Friday, January 8, 2010

Super Cookies

I'd like to share my mother's favorite cookie recipe, the taste of many happy childhood Christmases, which I've memorized from baking it so often. It was probably copied in the 1940s or '50s from a ladies' magazine or a package of Quaker oats or Nestlé's chips. We used to use Crisco as shortening but cleaned up our act sometime in the 1970s:
My Mom’s Oatmeal Toll House Cookies
           (Preheat oven to 375)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I keep granulated on hand, lasts forever, works fine)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, softened), soft spread, or margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir in:
1 egg
1 tbsp water

Then thoroughly mix in:
1 cup flour (no need to sift it, but don't go overboard packing it, either)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Finally add:
1 cup oats (instant is fine; I prefer old-fashioned; I often double this amount and add another tbsp of water)
1 cup semisweet chips (you can double that, too, or add toffee chips as well....)

Drop onto a greased cookie sheet in rounded tablespoons (I use parchment instead of grease, and re-use the sheets again and again — very fast cleanup. We like bigger cookies, so I use a large cookie scoop for speed and consistency; a small one will give you a thicker, chewier cookie). Flatten the cookies a bit and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. It could take longer. Take them out when they turn uniformly golden. I often double this recipe.
My mother kept her cookies in an old Carr's biscuit tin she inherited from her mother. It's square and printed with a cross-stitched sampler design. There's a quaint word of wisdom on each side of the tin: "And I've oft heard defended —little said is soonest mended." "The noblest mind the best contentment has." "Be to her virtues very kind, be to her thoughts a little blind." "Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep."

If anyone in my family had taken any one of these messages to heart, we might have been considerably less dysfunctional. But we just ate the cookies. When my mother died, my sister took the tin. I found mine on eBay. It has almost the same Proustian power.

I routinely bake these cookies when it's snowing, and I made a batch during the storm last week. I did nothing unusual; I barely paid attention. I bake these on auto-pilot. I softened two sticks of salted butter, and used all the usual ingredients from my baking cabinet (King Arthur unbleached flour; Trader Joe's oats, Madagascar vanilla, and chips). I only deviated by adding about an extra half-cup of oats to a doubled recipe. But this particular batch of cookies was fantastic. They stayed soft — butter cookies often get crispy — and their flavor and consistency was tremendous. Is tremendous: these are so good that just one is very satisfying.

Even my husband, the absent-minded professor, noticed their extraordinary quality and raves about them daily, with his mouth full. And he had failed to notice that there were no more foot-long cracks in all the walls when he came home the other day.

I don't know what I did, or if the stars were in alignment, or that was some magical butter from Trader Joe's. I just hope you have the same memorable results if you make them.

1 comment:

  1. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are a personal favorite so loved reading this blog post and look forward to whipping up a batch of these very very soon. As a former New Englander who went to college in Boston and spent vacations each summer on the coast of Maine, I look forward to stopping by your blog again.


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