The History of Peanut Blossom Cookies

This is a cookie that I am quite familiar with and not because Peanut Blossoms were made a lot in my family. It is more that whenever cookies were gifted to us, these cookies inevitably made an appearance. As a kid, these cookies were the best of both worlds as you got a cookie and candy in one treat.

What ingredients are in Peanut Blossoms?
This one is rather easy to answer as it is just a basic peanut butter cookie that has been baked and then a Hershey Kiss is pressed into the middle. Some recipes have the cookies placed back into the oven for a couple of minutes to get it to set while others do not. Some variations use either a Brach’s Chocolate Stars Candy or a mini Reese’s Peanutbutter Cup versus the chocolate kiss.

Who and where were Peanut Blossoms created?
I honestly thought when I started doing research for this cookie that it would instantly point to being a recipe created by Hershey’s to sell more of their Kisses candy. It would make sense as the candy is a big part of Peanut Blossoms. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

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Cookbook from the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off.

The Peanut Blossom was created by a Gibsonburg, Ohio resident named Freda Smith for the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off. The contest has been held off and on since 1949. Home bakers submit their recipes using Pillsbury products (of course!) and 100 are chosen to bake their goodies for the judges. The 1957 contest was held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Ronald Reagan, during his acting days, was a special guest as a spokesman for General Electric who was one of the sponsors of the 1957 Bake Off. It did not win the grand prize as that honor went to a crescent-shaped cookie. Though she was the senior grand national winner (that is a mouthful) of the cookie division. The prizes she won were a new mixer and a top-of-the-line electric range as well as $100.

My favorite part of this tale is that the peanut blossom cookies were not even a recipe that she was going to send into the contest. Her first entry was for a cornucopia-shaped pastry. One night, she was making peanut butter cookies for her grandsons but thought they looked plain. According to her daughter, “She looked in the cupboard and came up with candy kisses. She thought they would melt. When they didn’t melt, the cookie cracked and reminded her of black-eyed Susan flowers.” So as an extra last-minute entry, Freda sent the cookies into the contest under the name black-eyed Susans and the recipe won her a chance to be one of the 100 finalists. It was Pillsbury that changed the name to Peanut Blossoms. Cookie history was made!

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The peanut blossom cookies as pictured in the 9th Grand National Cookbook from the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Freda quite enjoyed the whole Pillsbury Bake-Off Experience calling it a “fabulous dream”. They continued to send her and past contestants gifts of Pillsbury’s new products and cookbooks. One of her favorite moments was when her creative use of the Kisses candy caught the eye of the vice president of the Hershey Company who called her recipe a “baking first”. The recipe which used to be printed on the back of Pillsbury Flour packages was also inducted into the Pillsbury Bake-Off Hall of Fame in 1999 along with nine other recipes.

Freda Smith Peanut Blossoms

A photo of Freda Smith from the May 25, 1999 issue of The News-Messenger. Her daughter in the article: “That was her – She loved baking. People in town knew she was a good baker. At Christmas time, our house was filled with cookies and candy. People would call her and ask her to make wedding cakes.”

When was Peanut Blossom popular?
Let’s face it. I think we all know that this cookie is still pretty popular and that it is quite connected to the Christmas season. I really don’t need to show any proof on this as we all have eyes. If you have ever been to a holiday potluck, cookie swap, read a magazine or watched Christmas ads, I am pretty you have seen this cookie. Even a 1999 article agreed with me when they wrote “most everyone has seen, if not munched on, Smith’s spur-of-the-moment concoction.” Though this is me so let’s bring on the sources!

The mid-century quickly saw the potential of the Peanut Blossoms cookies. One 1969 article called them a “real confection that you can put to uses in many ways” in which they added that the cookies were perfect treats for parties or picnics. Though most articles I found touted Peanut Blossoms as a great addition to holiday cookie gift giving. One 1968 article called the cookie “real good for the holidays” while others called the recipe a favorite as well as popular for special occasions.

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Fast forward to the more present time and the sentiment is largely the same. The Peanut Blossom cookie is called a national favorite as well as a Christmas time staple. A 2003 article writes that they “can’t remember a Christmas without Peanut Blossom cookies.” A 1999 article covering the hall of fame induction of the Peanut Blossom said “from coast to coast, American cooks make Peanut Blossoms, that classic peanut butter cookie topped with a Hershey’s chocolate kiss candy.”

