Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Best Oatmeal Cookies

Throwing around the word "best" in conjunction with the word "cookie" is a risky move. Few other foods inspire as much emotion as the humble cookie. Everyone's cookie recipe--or everyone's mother's recipe--is the one. You know the one: it's the ideal cookie that's a little crispy around the edges, wonderfully chewy in the center, and filled with enough goodies to hold your interest while you eat it.

In my family, these cookies are of the oatmeal variety, and dried cranberries replace the normal addition of raisins. We (usually) only make these cookies at Christmastime, which makes them all the more special then (and certainly a treat in the middle of the summer). As they were baking, I couldn't help but say that it "smells like Christmas."

Really, though, these cookies are the real deal. Although they require a little bit of advance planning, since the dough has to refrigerate for a few hours before the cookies are formed and baked, you are certainly rewarded with the final product. I'd pass up chocolate chip for these any day.
Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Courtesy of my Aunt Lydia, a very long time ago

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, at least 2 dozen, but they keep for a few weeks in an airtight container at room temperature. When we make these at Christmas, we're still eating them into January. If they lose their chewiness, you can stick them in the microwave for about 30 seconds, which softens them nicely, giving them that just-baked texture. It's important to let the dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before the cookies are baked. This step firms the butter up, and prevents the cookies from spreading too much in the oven (which would ruin that chewy-to-crisp balance that you're trying to achieve). Because the recipe yields so many cookies, you'll need several baking sheets to make these. Bake the cookies two sheets at a time. If you don't have many baking sheets, make sure that you are placing the raw cookie dough on thoroughly cooled baking sheets, in order to avoid unevenly baked cookies.

Yield: about 30 cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 pound (2 sticks or 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the milk mixture, and beat well. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the electric mixer and stir in the oats and cranberries. Place the dough in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle racks. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper (we use silpat liners). Shape the dough into balls the size of 2 tablespoons, placing on the prepared baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Once all the balls are formed, butter and flour the bottom of glass. Flatten the balls into 2-inch rounds.

Bake the cookies until golden but still soft in the center, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the cookies from front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer to wire racks to cool.


  1. oh, I'm jealous - I didn't get to smell or taste least you took pictures!

  2. have been hankering for these, and my cookie jar is empty-hmmmmm