it takes two (batches of oatmeal chocolate chip coconut cookies).

it takes two (batches of oatmeal chocolate chip coconut cookies).

alliIt’s been quite a couple of weeks, friends: I went on vacation; I’ve been studying for the LSATs like mad; I’ve ridden on trains; I’ve caught up with old friends; and I’ve started to get to know some new ones. And this past weekend, Kenan (who just moved into some schmancy new digs, whence comes the lovely little drawing at right) and I visited our friend Alli at her apartment in Boerum Hill to say our goodbyes before she flitted off to South Africa for a few months. As I’d just received a request for advice** on oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, I thought I’d prepare a batch to take with me to the shindig.

the chemistry of cookies, the loveliness of leaveners

fluff that flour

But before I got started on the baking, I did a little homework to figure out what the deal is with oatmeal cookies. I love ’em, but I find that it’s pretty hard to get them to turn out perfectly at home – they’re too flat, or a little bland, or rubbery, or smacking of eau d’baking soda, etc. After traipsing about in the cloud for a while, I discovered a few key facts about oatmeal cookies, and about cookies generally:

1. Because oatmeal cookies have rather heavy ingredients (oats, raisins, whathaveyou), they need to be baked at a slightly higher temperature than most other cookies in order to get the leavening agents to react properly. I didn’t quite understand this before I started, and my first batch of cookies (I ended up baking two; hence the title) was not as crispy-soft as would have been desirable.

2. Also due to the heaviness of their ingredients, oatmeal cookies tend to spread out fairly quickly as soon as they heat up. To prevent this, it’s good (especially in hot climates) to chill the dough for a while before setting the cookies in the oven. This slows the spreading of the dough and allows the edge to form and get crispy.

3. Using melted butter or liquid oil in a cookie recipe is never good if you want non-flat cookies. When butter is melted, it’s impossible to incorporate air into it because of the way the fat cells sit in the liquid. So, when preparing for cookies, just set your butter out on the counter for about a half hour before baking, and the butter should be just as pliable as it needs to be in order to whip it with a mixer (whipping it by hand is, of course, a bit more difficult, but hey, you’ll get some muscles).

4. Instead of using just baking soda in a cookie recipe, it’s sometimes helpful to use a combination of both baking soda and baking powder. Without getting too far into the chemistry of leavening agents, baking soda starts to release carbon dioxide as soon as it’s mixed with an acidic ingredient (chocolate, in this case), while double-acting baking powder (which contains baking soda as well as its own acid) reacts in two stages: first when it’s mixed with ingredients, and then when it’s heated. This is also why chilling the ingredients a bit before they go in the oven is helpful; it slows down the reaction of the leavening agents and leaves all (or most) of the magic to happen when the cookies start to heat up.

5. If you’re not going to use chocolate or another acidic ingredient (honey, yogurt, etc.) in a batch of cookies, use baking powder instead of baking soda as your leavening agent, because baking soda doesn’t react unless acid is in the mix.

There’s lots of other stuff, too (science, guys!), but that’s probably enough to cure most basic cookie woes.

cookies, take one

loving spoonfuls

So anyhow, cookies. I looked around for an inspiring recipe, but ended up using ideas and ingredients from a plethora of sources. The foundation of the recipe was about the same as your basic Quaker Oats cookie: oats, sugar, butter, eggs, flour, and baking soda. I decided to go with just brown sugar, as I like the texture more for this type of cookie. And chocolate chips, because that’s what was requested, but no raisins (raisins definitely have their rightful place in oatmeal cookies, but in my opinion, anyone who tells you that you can put chocolate chips and raisins in the same cookie is a right whackjob). I also added some sweetened coconut, for flavor and texture, and a bit of honey, for funsies. I’d never put coconut in an oatmeal cookie before, but Kenan pretty much loves coconut more than anything, and I saw it mentioned in a few different places, so I thought I’d give it a go.

