Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blonde Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I've been fantasizing about these this squeeky-looking tart from Orangette -- can't you just feel your teeth biting down on that beauty? The texture just looks amazing -- dry, spongy, with some resistance in the mouth... and without consulting my brain, I ran home to make it after work yesterday. Unfortunate news: there's a severe chocolate drought in my apartment. Sure, we have a package of frozen thin mints, and the requisite container of Ghirardelli's hot chocolate mix, but that's about it. Certainly no chocolate bars, dutch cocoa powder, or chocolate wafers -- all key ingredients in this delicious tart. So I had to revise. Dramatically.
I couldn't have picked a more drastically different dessert to bake: oatmeal raisin cookies. It's a standard recipe -- you can find it on the underside of any container-top for Quaker Quick Oats. They call it a "vanishing" cookie, and I see why: they're perfectly bite-sized rounds, have a roughly pleasing texture, and can be eaten straight from the oven. Next-day, they're still soft in the center and not a bit crumbly. In fact, I just ate one right now, in two quick bites. They've got a slightly smoky flavor, which comes from the cinnamon and large amount of brown sugar. I could eat these for every meal, especially breakfast. They're perfect with a cup of coffee or hot tea. And they take no time: in less than a half hour after my flash of cookie-baking genius, I was eating them. The tart, while easy, would have taken much more effort. I will bake it, though, as I can't stop thinking about the texture that I'm sure it must have. It seems to be the perfect chocolate tart.

Blonde Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Let me begin by explaining the "blonde" part. I'm a big raisin fan: I like juicy and plumply dark rounds from California especially, but there's a soft spot in my heart for golden raisins. They're tangier and more complex than an ordinary dark raisin, and I try to keep some around. They're excellent in couscous, divine in salads, and can be used in sweeter dishes as well -- like oatmeal cookies. In addition, they match the oatmeal well, creating a cookie that looks much plainer than it tastes. It's such a surprise to bite down on a cookie and be greeted by this delicious fruit.
Begin by preheating the oven to 350º. In a large bowl, beat together 1/2 a cup of softened butter, 1/2 a cup of brown sugar (I used light brown sugar, which is more delicate-tasting than dark) and 1/4 cup of white sugar. I always use extra-fine sugar for baking. Since sugar is technically a liquid ingredient, I want to help it melt as best I can by using smaller grains.
When the sugars and butter are combined into a creamy, slightly crumbly mixture, add one egg and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla. I know that I should be using real vanilla beans when I bake, but I can't bring myself to pay for the darn things. I'm sure the cost is worth it, but... like Deb over at Smitten Kitchen says, I'm afraid to turn over to the dark side of vanilla. Once I use the real thing, I'm sure I'll never be able to turn back. Besides, I just bought a new container of extract last week! Shame on me.
After beating the mixture to a fine batter, add 3/4 a cup all-purpose flour (I sifted mine, but that's optional. I think it makes the cookie airier) with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon. The recipe also says to add 1/4 teaspoon salt, but I skipped it. It would probably add more depth and flavor, but I just didn't feel like adding it. After mixing well, stir in 1-1/2 cups of oats (not instant! quick or old-fashioned oats are what you need here) and 1/2 a cup of golden raisins. Stir until combined.
The batter at this point is fairly rough and pliable, thanks to the oats. This makes it easy to drop onto the cookie sheet in standard-looking rounds. I do this with a tablespoon, but I've seen people do it with a small ice-cream scoop. With the tablespoon full of batter in one hand, I wedge a second spoon along the edge of the batter to drop the round onto an ungreased cookie sheet. They can be fairly close together, as they don't tend to spread very much.
Bake for 11 minutes until just slightly golden on top. I mentioned this the last time I spoke about cookies, but I'll say it again: your cookies will not look done when they're ready to come out of the oven. They continue to cook after being removed, so take them out right when they start to brown on top. Be sure that they're all one solid piece, though -- the bottom shouldn't stick to the cookie sheet. If it does, they need more time.
Cool for about 2 minutes while they're still on the cookie sheet, then remove and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. After those two minutes, though, they're ready to eat. They might be hot, but the centers will be deliciously gooey. Try it: hot cookies never hurt anyone. You could also make bar cookies out of this by spreading the batter in an ungreased 13x9 baking pan and baking for 30 to 35 minutes. The recipe makes about 24 cookies, but they're small.


Sarah said...

that's funny! my mom sent me that issue of gourmet along with my standard chocolates and bubble bath for valentines day, and i totally wanted to make that cake. unfortunately daniele is on a "diet" (completely unneccessarily) and i am not allowed to make cakes, seeing as how it's just us two and i don't really eat sweets in grand quantities. tell me how it goes and i will make it for next time we have guests! yum chocolate yum!

K8 said...

May i mail you cakes? with lovely notes that say "NO DANIELE DOWN BOY NO CAKE FOR YOU" on them???
I will write in pretty cursive so he knows that I am not as mean as I sound in the note.
First on my dessert list is your carrot cake. may i blog about it? i will, of course, give it a snappy sarah-related name -- Sarah's Famous Carrot Cake or something thrillingly mysterious like that.

Scott Zrubek said...

I tried the blonde oatmeal recipe yesterday as I've been looking for something along these lines for a good number of years. Unfortunately, my cookies spread out quite a bit and ended up flat and not fluffy. I may try again tonight by adding another 1/4 C of flour and see what happens.

Any thoughts on what might have happened? I just double-checked the ingredient list and did not find anything I missed.

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