As a long-time professional chef, I have noticed there are two types of cooks: the ones who love to bake and the rest of us. I am known locally as the cook who does not like strawberries, lettuce, and baking. However, long ago, I was given a wonderful recipe for peanut butter cookies by Bethene Church, the wife of the late Senator Frank Church.
One summer I was working at a place called Robinson Bar Ranch. This guest ranch is a historic place in central Idaho I went to many times as a child. It had first been a gold miner’s claim, hence the Robinson Bar, and then later a stage coach stop featuring its own hot spring fed pools for weary travelers. When I worked there for three summers, it was owned by Frank Church’s sister-in-law, Beulah Rood.
One summer I dated the Church’s son, Forrest Church. This is how I got to know Bethene Church. Sometime during that summer romance she gave me a wonderful peanut butter cookie recipe that dates back to the 1890s. I love this recipe because of the memories and the wonderful quality of the cookies.
The way Carol King is connected to this story is that in the fall of the third summer I worked at Robinson Bar Ranch, the famous singer bought it and has owned it ever since. While I have always resented that she made this a private residence, I know she protected it from becoming modern and commercialized. It looks much the same today as it did back when I worked there. I always think of Robinson Bar Ranch and Carol King when I make these.
Here’s the recipe.
1890’s PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
2 cups sugar
½ cup butter or margarine (I have used Crisco with good results)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. baking soda
2½ cups flour BAKE at 350°
Mix sugar, butter and oil. Add peanut butter. Stir in the two eggs and add the dry ingredients. Mix well and form into small 1½” balls. Flatten the balls with a fork. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 1-15 minutes. Let cool before removing. Note: I use chunky Jiff Peanut Butter because I think it is the best.
Makes three dozen.