Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

There's a scene in The Giver (required reading for all 12 year-olds) where the protagonist is looking at an object, and suddenly it changes somehow. At first, you have no idea what's going on, until you realize that the boy has learned to see in color -- up to this point, he has been living in black and white.

Life seems to be full of such moments when, as Obi-Wan once said, you realize you've taken your first step into a larger world. I had such a moment this past Sunday. For some reason, I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to bake two different batches of oatmeal raisin cookies from two different recipes. At first, it made complete sense -- I didn't like the products of the first recipe, so I tried a second one. Logical, right?

Well, several hours, 5 cups of oats, 4 sticks of butter, and countless dishes later, I realized I had churned out about 5 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies. Five dozen cookies now sitting in my apartment. Where I live. Alone. And if that wasn't enough, the kicker was sitting on my living room floor -- a 9-pound box of Quaker Oats that I'd bought earlier that day. In fact, the act of purchasing it hadn't even seemed strange to me at the time. After all, a lunatic feels no shame at his lunacy; he doesn't think he's crazy.

I, on the other hand, know as I glance at that 9-lb box of oatmeal (now already less than 9 lbs, as I used quite a bit of it), that I have entered a Brave New World of baking. Now that I've tasted the sweetness of unmitigated baking fascination, I can't go back. And I don't think I'd ever want to.

Recipe notes:

- I am posting the recipe of the "better" cookies below, though my office mates preferred what I thought turned out to be the unsuccessful batch. The other recipe yielded products that tasted more like candy than cookies to me -- all butter and sugar, a caramelized flavor, but slightly greasy and too spread out and lacking a good taste to the dough part of the cookie. If you're still interested in them though, let me know and I'll get you the recipe
- I added walnuts to this recipe because who wants an oatmeal raisin cookie without nuts?! Except for those who are allergic, and to you I say: I am so, so sorry.
- I also added vanilla. To me, a cookie without vanilla is like my life without baking, which is to say generally drab, boring, and other words that mean the same thing -- un-fun.
- The resulting cookies were slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside! Hooray! They had a great oat-y flavor and the nutmeg really complimented the oats nicely. Though I do think they could also benefit from a little cinnamon. On the whole, a delightful (albeit pale) cookie, and one I will certainly make again.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
16 TBS (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oats (instant oats won’t taste as good)
1 ½ cups raisins
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars with an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined.
5. In three parts, slowly mix in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until just combined. Mix in the oats, raisins, and walnuts until just incorporated.
6. Using a regular dinner spoon to help you scoop out the dough, shape large/medium balls with your hands (~2 TBS) and place them on parchment paper on your baking sheets, ~ 2 ½ inches apart. Flatten each one a bit with the palm of your hand.
7. Place 2 baking sheets in the oven at a time and bake for 22-25 minutes, making sure to switch and rotate the trays halfway through the total baking time. Remove from oven when the cookies are lightly golden but the centers are still soft and puffy.
8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: ~ 32 cookies

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