If there’s anything that fills up a cookie jar better than a batch of buttery-crunchy oatmeal cookies, I don’t know what it is. Look up the lists of America’s favorite cookies — and there are a few — and oatmeal, or at least oatmeal-raisin, comes up right near the tippy-top. You know chocolate chip comes in first, but we’re not going there today. We’re talking oatmeal here.
The cookies home bakers make the most often are simple treats— no unusual and mostly pantry ingredients, a one-bowl straight forward preparation, little in the way of shaping and so on. But that’s not always so. Skim through the list of favorite cookies by state (see below) and, if this list is near the truth, we don’t mind springing for pine nuts or spending time cutting pinwheel cookies when it comes to our preferred confections. On the other hand, my state of Colorado’s best goodie is called, “Chocolate-Butternut Haystacks,” and never even goes into the oven! Made with dried chow mein noodles, they sound like something fun to make with kids. Maybe I’ll have to give them a whirl, perhaps adding nuts as per comments. I tried to see if La Choy (the maker of the chow mein noodles) puts the recipe on the package, but could not find anything that says it does. You can, however, get their peanut butter version recipe on the La Choy website. Cool. Next time I go to the grocery store in person, I’ll check the package.
American cooks are also incredibly devoted to “back of the box” recipes. They’re time-saving, penny-pinching, guaranteed to please, and we always know where the recipe is, right? There’s no need to write it down for the friend who needs it; we simply tell him, “It’s on the back of the box!” We’re always hoping the company won’t decide to leave it off on poorly-given advice or if there’s less room on new packaging. Don’t you hate new packaging? Which often contains a lesser weight? (Insert bad words.)
As a young mom working full-time in the early ’80s, I think — but I’m not positive — I encountered the first generation of my very own fave oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats container. Actually, it may have been an oatmeal raisin cookie that I then changed to oatmeal chocolate chip. When I look back now, checking on the Quaker Oats website, the recipe seems a little different but recipes do change over the years, even back of the box recipes. You might recognize it or one of its many versions. If you’re friend, acquaintance, lover, or foe, you’ve eaten these cookies more than a time or two. My children know them intimately; my neighbors find them on their doorsteps; my husband searches them out in the freezer door; my sister Helen calls them, “the cookies”— as in, “Did you bring the cookies?”
Just for grins and giggles, I every now and then tweak these bits of long-sorted goodness and we have something I’ve maybe called a “Chocolate Covered Cherry Oatmeal Cookie,” or such. I mean, why mess with a perfectly good oatmeal cookie except to change them up because, well, because I can.
There are a couple of things I don’t adjust even as the recipe evolves. These aren’t thing on the QO recipes; they’re mine. One of them is these cookies need to be rolled into balls or scooped and they then must be pressed down onto the cookie sheet for a good seal between the dough and the metal. No greasing the sheet or using parchment paper. That creates a real crispy bottom and makes the cookie what it is. Another is all of the fat must be butter, please. Cut your saturated fat elsewhere. (I know Quaker says margarine, but trust me, ok?)
For a few weeks since the big Christmas cookie rush, it’s been in my mind to add some ginger to these sweet things. Ginger isn’t a typical ingredient of oatmeal cookies, but it sounded promising to me. Toasted pecans popped up, though I don’t know why. Felt good. I’m particularly attached to pecans because my dad, who crossed the river in ’94, made a habit of buying fresh pecans, shelling them, and mailing them to me every fall — because he knew I loved to bake and nuts were (and are) expensive. What a precious gift memory. Last week, before we made the temporary move to Illinois to be closer to my elderly in-laws, I whipped up a batch. The proportions of new ingredients were in my mind, at least to start. I knew the rest by heart. And when they were done, I was sure we’d be eating these again and again. As might you, if you try this:
Butter Pecan Oatmeal Cookies With Ginger
- 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks-10 oz) salted butter, softened (280 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- ¾ cup brown sugar (155 grams)
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (4.20 grams)
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh or jarred ginger (1.01 grams)
- 1 ½ cups all purpose, unbleached flour (195 grams)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (5 grams for Morton’s)
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger (2.81 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (4.8 grams)
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats (285 grams)
- 1 cup toasted chopped pecans (125 grams)
- MAKE COOKIE BALLS: Using your hands or a small scoop (1 ½”), roll or scoop cookies into balls about 1 ½ – 2-inches in diameter, making sure balls are totally firm and solid. Put dough balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet and press down quite firmly into rounds until about 1/3-inch thick using the palms of your hands or a lightly-floured flat glass bottom. This will ensure an evenly and beautifully brown crispy bottom.
