Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Hands down, these are my new favorite cookies.
One funny detail I didn’t mention about the Broken Oven Fiasco is that during the insane four-week wait for the electrician, our building manager (totally blameless and a really nice guy who once got pranked by David Letterman while they were both students at Ball State) placated me by giving me permission to use the oven in the apartment next door, which currently happens to be vacant. This was a stroke of luck that got me through some rough patches—the night we discovered our oven was broken while we were in the middle of making pizza, the special birthday dinner and cupcakes I made for my mother, and the day I decided I Absolutely Deserved Some Cookies, Damn It, Brokedown Oven or No.
Cooking next door was one part fun adventure and one part annoying sitcom trope. On the plus side, it was useful, of course, as well as gratifying my curiosity about the neighboring apartment (turns out it’s designed completely differently than ours, except, eerily, for the kitchen, which is laid out identically). On the minus side, every baking operation involved carrying heavy and often skin-searingly hot dishes of food out through our sliding screen door, across our patio, out our front door, down an outdoor sidewalk, through the front door of the next-door apartment, across its patio, through its sliding screen door, across pristine wood floors I had to avoid tracking dirt onto, and then all the way back again multiple times. On one occasion, I did all this in the rain. On other occasions, I suffered the embarrassment of running into mystified neighbors outdoors while wearing oven mitts and carrying casserole dishes. And on the day I made these cookies, I burst into the next-door apartment to retrieve my final tray of treats from the oven only to discover that a couple of prospective tenants were looking at the place. After awkwardly explaining what I was doing there, I joked that the apartment manager paid me to ensure that the vacant apartments always smelled enticingly like fresh baked goods. I tactfully didn’t mention to them that I’d found the brand-new oven in that apartment to be woefully inferior to my old Thermador next door. I also didn’t offer them any cookies. I’d already tasted one and deemed them too good to share.
I picked this recipe (from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, which I really need to check out, via Bake or Break) mainly because I’m a sucker for oatmeal and I had some M&Ms to use up. (On Valentine’s Day 2007, A filled my gumball machine with white, pink, and red M&Ms, and yes, it had really taken us that long to eat them all. After a year, they had taken on an oddly hard, crumbly texture. I knew that baking them into cookies would disguise their staleness.) I do love M&Ms in cookies, but the real stars here are (a) the peanut-butter flavor and (b) the butterscotch chips. I adore butterscotch, but somehow I forget how much I love it until I actually taste it. I’d never baked with butterscotch chips before, and when I opened the bag of Nestle butterscotch morsels (obscenely priced at over $4 at my neighborhood grocery store) and tasted one, I was dismayed to find that they tasted like sickeningly sweet chemicals. But mixed into cookies, blending with the soft oatmeal-peanut-butter dough and contrasting with the chunks of chocolate, they are awesome. Not too photogenic, mind you—definitely lumpy and “homestyle”—but chewy, luxurious, with a variety of flavors that all work well together.
These cookies were really easy to make (at least for normal people who don’t have to run back and forth between two different apartments). The recipe only uses one bowl, always a plus. The dough seems strange (it barely has any flour in it!) but comes together with little difficulty—a bit on the loose and crumbly side, so that the occasional chip or M&M would fall out when I formed them, but I just gave the dough lumps a squeeze and pressed the stray bits onto the top. The original recipe is for enormous ¼-cup cookies (“monster”-sized, I guess), but I dislike big cookies and just formed them normally, in heaping tablespoons (really heaping—probably about 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie).
I still have half a bag of the precious butterscotch chips left. Originally, I was thinking I’d try them in a different cookie (maybe the Oatmeal Scotchies recipe on the bag?), but now that I’ve grown to love these monster cookies so much, I’m seriously contemplating just making them again.
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups chunky peanut butter
4½ cups rolled oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup butterscotch chips
¾ cup M&Ms (mini or full-sized)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line them with parchment or silicon mats.
2. Combine eggs, both sugars, vanilla, corn syrup, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add melted butter, peanut butter, oats, and flour and mix thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate and butterscotch chips and the M&Ms. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to allow the oats to absorb the butter.
3. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
Yield: 4 to 5 dozen
Time: 1½ hours