It tastes like a giant peanut butter cookie.

By Margaret Eby
Updated July 09, 2020
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Sarah Crowder

In the last four weeks of sheltering in place in my New York City apartment, I’ve probably used every plate, utensil, pot, and kitchen gadget I own. Cooking is a stress reliever for me, one of the few that I still have access to now that seeing friends and going to the gym is off limits. I’m not the only one—sales of heirloom beans have spiked, and yeast seems to be impossible to find on my once-a-week grocery run. That’s not a problem for me, since I live that sourdough starter life, but it’s no fun if you want to make bread at home. Which is why it’s not surprising that one of the most popular recipes going around Reddit right now is for a Depression Era bread that requires no yeast at all. Instead, it’s a peanut butter bread. 

The Reddit community /r/Old_Recipes is devoted to resurfacing, well, old recipes, often taken from pamphlets, community cookbooks, and other self-published materials. It’s 122,000 members strong, and full of all kinds of retro delights. The no-yeast peanut butter bread first circulated thanks to user @trixietravisbrown, who found it in a 1932 cookbook from the Five Roses Flour company. 

True to many recipes of that particular era, it doesn’t use many fancy ingredients—odds are you already have them on hand. Per the original post, it calls for 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/3 cups milk, and 1/2 cup peanut butter. You mix the dry ingredients, then blend in the milk, then the peanut butter. Bake in a greased loaf pan in an oven preheated to 325F for an hour. That’s it.

If you’re usually intimidated by baking bread, a recipe like this, essentially a not-too-sweet quick bread, is a great place to start. There’s no yeast, no kneading, and no fancy equipment. Other posters followed suit, with some adding little extras like chocolate chips, or using the peanut butter bread to make French toast, or just smearing it with Nutella. I tragically could not find peanut butter to make it, but our wonderful photo editor Sarah Crowder did, and made up the loaf at home. Her report was that it smelled amazing, was very tender, and not overwhelmingy peanut butter-y. Sounds pretty great.

And if you, like me, are spending upwards of 10 hours a day staring at a screen and need some recipe inspiration now and then, /r/Old_Recipes is a great place to poke around. Aside from the peanut butter bread, there’s an excellent, easy recipe for molasses cookies, dubbed “murder cookies” since they were developed by a person who previously lived in the poster’s house who was, um, killed. Despite the dark history of a few treats, browsing through these old recipes feels particularly soothing and instructive right now, a reminder that people cooked through other periods of uncertainty and kept living (and baking) as best they could.