Oatmeal cookies a source of old-fashioned comfort

BALTIMORE — Lumpy, bumpy and hopelessly old-fashioned, the oatmeal cookie lacks any semblance of foodie cred. Panache? Style? Decadence? Oatmeal cookies have none of that.

But its very plainness and humble stance could explain the reason people seem to love oatmeal cookies a teensy bit more than all the rest. America, it seems, loves an underdog. Even in a cookie.

At Family Circle magazine, where an oatmeal cookie recipe has swept every Presidential Cookie Bake-Off (a rating of cookie recipes from the spouses of presidential candidates) since the contest's inception in 1992, folks know very well the power of simple pleasures.

"Everyone loves chocolate chip, but oatmeal definitely has more of a homey, homemade, from-the-heart quality to it," says Julie Miltenberg, the magazine's senior food editor. "With the way the economy is going . . . people would rather snuggle up with a traditional favorite than try something new."

According to the Food Timeline Web site, oatmeal cookies did not appear in cookbooks until the 20th century. But the culinary ancestors of the modern oatmeal cookie are ancient "bannocks" (chewy biscuitlike oat cookies) and British oatcakes. And the habit of adding raisins, nuts and spices can be traced to the Middle Ages.

For Tom Schwartz of Melbourne, Fla., oatmeal "hockey pucks" are the childhood snack he remembers from growing up in post-Depression Brooklyn.

Schwartz bakes his pucks almost every week. Like his mother who made them for him, he loves that they're affordable and recession-friendly and that he can feel good about feeding them to his grandchildren.

"If you want to give your children snacks between meals," he says, "there's nothing better to give them than something with oatmeal in it."

Joanne Miller of Westminster, Md., readily admits that her relationship with oatmeal cookies, which she used to find dry and bland, is not a long-standing one. But in the few years she has made her spicy iced oatmeal cookies, they've become a family favorite with her husband and grandchildren.

Her recipe brings a definite sophistication, if not outright elegance, to the familiar cookie. It's partly the nuts, raisins and spices, but mainly the luscious brown-butter drizzle

"If you want something special, this is so worth the time," says Miller, who has made it her go-to cookie recipe for any season. "Everywhere I go, people love it," she says. "Everybody wants the recipe."

Here are their recipes to try. Both capture that "homemade, from-the-heart" quality.

>>EASY

Hockey Puck Oatmeal Cookies

6 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, vanilla and melted butter in a smaller bowl and pour into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix well and knead by hand until fully mixed.

Make small balls, about 1 inch in diameter, and place in a greased muffin tin. Press down lightly. Bake for 20 minutes.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Nutritional information per cookie: 128 calories, 3g protein, 4g fat (1g saturated), 22g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 32mg cholesterol, 43mg sodium.

Source: Tom Schwartz, Melbourne, Fla.



>>MODERATE

Oatmeal Cookies With Brown-Butter Icing

For the cookies:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the brown-butter icing:

1/2 cup butter

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 to 4 teaspoons water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until mixture is light in color, then add the buttermilk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and these dry ingredients: soda through cloves. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Fold in the oats, raisins, walnuts and vanilla, blending well.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the icing: In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in enough water to make an icing of drizzling consistency and drizzle over warm cookies.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Nutritional information per cookie: 145 calories, 2g protein, 7g fat (3g saturated), 19g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 15mg cholesterol, 53mg sodium.

Source: Joanne Miller, Westminster, Md.

Oatmeal cookies a source of old-fashioned comfort 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 4:30am]

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