- BAKE one sheet at a time in center of oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy at edges.** Don’t under bake. Cool sheet on a rack for one-two minutes (any more and they’ll stick–place sheet back in oven one minute to loosen) and using a thin metal spatula, remove cookies to rack until cooled. Store at room temperature in containers with tightly-fitted lids for 2 days or in freezer for 4 weeks. (Plastic bags will not keep these cookies fresh longer than a few hours.)
**Of course you can bake two sheets at a time, switching and turning them mid-way through if you’re short of time. I do think these cookies bake better one sheet at a time as the obtainable crispness is increased.
HINTS: Be sure your oven is totally preheated. Make a test batch of cookies. Use an oven thermometer. Buy good-quality cookie sheets; don’t use sheet pans. How to avoid burning cookies. How to Soften Butter Quickly/SIMPLY RECIPES.
TIPS to change it up: ~Leave out the ginger if you don’t care for it or have none. ~Use toasted walnuts or hazelnuts in place of the pecans if those are in your cupboard. Do try the pecans another time. ~Double the recipe and give away half or freeze them; you won’t be sorry. ~Go back to basics: leave out ginger and add chocolate chips or raisins or both. 30 Oatmeal Cookies to Add to Your Collection/TASTE OF HOME. Quaker Oatmeal’s Best Oatmeal Cookies
TIPS to reduce waste: ~Ground ginger loses flavor fairly quickly; buy in small amounts if you don’t use regularly. ~Store raw nuts in the freezer all the time as they become rancid. ~Not a big butter user? Buy on sale and freeze for 6-12 months. ~Store brown sugar in it’s bag, tightly closed or in a freezer bag and then in an OXO or Tupperware container with a tightly-fitted lid.
IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE MY Chocolate Covered Cherry Oatmeal Cookies.
LIFE GOES ON:
We’re back in central Illinois airbnb-ing for a month to be near my in-laws. The trip from Colorado to Illinois was cold, but the weather held after being delayed a day by ice. My view for two days was a lot like the one below. Lest you imagine I became bored in the passenger seat, I kept busy watching for hawks, counting distant church steeples (Kansas has some incredibly large churches in small towns!), checking to see if any cows ever weren’t eating (I once saw four cows walking; does that count?), sorrowing over roadkill, trying to figure out exactly what was on the back of that flatbed trailer we just rolled by, planning the next drive-through lunch (Hello, Sonic!), and listening to classical MPR quite a bit of the time. I brought dinner and a bottle of wine along in a cooler (chicken pasta salad this time) and we were once again able to get in our Marriott Residence Inn suite, put our feet up, and skip running around in the frozen dark looking for take-out with two large dogs in tow.
We’re cozy in our temporary home, have a great kitchen, and roasted up a chicken and vegetables last night to share with Dave’s Dad, Gene. You know this chicken!! I only had dry rosemary, so used that. My roasting pan was an old 3-quart Pyrex dish, so I had to roast most of the vegetables in another pan. It was all good. You just punt. Roast just about any vegetables with chicken, but if they’re quick-cooking vegetables, wait and add them the last 30 minutes.
Of course we brought Rosie and Tucker!
Stay warm and know that I appreciate you stopping by the blog and reading before you get baking cookies for you, for the upcoming game days, or for that friend who needs cheering,