chewy oatmeal cookies

July 31, 2008


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I had a falling out with a big, yellow cookbook last night. The book has a rather grand name: “How to Cook Everythingâ€� by the super-confident Mark Bittman. With a title like that, you' re bound to disappoint. I looked at all of the relatively straightforward recipes, full of basic ingredients and simple descriptions, and thought, “I have found it. My key to every foundational dish.”But I was wrong. Although the descriptions of cooking chemistry and utensils are quite useful, the recipes themselves fell flat. Was the cookbook editor asleep when this tome was published?

I was turned off on three counts: first because I began the evening with high hopes for a carrot cake. There was no carrot cake recipe. As far as I' m concerned, a carrot cake is a pretty standard type of cake. Definitely qualifies as something. I was flabbergasted. How about oatmeal cookies? I would make two batches: the standard variety and one without flour. Perfect for sweet-toothed celiac sufferers like myself. Long story short, I ended up with one delightful batch—which was tweaked excessively from Mr. Bittman' s recipe—and one batch of boring biscuits. Oatmeal cookies often get a bad rap for being “healthy.”Unless I' m specifically making health-food cookies, I want my oatmeal cookies to be as rich as any other cookie—just chewier. The recipe that I made produced utterly underwhelming results. The cookies were the worst of both worlds: full of “unhealthy”ingredients (white flour; sugar; a stick of butter) but tasting like bland bread you might by at an all-natural store that smells like ground flax and patchouli oil. Now I face a serious dilemma: do I discount the other 14,998 recipes in this big book? So many of them seemed so elemental and so elegantly simple. They were even garnered with gold stickers of praise from the Julia Child Cookbook Awards and the James Beard Foundation.

You' ve burned me Bittman, you' ve burned me.

Here' s an account of the good-tasting cookies, which actually are quite delicious: a bit crisp on the bottom, very chewy, and not overwhelmingly sweet. The recipe does not resemble what appeared in the book.

1 stick unsalted butter
4 c rolled oats (not instant)
¾ c white sugar
¾ c brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 fresh eggs, beaten
1 c dried cranberries (optional)
½ c chopped nuts (optional; pecans, almonds or walnuts are best—toast first for richer flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350.
Add melted butter to oats, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add cranberries and nuts—if you want. Bake on a greased cookie sheet about 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack a while and store for a few days.

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