The practice of creating a crosshatch pattern on peanut butter cookies with the tines of a fork appears to have begun with a recipe published in the July 1, 1932 edition of the Schenectady Gazette, which instructed bakers to “press [dough] down with a fork, first one way, then the other, so they look like squares on waffles.”
A year later, Balanced Recipes, a cookbook published by Pillsbury Flour Mills, also called for flattening the cookies with a fork—but in only one direction.
In 1938, when The Settlement Cookbook specified a crosshatch for its peanut butter cookies, as the Gazette had, the method took off.
But why a crosshatch in the first place? Since peanut butter cookie dough is generally dense and doesn’t spread well, the cookies need to be flattened in order to bake evenly, and a fork is the perfect tool for the job. Because the dough for our Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies is softer and spreads more than traditional peanut butter cookie dough, we don’t need a crosshatch. (And don’t be tempted to add one for decorative purposes; the dough’s softness also means that it won’t hold a sharply defined pattern.)