Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
If the forecast for this weekend holds, I think Marc and I are going to have to go hiking. We haven't really been since we were in Maine back in June (which, by the way, is solidly in first place on my list of favorite places to hike, or do anything, really). So maybe that's partly the reason we haven't gone lately is that I figure the first post-Maine hike is going to be a let down. Or maybe because our summer got seriously disrupted by having to move 1,260 miles across the country. Or partly because I have been forced to be low key a lot since we moved here due to medical treatment. Or because we live in Kansas now, and where do you go to "hike" in Kansas? If you know the answer to that question, please drop me a line because I'm not trying to be snarky, I just genuinely don't know. At any rate, I think it's long overdue, and surely we can find a good trail somewhere, even in the flat lands of the Midwest.
In the past, I have found out the hard way that adequate snackage is vital on a hike. A few times I have not done a good job of preparing for a hike or a lengthy paddle in the kayak and hit the proverbial wall with quite a thud. One time, paddling on the Hudson River up in New York, I got so tired halfway through that Marc had to tie a rope from his boat to mine and drag me back up the river, against the current. He's quite a guy, isn't he? Without him I guess I would have just floated all the way down to Manhattan and on out to sea.
About a month after the incident where Marc towed me back up the river like a derelict tugboat, we went to Maine for the first time, and since the menu of activities consisted mainly of hiking and kayaking, I got smart and made some snacks ahead of time. Enter this oatmeal cookie. I've never been a big fan of oatmeal cookies in general, I think because they usually have raisins in them, which are not my favorite. But I discovered this recipe, another gem from Grandma Marguerite, that she wrote out by hand into the aforementioned cookbook that she gave me for Christmas one year. I am sure she just clipped it out of a newspaper or a magazine and I have no idea how old it is. In contains instant vanilla pudding mix, which isn't usually something I would bake with, but the thing that really caught my eye about it was that the traditional raisins had been swapped out for chocolate chips. SCORE. Figuring that the sugar would give us quick energy, the oats a little bit longer lasting energy, and the chocolate would just be awesome, I decided these would be perfect for our outdoor activities. It's gotten to the point now where they are nearly as quintessential of a hiking companion as our dog, Maggie.
Overall, this is a pretty traditional cookie recipe, what with the creaming of the butter and the sugars, etc. As I said, I would not usually bake with instant pudding mix, but every time I try a new recipe, I pretty much make it the way it's written the first time and I don't tweak it until the next time, if I feel like it's got potential. In this case, I loved the cookie so much as is that I made very minimal changes. So, yes, I even left the pudding mix in. The only things I did differently were that I upped the amount of brown sugar and decreased the white sugar, since brown sugar is more moist and therefore gives a more chewy texture. Another improvement to the texture was my choice of rolled oats as opposed to quick cooking oats, which also have a more oaty flavor, in my opinion. I also nixed the second egg white in favor of just a yolk, again hoping for more chewiness. My last change was to increase the size of the cookie. The original called for using 2 teaspoons of dough, which seemed utterly laughable to me. I went for a hardy 2 Tablespoons. At this size, you'll get about 30 big, fat, chewy cookies. You could also throw in about a cup of nuts, if you like. I have occasionally put in pecans for a bit of protein. Go bake a batch and then take a hike.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
I grew up in a house where you underbake cookies so that they stay soft as long as possible, so that's what I did here. They will bake all the way through and be safe to eat, but they will be soft. If you want them a little more done, have at it.
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 pkg. (3.5 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together oats, flour, dry pudding mix, baking soda and salt until well combined. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients with a sturdy wooden spoon. This is a really stiff dough and it will take some muscle to get it all combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookies onto the sheet using 2 Tablespoons of dough at a time and use your palm to flatten them out a little. I only do 8 cookies at a time on a baking sheet because these are big cookies. That said, they don't spread a whole lot so you could probably get away with a few more on a sheet if you want. Eight is a safe number, though.
Bake one baking sheet at a time for 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to sit on the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack. Don't skip this step or they will be too soft to move and will fall apart. Makes about 30 to 32 large cookies.