Weeknight Cooking

Crispy Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

December  9, 2014

Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: A buttery, crisp oatmeal cookie, straight from Merrill's childhood.

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My diet at home as a child was a study in extremes. My mother, who loves nothing more than a plate of vegetables, simply prepared, has always been an excellent cook, and both of my parents know and appreciate good food. They are also products of a post-war generation (and a WASP culture) that developed a certain reverence for packaged and processed foods.

So, while we typically ate less conservatively at home than most of my friends -- vitello tonnato, artichokes vinaigrette, an authentic Thai curry with all of the accoutrements -- we also had our share of liverwurst (or American cheese) sandwiches on Pepperidge Farm white bread, bologna and cottage cheese rollups, and Uneeda biscuits spread thickly with salted butter. I don't know what my parents would do without a Brisker to house the dozen or so partially eaten packages of crackers and cookies they like to keep around at all times. (Amanda will attest that no one can rival the breadth and variety of crackers that exists in my pantry; for this, I credit my parents 100%.)

More: Anti-packaged crackers? Make your own.

But alongside the Mint Milanos and Leibniz butter biscuits, there were always homemade cookies in our cookie jar. My mother had a parade of recipes up her sleeve, each better than the last. I've written about her chocolate chip cookies, her peanut butter cookies, her chocolate meringue mushrooms, and her white chocolate snowflakes. And I finally got her to post her recipe for Secret Cookies after years of prodding.

One cookie I haven't yet covered here is a perfectly crisp oatmeal cookie, buttery and light, that was one of my favorites. I asked my mother recently if she had the recipe, and she said she couldn't remember where she'd gotten it (she hasn't made the cookies in many years). So I went on a hunt and found this recipe from America's Test Kitchen (via Mel's Kitchen Cafe), which produced a reasonable facsimile. There are very few ingredients; the cookies are basically oats held together with a lot of butter, and made crisp with a combination of white and light brown sugar.

I added a bit of cinnamon, since I remember that flavor from my childhood version, and cooked them for an extra minute or two to make sure they stayed crunchy throughout. I also made smaller cookies than the original recipe calls for. My mother's cookies were always on the smaller side, which I like for many reasons -- not the least of which, it encourages having more than one.

When the first batch had cooled, I handed Clara a cookie to see what she would think. She loved the rich, buttery crunch (I thought she might) and we now keep a tin of them close by at all times.

More: Pro tip -- put a little oatmeal in your ice cream, too

Crispy Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Makes about 3 dozen small cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom

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Cate E. July 26, 2015
did you use the same amounts of everything as in the recipe? Particularly the butter sugar, any liquids?

I have had some disappointing experiences with oatmeal cookies over the many years I have made them. When they were too hard and dry, I usually found that one of two things happened as I was mixing perhaps I over measured the oats, or they were very very dry, or the egg was not large enough and the flower was very dry.

There are many other reasons why this might happen to you. A couple of suggestions, would be to take your dough out and let it sit until it was completely room temperature. If you have a sturdy KitchenAid mixer, one that can take A sturdy dough, beginning on loan to allow it to break down a little bit and milk a tablespoon at a time and see if after 2 to 4 tablespoons it seems to be a softer and more workable dough. By doing a little at a time on slow, you will not be overworking your mixture and can slowly allow the liquid to incorporate into the door. If it is extremely hard you might want to add one beaten egg and 2 tablespoons of milk.

