I have to admit I am not a big baker. This topic is a little beyond my scope of baking knowledge but I will try my best to find the underlying cause of this issue. It has become traditional to put marks with a fork on peanut butter cookies because it has always been done that way. The first cookbook with peanut butter cookies came from Ruth Wakefield’s Tollhouse in 1936. What is the thought behind the marks? Well there are a couple of trains of thought on this one. In fact, some of them are somewhat funny. Some think the criss cross is a warning. Others think it has religious undertones either good or evil! Still others think it is to mark the cookies so you know what they are. Remember some people have allergies to nuts. This would be one way to let them know the peanut ingredient within the cookies.
However, this one explanation makes sense. In the early 1930’s recipes began to tell cooks to make a criss cross pattern on the cookies. People also refer to them as hatch marks. It did not tell them why? Over the years, cooks have come to their own conclusions. One such conclusion is that it flattens the dough and thus making them crispier. I would tend to agree. Another reasonable explanation is that it flattens the dough so it can bake more evenly. In researching this topic, it seems that flattening the dough actually helps to keep the cookie dough together and uniformed. Otherwise, it may just crumble apart while baking. Could it be that all this guessing and hindsight is for nothing? Perhaps it is just a design for the cookie. Just something to dress it up? Maybe there is no real significance to the forked criss cross pattern after all.
Being a Christian myself, I like the thought that it has a religious meaning. It is thought that the marks are actually a holy image of the cross. This could have been a way to protect the people eating the cookies, which were probably your own family. That is a nice and protecting thought. So there you have the reasons and thoughts behind the criss cross marks made on peanut butter cookies. Which one do you think is true? The next time you have a peanut butter cookie maybe you will figure it out.