While I’m well-accustomed to baking as a creative outlet and stress reliever, I haven’t had it in me to take on complicated kitchen projects lately. More power to those making croissants and napoleons from scratch — but for me, being home more hasn’t equated to energy and inspiration. And I’m okay with that.
These days, I’m returning to simpler recipes that are forgiving and flexible (two qualities we could all use right now), and my favorite oatmeal cookies perfectly fit the bill. The recipe welcomes variation while it promises delectable results: from the taste of a tender, homemade cookie to the mouthwatering aroma that fills the house during their oven time.
Aside from classic raisins, some favorite stir-ins have included candied ginger with dark chocolate; dried cranberries with cinnamon and cloves; chopped smoked almonds with milk chocolate; and diced dried apricots with white chocolate and nutmeg. Now is a great time to use what you have on hand, and this recipe embraces the practice. Additional ingredient substitutions are listed below, as well.
As one fan says, “The only bad thing about these cookies is waiting for them to cool.” Enjoy!
Easy Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 36-40 small cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons each granulated sugar and brown sugar (or ¾ cup of all one type. If using only granulated sugar, add a tablespoon of lemon juice; see note)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour OR 1/2 cup each whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour (see note)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or a combination of similar spices; see note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if butter is salted)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup total stir-ins: raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc.
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until even in consistency and becoming light in color and texture. Thoroughly beat in the egg. Over the bowl, sift the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt (if using). Mix until combined. Fold in the oats and the fruit/chocolate/nuts, stirring until evenly dispersed.
Scoop dough into small balls or heaps using one tablespoon dough per cookie. Freeze them, initially spaced apart from one another slightly so they don’t stick together. You can freeze them just long enough to preheat the oven if baking right away, or store the frozen dough balls in a sealed container up to two weeks.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place desired number of cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, 2 inches apart from one another. Bake on the center rack of oven for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and tops barely no longer look wet. Let cool on cookie sheets 10 minutes before eating.
No brown sugar? If you happen to have both granulated sugar and molasses, make a batch of brown sugar by well-beating sugar with warmed molasses to desired color depth. If too grainy, beat in few drops of warm water.
In order to activate it and dispel its metallic taste, the baking soda needs an acid. The molasses in the brown sugar usually does the trick, but if using all white sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice can be stirred in alongside the vanilla.
While using only all-purpose flour yields a scrumptious result, I don’t recommend using only whole wheat flour; it compromises the final texture. By using half of each — if you have them both on hand — you’ll both create a pleasant result and help your supply of each one last longer.
As you change up the spices, feel free to reach for ground ginger, cardamom, nutmeg — whatever you have and prefer. But keep in mind that some are much more potent than others and should be used sparingly (especially ground cloves).
While softened butter is optimal, you can use melted butter, but since the oats will soak it up while stirring, the resulting cookie texture will be less nuanced than normal. Also, the dough will be rather wet as you try to scoop it.
No vanilla? Sub in dark rum or whiskey if you have it on hand.