Oh, those sweet lunch ladies back in the day…they had their special lunch lady secrets, didn’t they? Billy and I still talk about the fabulous soft, chewy peanut butter cookies we used to get at school. What made them so special? Are we just imagining how good they were? Let's face it, nearly every kid would be thrilled to get cookies with their lunch, right? Maybe we were over thinking it, making it all up in our heads. But--he and I didn’t go to school together at all. He moved around when he was a kid, and went to different school districts, and still had those old school peanut butter cookies on his mind.
I don’t think we were imagining it. No, I don’t. I think there’s a Lunch Lady Secret Society, like the Masons or Skull and Bones. I think they’re sworn in, given their hairnets and plastic gloves, and then sworn to secrecy. Secrets that they will take to the grave. Secrets that can only be passed from one lunch lady to the next, in the cloak of darkness, at school cafeterias all over the country. Leaving us all to wonder…”What the heck did they DO to make those cookies so good?!”
Or…maybe if I’d had asked, they would have shared their secret. While I tend to believe the latter, I really like to imagine the former. It’s more fun that way!
I talked before on the blog about cracking the lunch lady PB cookie code. I thought I had. Silly me, I should have known it couldn’t be that simple. Well, it is actually simple--I just didn’t have it quite right. Right after posting those cookies, a long time reader (seriously, like from the beginning of my blog!), Jen B. contacted me and told me she had the secret. When she asked if I was interested, I almost thought we’d have to meet in secrecy, for fear of retaliation from the Lunch Lady Secret Society. Would we need disguises? Should I change cars every so many miles? Have I been watching too many movies?
No. Turns out none of that was necessary. Jen said she’d email the recipe to me when she got home from work. So yeah, too much TV for me, I guess. Haha! It turns out that Jen went to school not too far from where I did, and her school district published a cookbook. It seems everyone wanted Velma Houle’s (Jen calls her the “Queen of School Lunch”) PB cookie recipe.
Are you ready for the secret? Ok. Lock your doors, and close the curtains. Be sure no one is reading over your shoulder. Here goes:
14 lbs peanut butter
5 lbs Honey
3 lbs butter
From the school lunch program 1950 – 1985 Velma Houle, retired food service director.
That’s it! Jen assured me that yes, there are only three ingredients. How simple is that? She said they also used that mixture for pb and grape jelly sandwiches, and another treat I’m going to make and share with you later.
I scaled it down and mixed the three ingredients together. It was a lot looser than I expected, but I’m guessing it was because I used an organic peanut butter instead of a major brand. So I used the mixture in my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. I fully intend to try this again using just the three ingredients. I’ll be sure to report back to you how it goes!
Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 75 (3 inch) cookies, or a lot of smaller ones.
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter, room temp
1/2 cup shortening, room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
Peanut butter mixture (see below)
1 (10 oz) bag Mini Reese's Pieces
Peanut Butter Mixture
16 oz peanut butter (I used an organic peanut butter)
4 oz (1 stick) butter, room temp
1/4 cup honey
Heat oven to 350 degrees. You can go ahead and mix up the peanut butter mixture first, then set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside. In a standing mixer or large bowl, cream the 1 1/2 cups of butter, the shortening and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each one, then add the vanilla and the peanut butter mixture. Add the flour mixture by the cupful and beat at low speed until fully mixed.
At this point, it's a lot of dough! Billy wanted some w/out Reese's Pieces, so I took some of the dough out of the bowl to set aside for that, and it made it easier to mix in the candy. This really *does* make a lot of dough, so the larger the bowl, the better.
Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. I used a 2 inch scoop to make these cookies, so they're a good size, but not huge. Place about 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. Very important!! BAKE FOR 11 MINUTES ONLY! Any more than that, and they'll be overdone. The cookies will still be pale, maybe just a touch golden brown on the bottom edges. As long as your oven is running at the correct temp, this is all the time the cookies need. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then remove to a cooling rack using a spatula. Even though they’ll look doughy and soft, they’ll set up perfectly, I promise! Let cool completely (yeah, right!) and then store in an airtight container.
- I made these on Saturday, and now, on Tuesday, they're still as rich and chewy as the first day. The whole family loves these cookies!
- I did some with cross hatch marks with a fork, and I don't recommend it. They came out too thin and fell apart when stored in the container. The ones you see in the photos have held up beautifully!
- If you overcook these, they won’t be nice and chewy. I’m serious, folks-only 11 minutes in the oven. Trust me.
- I know I've said it before, but you actually CAN bribe people with these cookies. Try it.
- And finally, thank you so much, Jen!