After buying the ingredients, I got into the kitchen and got down to cookie business. Most standard drop cookies are fairly similar in their preparation, and this was no different. I sifted the dry ingredients (flour, salt, leavening agents, cinnamon) separately. I whipped room temperature butter with the brown sugar, and then added the eggs, vanilla, and honey. I folded in coconut after this, because I wanted to make sure that it didn’t get clumped up. Next I added the flour mixture, stirring gently and making sure not to deflate the air in the batter. Then, finally, went the chocolate chips. I set those guys in the freezer (the refrigerator can work, too, but ours is small and not very effective) for about 10 minutes before dropping them with an ice cream scoop on a parchment-covered baking sheet and sliding them into the oven.

The cookies looked lovely, all golden brown and textured. But as I mentioned above, this first batch (I wound up baking more for another festivity) was not quite as puffed up as I would have liked. They tasted awesome; the coconut was very pleasant and subtle and added a nice texture, and the chocolate was melty and delicious against the stout chewiness of the oats. But really, I was still quite pleased with and proud of them, especially considering that I’d basically just winged the recipe. They went over famously, and Alli nibbled on them as she flew about her apartment, packing and unpacking, regaling us with hilarious airport stories, and impressing us with some top-secret but still absolutely adorable baby pictures. We’ll miss her, but I’m sure that she’ll come back with even more tales to tell.

cookies, take two

loving spoonfuls

So after being nearly, but not quite, thrilled with the texture/puffiness of my first batch of oatmeal cookies, I thought I’d give them another shot. And as it happened, we had a little birthday gathering to attend on Sunday evening, so we would have a venue in which to present them and observe their degustation. This time around, I added a bit more coconut, a bit more flour, turned up the oven temperature to 375, and chilled the dough for a full 45 minutes before baking. And this time, oh man, those cookies were heavenly. They had a perfect, crispy-crunchy bottom and crust, and an airy but still substantial inside. Definitely the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever made, and all (or at least mostly) thanks to science.

We brought them to Fette Sau for Simon’s birthday party. Everyone insisted that they were too full of barbeque to try any, but somehow, those cookies disappeared in a matter of minutes – so quickly, in fact, that Simon didn’t even get to try any! And although we didn’t get to spend quite as much time there as we would have liked, it’s nice to be around new people. Sometimes I get a little unsure of myself, but armed with baked goods, there’s always something delicious to talk about.

**note: There’s a new request page around these parts. Leave a comment with an idea, question, challenge, etc., and I’ll do my best to find a recipe for it. Neat, huh?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

delicious cookies

(inspired by Quaker Oats, with suggestions from Guy Fieri)

all-purpose flour 1 cup
baking soda 1 scant teaspoon
baking powder 1 teaspoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon
unsalted butter, room temperature 1 cup (2 sticks)
light brown sugar 1 cup
eggs, room temperature 2
honey 1 tablespoon
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
sweetened shredded coconut 1/2 cup
rolled oats 2 cups
semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks scant 2 cups

In a medium-sized bowl, sift (or mix, but I swear that sifting makes a difference if you want your cookies not to be flat) together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the softened butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale in color and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium-high speed until each one is completely incorporated. Add the honey and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Mix in the coconut, then add the oats. Gently fold in the flour until just incorporated (it’s not a problem if there are little specks of flour visible; mostly, you don’t want to overmix). Stir in the chocolate chips until just incorporated.

Cover the dough and freeze or refrigerate until the dough is chilled thoroughly, about 20 minutes in the freezer or 30-45 minutes in the refrigerator. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

When the dough is chilled, use an ice cream scoop (helpful because the dough doesn’t stick to the spoon) or large spoon to drop the cookies onto the parchment. Generally you want about 2 inches of space between each cookie if you don’t want to end up with one giant mega-cookie (although that can be a good thing, too). Bake until golden brown and crispy on the edges and bottom, 13-15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

cookiemouth

photos by the inimitable kenan “boy blue” rubenstein.

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6 notes

  1. Tanveer says:

    Just as a FYI, next time you want to experiment on a new dessert or advice, mi casa es su casa. 🙂

    • girlcate says:

      I think that can be arranged – if you requested a recipe, I would have to try it, and it wouldn’t really be fair for me to test a recipe you requested without you there to test it, right?

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