This is a classic, American heartland cookie. I grew up with them in Kansas, and they bring back great summer memories for me. They are not very Home Front friendly though, given the amount of sugar in them. I find them a bit too sweet now (okay, they are teeth-rottingly sweet), but I don’t know how to reduce the amount of sugar, since the recipe is based on a simple syrup. Still, I made them yesterday for some neighborhood children, and they disappeared. To be honest, I helped eat them, but the little ones really took to them.
Here is the recipe I use for Preacher cookies. The only modification I make is that I drop the salt, since I think the margarine is salty enough. Also, I only use natural peanut butter, because I won’t touch the sugared up, oiled up stuff with a ten-foot pole.
I do wish the recipe came with a few warnings. First, it is not a recipe that children should help put together. Once sugar boils, it can cause painful burns that won’t stop until the sugar stops burning, so washing it off doesn’t help. For the same reason, you can’t really stick your finger in there for any reason (actually, this is more of a problem for little ones), so tasting is problematic until the whole thing is done and cooled off. The other thing is that this has to be done over a very low temperature once the syrup has come to a boil. It can burn quite easily, so stir frequently, and make sure to use a large pot. If you use a small one, then you really risk having a boil over, which is dangerous.
Oh, and soft ball stage is when you can drop the syrup off the back of a spoon into a bowl of cool water, and the drop sinks and keeps it shape. (don’t touch the spoon!) You should be able to smush the ball with your finger at the bottom of the bowl.