Oatmeal Cake Cookies
These are relatively simple cookies with a unique taste and texture, despite the fact that there’s nothing particularly unusual in the ingredients. Flour, oats, butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder aren’t anything special, right? But the way it comes together is a certain kind of alchemy that genuinely surprised me.
The first time I made these cookies was while I was first dating my future husband in high school. He had come over to my house one Saturday to help my father with building a new chicken coop. Wanting to impress him, I decided that I’d bake some cookies. However, I hadn’t done much baking before and instead of stopping to get out a cookbook, search the Internet, or ask my mom, I decided to wing it.
First I got a stick of butter out and–remembering how delicious my mom’s browned butter snickerdoodles were–I browned it on the stove. So far, so good. I mixed it in with some oats, then recalled that oatmeal cookies usually had some flour as well to help them bind, so I added an equal amount of the whole wheat flour I found in the cupboard. And, well, the cookies needed to be sweet, right? So I tossed in a cup of brown sugar. But would that be enough? Aw heck, I put in a cup of white confectioner’s sugar, too. But the cookies needed flavor, too! I dumped in vanilla extract as well (two tablespoons is about right, right?) and then some baking powder (thank goodness I remembered I needed leavening!).
At this point as I was trying to mix together a mass that really, really did not want to mix, I remembered that eggs usually went into cookies. Luckily, I had two sitting in a basket from our sweet Cochin hens, Roz and Rita. Into the dough they went! But it still didn’t look especially dough-like, as it was incredibly dry. Clearly what these cookies needed was water, right? That’s what makes cookie dough wet, isn’t it? I began sprinkling water in while I mixed, until the dough looked to be a consistency slightly too wet to be rolled but just right for dropping by the spoonful.
The cookies looked and smelled fine, though a bit fluffier than cookies normally are (“Cookies aren’t supposed to be fluffy, are they?” I remember thinking). I put a dozen on a plate and brought them out to my dad and future husband, then ran back inside to finish baking the rest of the dough and clean up after myself. My dad and future husband ate all the cookies I’d given them, then a hearty second helping, and then every time I saw my future husband for weeks afterwards he’d ask me for the recipe and if I could make the cookies again. I told him it was a secret (ha!) and he may have married me just to keep access to them.
Over the years I’ve refined my method somewhat and I’m pretty satisfied with what I have. The cookies are soft, like little cakes, and while I wouldn’t call them healthy with this much sugar in them, I’m quite happy to declare them wholesome. This, for the first time ever, is my attempt to write down this recipe.
Oatmeal Cake Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen.
1/2 cup of unsalted butter (equal to one stick: must be real butter and not margarine or another substitute)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°F (175 C).
Place butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat on the stove, stirring constantly. If it foams up in danger of escaping the pan, just remove it from the heat and turn the burner down to maintain it. Cook until the butter is pleasantly brown, but remove it before it’s burned.
Cream the melted butter with the vanilla extract, brown sugar, and white sugar in a large mixing bowl, then add oats, the whole wheat flour, eggs, and the baking powder. Mix together.
The dough will be fairly dry at this point, since it doesn’t have as much fat in it as most oatmeal cookie recipes. Begin to sprinkle in small amounts of water until it reaches a consistency similar to that of chunky peanut butter. Usually less than 1/2 cup of water is needed.
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet and bake for fifteen minutes.