Joni Mitchell said “I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints” but I (on the other hand) live in a bin of spices, flours, flavors and extracts and mostly I love it. Having spent summers in the art studios at Buck’s Rock Work Camp, I know that I prefer to stretch parchment paper than canvas. Below a few of my favorite things.
Before we start, let me tell me you I know about the recipe under the Quaker oats cap. I’ve made it. It’s good. It makes great cookies and you’re looking for super simple, go ahead and make that one.
And I was fine with that cookie until I had a life changing event: eating an oatmeal cranberry cookie fromPetsi Pies in Cambridge, MA. So head-exploding was the sensation of this cookie that I was driven to the Interwebz to find a recipe that would create a cookie just like it. Of course, the problem with trying to create a copycat recipe is knowing, at a basic level, what goes into it. So I set out to find out if anyone had already tried to do it, or do something close. Sadly, I came up empty but you have to start somewhere. After several batches, I found a good starting place at Frances & Ian. Their recipe was very good, so naturally I started changing it immediately.
For starters, I was going to have cranberries instead of raisins. But after eating Petsi cookies, I realized these were no ordinary Ocean Spray bag o’cranberries. I experimented with soaking them in vanilla for 30 minutes but no, that wasn’t it. I tried unsweetened and non-sulfated cranberries. Still no. Then, I found apple-juice infused cranberries from Whole Foods and those seemed to be good enough– juicy, sweet, but not of sugar.
I needed nuts. Frances & Ian didn’t have nuts, and walnuts are usually the go-to nut for oatmeal cookies. I prefer pecans, but I was trying to create a copycat, so walnuts it was.
Cinnamon- the recipe originally called for 2 teaspoons but that seemed like too much, so I cut it in half.
If you know me, then you know of course I increased the vanilla and salt.
That elusive ingredient. After months of trying to figure out what’s in these incredible cookies I had a revelation: butterscotch. But in what form? Extra brown sugar and butter? Chips? I tried it both ways. First, I melted and 1/8 of a cup of butterscotch chips in a tablespoon of butter and added it to the creamed butter and sugar, and that’s what the picture is of. They were good. But I still wasn’t satisfied. I don’t like the artificial flavored chips—so I found a butterscotch extract from Frontier that was all natural. I added and 1/4 tsp but I think 1/2 tsp is the right amount. You want it enough to be “heard” but not so much that it’s overwhelming the other flavors.
Texture. My brother loves crispy cookies but I like them soft and chewy. This is a seemingly impossible-to-placate schism for cookie lovers and bakers all around the world, but it can be solved easily in the way that grill masters satisfy their distinct needs in adult and child audiences. Steak cooked rare comes off first; steak cooked medium stays in longer. That’s one solution, but what I found was that by making the cookies BIGGER, as Petsi does, you can get a crispy outside and a soft inside, which is really the best of both worlds and makes everybody happy.
When I make them for myself, I use a 1.5 inch scoop, but when I make them for anyone else, I use a 2 or 2.5 inch scoop. This makes them bigger, and more likely to achieve the crisp and chewy outcome.
½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar + 1 tablespoon
¼ cup white sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ tsp butterscotch extract
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
¼-½ tsp kosher salt (I used ½)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½-1 scant cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup cranberries (I used apple-juice infused cranberries)
Make sure you have butter and eggs at room temperature: cold is bad.
Mix together dry ingredients flour, corn starch, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl, prepare your cranberries, chopped walnuts and oats.
Cream sugar and butter, about 3 minutes if you need to time it.
Add your egg, and mix. Then add vanilla and butterscotch extracts.
Then pour in your flour, baking powder, cornstarch, and cinnamon and mix just until combined.
Add the oatmeal, cranberries and walnuts. Mix until just combined.
Remove from bowl and place in cellophane wrap for 30 minutes up till overnight.
After chilling, take out and let come to temperature– this will help scoops melt into a more familiar cookie shape. If you like mound-shaped cookies, then you don’t have to wait.
Scoop cookies onto parchment paper or silicon mat and bake for about 12 minutes at 350. Depending on how crispy you like them (and how old your oven is) you might want to turn them around and give them another 3-5 minutes.
Important: these cookies need to “set up,” meaning that if you try to remove them from the tray before they’ve cooled you’ll have a crumbling hot mess on your hands, and likely everywhere. Let them cool on the tray for at least five minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack for about five minutes.