In my grandma’s world, there were two good Christmas gifts: clothes hangers, wrapped with their heads sticking out and placed under the tree, and homemade food.
Every December, she stacked dozens of aluminum tins on the stairs to the dark, creaky attic of her Maywood bungalow. They were all different shapes and colors, some with holiday pictures of winter sleigh rides or smiling snowmen.
And for the weeks leading up to December 25th, she filled them with what she baked: fudge, sugar cookies, pecan tassies, kolachkys, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and dessert bars.
If you were one of the relatives, you got a tin. If you lived next door, you got a tin. If you were in one of her clubs or helped run her garage sales or somehow in some way knew Caroline, you got a tin.
Bonus points if she found a recipe you liked, by the way: after she knew, you’d get it every year after.
This is the woman who gave me my first cookie lesson, letting me sample chocolate chips and lick the bowl afterwards. So I hardly need to say, when it came to baking in my book, she was the queen of cool.
I liked everything she made, thought it over-the-moon delicious. And now, almost a decade after she died, I realize that by teaching me to love food, she gave me another gift, something to keep when she left, to stay connected to her.
If she were alive, these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are what she’d make me for Christmas. They’re my favorites, and let’s be honest, that’s saying something.
The dough is simple: a basic chocolate chip cookie with the addition of oatmeal.
Yet the results are complex: a golden, crunchy texture with a strong bite, the kind that creates tiny crumbs on the corners of your lips and that fall from your fingers. Rich with chunks of semisweet chocolate, the shape is bumpy and wrinkled.
Because this recipe is from Grandma, there is one thing thatt you have to understand:
Every time I make this recipe, it turns out a little different. Even though I’ve made it so many times, it’s near memorized. See, the thing about Grandma’s recipes, this one having been recorded by my mom, is that they were written from cook to cook.
She assumed I’d know how many chocolate chips to add when she wrote “Additions: nuts, chocolate chips, raisins” and in what order to combine the list of ingredients.
So I’m going to reproduce the instructions here with the kind of specifics that she’d give (with a touch more detail), and you can feel free to tweak – really, you’d make my grandma proud.
Just be prepared. Rarely does a batch of these come out of the oven without disappearing as quickly as it baked.
From my grandma Caroline, the best cookie maker there ever was.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mise En Place
Assemble all of the ingredients in one central place so you are rummaging all over your kitchen or pantry looking for things.
While you are collecting all of your ingredients, go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F.
Step 2 – Combine and Mix
Add the brown sugar, white sugar, margarine, egg, vanilla, water, flour baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Or use a stand mixer if you have one. I’m using one of my favorite stand mixers here – the the Cuisinart SM55.
Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Step 3 – Form the Dough
Grease a 1/2 sized baking sheet with a bit of shortening or use a Silpat silicone liner. Use a medium sized cookie scoop to form dough balls or alternatively use a tablespoon to measure out rounded portions of about 1 1/2 tablespoons each.
Step 4 – Bake and Enjoy
Bake for 20 -23 minutes or until firm and no dough remains on a toothpick when conducting the almighty “toothpick” test.
Place on cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Eat them slightly warm or at room temperature. Each batch will keep for around a week but both the dough or whole cookies can be frozen.
What about you? What are your favorite add-ins for oatmeal cookies? Chocolate chips? Walnuts? M&Ms? Raisins? Something exotic?
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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published December 5th, 2008 by Shanna Mallon. Revised and updated November 11th, 2017, with additional writing by Mike Quinn.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna has a Masters in Writing through Depaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.