Peanut Butter Cookies – A 1940s Recipe

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased at an antique mall in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  

The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine in most recipes and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

This is the very popular peanut butter cookie kids have been eating for generations.  Our book writer got this recipe from her friend, Shirley, and probably made the cookies a lot for her own family.  My version is half of the original recipe and makes about 2 dozen 3-inch diameter delicious, peanut-buttery cookies.

I have a small collection of vintage oven thermometers and although I love to see them displayed, I’m so grateful I have an oven with a reliable thermostat to do my baking.


  • Servings: Approximately 2 doz. 3-inch cookies
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  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1-½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Dash salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cream shortening, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Add egg, brown sugar and peanut butter.  Mix until smooth.

Whisk together the flour, soda and salt.

Add to creamed mixture and mix until well blended.

Form a measuring tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on ungreased baking sheet.

Press a cross-hatch pattern on top of the cookie with a fork dipped in flour.

The unbaked cookies will be 2 inches diameter.  Place cookies 2 inches apart on the sheet and bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes until golden brown.

Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  Approximately 2 dozen 3-inch diameter cookies