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%.)
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. —Merrill Stubbs
- Makes about 3 dozen small cookies
unsalted butter, at room temperature
packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups
old fashioned rolled oats
- Heat the oven to 350° F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using handheld beaters, cream the butter and the two sugars until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and do the same with the vanilla.
- On low speed, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the oats by hand, mixing just until there are no remaining flour pockets.
- Form balls out of tablespoon-sized pieces of dough and place them 2 inches apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, rotating once for even cooking. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets for maximum crispness. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for a week.