More Than Just Recipes: Perfect Oatmeal Cookies in an Imperfect World

Even as someone who used to work as a pastry chef at a Michelin-star restaurant, I will admit that baking can sometimes present a challenge. It requires practice and patience the same way that golf requires practice and patience; those who decide to bake cookies once a year will probably have about as much success as those who hit the links once a year. And just like those who have no shame when they totally whiff on their opening tee shot, I have seen many people who will bring sub-par sweets to office parties and to potlucks, accompanied by the disclaimer: “Um, some of these might be a little bit burnt on the bottom.” Um, gee, thanks for nothing, bucko.

For those who struggle with baking, I offer one simple solution: rice crispy treats. They are fast, easy, cheap, and always a hit (I don’t think that I have ever seen a plate of rice crispy treats not get devoured). But please, just keep them simple; do NOT add chocolate chips or M&Ms or anything that will confuse the texture and the taste. As far as I’m concerned, adding anything beyond the delicious trinity of marshmallows, rice crispies and butter is like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. So don’t try to shoehorn your own creative flair into this timeless and simple recipe, especially if you don’t even know how to bake anything else. I really can’t emphasize this caveat enough.

But for those who strive for a greater degree of difficulty, I will offer up my own personal oatmeal cookie recipe, which I am glad to share. It’s not my intention to discourage folks from baking or from trying to perfect their skills in the kitchen. However, I do request that all mistakes are dealt with properly. If you’ve burnt the cookies, cut your losses and throw them away or feed them to the dog. America is already plenty obese, and it’s just not worth it for most folks to ingest big calories without at least enjoying some level of quality. If you’re going to kill people with sugar and butter, at least kill them with some kindness and consideration.

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They key to baking a proper cookie is knowing when to remove them from the oven, and this is where most people stumble and fall. The most important thing to remember is that the cookies pictured above did not look that way at the moment that they finished baking. A properly baked oatmeal cookie will initially look rather pale, slightly souffléd, and somewhat glossy — at that early moment, only the underside of the cookie will appear golden brown and delicious. However, as the cookies cool on the sheet pan, they will flatten, lose their sheen, and take on a darker shade. In the time it would actually require for the top side of a cookie to become golden brown in the oven, the underside will scorch and burn.

The recipe below assumes that folks have a stand mixer, a digital scale, and a #24 disher. Proper baking is serious business, and to quote Big Daddy Kane, there ain’t no half-stepping. If you don’t have the necessary tools, there is again no shame in making rice crispy treats. That said…

PERFECT OATMEAL COOKIES

INGREDIENTS (makes about 30 cookies)

All purpose flour, 250g

Baking soda, 7g

Ground cinnamon, 6g

Ground allspice, 1g

Salt, 6g

Unsalted butter, 340g (three sticks)

White sugar, 135g

Brown sugar, 380g

Eggs, three each

Vanilla extract, 1 1/2t

Rolled oats, 450g

Dried fruit medley (any combination of raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries or diced apricots), 240g

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METHOD

1. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Add the oats, and toss the mixture to combine thoroughly.

2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed with a paddle attachment. Once the mixture has become fluffy and light (about 10 minutes or so), blend in the eggs and the vanilla.

3. On low speed, add the dried fruits until combined, then slowly add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix the ingredients only until the dough has come together (always check the bottom of the mixing bowl for dry patches of unincorporated flour and oats).

4. Portion the cookie dough with a #24 disher, and allow the portioned dough to chill in the refrigerator for at LEAST one hour (this step is critical — if the dough is not cold when it goes into the oven, the cookies will spread too fast).

5. Preheat the oven to 375ºF and place five scoops of cookie dough on a regular sheet pan (no parchment paper necessary). Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through (I tend to bake these cookies just one sheet pan at a time, ensuring much more consistent results than trying to bake two sheet pans at a time).

6. Remove cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the sheet pan. Carefully remove the cookies with a spatula and allow them to continue to cool on the counter (they will still be warm and extremely delicate at this point, but they will become easy to handle after cooling for 30 more minutes).

NOTE: In order to make any necessary adjustments in respect to baking time, it’s always wise to pay attention to the first batch out of the oven. As you transfer the cookies from the sheet pan to the counter, inspect the undersides to ensure that they are not being overcooked.

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1 comment to Perfect Oatmeal Cookies in an Imperfect World

  • You’re so right–people are obese enough without eating your coworkers’ botched brownies. One of my coworkers brought in leftovers on Monday from a family barbecue on Sunday. She said ‘even though the steak is burned, it’s still good meat.’ Thanks. Not. So I claimed to be on a ‘vegetarian kick’ and declined the ruined meat. She still won’t talk to me. Oh well. I don’t want her in my group of friends anyway if she can’t cook a steak properly.

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