Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies: righting institutional wrongs

charming compensatory cookies and crumbs

I usually don’t find the store-bought baked goods or catering tray pastries at University functions appealing enough to eat, not because they’re likely to taste bad, but because they’re so vastly inferior to their homemade equivalents it just doesn’t seem worth it. Which is to say: I usually know better than to get excited about the food at campus meetings. But last Friday was kind of strange—it was grey and wet outside and I had eaten a pretty light lunch and was feeling generally tired and overworked. All of which added up to really wanting something, anything that would fall into the category of a "treat." And suddenly, the plastic bins of cookies next to the sign-in sheets and stack of auto-generated powerpoint presentation handouts at a late-afternoon meeting I had to attend weren’t just appealing, they seemed potentially redemptive. For a moment, I was actually genuinely glad to be stuck on campus for this stupid meeting which was virtually guaranteed to be a waste of time. 

It didn’t last, of course. The meeting was even stupider than I’d anticipated—consisting primarily of one person summarizing the contents of an article that had been attached to the e-mail demanding my presence, adding only that this information was "very interesting," and then another person summarizing a bunch of information covered in a different series of e-mail messages. Both of them made a brief  show of asking for "feedback," but thankfully had the good sense not to really let people give them any because there were 80+ academics in the room and if they’d let them start talking, we’d have been there all night. And through all of this, I’m nibbling at this cookie which turns out to be dense and floury and a little stale. It was sort of soft-but-not-fresh in the way that vending machine pastries are soft-but-not-fresh, and there was no hint of butter or brown sugar. All it did was make me want a better cookie.

So, I made some. As the disappointing cookie I happened to grab was chocolate-chip oatmeal, that’s what I made—looking for a clean substitution, I guess. I used the first recipe google served up, halved because I didn’t have enough brown sugar for a full batch and didn’t need three or four dozen cookies to make up for one bad one. No chocolate chips, either, but I had some bulk Callebaut milk chocolate leftover from a candymaking project, so I chopped some of that up. Normally I prefer a darker chocolate in cookies, but I wasn’t going for perfection here. My motivating principle was that basically any homemade cookie would kick basically any storebought cookie’s ass. And these totally did.

The recipe calls for a relatively high proportion of butter to dry ingredients, so they spread out thin and lacy, almost tuille-like—definitely not the recipe to use if you prefer thicker or more cake-like cookies. They also contain twice as much oatmeal as flour, which makes them really chewy, but they stayed soft even after they cooled. If you’re more a fan of the crisp, shattering type of oatmeal cookies, again, this is not the recipe for you. The best part, like with most cookies, is how the sugar and butter caramelize, and I think that’s accented beautifully by the bits of chocolate and relatively high salt content. They couldn’t quite give me back the hour of my life I lost to the stupid meeting, but they definitely fulfilled my desire for a "treat." And definitely a go-to recipe for anytime you want a lacy, chewy oatmeal cookie.

Recipe after the jump.

Recipe: Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies, adapted from allrecipes.com

creaming the butter and sugar Makes about 18 3" cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. milk chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 325.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Measure the flour, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and stir by hand until just combined. Add the oats and chocolate and stir until evenly distributed.

Drop rounded tablespoons or roll into balls approximately the size of large walnuts and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

no flash, back to the 1970s

Bake for 12 minutes, or until edges are browning but centers are just barely done. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes, just so they don’t fall apart, and then remove to wire racks. Don’t let them cool completely on the pan, or the sugar will start to harden onto the pans and they’ll be difficult to get off in one piece.

there are few things as satisfying as warm butter and sugar held together by just a little bit of flour and chocolate