Take Break, Cookie Bake

A happy Beltane, and a happy Friday to you, dear Reader. If you are here for writing advice, well…I have just one piece of it this Friday.

Sometimes it’s good to take a little break. Of course the work goes on inside my head whenever I step away from the keyboard–I’m always juggling plot or mulling over a nasty word-choice problem. But some days, you know, it’s good to toss the whole effing thing in a mental trashcan and…

…bake cookies.

This is the best oatmeal cookie recipe I’ve ever found. It’s adapted from a recipe off a package of Snoqualmie Falls Lodge Oatmeal, which happens to make very good cookies. I can’t tell you what it’s like for oatmeal, since I almost never eat the stuff unless it’s in cookie form.

Luscious Oatmeal Cookies

You will need:

1c (2 sticks) of the best unsalted butter one can afford
1c plus 3Tb packed dark brown sugar
3/4c Turbinado or cane sugar (or both, or just plain sugar if you don’t have either)
2 eggs
1 1/2t vanilla extract
2c all-purpose flour
1t to 1Tb cinnamon, depending on taste
1t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1t kosher salt (1/2t if all you have is table salt.)
3c oatmeal (NOT instant!)
1 pkg. 60% bittersweet baking chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)

Notes: Do not skimp on butter or on the choco chips. Everything else in this recipe you can get cheap, including oatmeal–but not instant oatmeal, and for the love of God get the best butter and bittersweet chocolate chips you can afford. You can also add up to 1c cake flour in place of all-purpose flour, depending on if you like your cookies soft-the cake flour’s lower protein content will soften them up. Start with 1/4c cake flour for 1/4c all-purpose and work up from there.

Put oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 350F. Get out a nice heavy saucepan (my saucier works wonders both for this and teriyaki sauce) and melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Don’t do this in the microwave–it gives the butter a metallic taste I don’t care for, and it can superheat butter in the wrong way. Stovetop is best.

While butter is melting, measure out sugars and vanilla in heatproof bowl (the metal mixing bowl on my smaller KitchenAid works well.) When butter is melted (you can keep the butter going until it foams or browns, for different tastes), pour it into heatsafe bowl with sugars and vanilla, mix thoroughly with heat-safe silicon spatula or sturdy wire whisk.

Now, set that bowl aside and set a timer for ten minutes. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. I also add a few shakes of white pepper. (Pepper is a secret ingredient in cookies with choco chips.) Then, goof off until the timer rings. (I recommend dancing around the kitchen to flamenco music. No, seriously. I DO.)

The butter-and-sugar mixture should be cool and glossy now. Dump it in your electric mixer’s bowl (if it’s not in there already) and use the paddle attachment (if you have one) on low. Crack the eggs into the bowl and turn it up to medium to whip it good.

Turn mixer back down to low and slowly add flour mixture. When incorporated, stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl, then add the oatmeal slowly with mixer on low. Add chocolate chips after oatmeal is all gooshed in, and pray to God your mixer doesn’t overheat. (Mine never has yet, but I worry.) Then, let the dough rest for five minutes.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Look, it’s a couple of bucks and it’s a baker’s Sekrit Weapon. You don’t have to change the paper between batches or anything, and it makes cleanup a snap.

Now, here’s something a lot of oatmeal cookie recipes won’t tell you. Get your spoon out and take a spoonful of the dough. Slap it in your palm and roll it into a nice little ball. Then drop it on your lined baking sheet. This not only shapes your cookies, but it also means you don’t get a panful of some undercooked and some overcooked. You’ll get a buttery sludge on your palms, but it won’t hurt you, butter is a great moisturizer and sugar is an awesome exfoliant.

If you like bigger, softer cookies use a bigger spoon to measure out the dough. Plop them on the cookie sheet with at least 2in between them. Slide them in the oven.

Here is the tricky part to cookie baking. These suckers will take anywhere from 8 to 14 minutes to cook, depending on humidity, the quirks of your oven, cookie size…you get the idea. Start at 8 minutes and check them every two minutes thereafter until they are nicely browned around the edges and not shiny in the middle, and the first and second batches will tell you how long to cook the rest. (After a few batches you’ll be able to smell when they’re done, too.) Take ’em out and cool the pan for a couple minutes (usually while throwing the next batch in the oven) on a wire rack. (This is when cookies are most delicate.)

Some people like to slid cookies off the pan with a wide spatula and let them land on the wire rack. I scoop them off and slide them onto the rack with the spatula, since I think it tears the delicate structures inside the “setting” cookie less. Your mileage may vary. Let cookies cool until they will no longer scorch your throat, then dunk in cold milk and bask in the appreciation of your children as they proclaim you the Best. Cookie-Cooker. Evar.

Okay, maybe that last one is just me.

These cookies keep for a nice while if you cool completely and stow in airtight Ziplocs or flat Tupperware (with parchment paper between layers and a paper towel under the bottom parchment, trust me.) But they hardly every stay around long enough to get stale.

Sometimes it is good to take a little time off from the writing. Most often, I end up cooking something during that time, and when I get back to the work it is fresher and more delicious. (Or maybe that’s just the magic of foodening.) Plus, it’s spring. The world is waking up and the trees are dressing themselves again, and baking cookies on a warm spring evening was just the thing I needed after a stressful week.

Mrppphlgrb! (That’s a “Over and out” with a mouth full of chewy, yummy oatmeal cookie.) Enjoy!