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Monday, February 14, 2011

Memory-invoking Oatmeal Cookies

Nice and thick...oatmeal cookies
When my husband arrived home for the week-end I proudly showed him the Valentine sugar cookies I had made and offered them to him.  He looked reticent and held back saying, in a somewhat plaintive voice, "don't you have any regular sugar cookies?  Some that you didn't decorate?  Those are too pretty to eat.  Did you make some plain ones?"  Uh, no...they ARE to eat...EAT!  He gingerly ate one.  This is the man who can put down a dozen cookies without a blink.  Later I actually told him to just eat them...please.  So he did.  All the ones I saved for the family are now officially gone :-)  Cookies are to be eaten (I like them to be admired...but mostly I want them to taste good!)  I asked my hubby what kind of cookies he would like me to bake him for his Valentine's treat.  I named several suggestions as he cogitated on the options.  He finally said "oatmeal cookies" and, of course, I wasn't surprised.  If he buys packaged cookies at the grocery store, 8 times out of 10, it will be chewy oatmeal cookies - no frosting.  I asked him if he wanted nuts in them...I had walnuts and those great Texas pecans I had purchased.  "No nuts" he replied.  I then asked if he wanted raisins?  "no, just plain please".  I know he prefers chewy oatmeal cookies over crisps...so I got busy baking on Sunday morning while he was still sawing those zzzz's :-)  I prefer baking in the quiet morning when no one is around.  I have my first cup of coffee, find my recipe, and set up my ingredients...then I bake.  It's very fulfilling to me.

I have great childhood memories of our house on the corner of Coventry and Rogge Lane in Austin, where our maid, Ola Mae, first helped me bake oatmeal cookies.  She was a wonderful and loving woman.  Actually, to call her "our maid" is not the correct term, although in the 60's in the South, that was the term... to me, she was so much more.  She picked me up from school when I was sick, she taught me to tie my shoes, she was the person who I watched Dark Shadows with after school, she scolded me when I did wrong, she dried my tears when I skinned my knees.  She was a substitute mom, because my mom was working her ass off making a living for our family, managing our family's grocery store chain.  She kept it afloat when my Dad flaked, she worked 7 days a week, she did the payroll in the days of hand writing paychecks, she checked all the work of every person in the office.  She WAS the Culp's Super Foodlands queen.  She had five children, a charismatic but undependable husband, and she kept a fairly big business going.  She did good - but she needed help, and Ola Mae was the most memorable of that help in my elementary school year days.  She was a good woman....and she made good oatmeal cookies :-)

As usual, I meander down memory lane and get off track...but I am back on the baking path now.  Fast forward to my kitchen now.  I pulled down the ingredients I readily remembered (planning on using the traditional Quaker Oats box recipe).  Oops, I had bought a store brand of oats...ruh roh...better get online.  Double ruh roh...the Quaker Oats web site is freezing every time I get on it, locking up my computer.  So, I open task manager and shut it down and start searching for a recipe that is similar. (Afterwards, I realized I probably had it written down on an old recipe card if I would have just taken the time to look for it...but on less than a cup of coffee, my synapses were not snapping just yet).

I ended up deciding to trust my old fall back, Stephanie Jaworksi's Joy of Baking website.  It wasn't the way I remembered the Quaker Oats recipe (I know they used Crisco or something similar) but it had all the other requisite ingredients...and I trust Stephanie's recipes.  I printed it out and headed back to the kitchen.  Second cup of coffee started...first one kicking in ;-)

I also like that Stephanie's recipe made 20-24 cookies because I didn't want to end up baking 4 dozen cookies this morning.  This sounded perfect.  Also, the flour amount was fairly minimal and only used brown sugar which told me this would be a chewy cookie.  Yep, yep, yep.

Now, of course, I had to tweak it.  I bought a bag of King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour last week - a softer wheat flour, that I hoped I could incorporate into some of my baking where a dark whole wheat flour might be too heavy.  I thought, considering the minimal amount of flour in the recipe, it would be a perfect time for some substituting.  I didn't go straight whole wheat...I mixed it with some AP flour.  I must say, it worked beautifully!  I love the results!  A thick cookie, it didn't spread much, lightly crisp on the outside, tenderly chewy on the inside.  This is my new preferred recipe for oatmeal cookies.  My hubby sampled them and said "oh, these are GOOD" and he promptly ate 6 for breakfast with his coffee.  The recipe made 19 cookies using a large cookie dough scoop (1 1/2 ounce capacity).

So, let's get on to my version of this recipe.  You will like this cookie.  It's a really stiff dough.... so get a heavy duty spoon and let your stand mixer do some of the work...but it won't likely be able to do all of the work.

OATMEAL COOKIE RECIPE
based on Stephanie Jaworski's at joy of baking
further credited to Jane Rodmell's 'Best Summer Weekends Cookbook'
with tweaks by Debbi Hook

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup of flour - measured thus:
     1/3 cup of all purpose unbleached flour spooned into a graduated measuring cup
     and the balance of the measure (just 3/4 total) filled with Whole Wheat White flour.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

Optional ingredients - nuts, raisins, dried cranberries - see link to joy of baking above for those instructions.

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth (about 2-3 minutes). 
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. 
Scrape down sides of bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon (I actually measured in a 2 cup measuring cup and just whisked in there - thus saving me a bowl to clean).
Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl, getting down into the center at the bottom, not just the sides.
Stir in the oats.  I added the first cup with the mixer running and most of the 2nd...then I added the last one by hand.  VERY stiff dough.  Use those muscles!

For large cookies, use about 1/4 cup of batter  (I used a 1 1/2 liquid ounce scoop which equals 3 tablespoons - and because I didn't add nuts or fruit - I ended up with 19 cookies).
Space the cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  I actually hand-rolled the scooped cookies into a ball because some pieces were falling apart.  I then used a silicone flat spatula to flatten the cookies to about 1/2 inch thick.


Ready to go in the oven

Bake the cookies for about 12-15 minutes (mine were perfect at 13 minutes) or until barely light golden brown around the edges but still soft in the centers.  (I could barely see brown at the base of the cookies, if I looked really hard, when they were just perfect...any more and they would have been too hard).

Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

These were really, really good oatmeal cookies.  Hope you try them and enjoy them as much as we did!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

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