One unusual. I took once, when I have invested quite a bit and a cookie recipe that came out similar to your story, was to make half of a recipe of the same cookie, making sure that it was a very soft dough and slowly Inc. both recipes. I bake them for the proper amount of time, and found I end up with a really great cookie.
I understand you may not want to go to a lot of trouble, if you were in a great deal of pain, and having been where you are, there is another solution I have used when I've been in the same situation. I tossed out the recipe. I then made it again, measuring for weight all of my ingredients. If The oats in the flower are too dry use another half an egg, or slowly add some milk until you get the consistency desired when you test the Dough at the end of mixing. Another idea I once used when a dough came out firmer than I desired to be, was to take a portion of the dough and roll it into a log on wax paper approximately 2 inches wide and 8 inches long, rolling for uniformity. I sealed it in the wax paper and in a plastic bag. I kept it in my refrigerator for a day or so and then took it out and slice it and quarter inch slices and then baked it for the minimum time required for the recipe. They were a success.
If you do make the dough again, Maybe add one half of an egg with the one you use, 1 tablespoon of butter more than requested, 2 tablespoons of sugar in addition. These are the items that are going to give liquidity to your mixture so that the dough will be softer and will spread out a little more and be a moisture cookie in the end. Just do each ingredient a little at a time and judging as you go along and trust your instincts. It may just be stale wheat flour or oatmeal.
well these are just a few quick ideas off the top of my head, and I hope that there's something in here that will help you with making the delicious cookies.
I hope you heal quickly and feel better soon, and have some wonderful baking successes!
Kathryn R. July 26, 2015
I need help here! I made these cookies yesterday(I have an injured shoulder,3 tears,rotary cuff..painful)it was tough going because of the injury,I baked about 6 cookies,they were like small bullets,I placed the dough in the fridge.Question:what to do with the ball of dough that is so hard to work with and solid? Any ideas so welcome.I think the ingredients are all correct,perhaps a few too many oats!??Any ideas so welcome...Kathryn!
Cate E. June 19, 2015
Cate E. June 19, 2015
Sorry about the God comment. For some reason the spellcheck kept reverting the jeep from Grams into God. Whatever you use for inspiration, I wish you happy baking!
Cate E. June 19, 2015
14 tablespoons of butter equals 198.52 gems.
16 tablespoons would equal One cup of butter or 229 God. Hope this helps. Good luck with your baking!
Уляна П. June 19, 2015
I was wondering how much 14 tablespoons of butter wold be in grams
Sharon June 19, 2015
14.8 grams = 1 tbl
Sharon March 18, 2015
I make mine with approx. 1.5 or less cups of oatmeal. I also add raisins. They aren't big and bulky, but they melt in your mouth. They are a favorite of mine and my friends.
Adrienne H. March 17, 2015
Please let me know the best way to mail cookies, brownies to my grandson who is away at college.
Jeff W. March 17, 2015
There's a place in St.Louis called Dad's Cookies, been there forever. I remember going to visit my grandma and she would have Dad's cookies. To the point, they made a Oatmeal Scotch cookie that is much like the one here. So, I will have to try this recipe and compare.
Carolyn March 16, 2015
Better yet, put ice cream on your oatmeal.
Mary L. March 16, 2015
I make these with cinnamon chips
Cate E. March 16, 2015
Adrienne, my daughter-in-law uses Splenda in her recipes and finds that The cookies will come out just perfectly crispy and delicious too.

Carol given the amount of butter and sugar, using the flour you have on hand should work fine. If you want to be extra cautious, just reduce your amount of flour by 2 tablespoons and then test one to bake. If it comes out as you wish it to be, crispy, thin, spreading just the right amount, then you're set. If you find it to be too spreading and soft a dough, then carefully stir in 1 tablespoon at a time the withheld flour, until you have it the consistency that you want and it bakes up just right for you.
These tips have always worked out well for me, and I hope to find them useful as well.
carol S. March 16, 2015
All out of white, all p flour, but have oats and trader joe's white whole wheat - trying to clean out before Pesach - and am wondering if the www will be to heavy? what do you think?
Author Comment
Merrill S. March 16, 2015
Catie's advice sounds right on!
Adrienne H. March 16, 2015
Love to read your cookie recipes, but since I am a diabetic, I was wondering if you could revise them so less sugar could be used.
WnnaBTrvlWrtr December 9, 2014
The recipes are great, but I really read this column for the wonderful pictures of Clara. Sooo cute!
Author Comment
Merrill S. December 9, 2014
Thank you!