I have never been a cookie baker.
Oh, I've made certain exceptions, and I might have a bit of a shortbread problem, but classic American cookies have never held my interest. Let Cook's Illustrated tackle the problem of the perfect specimen of chocolate chip; let others rave about peanut butter and molasses; I've owed my allegiance to biscuits, clinging firmly to my beloved Tim Tams, Jaffa Cakes, and chocolate digestives, with the occasional foray into shortbread variations.
Or at least I did. Never say never, as the old expression goes. A few weeks back, I woke up with a hankering to bake oatmeal cookies. Granted, I find oatmeal cookies to be the most tolerable variety of typical cookie, and I suppose I couldn't expect to make it through ten years in New England with my culinary tastes unchanged. Nonetheless, it was something of a shock.
Still, I couldn't let go of my characteristic ways, even when producing uncharacteristic baked goods. I looked at several recipes for dense, soft oatmeal raisin cookies. And then I proceeded to develop a recipe for something entirely different.
The raisins were the first victims of my tinkering. I turned out the initial batch in Tom and Isobel's kitchen, and Isobel does not like raisins in her baked goods, so I substituted dried cherries instead.* Next, I decided nuts would also make a good addition; in went flaked almonds. Then it only made sense to tweak the spicing: equal parts vanilla and almond essence, and a little nutmeg to keep the cinnamon company.
Subsequent batches tweaked the cookie texture: more flour, less of the oats, and in a bit of inspiration lifted from ANZAC biscuits, a little golden syrup. The finished result is a cookie with a hard, faintly chewy texture. The golden syrup adds caramel notes, and the cherries provide a pleasant tartness. They may be oatmeal cookies, but they're not typical.
I'm staying firm on this: I'm not changing sides. I'll visit the cookie camp every once in a while, but you'll get my Tim Tams when you pry them from my cold dead hands, and I'm still not about to bake any cookies with chocolate chips.
You might, however, talk me into considering chocolate chunk.
Cherry-Almond Oatmeal Cookies
If you would prefer softer, chewier cookies, use half a cup of flour and one-and-a-half cups of oats, rather than a cup of each.
(Makes approximately two dozen cookies. Dough may be frozen.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
Get out a big mixing bowl. Cream together one stick of salted butter and a packed-down two-thirds of a cup of brown sugar. Beat in two tablespoons of golden syrup, one egg, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and half a teaspoon of almond extract until smooth and glossy.
Stir in half a teaspoon of baking soda, one cup of flour, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, half a teaspoon of nutmeg, and a generous pinch of salt.
Stir in one cup of quick-cook oats, three-quarters of a cup of dried cherries, and half a cup of flaked almonds.
Scoop heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto your baking trays. Bake for fourteen to sixteen minutes, or until cookies are golden. Allow to cool before serving.
*Tom, as you might recall, is one of the law students; Isobel is his SO. I'm thinking that it might be time to write up a cast page for this blog.