Monday, June 18, 2007

Getting Back to Basics

If the heart of the home is the kitchen, then the heart of my kitchen is the cookie jar. A full cookie jar is my love letter to my family. Because I bake cookies so often, a lot of what I make are old favorites. Not flashy, not impressive, but tasty and comforting.

I was loathe to blog about something as common as oatmeal raisin cookies, but my daughter insisted that there are a lot of people out there who don't know how to make good cookies. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites along with some baking tips. Although cookies are easy to make, there are some details that make the difference between delightful, tender treats and burnt, crunchy disasters. If you're an experienced baker and cookies are no problem for you, skip right to the recipe, but if you have some problems with cookies, try some of my cookie baking secrets and see if they don't help.

I love soft, moist, chewy cookies, so that's mostly the kind of cookie I make. A family favorite is the classic Oatmeal Raisin. I did a lot of comparison baking, trying out different recipes, comparing, asking friends' opinions, to find what I considered the best. This one has it all - soft chewy texture, generous amount of raisins, and a flavor that calls you back to the cookie jar for just one more.

Tip 1 - Have all ingredients at room temperature. To do this, assemble all your ingredients on the counter. This also ensures that you actually have all the ingredients and won't have to send your harried husband to the store to buy raisins or your child next door to borrow eggs.

Tip 2 - In the first step of creaming together the butter and sugar, don't rush. It will take several minutes and the mixture will actually change color, becoming lighter and creamier, without individual sugar crystals showing. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula several times during the creaming stage so your mixture will be consistent.

Tip 3 - There is a difference between regular, rolled oats and quick-cooking oats and instant oatmeal. Rolled oats have a coarser consistency and absorb liquids differently than the smaller flakes of quick-cooking oats. The finer the flakes, the more readily it combines with liquids. Use whichever your recipe calls for. If you use rolled oats when quick-cooking is called for, your cookies will have an unpleasantly hard consistency. If you use instant oatmeal it will form a semi-edible paste similar to glue.

Tip 4 - I have a personal theory that the reason so many people hate raisins in cookies is that they've had nasty, dry, over-cooked raisins in cookies. I, too, hate the black, dry pellets that often pass as raisins in cookies. To avoid this, make sure you use fresh, moist raisins. If yours are a little old, a little soak in a bowl of very hot water will help rejuvinate them. Pat them dry with a paper towel before folding them into the dough and they will stay moist and tasty for you.

Tip 5 - All cookie sheets are not created equal. I've been using AirBake sheets for years and have never had a cookie burn on the bottom. I love them!

Tip 6 - Underbake your cookies. Take them out of the oven a little bit before they look perfectly done. As they rest on the cookie sheet they will continue to bake a bit from the residual heat. If you take them out of the oven when they are perfect, they will be overdone. I like to take them out when the outside edge of the cookie is just turning light brown. If they look the slightest bit doughy in the center, as they cool they'll become deliciously moist and chewy.

Now you're ready to try:

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1 cup plump raisins

1- Arrange the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

2- In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

3 -In a large bowl beat butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well.

4 - Add flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in the oats and raisins, mixing well.

5 - Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.

6 - Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Anonymous said...

Yum yum! I ate way to much mom. You are not supportive of my losing weight goals!! You pretty much FORCE me to eat so many by making them so tasty. I really like these. I really like the fact you don't put chocolate in them too, I think that ruins these kind of cookies.

Anh said...

These are fantastic cookies, I surely love them! And thanks for the lovely tips. I truly appreciate them...

Patricia Scarpin said...

Lynn, I have never baked oatmeal cookies - yours look so good!

Jerry said...

I love oatmeal raisin cookies. I have had problems with them lately not being chewy like you describe. One I blame my oven. It only has heat from the bottom. Two, they over cook after they come out of the oven. Thanks for the tips. Next time I'm going to take them into account.

Linda said...

how beautiful. you are such a talented photographer! glad to have found your blog!

Anonymous said...

I love oatmeal raisin cookies. They look so delicious. Thanks for the tips.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

ChubbaLubba - As if!! You are buff and beautiful and can easily afford the cookies.

Anh - Thanks so much!

Patricia - No oatmeal cookies? I can't imagine that. Try them and you'll be a convert. :-)

Jerry - You might also try better baking sheets. That really makes a difference.

Linda - Thanks for stopping by. The talented photographer is my daughter. Check out her work at I'm blessed to have her take my pictures for me because my pictures would not be worth looking at!

Cooking Ninja - Thanks!

WokandSpoon said...

I'm one of those people who doesn't know how to make good cookies! Thanks for your recipe - this one looks simple enough so that even I don't mess it up!

Kelly-Jane said...

I've never eaten an oatmeal raisin cookie! They are on my list though :) Mmmmm.

Anne said...

A very insightful post. I sure need these tips since I'm quite incapable when it comes to cookies.

Your cookies are wonderful!

Brilynn said...

This is just what I was looking for, I'll be making them tomorrow! I had a request for oatmeal raisin cookies so I'm thrilled I happened upon your recipe, I know it'll be great!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that these cookies turned out great. I especially liked the tip for moistening the raisins as it prevented the cookie dough from drying up during baking. Next I'm trying your recipe for Monster Cinnamon Rolls!

Melanie said...

Thanks for pointing me to this recipe. I can't wait to try it out and play around with it!

MJ_Cook said...

I've been experimenting over and over again for the right recipe...this one looks just right. I thought the quick oats would work the best but this will be my first attempt. I like your thinking, girl! Also, I'm using one tablespoon of pure vanilla to see how that tastes. Can't wait to try it...thanks for all your hard work and for sharing your success! ~MJC, San Diego

Summer's Thoughts said...

Found you on pinterest. These were amazing cookies. Didnt realize I was out of vanilla so used almond extract and it put them over the top!