red food coloring
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (optional)
Red sugar for dusting
36 Hershey’s Hugs, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together peanut butter, shortening and granulated and brown sugars, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on medium until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.
With the mixer on low, add the food coloring and flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in peanut butter chips, if using. Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll in colored sugar.
Place on two un-greased cookie sheets, with about 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes, switching cookie sheets between racks about halfway through. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie. (Cookie will crack around edges.)
Using a spatula, move cookies from sheet to baking rack and allow to cool completely. Makes about 36 cookies.