The cookie is featured in many modern cookbooks. In Classic Cookies with Modern Twists (2015), Peanut Blossoms are called a popular cookie that is “often the first cookies to disappear from a table full of choices”. The typical holiday cookie was called a “classic American cookie that both kids and adults love” in Sally’s Candy Addiction (2015). “What would an American Christmas cookie tin be without the ubiquitous peanut butter blossom?” was asked in the cookbook Midwest Made (2019).

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Why should I make Peanut Blossoms?
They are fun and easy to make. If you are someone who loves peanut butter and chocolate together then this may be the perfect cookie for you. If you don’t then you might want to skip it. I think an article from 1973 describes the cookie pretty well when they wrote “A plate of peanut blossoms using the ever-popular peanut butter and chocolate kisses on top, are decorative as well as chewy and delicious.”

How do you make Peanut Blossoms?
So there are two slightly different versions of the recipe which comes down to the addition of two tablespoons of milk. The original printed in the 9th Pillsbury Bake-Off cookbook does not include the milk but the one on the back of the present-day Hershey Kisses does. I tested both recipes to see which was better and they each have pros and cons.

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The cookie on the left is without the milk while the cookie on the right contains the milk.

The one without the milk is far more crumbly so it needs a little more work to get it into a ball. Though the perk of this dough is when the Hershey Kiss gets pressed into the dough, the cracks are more defined and gives it a much more flower appearance. The dough with the milk is more tender and therefore can be molded into the balls easier. Because it is softer, when the candy is pressed into the cookie, it stays more rounded with less cracking. The other major difference I found was the dough with the milk held onto the chocolate Kiss better than the one without the milk.

Peanut Blossoms

  • Servings: about 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The classic peanut butter cookie topped with a Hershey Kiss.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter or shortening
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus more for rolling the dough in
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoon milk (optional)
  • About 36 Hershey Kisses, unwrapped from foil (depends on how many cookies made).

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Sift together the all purpose flour, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the egg, vanilla and milk (if using) and beat well.
  5. Slowly add in the sifted dry ingredients until well combined.
  6. Shape tablespoons of the dough into balls and roll into sugar. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and press the Hershey Kisses into the cookie. Return to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!


sources:
America’s Test Kitchen. The Cook’s Country Cookbook. United States: America’s Test Kitchen, 2008.

“Cookies: Treats Come with Stories.” Sunday News. Deceber 14, 2003.

Craig, Barbara. “Favorite Recipes”. The Hamlin Herald. March 20, 1969.

Elvin, Ella. “Bloomin’ Good Taste to Peanut Blossoms”. Daily News. July 19, 1969.

Jackson, Ellen. Classic Cookies with Modern Twists: 100 Best Recipes for Old and New Favorites. United States: Sasquatch Books, 2015.

Mandingo, Helen J. “For Holiday Gift-Giving: Preparing Festive Treats Age-Old Tradition”. The Baltimore Sun. Novemeber 30, 1967.

McKenney, Sally. Sally’s Candy Addiction: Tasty Truffles, Fudges & Treats for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix. United States: Race Point Publishing, 2015.

Phillips, Elaine. “Culinary Corner”. Springfield Leader and Press. March 14, 1968.

Pillsbury’s 9th Grand National Cook Book. 1957

“Recipe of the Week: Kissin’ Don’t Last but Cookin’ Do.” The Marysville Advocate. December 26, 1968.

Roccisano, Rose. “Gibsonburg Woman Earns Posthumous Honor from Pillsbury for her Peanut Blossoms Recipe”. The News-Messenger. May 25, 1999.

Schuett, Elizabeth. “Baking on Cold Days Leads to History Lesson”. News Herald. Febuary 13, 1996.

Sever, Shauna. Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland. United States: Running Press, 2019.

Smith, Kathie. “Classic Recipes WIn Spots in Pillsbury Hall of Fame”. The Tennessean. July 19, 1999.

“Tasty”. Davis County Clipper. March 9, 1973.

The Ultimate Cookie Book. United States: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2014.

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