Some food, some drink.
The best damn oatmeal raisin cookies in the world. Period.
There are very few baked goods that I will make in which chocolate doesn't factor (or that I haven't purposely tried to shoehorn in there). I've resisted the temptation to add chocolate to this oatmeal cookie recipe on many occasions; and I've been vindicated by the bite of that first cookie from the first batch out of the oven, every time. I've made minor changes to this recipe, but essentially, this is the same depression-era (or maybe earlier) recipe made by my Grandmother, as taught to her by her Aunt (that would be my Great-Great Aunt, right?). If I was Plato's character Socrates, I'd be calling this the Form of an oatmeal raisin cookie. I absolutely adore each cinnamon-laced, sweet & chewy bite.
When I was a kid, there were always certain things from Grandma's kitchen that you'd drop everything for. This oatmeal raisin cookie was probably in the top three. Grandma got the recipe from her Aunt, and regrettably, I never even thought to ask my Grandmother where Aunt Edna got the recipe from. Regardless, this remains a go-to recipe for me when I want to feel less guilty about making some sweets.
I've only made three changes to this recipe, and you can take or leave them, and the recipe will still turn out just fine. Wheat germ is optional, but it's a real convenient way to healthy these up a little. Going the other way, ice them if you want a little extra sweet. This recipe didn't originally call for salt either, but oats need salt, so I add salt. There's novelty in this cookie recipe too: hydrating the raisins before they go into the cookie, and then adding the raisin water plus baking soda back to the batter.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
For the Cookies
For the Icing
For the cookies -
Cook raisins in 1 c water. Reserve 3 tbsp hot raisin water. Drain raisins & reserve liquid.
In a stand mixer, cream shortening and sugar (about 3-5 mins on medium speed). Reduce speed to stir, add eggs and oats. Dissolve baking soda into hot raisin water and add along with cooked raisins to the mix. Add flour, cinnamon and salt; once integrated, add vanilla and/or nuts and wheat germ. Drop by measured tbsp on a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375 until edges are browned; approximately 10-12 minutes.
For the icing - Whisk in raisin water to the powdered sugar. You may need more or less water depending on how you measured & what the weather's doing. When desired consistency is reached, spread it on a warm cookie.
So, what's with the raisin water & baking soda? Are we making volcanoes for the science fair here? If you know how that works, then you know there's an acid/base reaction going on. It just so happens, this is the same thing accomplished more traditionally with baking powder. The raisin water, which essentially amounts to some grape juice, is the acid in lieu of the cream of tartar in baking powder. So, mystery solved; from an era where no one could afford to waste anything, we've got do-it-yourself chemical leavening.
The last time I baked these, they spread a bit more than I'm used to. I'm using shortening, right? So I'm not really worried about how cold my fats are. Looking back thru my pantry, the only thing that was substantially different was the brown sugar I used. I always use dark brown sugar & not to name-drop, but I almost always buy C&H because it's not supposed to be faux brown sugar; that is, refined sugar with molasses added back to it. Last time, store brand was on sale, so I read the label. The dialogue in my head went something like this -
"Hmm. Same ingredients as C&H. The light brown equivalent actually lists molasses as an ingredient, so the store-brand dark brown must be legit."
Suffice to say, there is something different with the store brand. I think it might be a bigger granule that gives up the natural molasses suspended in the matrix a little faster than a finer granule. I might be full of it too. That said, it's the factor I'll be watching next time I bake a batch. Oh, and on the mention of fats, there are like two baked good in my entire repertoire where shortening is preferred over butter. I will and always have kept it real, staying with tradition regarding this recipe. Besides, this cookie just doesn't need butter [plugs ears so as not to hear the hecklers].
It's hard to put into words just how simply good and wholesome this cookie tastes. It's definitely sweet. The cinnamon pops, and there's a nice balance of crunch & chew from the combination of oats and nuts. Meanwhile, the raisins are working to keep the cookie moist, with just that right amount of acid to offset the sweet. Speaking of sweet, as previously mentioned, the icing is totally optional. It's something I concocted one day to use up the surplus raisin water & the iced ones went twice as fast as the plain ones. Just the same, I think I'd still leave a few sans-icing.
My favorite time for these has gotta be breakfast. Two or three (or four) of these with a cup of coffee just kicks a pastry's ass. Plus there's the whole grain oats and wheat germ to allay that lingering tinge of guilt I get from gorging myself every time I make them.