I’ve got a drafty house with a high cathedral ceiling; when the nights are chilly, it sometimes takes more than just our little heater to get the living room to a livable temperature. On evenings like that, one of which happened to be last night, I start thinking of a good reason to turn on the oven. What better reason to whip up a batch of oatmeal cookies? Not just any oatmeal cookies, but spicy, chewy, stuffed-full-of-fruit that I could pretend that would be a perfectly healthy breakfast kind of cookie (it’s got oatmeal! And fruit! Fruit is healthy, right?) I could chow down on with a big steaming cup of coffee the next morning.
I hadn’t made oatmeal cookies in a long time, and I believe it was based on that the last time I made them, they were kind of uninteresting and bland. I played around with a pretty standard recipe, adjusting the sugars to have more brown sugar, adding a blend of spices rather than just cinnamon, and adding two-and-a-half times the dried fruit than the original cookie recipe. I also bumped up the salt–I’ve mentioned before my love of the sweet-and-salty combination, and I added more than some people would like. With the increased brown sugar, it gives the cookie a flavor reminiscent of salted caramel, which I love, but I know is something of an acquired taste to others. Of course, you don’t need to add the same amount of salt.
Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks to produce not only delicious, but attractive, bakery-style cookies made from drop cookie dough. I’m feeling generous (and a little over-sugared), so I’ll share with you today:
- Everyone knows to let the butter get to room temperature, but also let the eggs come up to room temperature, too.
- When creaming the butter and sugars, beat them for a few minutes until light and fluffy. This will help to beat in some air into the batter which will help the cookies rise.
- Give it a rest! The dough, that is–once all the ingredients are all incorporated, chill the dough for at least an hour. This gives the flour a chance to absorb the moisture from the wet ingredients, and cold dough going into a hot oven will help create that ideal cookie texture–crunchy along the edges, chewy in the middle.
- Invest in an ice cream scoop. Scooping the dough into small balls will help create cookies of the same size and shape-it’s how bakeries are able to create their cookies looking so nice.
- In the vein of the last two tips, if all you want is just a few cookies out of a batch, drop cookie dough is easily frozen for future use. On a sheet pan, line up scoops of dough and place the pan in the freezer until dough is solid–about 4 hours. Fill up a Ziploc bag and stash those proto-cookies in the freezer. Next time you have guests, all that needs to be done is preheat the oven and bake off just the amount needed. Guests will think you’re the next Martha. Or something like that.
My precious stash of oatmeal cookie dough.
Fruit-Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon coarse salt such as kosher salt (if you’re not into the extra salt, use a level teaspoon)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon clove
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups dried fruit (what makes this cookie special is using a mixture of fruit–I used cranberries, raisins, apricots and figs–use what you like, but use at least 3 different fruits)
- In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
- Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fully incorporated.
- Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, and add to mixer; beat until incorporated.
- Slowly add oats and fruits and mix until just blended.
- Scoop dough onto parchment-lined sheet pans, leaving 2″ between cookies. Cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350° while dough chills.
- When dough is set, place pans into preheated oven and bake for 14-16 minutes.
- Cookies are done when the bottoms are golden brown, but the centers will still be a little soft. Cool on sheet pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool.