Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My cookies: I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t make these cookies, but it has, perhaps, been only 25 years. I don’t know where the recipe came from, but it may have been from an oatmeal box. I keep looking at new oatmeal boxes, though, and, as things like that go, it’s not there… so I’m not sure. Over the years, of course, the recipe has developed; it can be modified to fit your favorite ingredients, as well.
My kids grew up with these favorite gems; my husband nearly passed out wanting to get home from many long trips.. Knowing the cookies were waiting for him. Sometimes there’d be no dinner, but there’d be cookies. The cookies went across the country, back and forth, up and down. We’re in our 23rd house now. The cookies spent two years in Germany, where there were no chocolate chips. My German friends cried for them when we moved back to the states, knowing they couldn’t make the cookies themselves without the commissary ingredients. (Today you can order anything on-line.) The cookies went to Christmas parties in Washington, D.C. and Spokane, to summer church pot-lucks in Dayton, and to many a church choir rehearsal in many a state. I had to feed these people; they sang their hearts out. The cookies, with an updated ingredient list, went through the mail as birthday gifts to my best friend, who shared them with co-workers who later begged for the recipe and then complained they just weren’t the same. ( I think I’ve solved their problem.) When we went to my sister's house, she would say, "Did you bring the cookies?" or "Are you going to make your cookies?"
The cookies went, period. There’s a tub of them in the kitchen right now and two neighbors have been munching on them this minute because they were smart enough to walk their dogs at the right time. And, dogs, too, want these cookies. (Is that saying much when you think of the things dogs WILL eat?) Our dogs, including our sweet Fiona, loved these cookies. Our precious Magi (before Fiona) had such a love affair with them that once when I tried to take a plate of them outdoors to a hardworking husband building a picnic table, she jumped so high to get one that I had to hold them over my head to get them out the door. Two of them made it into her mouth as I recall. (Careful: chocolate is poisonous to dogs.)
Most any chocolate chip cookie is decent and edible. Folks have loved them since Ruth Wakefield made a mistake with her cookies at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass in the ‘30s. The things that really make the difference between good and great cookies are, to some people, the small things. To bakers, however (and I count myself among their number), these small things are paramount.
*Room temperature eggs. Good great big ones, with nearly orange yolks.
Real butter.
* Mixing the butter and sugar for several minutes, not seconds.( I had no mixer for many years and beat them by hand. Now I’m blessed with that Kitchen Aid living on my counter. )
*The best chocolate you can afford.
*Switching the cookie sheets halfway through baking so that they bake evenly… changing racks AND turning the sheets from front to back and back to front.
* Getting them out before they’re too done and letting them sit on the sheets for two minutes so they don’t fall apart when they’re transferred to racks.
* Using RACKS to cool the cookies.
* Storing them in real Tupperware. Freezing them that day if they won’t be eaten
And so on. You get the picture. We’re fussy creatures, we bakers. You’ll know why soon.
I’m not a baker who is a hoarder of recipes and, yes, these people exist. But, for some reason, I’ve never shared this recipe too much and I don’t know why. I don’t think I’m going there. Today, though, is your lucky day.
I made 4 batches of these for my daughter’s college graduation party. (See previous blog.) I stacked them towering high in a great basket lined with a blue and white checked picnic cloth that had graced her toddler table on holidays when we lived in San Antonio and Dayton. People told me they ate four and five of them (after dinner) and were proud of it instead of embarrassed. I’ll bet you have the same thing happen in your life. Make a lot. Give them away.

Cookies aren’t cookies until you give them away. (Oh, boy…….)

If you’ve had a favorite chocolate chip cookie (I’ve looked this up…Levain Bakery, Tate’s Bake Shop, Marnee’s Cookies, your sister's, your mother's, etc.), I’m guessing that is about to change. Your own cookies are now going to be your favorite. Try them. Twice- if the first time you’re not satisfied. Tweak a bit as you’ll remember I’m at altitude. Do not leave that oven while they’re baking unless you move quickly to the other side of the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, pour a glass of milk or a fine California Cabernet Sauvignon… Yes, this to –die- for wine is made for chocolate, friends. Spend the money and… don’t weep. Enjoy it. God made these things to enjoy. No need for guilt. Really.
Do you remember a Freudian saying that somehow notes, “There’s no problem a hot bath can’t solve?” (And that’s true. Just try it on a regular basis; we don’t need fast showers all of the time.) I’m on to believing it’s true of homemade cookies.
Ok; that's enough. On to the real things. Please let me know how they come out or or if you still like YOUR FAVORITE best?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (6-7 doz; recipe can be halved)
2 ½ c butter
1 ½ c brown sugar
1 c white, granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2t vanilla extract
3 c flour
2 t salt
2 t baking soda
6 c Old-fashioned oats
24 oz chocolate chips (2 regular size pkg) or 2 c raisins, if you prefer
1 ½ c roughly chopped nuts, optional

Note: if you have a hand-held mixer, make a HALF BATCH ONLY AT A TIME
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cream butter and both sugars in mixing bowl for 2-3 minutes, using electric mixer, until light in color and texture. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Add eggs and vanilla. Beat for one minute and scrape bowl again. Put flour, salt and baking soda into bowl and mix together separately on top of wet ingredients. Beat for 1-2 minutes or until well-incorporated. Do not over-mix. Slowly add oats until just mixed.* Add chocolate and nuts by mixer if you can, by hand if you can’t.
Form into 1 ½” balls using your hands or a small scoop and place 9 or 12 cookies on each ungreased sheet.** Flatten cookies using the palm of your hand to about 1/3 “ deep. Bake 8-10 minutes until just getting golden brown at edges. I f baking more than one tray at a time , switch trays and turn them around half-way through the baking time. Watch them closely so they don’t get very brown.

Remove trays from oven; let sit 2 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling racks using very thin stainless steel spatula. Let cool. Store tightly covered in Tupperware. Freeze if not using today or tomorrow.
*A hand mixer may not be able to accomplish the entire oatmeal addition you can cut the recipe in half and have much less trouble mixing in the oats.

**I use heavy-duty Williams-Sonoma baking sheets, which will probably last most of a lifetime.

Sing a new song,

1 comment:

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