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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.
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.
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
Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom