I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love cookies! Today, my post combines a list of my favorite ingredients and tosses them into an oatmeal cookies for a blast of flavor in every bite. After a ‘Healthy Food Fast’ class yesterday, I heard the guilty pangs of “And then, we ate a big cookie.” Meaning, I guess that we should feel badly when ending a healthy meal with something sweet and delicious.
Baking cookies is an art. Really. Quality ingredients, timing and portioning are very important. If you don’t believe that cookies are worth the trouble to use only finest ingredients, bake them from scratch, and eat them only when fresh, then please, stop reading this now! I mean it! Go on down to the store and get a package of slice and bake, and have a great day. It’s been nice knowing you.
If you are serious about cookies, then you are my friend. Before you get started, you must know some things that will make you the goddess (or god) of the cookie sheet, queen of the kitchen, prince of the PTA. Mastering a few basic recipes for cookies will be a pivotal experience in your life. The techniques are simple, the results sublime. You trust me, right?
Here are some simple tips to raise the bar on your cookie baking:
- Use unsalted butter, softened but not mushy
- Use only pure vanilla extract
- Eggs and other ingredients should be at room temperature
- Allow the cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheets – don’t listen to those who remove them after only 1 or 2 minutes. This tip will give you crispy edges and chewy interiors.
- Buy enough baking sheets to allow them to cool off between rounds in the oven. You can get 2 half sheet pans at Sams or GFS for about $10. Ask for them as a gift, or buy them for yourself – you deserve them. Sorry, but ‘cookie sheets’ – the kind with only 1 rimmed side are not necessary. These baking sheets are a work horse in the kitchen.
- Use parchment paper – this saves time and clean up. But, don’t get the kind on a roll (useless!) Go to GFS and get a package of 50 sheets for about $4. These will last the average home baker 6 months to a year. You cut them in half and they fit EXACTLY on the half sheet pans with no rolling up.
- Measure accurately! Spoon your flour, level your salt, baking soda, etc. Doing this will give you the same result every time.
Give up on sweets for the new year? Not in my book. What is the point of eating healthfully unless you satisfy your sweet tooth with a modest indulgence? The trick is of course, eating just one cookie. With these, I realize it’s hard. So, I’ve devised a number of tips for avoiding over-indulgence when eating one of my cookies:
- Wear really tight jeans while eating
- Promise to eat one cookie only when hungry
- Eat really slowly
- Eat with someone much smaller than yourself
- Eat, standing naked in front of a mirror
- Drink a big glass of water or skim milk with your indulgence
- Keep all but one cookie frozen
I’m not sure that these tricks will help, but hey, I’m trying. Here is the recipe for my favorite Oatmeal Cookies.
Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
2/3 cup chopped, dried dates
Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until well combined. Blend together the flour, salt, cinnamon, orange zest and baking soda, then mix into the butter mixture. Stir together the oats, cranberries, dates, walnuts and coconut, then mix into the cookie batter with a wooden spoon.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the racks in the oven to the two most central levels. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. With a portion scoop or spoon, portion the dough into 2 Tbls size pieces, then flatten slightly with your fingers. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the pans in the oven from side to side, then switch the pan placement from top to bottom racks. Bake for 4 minutes longer. Cool completely on the pan, then move to a platter or container. Cool the pans completely before baking the next batch of cookies. Because of this, it’s great to have several baking sheets.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen 3″ cookies.