Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and Christmas Magic

Just a few days ago I was complaining to a friend that Christmas, usually my favorite time of year, just didn't feel magical to me this year. I'd been trying to get into the Christmas Spirit but still hadn't managed to come up with my normal Christmas cheer. No goodies had been baked for the neighbors, no carols had been sung, no presents were under the tree. Trials are hard... They are harder at Christmas.

There is something about the season that just seems to accentuate the losses that we've experienced, whether it be the loss of family, of work, of faith, or even the loss of it all. Every Christmas carol reminds you of days gone by. Every brightly lit home of the cheer that should be within. Even the smells of cookies and eggnog bring back treasured memories that seem so far away. Sometimes, whether or not we are struggling financially, we feel so poor in Spirit... It is from these shallow depths that some of the most important lessons in life are experienced.

Last night we had a surprise knock at the door. Somebody delivered Christmas magic to our front step. My first response was almost a panicky plea for them to take it all away to somebody who needed it more than us. I know there are so many! But in came boxes with gifts and food... But we're fine, I said, and haven't been struggling to buy groceries for goodness sakes! But then a closer look showed me that these weren't just groceries- They were the ingredients to holiday baking. They were the perfect gifts for my children. They were thoughtful items meant for each member of my family. They were a way of saying,
"I know you. I love you.You are my friend and I care." 
I immediately felt the Holiday magic that had been missing surge through me with a challenge to rise above my trials and do more to help those around me. So thank you, whoever you are. You humbled me, brought tears to my eyes and magic into my heart. Merry Christmas!

With our goodies was several containers of oats and cinnamon which was so perfect since I'd had this recipe saved as a draft for a couple weeks. This gave me the perfect opportunity to bake today!

I have been playing with this recipe for the past twelve months. Last year my aunt mentioned that her husband (one of my favorite uncles) LOVES oatmeal chocolate chip cookies but they always have a hard time finding any that are really delicious and live up to his high expectations. I made it a personal quest to create the perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookie for him for this Christmas. (Yes I realize I sound like a complete nut working on a recipe for an entire year just to give somebody a cookie... )

Anyway, the thing that I always struggled with when making oatmeal cookies was that they always ended up being flat and unappealing. I'd try to add more flour and then they'd taste more like flour than oats... Finally I think I've figured it out and the recipe is as follows:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups quick cooking or rolled oats
1 1/2 - 2 cups chocolate chips

 Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on your oven and cookie size each batch should take about 10-15 minutes. I usually make my cookies on the smaller side so mine take about 10 minutes.

Cream butter and sugar. For the best results, beat until mixture is lightened in color. I mixed mine for close to 5 minutes to get the texture I was desiring. (This is where it'd be nice to have a Kitchen-Aid mixer.) I've learned that this is an important step when making oatmeal cookies or they tend to come out quite flat.

Add eggs, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Combine flour, soda, oats and cinnamon in a separate bowl and then gently combine into your wet mixture. Don't over-mix or, again, the cookies will end up flat and runny.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping tablespoonful onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. (You can skip the parchment if you absolutely don't have it... but I highly recommend it!)

Bake with the oven light on so you can monitor your first batch. I usually take the cookies out before they look completely done. They should be dry and slightly browned around the edges, but the middle may still look a tad underdone. Trust me on this! The cookies will continue to cook after they've been pulled from the oven and they will set into soft, chewy cookies instead of little rocks.

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