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Magic Chocolate and Peanut Butter Middles Are a Family Favorite

I love to cook, bake, and share my favorite recipes. Food brings our families together to talk, celebrate, and create memories.

These cookies are fantastic because you always have the ingredients on hand - no trips to the store!

These cookies are fantastic because you always have the ingredients on hand - no trips to the store!

Magic Peanut Butter Middles Are a Constant in My Life

Whether they were baked for a cookie exchange, a potluck, or a welcome to the neighborhood offering, these cookies served me well for over three decades. The unbeatable combination of chocolate and peanut butter makes them a favorite among my family and friends. While they taste beyond fabulous, they mean more to me than just a delight on the tongue; they represent my life on a plate!

There's something Zen about making them—rolling the little peanut butter balls and covering them with chocolate. It brings me peace and joy whether I'm doing it alone or with a favorite little helper. As I go through the steps, I recall the previous times in my life when I've made them—as a struggling young teacher, as a hopeful newlywed, and as a harried mom of two little boys. Memories of these cookies force me to appreciate how fast time is moving and that some day soon I'll be shipping them off to my sons in college and baking them with my grandkids. My life keeps changing but magic peanut butter middles are a constant.

Magic Peanut Butter Middles

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

45 min

8 min

53 min

30 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter, for filling
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, for filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Blend well.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar, margarine, and 1/4 cup peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg. Beat well. Stir in flour mixture until blended. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients (peanut butter and confectioners sugar). Blend well. Roll into 30 (1 inch) balls.
  4. With floured hands, shape about 1 tablespoon of dough around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Place 2 inches a part on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
  5. Bake in 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes or until set and slightly cracked. Makes 30 cookies.

Magic Peanut Butter Middles: the Teaching Years

Can a cookie recipe tell the story of your life? If so, magic peanut butter middles tells mine. I first made these cookies when I was a rookie kindergarten teacher. I needed a fabulous treat for our monthly faculty potlucks—something to make the veteran teachers drool with delight and fall to their knees, begging for the recipe. I was a single gal in my 20s who'd consume a bag of microwave popcorn and call it dinner. I didn't have a file box jammed full of time-tested recipes passed down from Great Grandma like other teachers did. I had just finished college and my culinary experience was limited at best (but I could whip up a mean plate of Ramen).My recipe for magic peanut butter middles was it for me and, thank goodness, it proved to be enough.

Even though we were overtaxed educators working long hours at an inner-city school, the female teachers still judged one another by their adeptness in the kitchen (so much for the feminist movement). Once a month we traveled back in time to the 1950s and were homemakers like June Cleaver in perfectly pressed dresses with pearls around our necks and every hair in place. Our worth as human beings was determined by the food we presented—how it looked and how it tasted. I wanted to take a lofty position beside Kay, the darling of the potluck. Her cinnamon rolls were gushed over all day long—in the faculty room before the morning bell when they were first brought forth, during recess break when they were wolfed down by the hungry pack, and at the lunch hour when everybody reminisced about how excruciatingly delicious they were.

However, I secretly longed to be like Peg—the no-nonsense, no frills eighth grade teacher who refused to get caught up in this monthly cooking competition. She'd plop down a bag of store-bought dinner rolls next to the homemade chicken-cheese enchiladas, the seven layer gelatin salad, and the pumpkin-butterscotch gingerbread trifle without a twinge of guilt. She was there to teach science, math, history, and language arts—not impress with her cooking know-how.

I, on the other hand, wanted to be accepted by the other teachers. I'd stay up late after completing my lesson plans, dog tired from teaching both morning and afternoon kindergarten classes, and bake magic peanut butter middles. I'd listen to Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass sing of romantic love, hoping it really existed but starting to have doubts : "I'll hold you, and touch you/And make you my woman/I'll give you my love with sweet surrender/Tonight our hearts will beat as one/And I will hold you and touch you/And make you my woman tonight."

The next day it all seemed worth the lack of sleep when I scored brownie points (well, cookie points) with the faculty for my magic peanut butter middles. Nobody seemed to mind that I made them again and again. In fact, I was getting requests to do just that!

Magic Peanut Butter Middles: The Newlywed Years

When I started dating a young man from South Dakota, I would bake cookies for him and leave them outside his apartment door on my way to work. In a short period of time, he declared the magic peanut butter middles his favorites. Just as other couples have a special song to share or a favorite movie to watch, we had a special cookie to bond us together through the good times and bad. Yes, you're right; it led to marriage. How could it not!

When we were newlyweds, my father died suddenly. I couldn't sleep one night—a million thoughts of my dad darted through my mind—this man who'd been such a responsible provider but not a loving daddy. I wandered into the kitchen and mindlessly assembled the ingredients for magic peanut butter middles. My husband walked in and we began making the recipe together—saying very little as he added one ingredient and I added the next. These cookies that had brought us together in love were now comforting us in grief.

Two Little Boys and Magic Peanut Butter Middles

When our two sons were little, these cookies proved magical once again. They're the ideal cookie to make with kids for two reasons: a) You most likely have all the ingredients on hand—no need to pack up the kids in the car and schlep to the store. (Hooray!) and b) they're easy and fun to make and the kids can help with every step. They especially like rolling the peanut butter/powdered sugar balls and covering them with the chocolate dough.

My boys loved making these cookies at Christmas along with several other favorites. We then presented them as gifts to those who had shown us love and support throughout the year: teachers, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. For the sake of variety, we changed cookies each year. Only one became a permanent fixture on our holiday plates—the magic peanut butter middles, of course! Now my sons are teenagers and no longer help me bake the cookies. However, they continue to devour them!

Well, I now feel quite exposed as I've shared my long history with magic peanut butter middles. I hope you'll try this recipe and let it shape your life as it has shaped mine.

© 2015 McKenna Meyers