For a baking snob such as myself, admitting that one of my favourite cookies is actually storebought is akin to sacrilege. As a general rule, if it’s not homemade or from some wonderful bakery, it can’t possibly be very good. I usually give supermarket bakery counters a wide berth, with their sawdust cookies and sugary but tasteless cakes. So how is it that a supermarket brand cookie ranks up there among my absolute favourite cookies?
The cookie of which I speak comes Hannaford Brothers, a grocery chain based primarily in Maine, with a few outposts in other parts of New England. I was introduced to these circular pieces of heaven by my sister-in-law on a visit up to their house near Bar Harbor. I have to confess, I was skeptical when she said that they were really good, but she is a wise, wise woman and I should never doubt her. I liked them so much that I have, in the past, made up excuses for a trip into town so that I can smuggle a box home with me. They have other varieties besides the Peanut Butter with Reese’s Pieces, and they are decent for storebought cookies, but they don’t quite measure up. And you really do have to buy them when they are fresh, as otherwise they become hard and dry and significantly less flavourful.
For a few years now, I have been attempting to make something comparable to the Hannaford Peanut Butter Cookie. And I have failed. The cookies I came up with were good, just not Hannaford good. They didn’t have the right texture, they weren’t chewy enough, or they didn’t spread properly. I realize now that my mistake was attempting to adapt traditional peanut butter cookie recipes, which tend to produce sandier, crumblier textures. What I needed was more of a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a peanut butter cookie, something that spread while baking, and crisped up on the edges while retaining a chewy center.
With my sister-in-law and her family coming for a visit this past weekend, I decided I needed to tackle these puppies again. This time, I scoured the internet for the right base cookie. Okay, really I just scoured Foodgawker and Tastespotting because I figured I would know the right cookie by how it looked. This lovely recipe from A Sweet Spoonful caught my eye. It looked exactly like a Hannaford cookie, minus the Reese’s Pieces. So I gathered my ingredients together and away I went.
The Results: Ta-da! May I introduce to you the one, the only, Homemade Hannaford Peanut Butter Cookie with Reese’s Pieces! It is chewy, it is peanut-buttery, it is crispy on the edges, and it has delightful chunks of sweet peanut butter candy. I can stop searching, I have found the ultimate peanut butter cookie and this time, it IS Hannaford good.
I can say all of this first hand, because I did try one. Well, really I tried one and a half. I ate half of one as dessert the night that they were made, because I couldn’t present them to my readers without knowing if they were any good. But I also ate a whole one the next morning. Cookies for breakfast for a diabetic? Sounds a little wacked, but my dear sister-in-law and I were running a half-marathon and I figured that was about the only time I could get away with it. I was definitely burning all of those sugars off on Sunday morning, believe me!
And I am happy to report that I set a personal best in my race. Was it the cookie that fueled me through???
Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies (aka Hannaford Cookies) - adapted from A Sweet Spoonful
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups Reese’s Pieces candies (more if you want!)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together butter and both sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined, scraping down bowl and beaters with a rubber spatula as needed. Add vanilla and peanut butter and beat until just combined.
Add half of flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, then repeat with remaining flour mixture.
Fold in Reese’s Pieces with a rubber spatula.
Cover dough and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour. The original recipe said three hours, but I was impatient, as always, and put some in the oven at the 1 hour mark and they turned out just the same as the ones chilled for longer.
Preheat oven to 375F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared sheets at least 2 inches apart. Press each cookie down lightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops of the cookies have just barely begun to brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for at least 10 minutes.
Makes 24-30 cookies.