The Gleeful Gourmand: Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday, August 21, 2015

Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

My Mom firmly believed in encouraging me in every project I wanted to tackle in the kitchen from the earliest age. Her Mother had been the type of woman who loved cooking, but didn't want anyone helping, or tasting, or judging. Everyone had to stay out of the kitchen...until it was time to clean up, that is. Mom, therefore, was a self-taught cook who found her way, one recipe at a time. Everyone was welcome in my Mom's kitchen, and if you wanted to help, all you had to do was grab a spoon.

I can remember stirring things from a very early age, asking questions, and having her explain things to me as I watched her. As soon as I was tall enough to clear the counter and handle a knife, she gave me her old 1950s Better Homes & Gardens Junior Cookbook to look at. I loved that book, and tackled a couple of recipes from it one at a time. Easy recipes like an Apple Crisp (if you haven't been reading this blog for very long, I have to interject a funny story about that I've told before: In the cookbook, it ecstatically boasted that if you gave Dad a wedge of cheddar cheese with his Apple Crisp, you'd get a pleased smile and a hearty thanks. Or something. Well, that sounded good to me, but I had no idea why, and had no good hunk of cheese lying around. So I served my Dad his slice of Apple Crisp with a Kraft Singles slice. I didn't get a pleased was more like bewilderment until I showed him the book. Then he laughed. A lot.). There were super easy cookies to make in that book, salads, drinks, casseroles that required no real work...kid stuff.

But what I really wanted to do was move past the easy recipes and try my hand at what I thought was a complicated recipe. My Mother, for as long as I can remember, had been making these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies that were exquisite. Crispy on the outside, but just slightly chewy on the inside, they're the kind you can't stop eating. The kind that makes you want to take the dough, bowl and all, into the next room and devour as you watch movies. The kind that when we had a young Parisian family friend stay with us for 3 months, the first thing he would do each morning was sit in front of the cookie jar and eat a stack of them (I wasn't his Mom, and he was 20, so who was I to interject? Live and let live, is what I say. As long as it's not my kid. But I digress). This recipe had real measuring requirements going on, which is why I thought it was so complicated. It had all sorts of terms I didn't know about: What did it mean to cream the butter? Why did you have to mix the dry ingredients separately? Why did it even matter if the dry ingredients were added to the wet, instead of just tossing it all in at the same time?

I very vividly remember trying to measure things out, and stay on top of the recipe's steps, all the while shouting for my Mother's help as she sat in the family room, no doubt trying to relax. I haven't asked her, but I can surmise that she was probably thrilled that I wanted to make cookies for the family, and was eager to give me a project so she could put her feet up. Too bad, Mom. Because I had questions about everything. But she was very firm that she was not going to sit in the kitchen with me. I had to figure some of this stuff out for myself. That was the beginning of my love of baking right there - knowing what an exact science it was, and trying to figure out what went wrong when it turns out less-than-perfect.

If memory serves, the cookies came out pretty well that first time, if not slightly burned. Mom swore she loved the burnt ones. What a great teacher she was (and still is). I made a lot of things over the years, but this recipe was the one I kept coming back to, trying to make it better each time. Today, they are my family's favorite cookie. They make a tremendous amount (10 dozen) so they are my go-to for taking down to the Beach, or whenever anyone needs a big batch of cookies. My kids have helped me countless times to make them; and I love that someday, when they're ready, they might make this the first recipe they try all on their own.

The recipe originally came from Southern Living in who knows what year, but my Mother modified it quite a lot to make it her own.

Crispy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 1 egg
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 cups regular oats, uncooked
• 1/2 a bag of mini chocolate chips 

1) Cream butter; gradually add sugars, beating well at medium speed.

2) Add egg and beat well; add oil and vanilla, mixing well on medium-low speed.

3) Combine flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

4) Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, and flatten each ball gently with tines of a fork (I don't flatten completely, just a smidge).

5) Bake at 325˚ for 15 minutes. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.


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