Sunday, March 29, 2009

Visions of Cookies

I've been having trouble sleeping. And when I'm not sleeping, I'm having visions. Not of sugarplums, but of cookies. For the last few weeks, I've been seeing a cookie in my head, a cookie that has been calling to me. A cookie that is chewy and thick with good "stuff." I'm talking about oatmeal cookies here. Just say the words "oatmeal cookie" and people kind of fall apart. It connotes all sorts of warm and fuzzy thoughts. And who couldn't use some warm thoughts in today's ever so chilly economic climate (more thoughts on how to combat this cold environment in a future post).

I think oatmeal cookies are alot like chocolate chip cookies; that is, people have distinct preferences about their likes and dislikes. And I'm no different. I like my cookies with "stuff." Don't give me a plain old oatmeal cookie. Give me nuts, give me some kind of dried fruit, give me coconut. Yes! I want texture and flavor galore.

Now, I suppose I could buy this cookie somewhere, but that wouldn't be any fun. So today, on this rainy, chilly day, in between getting our taxes together, I decided to make this ultimate oatmeal cookie. And where better to start than with the recipe from that kindly Quaker Oats man (see any Quaker Oats product for picture of said man). I mean, there's no reason to totally reinvent the wheel here; I think it's safe to say the Quaker Oats people know how to bake an oatmeal cookie. But their recipe didn't have a whole lot of stuff (only raisins). And in the visions I'd been having, my oatmeal cookie had pistachios and coconut. I toyed with the idea of cranberries or craisins, but in the end I decided to stick with raisins.

One other thing I did differently than the QO recipe was to chill the batter for a couple of hours before baking. In a landmark article by David Leite for the New York Times, David details the need for letting cookie dough rest 12-36 hours to give it time to absorb the liquid. If I had started this on Friday or Saturday, I could have given the dough the full recommended resting time, but I got to this on Sunday afternoon. So my dough only rested two hours. Still, they came out great. Some of them had a lacey quality to them - not what I was going for, but delicious nonetheless. Others were the holy grail of oatmeal cookies - thick, chewy, redolent with cinnamon, with the wonderful texture of coconut and the salty crunch of pistachios. Look at that photo above of the cooling cookies - just look at the "stuff" jutting out. This is an oatmeal cookie!

If you want to experience my ultimate oatmeal cookie, the recipe is below. Or go forth and conjure up your own true vision. Then let us know what kind of cookie visions keep you up at night.

The Cook's Tour Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie

2 sticks butter, softened
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3 C quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked
1 C raisins
1 C sweetened coconut
1 C shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 350F. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, raisins, coconut, pistachios; mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen.

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