2.12.2010

the whole batch of cookies


There is a really cute book that Kalen loves to get out of the library called "The Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies," by Ainslie Pryor. One day, Mama Cat decides to bake oat cookies with raisins, which happen to be Baby Blue Cat's favorite treat. While the cookies cool, the other cats play outside. But Baby Blue Cat manages to eat the whole batch of cookies before he even knows what's happening, and is in tears (and eventually sick to his stomach) when he realizes his mistake. Mama Cat, in her infinite wisdom and patience, immediately makes another batch, then consoles Baby Blue Cat while the other cats have their treat. It is such a sweet and gentle book, and I wish that I could say I identify with Mama Cat. I don't.

I am Baby Blue Cat.

As I type this, I am finishing off the last of a batch of oat raisin cookies. I did not eat the whole batch, but I ate far more than my fair share, and it was only because I love my family so much that I was able to restrain myself enough to let them have a taste, too. They were such delicious cookies! Unlike Baby Blue Cat, though, I do not think I have learned my lesson, if the lesson we are speaking of is: "Do not eat too many sweets because it will make you sick and is inconsiderate of others." No, I have not learned that at all. My Achilles' Heel is and always will be sweet baked goods.

However, I have learned a very important lesson in all of this. One which will benefit you, as well! I have learned how to make a really fabulous gluten-free oat raisin cookie. The fact that I can even say "gluten-free oat raisin cookie" is itself a bit of a marvel, since only recently have certified gluten-free oats become widely available. (Thank you wonderful people at Bob's Red Mill!) So it has been years since I've had an oat raisin cookie, and likely many, many years since I've had a truly stupendous one. Thankfully, I can now make just such a cookie every week, if I so desire. (And can afford the oats. Gluten-free oats are expensive!)

The recipe I started with was one I used to make when I worked at a local bakery. That recipe was based on a Culinary Institute of America teaching recipe, so it was a good, solid recipe. It could easily be scaled up or down, it baked consistently, and it was a good base to which other, more exotic ingredients could be added. It made cookies that were a deep, caramel brown, with shatteringly crisp edges and chewy centers, chock full of oats and raisins with just enough flour to keep everything from falling apart.

I never tasted those cookies. I did smell them, though, every morning for two years, and it drove me crazy. The smell of those cookies fresh out of the oven, more than any other product at the bakery, really got to me. I had never been a huge oat raisin cookie fan, and I realized that it was because I'd never had one that smelled like that (and so, my reasoning went, tasted like that, if not better). The scent of the proportionately-large quantities of butter, sugar, and brown sugar mingling with cinnamon, caramelizing into a perfect union, crowned by the barely-tannic aroma of raisins toasting . . . well, it became my cookie-baking Ideal Smell.

Several days ago, my own kitchen was filled with that lovely perfume. The cookies came out of the oven just I as remembered them: the color of copper, too fragile to handle until they cooled and firmed up, with crackling edges that I just knew would release crispy shards everywhere at first bite.

We tried them. Oh my, they were heaven! Buttery and nutty, sweet and tangy, chewy and crisp - such a yin-yang of cookie perfection! And Josh confirmed that yes, these were the same cookie that I had made for years at the bakery. Success!



Now, these will not be everyone's oat raisin cookie ideal, not if you prefer a soft, tender crumb. These can't be that - they don't have enough flour. But if you're a fan of caramelized anything, I'm betting you'll love these. The recipe makes about 3 dozen large, bakery-sized cookies, but you could make smaller cookies, cut the recipe in half, or increase it as it suits you. If you don't want to eat all the cookies right away (they're best consumed in the first two days), scoop some batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and freeze the unbaked cookies. Once frozen, you can take them off the baking sheet and throw them into freezer bags, if things fit better that way. When you want cookies, just arrange the frozen ones on a baking sheet (for really big cookies, don't crowd more than six on there - they really spread), thaw (in the fridge overnight if you're thinking ahead), and bake only as many as you need.

We made some of these into ice cream sandwiches, and honestly, it was Too Much. Two huge cookies, hugging a big scoop of very-sweet vanilla ice cream, was more sugar than anyone (even me!) needs at one time. But crumbled over the ice cream as a garnish? I can think of no better topping for your favorite vanilla bean ice cream. As Baby Blue Cat would say, "Wow-meow!"


Gluten-Free Oat Raisin Cookies

One problem: this recipe (and the mother recipe it is based on) is measured in grams. Which makes for very exact baking. But is not so easy to convert to volume measurements (cups, teaspoons, etc.). Buy a scale. Even a cheap one, as long as it measures in grams. Your baking will be so much better for it. And, more importantly, you'll be able to make these cookies.

410 grams unsalted butter, room temp.
160 grams sugar
472 grams light brown sugar
10 grams vanilla
150 grams eggs, room temp.
202 grams Tara's all-purpose gf baking mix (see this post for recipe)
75 grams buckwheat flour
35 grams sweet rice flour

3 grams xanthan gum
5 grams salt (I use fine sea salt for baking)
10 grams baking soda
5 grams cinnamon
426 grams gluten-free rolled oats
360 grams raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flours, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars 'til light and fluffy. Combine the eggs and vanilla in a small container, then mix into butter/sugar mixture in three additions, scraping bowl between additions. Add flour, and mix until combined. Mix in oats, then raisins. Normally I'd say don't mix it too much, but since there's no gluten in the dough, you don't have to worry about overworking it. Get the oats and raisins as evenly-distributed as possible.

Scoop cookie dough into balls (anywhere from 2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup per cookie, depending on the size you want) and arrange on parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheets, leaving space for cookies to spread. Flatten the tops - this will allow them to spread more evenly. Bake 10-15 minutes, depending on size, or until cookies are a lovely caramelized brown color. Cool cookies on tray until firm enough to slide off with a spatula, then cool completely on rack.

Makes about 36 large cookies.

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