Food Scoop: Soft Oatmeal Cookies

I was going to try something new tonight. Something a little fiddly, maybe with almonds and cream. Something sweet, because it’s February. To some people, that means it’s time to think about romance. To the rest of us, it might be time to bemoan the lack of romance. Either way, some kind of baked sweet would fit the bill.

But life has gotten in the way. For one thing, I’ve been feeling under the weather. All I want to do is sleep. For another, the pressure of school has made me pretty stressed. I deal with stress in one easy, delectable, indulgent way: I bake cookies. Oatmeal or chocolate chip are my go-to cookie recipes, and tonight I went with oatmeal.

I’ve been baking cookies when I feel overwhelmed for years. My freshman year of college, I baked cookies my first weekend, when I had just met the entire marching band. The year after that, I would finish classes at 6:00 p.m. and walk home to my apartment. Instead of making a real meal, I would bake cookies. My roommates would walk in, snatch up a cookie and make a happy cookie face as they chewed.

I couldn’t say what it is about cookies that makes me unwind when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the way the butter and sugar cream together. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to add the eggs and flour, and smooth everything out into cookie dough. Maybe I just like to steal bites of cookie dough while I’m dolloping them on to the cookie sheet. Maybe it’s the cookies themselves, with their delicately crunchy edges and chewy, soft centers.

In my experience, oatmeal cookies are staples at middle school functions and in the kitchens of older folks. They’re often thick, with stacks of raisins hidden inside. I find surprise raisins to be a little bit too much myself, but I know a lot of people enjoy the burst of flavor.

My oatmeal cookies are nothing like the ones passed out on big trays in school cafeterias after a round of participation awards. They are thin and buttery, with smattering of chopped nuts throughout. They often fall apart when I try to move them off the baking sheet while they are still warm. I love scooping up these warm cookie fragments and eating them. They are still sweet and soft, with that unique oatmeal texture.

They’re also easy and fairly fast to make. Not as fast as stopping by a fast food joint, the kind that delivers cookies until 2 a.m. But it’s not only eating cookies that makes me happy. Most of the time, I end up sharing them with whoever is hanging around. I can’t possibly eat three dozen cookies by myself, at least not fast enough. What I love, though, is that when I am pulling out my mixing bowl and creaming together the butter and sugar, I feel firmly planted. I am an expert at what I’m doing, and the world can’t spin fast enough to shake that from me.

Soft Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
¼ cup chopped nuts
½ cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. If you use a microwave-safe bowl, sometimes it’s easiest to zap the butter for 10-20 seconds to make it soft. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until smooth.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir into butter, sugar and egg mixture. The flour will often poof up into your face if you don’t stir carefully. Knowing where the pockets of flour are will help keep this from happening.

Add the oats, nuts and raisins. The nuts can be whatever you prefer. I make these most often with walnuts or pecans. If you detest nuts, these can also be optional. Raisins likewise can be whatever variety suits you.

Place by medium spoonsful on a baking sheet. I find that cookie dough blobs at about 1 ½ inches to 2 inches make 4-inch cookies.
For bigger or smaller cookies, simply use more or less dough and time them accordingly.

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. This stage should be an obvious change from unbaked cookie dough. When taking them out of the oven, the cookies are less likely to fall apart if you wait for the cookies to cool for about 30 seconds.

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