Hello and welcome those of you who are new here, owed to David Lebovitz’s kind introduction. Sincere thanks to him for that, and for you for coming by.
There are jars of marmalade on the counter. I’m listening for each plink of the vacuum lids, which signifies they’ve affixed themselves securely to the jar rims. It’s possibly the last batch of the season; a fairytale hay-yellow Meyer lemon, faintly speckled with vanilla bean, that looks as if it could indeed be spun into gold.
I’m telling myself it’s the last of the season. I don’t need to make more marmalade. That said, I want to make more marmalade, drawn to the process as a heartening act of productivity. Each ping of that vacuum seal the equivalent of a gold star on a spelling test. And, when done, there’s complete, neat, tidy, accomplishment gleaming at me from the pantry shelf.
There is butter cooling on the counter for cookies*.
It’s also the second solid snowfall of the year, and the insulating warmth of oatmeal cookies fresh from the oven is basically a requirement of our continued happiness.
Since I’m holding myself to the resolution of no more marmalade, the cookies shall function as stand in for bouts of preservation. They are a riff— an adaptation of my standard oatmeal published years ago, and a stalwart of our holiday cookie tin.
If you love those, and I hope you do, these are a melted butter version as on snow days when there has been two tours of the driveway already and a third is most definitely happening, a no-mixer cookie is a gift to yourself. It’s the method from my Basic, Great, Chocolate Chip Cookies, with the butter browned as a starter step. Two bowls and a spoon and you’re golden.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO MAKE THESE
*These cookies are the quiet ones. They don’t look that exciting. Truth be told, I knew I was setting myself up for a challenge in taking their photo. They’re beige-on-slightly-darker beige with hints of brown. They don’t have candies or sprinkles or torched marshmallows. (Hey now, I should make these with torched marshmallows).
The key to this recipe is the volume of add-ins. Praise of volume goes against every scale-loving bone in my baking body, but for the quantity of dough it’s really about how much physical volume it can hold, not so much the weight of the volume in this case. You’re aiming for about 2 cups. I’ve listed my favourite combination in the recipe, since sharing the good stuff is what I’m all about, but understand that is at most an enthused suggestion—like a waiter reeling off the specials before you order—not an instruction.
The dough is the realized dream of what trail mix should taste like when we pick up a bag from the store with highest of hopes. (Yes, I nicked raw dough from the bowl. More than once. A danger I’m willing to undertake on your behalf. It’s also a perk of the job.)
Each bite was a slightly different study of permutations. The underlying savouriness lent needed oomph to the oats; they were suddenly interesting in and of themselves, and not simply a textural presence.
These are now your cookies, flip this script, go rogue. Choose ground nutmeg, cardamom or fennel seed to take over for the ginger and cinnamon; dried figs, cranberries, cherries, apricots, or brandy-soaked raisins might sidle in to take the place of the dates; white or milk chocolate sub for the bittersweet—or peanut butter chips might very well be the exact chaotic energy your life needs. Throw in honey-roasted peanuts. Or pecans. Dried coconut or minced candied ginger for the toffee bits (I did both on this day). Add those torched marshmallows.
The melted butter means these cookies have an extra chew; a densely squishy interior surrounded by a lacy-crunchy halo where their edges meet the pan. The rest of the details are up to you.
Go forth and go wild.
OATMEAL COOKIES, AS YOU LIKE THEM [11 large cookies are in your future. The generosity of size allows for my favoured ratio of super-crunch edge to tweedy middle, trust on it.]
113 g | 1/2 cup butter, salted or unsalted though the former preferred
21 g | 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
133 g | 2/3 cup brown sugar
100 g | 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel or finely grated peel of half an orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
128 g | 1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon medium grain kosher salt, depending on the butter you use
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
134 g| 1 1/2 cups traditional rolled oats
64 g | 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
37 g | 1/4 cup chopped dates
39 g | 1/4 cup butter toffee chips
71 g | 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat an oven to 350°F |180°C with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two half sheet pans or heavy, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, brown the butter, stirring regularly. The time will vary depending on the size of your pot, let’s set aside 5 to 7 minutes. Once the solids look the colour of hazelnut skins, pull from the heat. Let cool for 30 seconds, then slowly pour in the hot water, stirring constantly.
Measure the sugars into a bowl. Pour the (still warm) brown butter on top and let stand 30 seconds more, then whisk to combine. It will look like wet sand, clumpy and not-at-all-promising, this is fine. We have faith. Add the orange zest, if using. Whisk this bowl of grit for maybe 1 minute. Add in the egg, and poof, it’ll turn into liquid velvet. Beat until lightened in colour and aerated, 1 minute more. Stir in the vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients … or go for broke and simply dump them, in order, on top of the butter/sugar/egg goo. Fold until just combined.
With two spoons or a spring-loaded scoop form 11 balls of dough, using roughly 3 tablespoons for each. Arrange the balls evenly on the prepared baking sheets, then with clean, damp hands or the flat bottom of a glass, press the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness, neatening the edges if desired. Bake in the hot oven until puffed with dry, evenly golden tops, 13 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans once during baking, from front to back and top to bottom. Pull the pans from the oven and immediately knock each against the stovetop or counter to force out any trapped air (this will deflate the cookies quickly, and make for exceptionally craggy tops). Let the cookies cool on their pans for 3 minutes, before moving them to a baking rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Over time, the cookies will soften; to reinstate their crunch, rewarm in a low oven for a few minutes.
NOTES: I usually toast the nuts while the oven is preheating. Spread the walnuts on one of the pans and bake until aromatic and snappy, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the temperature. Make sure to stir them often. Transfer to a bowl once they’re cool enough to touch. Shake any nut dust off the parchment paper before continuing with the cookies.
Using chocolate bars or blocks rather than chips means that the chocolate will melt into the cookies rather than staying in discrete shapes. It is my preference, as the resulting rills quite literally extend the chocolate’s reach.
Another recipe: Bill Clark’s Coconut Crunch Pound Cake, yes please.
THINGS I WOULD TEXT IF I HAD YOUR NUMBER
The Case Against the Trauma Plot (Parul Seghal, The New Yorker)
Why the Trope of Rebellious Asian Women with Colouful Hair is Problematic (Rae Chen, Teen Vogue)
‘I’ve Tried to Invest in Joy’ Wajahat Ali on traumas physical, political, and global (Jean Guerrero, LA Times, speaking to Ali on his memoir Go Back to Where you Came From, and Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American.)
Take it Easy by Jasimi
Guerrilla by Remi Wolf