Nobody has ever complained about my oatmeal cookies, not really.
My friend Fred, an oatmealophile if ever there was one, never complained. Perhaps to him, any cookie made with oatmeal is a good cookie. Maybe other cookie recipients were merely being polite. Or maybe they just ate the cookies out of desperation, because I had not offered them chocolate-chip cookies, which were what they really wanted. (Don't they always?)
For years, I had followed the recipe on the Quaker Oats box and been fairly well satisfied. (Of course, I almost always put in chocolate chips instead of raisins.)
But maybe, I thought, there was more I could do to improve the recipe. I was beginning to suspect that the traditional Quaker recipe resulted in cookies that were a little too robust, thick and almost dry.
Perhaps these thick Quaker cookies really meant to be dainty, thin yet moist, but they were trapped inside a plump clump of a cookie trying to get out.
So I experimented. I used less oatmeal, a good start. I added a simple secret ingredient, water, which helps the cookies spread out thinner. I've tried the refinement of grinding the oatmeal into a kind of oat flour (good, but not necessary). I've made oatmeal cookies with maple sugar (a big hit, but very expensive - even though, because maple sugar is so sweet, it takes less of it). And I added lots more nuts, expense be hanged.
In my opinion, the more nuts the better. If you don't want nuts, my advice is to make a different kind of cookie. Oatmeal cookies cry out for nuts. Heretical as it may seem, I have also concluded that oatmeal cookies just might be even better without the raisins. (I dote on raisins, but I save them for my breakfast oatmeal, instead.)
The recipe below is, I feel, a modest improvement over the one on the Quaker Oats box. Perhaps it is not yet the be-all, end-all oatmeal cookie, though. If you have such a recipe, please send it along.
Thin Oatmeal Pecan Cookies
I've omitted the raisins, but if you want to add a cupful, make it golden raisins, also called Sultanas. They won't dry out as much in baking as black raisins do. (Or toss in a handful of dried cranberries.) This recipe was inspired by one I found at robinsweb.com, said to be a favorite with the illustrator Norman Rockwell.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups oatmeal, not cooked
2 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
Cream together butter and both sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and water.
In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Fluff together with a fork.
Stir dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, then oatmeal and pecans.
Scoop out a rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Use a dampened spoon to flatten each cookie to about 2 inches in diameter.
Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Cool for a few minutes before carefully removing from the parchment paper to a rack. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen large cookies.
For chocolate chip oatmeal cookies: Add 2 cups chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips.