Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies: A million memories

I've been baking cookies for as long as I can remember.

Growing up, it was a ritual in my household -- as normal as brushing our teeth before bedtime or watching "Full House" and "TGIF" on Friday nights. My mom would always use the same putrid green glass mixing bowl and follow the same recipe that she knew by heart. I would look on from my perch on a wooden bar stool next to the counter, studying her precise movements and absorbing every word of instruction.

"Always make sure to pack down the brown sugar like this," She'd say gently, as she'd press it into the measuring cup. "When we dump it into the bowl it should maintain its shape rather than immediately crumbling apart."

"It's important not to over mix the flour," She'd advise, carefully folding it into the batter with her favorite, slightly chipped plastic spoon.

"The chocolate chips go in last!" She'd smile, sliding a few stray pieces my way.

I loved those moments -- not just for the end result (cookies), but because I was spending time with my mom. And, likely, escaping less desirable household chores like pulling weeds in the garden or cleaning my room.

I loved it even more when my mom began passing the spoon to me -- letting me cream the butter, measure the cinnamon, and, eventually, crack the egg into the bowl without getting a single piece of eggshell in there with it (the ultimate accomplishment in baking).

Cookies were the first thing I learned to make by myself, they were the first thing we packed for road trips, and they were the default answer for any event or occasion. Father's Day. A visit from a relative. Breakfast.

While I've grown past the point where I think it's completely normal to eat three oatmeal cookies for breakfast in lieu of actual oatmeal, I still associate cookies with the celebration of both the mundane and the momentous. Even when the mundane is an insatiable craving that can't be satisfied by my standard small wedge of dark chocolate.

This past weekend I baked these cookies (my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe kicked up a few notches) for my brother and sister-in-law who just welcomed my newest little niece into the world. I gently pressed the brown sugar into my measuring cup, carefully folded in the flour, and finished with an indecent heap of both white and bittersweet chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and oatmeal. It felt as normal and natural as the days when I was watching my mom make the same studied motions with her favorite recipe.

These cookies taste like a million childhood memories at once. Of Saturday mornings splayed out on the couch watching reruns of "Saved by the Bell." Of driving to Fresno for the state cross-country meet in high school. Of visits to see my eldest brother in the dorms at college.

Moving forward, they'll taste of a new memory -- the first moment I saw my five-day-old niece asleep on the couch, my three-year-old-niece perched next to her, exclaiming, "Diana! Diana! Come see my new toys!", completely oblivious that I might want to see her new little sister too.

Someday I may teach both of them how to press the brown sugar into the measuring cups. I may show them how to gently fold in the flour without over mixing the batter. And, when their parents aren't looking, I'll slip each of them a few stray chocolate chips.

Two Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 20-24 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 extra-large egg, brought to room temperature
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together to lighten the texture and make it easier to fold into the batter.

Place softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or regular, large bowl if using a hand mixer). Add the brown sugar and beat until well-combined. Stir in the vanilla so the flavor can penetrate the butter, then beat in the egg until thoroughly integrated.

Carefully fold or stir in the flour on the lowest setting on the stand or hand mixer, then add the oatmeal, and both the white and bittersweet chocolate chips. Stir until just combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least an hour or, time-permitting, overnight. 

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll cold batter into golf ball-sized scoops and place a couple inches a part on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating once to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven when set on top and just starting to turn a nice golden brown. Let sit on hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Dad said...

Jan/Mom baked some for our good friends the Kelloggs visiting on Sunday for Brunch and a afternoon of bridge. Those really look great and I love the idea of the cramberries. I still love Jan/Mom's cookies after over 40 years of eating them. We always take them on trips, vacations, when family visits, etc. and we now take the dough in the ice chest when we visit so we can have warm cookies after breakfast. - Dad

Esi said...

Congrats on your new niece. Maybe some day she will write a post about baking cookies with you!