Monday, January 26, 2009

“I'll pass on that sugar-filled morsel of heaven.”

Maybe most people who don't have the sweet tooth that I have don't use that precise phrase when turning down a dessert I've made, but that's what I hear when I encounter that bizzare type of person with the taste buds that I simply do not understand. I've heard it all before: “I'm not a big fan of desserts;” “Thanks, but sugar doesn't really do it for me;” “Sorry, but I'm not much for chocolate.” When someone explains to me that they would actually much rather make a cheese pizza than a cookie pizza for dinner, or that the souffle recipe they are trying is savory and not sweet, I politely smile and nod. My mind, though, races attempting to come up with some sort of comprehension of what it must be to walk in this persons' shoes: how does one not salivate while walking past a candy store or not spend twenty minutes deciding which pastry to order at the bakery? Well, I suppose there are many out there who look at me and wonder what, exactly, is my stomach's chocolate chip cookie capacity (answer: there is no maximum capacity for chocolate chip cookies).

Of course we all have our individual tastes, and thank goodness for that. Because of the variety of our cravings, there exist a wealth of specialized cookbooks, multiple culinary magazines, an endless listing of restaurants, and someone to make a wholesome meal of quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash and carrot stew, while I finish it off with oatmeal cookies.

I've recently been presented with the challenge of baking something for someone who doesn't really care for sweet stuff (especially not the the degree that I do), but I was relieved to hear that he does have at least a couple of favorites that I can create from my packed baking cupboard. These cookies are, in my opinion, closer to a snack bar than a cookie, but that does not mean that they're flavorless or dull. Baking Illustrated did a wonderful job of coming up with this recipe which, to my surprise, omits cinnamon and bulks up the amount of brown sugar and oats. These last two elements, along with the nutmeg, really give the cookies a wholesome, hearty dimension. Even with the sugar amounts, these cookies are hardly sweet at all, and that could simply be remedied by a couple of stir-ins at the end: milk chocolate chips, raisins, coconut. But as given, this oatmeal cookie recipe is perfect for the baffling individual who does not prefer mountains of chocolate mixed with butter and cream and more chocolate.

Oatmeal Cookies

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats

Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt together in a medium bowl.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars, beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Stir dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir in oats.
Roll the dough into 2-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheets, spacing about two inches apart.

Bake until the cookie edges turn golden brown, 22-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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