Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Secret No Bakes.

Nearly everyone has this cookie recipe. The recipe is quite simple. There are rarely variations in ingredients. And the ingredients are generally things you already have in your pantry... So why then am I posting this recipe that everyone already has? Because I apparently have some magical touch, and people always ask what my secret is. No secrets, just lots of experience. (Many an afternoon in my adolescence was spent making these and eating them straight from the bowl, which in hindsight was just self-medication for... being a teenager!).

So I'm laying it all out here, pictures, tips, and anything else that's missing from one of the world's simplist and most loved cookie recipes... bring on the No-Bakes!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter*
2 cups white sugar**
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk (cow or soy)
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter***
1 Tbsp vanilla (fake is fine)
3 cups quick-oats****

A few notes about ingredient quality...
* - Butter is superior to margarine in nearly every recipe, and this is not an exception. The only instance in which I condone the use of margarine in this recipe is for Vegans.
** - I have not found any suitable sugar substitutes. I've experimented with sucanat, but even with a 50/50 white sugar to sucanat ratio, they tasted and smelled like molasses, and not in a good way. While "No-Bakes" are a cookie by name, they could just as well be considered a candy, since the cooking process breaks down the sugar and then recrystallizes, so the sugar is a staple ingredient. Sad but true.
*** - It pains me to say this, but natural peanut butter (the kind you grind yourself in the bulk food section) doesn't work as well as processed creamy PB.
**** - Quick-oats really are different than regular or "old-fashioned" rolled oats. Quick-oats are rolled oats that have been cut down to cook faster, not to be confused with instant oats, which are precooked.


-Large Microwave safe bowl (don't assume, check the bottom to make sure it is safe. I recommend Pyrex), plus a small microwave safe cup or bowl for melting butter
-Rubber spatula
-Wax paper


Gather all your tools and ingredients. Spread out a piece of newspaper on a portion of counter or table that can lay undisturbed for a few hours. Place wax paper atop the newspaper, so that you'll be ready to go when the cookies are done in the microwave. (TIP: If you need to take the cookies somewhere while they are still "setting", place the newspaper/waxpaper in a cookie sheet before placing the dough to set.)

Next, cut the stick of butter into a dozen-ish smaller pieces so that it will melt more evenly. Place butter in microwave-safe dish and microwave for up to 45 seconds. All microwaves vary, but past 45 seconds generally means a big buttery mess on the ceiling of the microwave.

Watch the butter and remove it when 90% melted. Set aside.

Mix sugar and cocoa in large microwave-safe bowl, breaking up any large clumps of the cocoa.

Add melted butter and milk to sugar/cocoa mixture. You do not need to stir the ingredients completely, as they will mix much easier after some time in the microwave. A few soft turns of the spoon is plenty.

Now it's time for some cookie-cookin'... The best advice I can give is to know your microwave and let the cookie tell you when it is ready. I've made these in a dozen or more microwave ovens over the years, and most take 4-5 minutes, and a few take up to 6 or 7 minutes. But you don't want to just throw the bowl in and walk away, here's the breakdown:

Microwave 1 minute, and then give a good stir. You'll see some bubbles of air escaping from the dry ingredients.

Now microwave 1:30 to 2 minutes, and stir again. The mixture will be smooth this time, and even in color as the sugar has broken down.

Now microwave for 1 minute at a time (stirring between) until the mixture has developed a thin layer of tiny bubbles, which tells you that it is nearly cooked. (See picture below)

Both over- and under-cooking will lead to sub-par cookies. You may need to practice this recipe a few times to get the best results. (If there's a food-scientist out there that knows the exact optimal temperature, please let us know... and I'll also need to know where to acquire a candy thermometer.)

Once you've got the little bubbles, add peanut butter (just plop in in there, no stirring) and microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from microwave and move quickly. Add vanilla and stir, but don't worry it there are still a few clumps of the peanutty-goodness that haven't mixed in. Next stir in the oats one cup at a time.

Once mixed, place dough by the spoonful onto the wax paper. Again, you will want to move quickly, as the dough is cooling and will begin to change to a rougher texture.

If the first few cookies develop a liquid border within 30 seconds of placement, as in the picture below, you can add a few Tbsps of additional oats to the remaining dough, but it's often the first sign that the liquid was over or under microwaved.

Ideally your cookies will be plump, with the oats nicely coated in the chocolate and only a small amount of the liquid settling at the base over time. (see below)

Let sit for a few hours to firm up. If firmness is not in the cards for a given batch, enjoy them with a spoon and a gallon of milk... then try again. Enjoy!


  1. YAY!!! I'm bookmarking this page - you rock my world!

  2. mmmmmm... my mouth is watering, I wonder if I have all of the ingredients in my pantry now???
    Thanks again!

  3. I am completely incapable of making these cookies properly. They usually turn out too dry. My husband can't have peanut butter, so I have found a few recipes that don't use the PB. Maybe that is the problem. But I am going to bookmark this and give it a try because I have never tried to make them in the microwave and that could be the secret to success!