Are the kids all safely back in school where you are? They are here, and holy sweet Mother Mary, I could not be happier about that. Kids cramp my style in the summer. Not my own, obviously; she’s too young to be in school and besides, I love her like crazy. I mean everyone else’s kids. You know the type: always out running around, heading to the pool or crowding up the stores with their boredom and unimpressed little faces. They have nowhere they have to be, really, and nothing in particular to be responsible for except keeping themselves alive and unhurt with fast food and Coppertone. Sometimes, I shake my fist at them and say “get a job, you little vagrants!” and then I remember: I’m 35, not 85. I need to chill. out.
Someday, I’ll have a teenager. I never want that day to come. Until then, I should be grateful that most of the kids around here are indeed not vagrants, but rather fairly respectful almost-adults. I should give them the benefit of the doubt (except for that jerky one who drives the loud, revvy sports car up and down my street at all hours of the day and night; get a job!). They deserve something special for back-to-school time.
More specifically, they deserve these cookies. To commemorate this school year, I thought I’d do a little remix of my mom’s oatmeal cookie; the ones she always made for us growing up. We love it to this day, and certainly it needs no adjustment, but I did what I always do and threw in some other things to make it interesting.
When I was in school, I remember eating lots and lots of those Quaker Instant Oatmeal packages. I don’t know when Quaker first began making flavored oatmeal in packet form, but it was great for chilly winter mornings when we knew cereal just wouldn’t cut it. My favorite flavor back then was Maple and Brown Sugar, but has since morphed into the less-sweet Raisin, Date and Walnut flavor. I still eat it when I don’t have time to cook myself breakfast, or in the winter when I want something for dinner that isn’t, well, dinner food.
In the spirit of that combination of flavors, I stuffed this cookie big-time. It’s loaded up with dried cranberries (instead of raisins), chopped dates and walnuts, all of which give their own unique texture and flavor to this dreamy cookie. Could you eat it for breakfast? I
did several times could. Certainly I won’t say i recommend it daily; there’s obviously things in this you don’t need for breakfast, like sugar and flour, but there’s a lot of good things in here too. So maybe it’s not a protein bar, but maybe you won’t feel so bad eating it after a long day at school. Or a long, blissfully quiet day of your kids (or other people’s kids) being at school. Yeah? Yeah.
Now, pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, and breathe a little easier. Fall is almost upon is. Relax and have a cookie. By yourself. Save some for
throwing out the window at the kids.
Adapted from my mom’s oatmeal cookie recipe. I’d link to her, but she’s a person and not a website.
A few notes on the ingredients:
When I say “old-fashioned” oats, I mean it. no subbing in the instant or quick cooking oats, please. Their textures are completely different, and one of the great things about this cookie is how oaty it is. You tend to have a less oaty/more floury cookie the more “instant” you get. As a good rule of thumb, always use old-fashioned oats for baking; you’ll love your results.
I’ve noticed with chopped dates that there’s not the uniformity of product one would see with, say, dried cranberries. For instance, I saw several options at my grocer, ranging from a refrigerated kind, chopped and sugared, a shelf-stable kind, also chopped and sugared but in larger pieces, and your fresh dates, which are obviously not sugared and which you could easily pit and chop yourself. I don’t care what you use; I used the refrigerated sort, chopped and sugared, and the dice on them was about a 1/4 inch. I don’t feel like, given the qualities of dates, that fresh versus dried would matter too much in these cookies.
I say light or dark sugar because unless it factors in to a recipe success/failure, I like to give people a choice. If you use dark, you’ll have a slightly more spicy/molasses flavor to the cookies, but it will be undercurrent only. People will love them whichever you use.
If I am famous ever for anything, it will be for my seriously random and lengthy notes. You should hear me leave a voicemail; not pretty.
Stuffed Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar (light or dark, you pick)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
- pinch nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped dates
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, oats, and nutmeg (if using). Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric mixer), cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until fluffy, high speed, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on high until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl again, checking to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.
Add your flour/oat mixture to your butter mixture in three parts, mixing after each incorporation for about 10 seconds to blend and scraping down your bowl as needed. When you’re finished with the final addition, scrape down your bowl once more to check for any rogue patches of flour mixture. Once you know everything is evenly mixed, add your dates and cranberries to the bowl and, on low speed, mix until distributed, about 20 seconds. Add your walnuts and mix again on low speed for about 10-20 seconds.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape down the bowl again, stirring in any clumps of cranberries/dates/walnuts with your spatula. It’s much easier to find patches of things and work them in manually with your spatula than it is to use the paddle at this point, so just work your dough until everything looks nice and even.
Scoop dough out using a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop (it gives you nice, round cookies which are big but not what i would call “too big”) and place on prepared sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart. I used a half-sheet, and I got about 6 cookies on it.
Everyone has their own way of baking cookies, but I do it the “slowly but surely” method, meaning I’d rather put less on a sheet at a time and have them cook evenly than bunch too many and have them run into each other and be funny-looking and uneven. Not everyone likes this method, because it means more time spent. Just remember that the more cookies you squish onto a pan, the more your chances of funny cookies increase. Not ha-ha funny, either; Funny weird.
Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 13-15 minutes, checking at the 11-minute mark for doneness. If you want to make smaller cookies, either roll them out by hand or use a smaller ice cream scoop, but lower your time on them to between 10-13 minutes, checking at the 8-minute mark. Your cookie result should be just golden around the edges but not dry or crispy; oatmeal cookies tend to harden slightly as they cool, so your concern should be less about underbaking them and more about overbaking. As always, I suggest a test batch of a few cookies, just to see how your oven does with them.
Using my 2-inch good-sized scoop, you should get 24 cookies. If you’re making smaller cookies, I imagine you could work anywhere from 36 to 40 out of this dough. These keep very well at room temperature, tightly covered, for 4 days. I’ve frozen them for up to 2 weeks and guess what? Still good.